Fidel Castro smoking a cigar and wearing two Rolex watches during a meeting with Khrushchev, 1963

Rolex watches weren't status symbol when this picture was taken.
Rolex watches weren’t a status symbol when this picture was taken.

Here Fidel Castro is seen smoking a Cuban cigar and wearing two Rolex watches in the Kremlin while he chats with Khrushchev, in front of a Karl Marx picture. The non-verbal body language in this photo is absolutely fascinating. Notice everybody in the room is staring at Castro’s cigar, and that everybody sitting is smiling with their hands folded in front of them on the table, and the three guys standing below the portrait of Marx, have their arms behind their backs. At that time this sort of pictures were censored, but after the fall of the Soviet Union, many photos and other documents stored away were released, including this one too.

On the 27th of April, 1963, the leader of the Cuban Revolution paid his first visit to the USSR, that journey lasted for forty days. He managed to see a lot of cities and visit numerous factories, secret military bases, a nuclear submarine, walk along Moscow without security guards, talk to the authorities and ordinary people. Already before the very departure Fidel Castro full of emotions and being so much satisfied with what he managed to achieve in the economic and military spheres, sent a farewell letter to N. Khrushchev with words of admiration and gratitude for the excellent trip.

Fidel Castro was often spotted wearing two Rolex’s at the same time – one of them a GMT, the other one a Submariner. In total the watches gave Castro a three time zone overview by a glance on his wrist. The watches have been set for Havana, Washington and Moscow time. Today Washington D.C. and Havana are in the same time zone (UTC -5), but between the years 1960 and 1964 Havana used the time zone UTC -4. Rolex watches weren’t a status symbol when this picture was taken. They were considered some of the most functional accurate watches of their time (before quartz era started).

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17 comments
      • Yes, of course, a Rolex watch was always a working class symbol, back in 1963 most working people owned at least one Rolex watch, and in some cases over thirty.
        After all Rolex = Communism.

  • Probably, a special gift from someone who does jobs under the table, While the working class people starving to death in Havana and people in Russia sending to exile.
    After all those communist are fighting for peoples right to own a ROLEX !

  • Think the piece over-apologizes for the Rolex watches, but gives good reasons for it. For the others that are raising a stink over it: THE MAN WORE THE SAME OUTFIT FOR 50 YEARS. Hardly an example of conspicuous consumption. Get over the watches. The dude gave the Cuban people a 99.7 literacy rate, subsidized housing, free university education, free health care. So to my mind, the only people that really wanted to get out of the country were the ones that thought Rolex watches were important to have. That lot should be imprisoned anyways, so good riddance. Before, prostitution and gambling were rampant, the government was made up of a bunch of corrupt cronies that impoverished most of their own people. That doesn’t sound very patriotic – or free – to me.

    • Let me explain to you what the free education and free health care are all about. All high school students are forced to go work on tabacco field after school to pay for their books. Doctor are being paid $20 per month after spending almost ten years of their life in college. Corruption is what run the free health care. People who bribe doctors are treated a lot better. ( Source: I work with a guy who fled Cuba 15 years ago).

  • You think you can get away with that line about Rolex not being status symbols because you won’t say anything bad about a Commie dictator? Should’ve gone with another photo because you now lack credibility. The warm feeling in the world now over the death of that scraggly bearded psychotic is nothing compared to the warmth he’ll feel for eternity.

    Here’s what he gave Cuba:
    A raggedy-azz Marxist economy wherein the only dollars flowed to Communist Party members. 99% of the island wasn’t allowed to join the Party. In other words he also empoverished his own people and for longer than his predecessor.
    The death penalty for owning a boat…on a Caribbean island.
    The death of the middle class- normal citizens like schoolteachers, nurses and plumbers allied with Fidel to fight the revolution. Once in power he killed or jailed them.

    That’s some island paradise. It’s like a little East Germany 90 miles off Florida.

  • Well said. The man was an icon. A symbol on intolerance towards corruption and excesses. And took it upon himself to rid the country of these people. Hardly seen these days where people sacrifice their morals or look the other way to save their own skin

  • Socialist dingbats will claim Rolex’s were a working mans watch. In 1955 they would have cost $70 about the average annual income for a Cuban in 1955. FYI: after 60 years of Castro and the annual income in Cuba is $240. Considering inflation, they make half what they did in the 50’s

  • Cubans call it The ROBOlucion” – ROBO means; to rob – to steal. He took this — probably stole it from a mom and pop jewelry store he confiscated.

  • One of those Rolex watches belonged to José ‘Pepín’ Bosch the grandson-in-law of patriarch Don Facundo. That watch was ripped off his wrist just as he boarded a plane that was to take him to Miami from Havana in October 1960 shortly after Castro expropriated the Bacardi Companies assets in Cuba.

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