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HIGHTOWER: Keeping Time ... With the Rich

Time for another peek into the "Lifestyles of the Rich ... and Cranky."Come with me now as we ride the swell swirl of luxury, where "excess" is expected, and "taste" is a function of price. Today we examine the latest toy of the titans: Watches. This is not your world of Swatch watches, Timexes or even of fine old pocketwatches. No, no -- this is the world of prestige watches.Take your limited edition 5850 RMT Minute Repeater Tourbillon, with blue alligator strap. This little jewel will separate the riff-raff from the truly-rich in a hurry. The price? Two hundred and thirty-three. Thousand, that is.If I was to cash-out my house, my car, a year's salary and my entire collection of bluegrass records -- I still wouldn't have enough money to buy this watch. This is what separates your watch-buyer from your Horologist, a watch fancier. Of course, it also separates us regular folks from the rich.Sales of such high-end watches, according to a New York Times report, are up dramatically, now topping a billion dollars a year. These luxury watch buyers tend to be youngish Wall Streeters and other new-moneyed maharajahs who already have the cars, the houses, the rare wines ... and now they need "the watch."Why? As one observer of the rich puts it, "you can't go into a business meeting with a Mercedes-Benz or a Rolls-Royce on your wrist. You can go into a meeting with a Brequet."So where does the cranky part come in? You can have the most expensive watch in the house, but it might not be appreciated. Take platinum. This metal is more precious than gold, but the fact is, it looks a lot like stainless steel. So there you are with a quarter million dollars on your wrist, and some guy leans in and asks, "you get much rust on that steel?"This is Jim Hightower saying ... Pity the rich ... they bear such burdens.Source: "A Benz for the Wrist" by Alex Kuczynski. New York Times: March 10, 1998.

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