It’s the day after Christmas here in the USA, and in New York City, where HODINKEE has its Fortress of Solitude, the weather is actually finally feeling like winter. The days have grown shorter, but as the late great Charles Schultz once had Charlie Brown remark, they sure do feel like they’re getting wider too. Under such circumstances, the mind turns to the contemplation of questions that have puzzled mankind’s greatest thinkers. What does it all mean? Is there a mind distinct from the body? Should you do nothing, and let the trolley kill five people on the main track, or pull the lever, and deliberately kill one person on a side track? If you were in a lifeboat with your best friends, who gets eaten first? And, more relevantly for watch lovers, another great unanswered question: What is the proper plural of Rolex?
That disagreement over the plural of Rolex is even a thing (as the young folks say) managed to escape my attention for a number of years – in fact, it wasn’t until I came to put my shoulder behind the plow at HODINKEE and met my former colleague Louis Westphalen that I was even aware there was any disagreement on the issue. I had grown accustomed to just writing “Rolexes” in blissful ignorance of the fact that such usage makes some people break out in hives. In a quiet sort of way I became Louis’s nemesis in this matter, and he mine; he would submit stories in which “Rolex” was used as the plural for Rolex, and I would quietly change all such plurals to “Rolexes.” I never mentioned it to him, and he for his part affected to take no notice of the change when his articles were published (compromise and selective ignorance are the essential features of any happy domestic arrangement).
After his departure I more or less had things my way in using “Rolexes,” but one fine day the question popped unbidden into my mind again, and I decided to look into the matter. Much to my surprise I discovered that not only was there no consensus, but that disagreement was and is rampant. People talked about it on the Rolex Forums; they went back and forth about it on Reddit (admittedly in a rather desultory fashion, unusually for Reddit) as well as here, and here, and even here. However, as far as I could tell, the one thing no one had ever done was actually ask Rolex.
Several weeks ago, I found myself at lunch with a representative of The Crown, and posed the question. There was a moment of royal silence. Then the answer came: “I’m really not sure what our position is on that. Why don’t I ask Geneva?”
It took another couple of emails, but I finally had my answer earlier this week. The answer is as characteristically Rolex an answer as any fan of Rolex could possibly wish: Rolex takes no official position on the correct plural for Rolex.
It will escape no one’s notice that this reply closes the conversation without answering the question. However, from an examination of Rolex’s (possessive, not plural!) published material on the web and elsewhere, one can deduce what Rolex very likely considers proper usage internally.
In short, despite the fact that there are easily available instances of words ending in “-ex” with plurals formed by “-exes” (foxes is just one example) “Rolexes” appears nowhere (that I have been able to find) in Rolex advertisements, published literature, or on their website.
Instead, the name is used to refer to the company, while specific models are referred to by their model name. Rolex, as far as Rolex itself is concerned, is the name of a single company. That company makes watches, but those are “Rolex watches” not “Rolexes.”
Sometimes, it turns out, a non-answer can actually be a very good answer indeed.