Planet China

On the watchlist

The wearing of expensive watches has proved the undoing of a number of government officials in recent years (see WiC123). Netizens have become expert in analysing photos of bureaucrats and then tweeting on weibo about the timepiece being worn and how much it costs. For example, this led to Shaanxi bureaucrat Yang Dacai being expelled from the Party when his penchant for luxury watches (worth $55,000) led to an investigation. And with the latest government clampdown against corruption, classy chronometers are becoming ever more dangerous items to flaunt. So when China’s new prime minister Li Keqiang arrived at the scene of the latest Sichuan earthquake last month, the Party chief of Lushan county thought it wise not to wear a watch at all. But Fan Jiyue still got plenty of unwanted attention, with netizens quick to note the watch-shaped tan lines on his wrist. So they tracked down earlier photos and the online experts were soon identifying Fan’s favourite timepiece as a pricey Vacheron Constantin.

Sina commented that the incident pointed to deepening “watch phobia” among officialdom. Perhaps this explains why Swiss watch sales in China and Hong Kong were respectively down 26% and 8% in the first quarter.


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