Rolex Runs Ad Saying Italian Government Disparaged Its Image

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Demonstration in Milan
Demonstrators throw flares as they clash with police during a demonstration against the Expo Milano 2015 fair in Milan on May 1. Photographer: Filippo Monteforte/AFP via Getty Images

Rolex ran full-page newspaper ads in Italy saying the Italian government damaged its image by portraying the perpetrators of a recent violent protest as spoiled children whose parents could afford to buy them timepieces made by the luxury Swiss watchmaker.

In an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, the Geneva-based company said it needed to “defend the brand’s reputation and image.” The letter, signed by Gianpaolo Marini, the head of the luxury watchmaker’s Italian unit, appeared in at least six of Italy’s biggest dailies, including Il Sore 24 Ore and Corriere della Sera.

Protesters torched parked cars, smashed shop windows and clashed with police in central Milan Friday during the demonstration against the Expo Milano 2015 fair. Renzi said the participants were “hooligans with Rolexes” while Alfano called them “the usual thugs with hoods and daddy’s boys with Rolexes.”

The comments “produced the unacceptable association of Rolex’s image with the Milan devastation,” Marini said.

Rolex is the biggest Swiss watch brand and is fourth on the Reputation Institute’s list of the top 100 brands, superseded only by BMW, Google and Daimler.

Neither Rolex nor Renzi’s spokesman had an immediate comment on the matter.

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