April 16, 2024

Royal Oak “Jumbo” has a very special meaning to me. In 1972 when 5402 was introduced, I started my shipping career in the mature age of 16. I took my first job on 15th June 1972 onboard m.s. “Finnriver” – a conventional dry cargo ship carrying wood pulp, paper and sawn timber from Scandinavia to Mediterranean and some bulk cargoes like fertilisers back to north.
Here is my first working place:

Those days life was quite tuff. When I stepped onboard the ship for the first time, an older AB beat me quite badly just to show who is the boss. But it’s time for memories another time – this is a watch forum.

Anyhow, my salary as a deck boy was 480 Finnish Marks per month and it equalled 440 Swiss Francs. The seaman’s tax was fixed 18% so my net salary was 361 Swiss Francs.
Those days the newly introduced Royal Oak 5402 was costing 3,200 Swiss Francs meaning that the watch was representing my 8 months 25 days salary.
At the same time I could have bought every month with my salary one Rolex 5513…
The new 15202 that is very very close to the original 5402 has a price tag in Europe of € 18,500 while Rolex 114060 is about € 6,200. Relatively speaking the prices of Rolex rose much faster than the ones of Royal Oak.
According to the current contracts, the lowest salary onboard vessels flying under Finnish flag is € 1,897.50 per month. In other words, the lowest paid Finnish sailor needs about 10 months to collect the money for a 15202 Royal Oak. Not so much has changed.
The issue with vessels under a flag of convenience is a bit different. The minimum salaries under the ITF contract are as follows:
– Ordinary seaman $ 1,375 per month- Deck boy $ 1,132 per month
So today most of the deck boys would need to work for about 18.5 month to buy their new 15202 Royal Oak and they could not buy a Rolex 5513 every month but would need to work some half a year to buy their Rolex 114060.
Based on this example I am surprised how little the price of Jumbo Royal Oak has changed in nearly 43 years and how much more expensive a Rolex Submariner is than what it used to be decades ago.
I spent a lot of time working and studying. Nowadays I do not need to paint the deck of the ship anymore but operate some 1.5 million dead weight tons of tankers in the fleet of my company. The vessels also look pretty different.

And naturally, a Royal Oak 15202 looks better with a suits than it would look working with most and paint onboard a ship. I was interested about watches already in 1972 but those days something like Royal Oak was something more than a distant dream.

I am sometimes calling the current prices of watches insane. However, some of the prices were insane already in 1972 but the market has changed a bit because most of the better watches are carrying an insane price tag today.

I believe that the people with “normal” income will welcome the smart watches and a long run those will be the winners. Many of the manufacturers of really fine watches have grown too big and the prices are not understandable anymore when thinking what is the value of the work most of the people do.
Best, Kari

No message body
Unfortunately this is not the right forum to tell i.e. about love in La Spezia. Seaman’s love that lasted less than 5 minutes… Lol!
Best, Kari.. i once had to run for some ‘maffiosi’ in La Spezia … dangerous city … .
There was a strike in La Spezia and that was quite common those days. We stayed there for 2 weeks and during that time I learned many new tricks. One of those was to drink Campari.
When we went to discharge the other half of the cargo to Naples, I got robbed just some 100 meters from our vessel. In the next port, Casablanca, which was a loading port, I understood to go ashore with other crew members. I got from Casablanca my first pet – a turtle. I changed my old tennis shoes (size 45) to a small turtle. That was one of my first business transactions – the first one was to sell smuggled Marlboro in La Spezia.
Best, KariI really enjoyed your history and analysis.
I import containers of my custom stone products and have learned a little about the industry along the way.  I find the vessels fascinating and enjoy tracking them across the ocean as they make there way to the US.

I do not have any kind of idea where the tankers of my company are. But I know that the ROI was 55.24% last year, I have exact January numbers, a good idea how February is going to end and what type of tankers I intend to add to the fleet list.
It’s funny how the perspective is changing over the years. However, the seaman times left something to me: even in the most civilised company in a serious environment, I can start using rude language. And I enjoy it! People expect that a Ph.D. would speak like an educated person and I love to amuse myself swearing like a drunken sailor.
Best, Kari .. what does a ROI of 55,24 % means ?
The crude oil tanker market has lately been a bit crazy… Our average costs of i.e. 115,000 DWT tankers are in the region of $ 15,000 per day. The spot market gives in average some $ 50,000 per day. If it will continue like this just a few more months, I will order my final watch – a minute repeater.
However, shipping is characterised by huge volatility but during the last 14 months, the market has improved dramatically. The only ones who are not really smiling are the Russians with their very high production costs.
Best, KariIt’s not often we read of how different things used to be, but when it relates directly to how much effort and waiting it took to get to where you are and what’s on your wrist, the story makes it so much more real and personal, adding to the appreciation. It also signifies the real importance of hard work.
As for insanity of prices, that’s a rant for another time smile
Thanks for sharing this.

For most of the people those are something distant and they also consider the prices insane. I like to remind myself that I’m in a very lucky position when I have been able to buy during the first six weeks of the year three new watches. And all of these three are such that most of the people should work many months to acquire even one.
Best, KariI met on a trip from Hamburg to Aquaba (years ago) have been far away from dreaming about watches at all 😉


and indeed, watches are not among those.
Best, Kari.. my little business ten years ago i could (in theory) very easily buy a new Submariner every month … these days that would be a bit harder to accomplish … unfortunately these days i pay a nice Tudor every month for the studies of my only child … which off course gives me good hope for the future when my daughter will have a job … errr … off course that is IF Swiss watches will NOT cost the same as always 😉
PS. Can you also carry liquid chocolate in that little boat of yours ?
In fact that size is my smaller; it’s an Aframax – just 115,000 DWT. We have also three Suezmaxes of 152,000 DWT and somehow I got recently mixed with a VLCC that can load three times the volume of the pictured vessel. To such a “can” you could place around 2 million barrels of good Swiss eel Belgium chocolate.
Best, KariNo message body
My old man thought that without some tough sailing experience I will never become a man. He was very worried those days because my hair was even covering a part of my ears and sometimes in the back of the head the hair went on top of the collar. 
However, I mainly wanted to illustrate through an example that expensive steel watches have always been expensive since the introduction of the first one.
Best, Kari
Keep spending money because $$$ keeps depreciating and to buy Rolexes…just kidding.

It’s all supply and demand, diversity is good. When things go to a far extreme, it will tend to bounce back to the other end.

Nice story and nice Jumbo. Thanks for sharing this personal experience.


what is then € doing? It nearly looks like that euro is having a competition with Russian rouble: which one is sliding down faster.
We will soon end up to a weird situation: only Swiss can afford buying Swiss watches. 
Best, KariVery interesting.  Also a huge fan of the Jumbo.

… makes me feel like going out to get myself a AP Jumbo..  well not immediately.. but soon..


Cheers !


is a very good idea. It’s among the top watches I have ever had on my wrist.
Best, KariBest