Getty Images / Jae Hong-Pool

Long after the 1994 murder trial had come and gone — and long after the wrongful death judgement against him called for a $33.5 million payment from him to the Goldman family — it was 2007 and O.J. Simpson was back in the news for a particularly embarrassing reason. Though not frequently spotted wearing it, Simpson had been seen from time to time with a blue-dialed, yellow gold Rolex Submariner — specifically the reference 16618 for those more familiar with the Rolex catalog.

The flashy piece of wristwear isn’t exactly an easy one to hide, and with the aid of a court order, the watch was seized with the intent of being sold so that the Goldmans could recoup a small chunk of what was promised to them. At the time estimates were running somewhere around the $22,000 mark, which remains true to this day, though $18,000-$22,000 is the going rate for that watch without any sort of sports/celeb connection to it.

Once in the possession of David Cook, the Goldman family’s attorney, a proper authentication was required. Cook says that Simpson’s lawyer told him that he had paid $125 for the watch. For Cook, this of course was a red flag. He thought that perhaps Simpson and his legal team were intentionally trying to sabotage the settlement the Goldman family were entitled to.

Cook’s suspicions were later triggered when the watch didn’t set off metal detectors at the airport — though this is a clear indication of Cook’s lack of knowledge of anything to do with watches (or metal detectors, for that matter).

Whether made by Rolex or by a small factory in China, a fake watch is still made of real metal, and it’s entirely a matter of sensitivity of the detectors as to whether or not a watch will trip it. One way or another the watch was headed for an assessment, and it failed quite quickly (as any $100 fake will).

Getty Images / Dimitrios Kambouris / WireImage

This story made it through mass media across the US, and even internationally, but the bigger question was never raised as to why Simpson would own a fake Rolex in the first place — especially a gold one. Thinking logically, you would assume with the massive debt he continued to dodge, he would not want to be perceived as having more money than he actually did, as to not draw further attention from those trying to collect. If anything, rocking around with a Timex would have been a much safer choice on his part.

That said, there are a couple of reasons the Rolex would make sense. From an ego standpoint, no longer being in the NFL or in the glow of Hollywood, the man probably did not want to appear down-and-out or struggling. This is sadly all too common amongst those driven by status, by attention, and by ego. We see it in everyone from hip-hop artists like Soulja Boy to military and political leaders like Indonesian General Moeldoko, and countless other folks around the globe that want to make a bigger “impression” than they can afford.

This kind of insecurity is precisely why the counterfeit market exists — far more so than sketchy sellers trying to pass fakes off as real to the buying public. Consider it the opposing end of the bell curve of those who believe in the line “fake it until you make it” — instead being a “I had it and need to convince people I still have it.”

Getty Images / SAEED KHAN / AFP

There is of course also the idea that Simpson knowingly flaunted his fake Rolex as a ruse. With the civil suit already coming for prominent items like his memorabilia, Simpson perhaps wanted to entice the Goldman’s to go after something he knew had no value. While sinister — and downright sociopathic behavior — we need to consider that this is the same man who wrote the book If I Did It.

Although it’s a small footnote in the O.J. Simpson case, we’ve already seen how something like his shoes proved instrumental in unlocking the mystery.

  • Words: Justin Mastine-Frost
Words by Justin Mastine-Frost
What To Read Next