Modified with the dial of a Rolex Daytona, this iPhone is the ideal gift for a lunatic despot. Here’s why… Modified with the dial of a Rolex Daytona, this iPhone is the ideal gift for a lunatic despot. Here’s why…

Modified with the dial of a Rolex Daytona, this iPhone is the ideal gift for a lunatic despot. Here’s why…

Luke Benedictus

“Saddam’s chandelier was the size of a two-car garage,” wrote the late P.J. O’Rourke in a piece on Saddam Hussein’s taste in interior design. “If a reason to invade Iraq was wanted – felony decorating would have done.” It’s this sort of dictator chic that springs to mind when confronted by the maniacal excess of the Caviar Rolex Daytona iPhone 14 Pro Max.

Rolex Daytona

The reason? Well, at a cost of $134,250 USD, this modified iPhone has the case and dial of a genuine Rolex Cosmograph Daytona implanted into its back.  Just in case the result is still a little staid, the one-off is further enlivened with meaningless speedometers and gold switches which, Caviar explains, are designed to conjure “the image of a dashboard of a supercar”.

Rolex Daytona

The result is a device that’s wilfully decadent to the point of howling absurdity. Attempting to make rhyme or reason of it, I returned to a book by Peter York entitled Dictator Style: Lifestyles of the World’s Most Colorful Despots.

Rolex Daytona

In the book, York explores the eye-popping homes of some of history’s most alarming dictators from Nicholas Ceausescu to Idi Amin. Suffice to say, these lurid interiors tend not to prefer the minimalist approach. One of Saddam Hussein’s palaces, for example has doors made out of multi-coloured marble in the shape of eagles. That sort of thing is par for the course in York’s book where marble, gilt, exotic taxidermy, tiger-skin pelts, gargantuan portaits and far too many mirrors abound. Whether it’s Mexico’s Porfirio Díaz or Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic, the homes of dictators offer clear-cut proof that absolute power corrupts absolutely any sense of decorative taste.

Rolex Daytona
A painting from one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces

After appraising these various grotesqueries – invariably paid for with the suffering of thousands – York draws several conclusions about the sensibilities of despots. And it’s here that we can make sense of the Caviar Rolex Daytona iPhone.

Rolex Daytona

1. New is better than old

Dictators don’t like old stuff. As York says in this article – in which he suggests that Donald Trump’s design aesthetic is scarily consistent with that of history’s most tyrannical figures –antiques are eschewed for being too faded and shabby”. After all, why have a dusty relic from yesteryear when you can spunk fistfuls of ill-gotten cash on something new and a whole lot shinier?

This point informs the craziness of the Caviar’s Daytona iPhone. Watches may often cost unconscionable sums of money, but something they do have in their favour is that at least they’re built to last. If treated with a modicum of care, a Rolex Daytona can be passed down for generations.

Smartphones, on the other hand, are different. Like many electronic devices, they cohere to the idea of “planned obsolescence” whereby things are made with deliberately short lifespans in order to force consumers to buy new versions every few years (or less). In fact, the market research firm Kantar Worldpanel reports that US smartphone owners use their phones for a mere 27.7 months on average before upgrading to new ones.

The worst part of Caviar’s Daytona iPhone is not that it butchers a highly desirable watch (although that is pretty appalling). No, the real crime is that it makes it disposable, turning it into a wildly expensive object with a finite shelf-life – like a diamond ring that self-combusts after three years. Presumably, when the iPhone dies, the Daytona could be salvaged. But I’d hazard a guess that the sort of person who spends $134,250 on an iPhone is unlikely to have a make-do-and-mend mentality. They’ll already be wanting to buy something newer and hair-curlingly expensive.

Rolex Daytona
Saddam Hussein’s basketball court

2. Conspicuous status

For your average despot, home furnishings are hierarchical tools used to hammer home their top-dog status. As York explains of their interior choices: “Dictators also like known-value items — things that people will understand instantly, aka brands. If you’ve got Lamborghinis and Ferraris out front, you want the equivalent inside: Aubusson carpets (new copies, of course), Chinese Ming vases (ditto) and bright Versace-style fabrics.”

The Caviar phone conforms to this idea perfectly. As a stand-alone device, an iPhone 14 Pro Max is far too ubiquitous and accessible. Quite frankly, it reeks of the hoi polloi.  So Caviar have taken a gold Rolex – the world’s most recognisable status symbol –and Frankensteined it into its structure, a pointless flex designed to show off the owner’s boundless wealth.

Go for gold

A solid gold toilet taken from Viktor Yanukovych’s house

Of course, it’s not just any old Daytona that’s been used in this telephonic bastardisation so vulgar it would make Floyd Mayweather wince. It’s a Daytona made from gold, a precious metal of which despots are inordinately fond.

As York points out; “When you have all of your country’s resources at your disposal, why not? Gold furniture, gold wall decorations, columns with gold capitals, gold taps.”

This phone is, in fact, relatively discreet compared to one of Caviar’s other efforts. The Caviar Samsung s21 Ultra Goldphone is made from an ingot of the purest solid 999.9 gold (24 Carat). Still, King Midas’ favourite colour still features prominently in this latest offering, a device so heinous it feels less like a phone and more like a handheld symbol of the demise of Western civilisation.