$30,000 Watch Vanishes Up Church Leader’s Sleeve

Party Rooster

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Apr 27, 2005
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It's an Easter miracle!!!

$30,000 Watch Vanishes Up Church Leader’s Sleeve


A Breguet watch on Patriarch Kirill I, left, vanished in a doctored photo, but its reflection on the table remained. The Russian Orthodox Church Web site later restored it.

By MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ
Published: April 5, 2012

MOSCOW — Facing a scandal over photographs of its leader wearing an enormously expensive watch, the Russian Orthodox Church worked a little miracle: It made the offending timepiece disappear.

Editors doctored a photograph on the church’s Web site of the leader, Patriarch Kirill I, extending a black sleeve where there once appeared to be a Breguet timepiece worth at least $30,000. The church might have gotten away with the ruse if it had not failed to also erase the watch’s reflection, which appeared in the photo on the highly glossed table where the patriarch was seated.

The church apologized for the deception on Thursday and restored the original photo to the site, but not before Patriarch Kirill weighed in, insisting in an interview with a Russian journalist that he had never worn the watch, and that any photos showing him wearing it must have been doctored to put the watch on his wrist.

The controversy, which erupted Wednesday when attentive Russian bloggers discovered the airbrushing, further stoked anger over the church’s often lavish displays of wealth and power. It also struck yet another blow to the moral authority of Russian officialdom, which has been dwindling rapidly in light of recent scandals involving police abuse, electoral fraud and corruption.

Aleksei Navalny, an anticorruption crusader, called the episode “shameful,” and bloggers gleefully ridiculed the church as hypocritical.

The church, after removing the doctored photo, blamed photo editors in its press service for the “technical mistake.”

“A gross violation of our internal ethics has occurred, and it will be thoroughly investigated,” the church said in a statement. “The guilty will be severely punished.”

It is not likely that the apology will end the debate about the watch or dampen the increasingly barbed discussions of the church’s role in Russian society. Over the past decade, the church has grown immensely powerful, becoming so close to the Kremlin that it often seems like a branch of government. It has extended its influence into a broad range of public life, including schools, courts and politics. Patriarch Kirill publicly backed Vladimir V. Putin in last month’s presidential election.

Recently, church officials stoked the ire of Russian liberals by seeking the imprisonment of members of a female punk rock group who held an impromptu concert inside Moscow’s main cathedral in February to protest the church’s political ties. Three members of the group are now in jail awaiting trial.

Then there is the question of the church’s wealth. Russian bloggers have published rumors that the patriarch has a large country house, a private yacht and a penchant for ski vacations in Switzerland, though none of this has been proved.

The watch, on the other hand, has been an object of fascination for years, and there is little question of its existence. It was first sighted on the patriarch’s wrist in 2009 during a visit to Ukraine, where he gave a televised interview on the importance of asceticism.

A Breguet watch “is virtually a sine qua non of any depiction of the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie or, quite simply, a life of luxury and elegance,” the company says, noting that its products have been worn by Marie Antoinette and Czar Aleksandr I and cited in works by Dumas and Hugo.

Coincidentally, the patriarch addressed the watch issue on Sunday, three days before the photo-doctoring scandal hit the blogosphere, in an interview with a prominent Kremlin-friendly television journalist, Vladimir Solovyov.

After the rumors about the watch began appearing, “I started looking for it out of interest and horror,” Kirill said, according to Mr. Solovyov, who conducted the interview off camera and related the patriarch’s comments.

Sorting through gifts he had received over the years, the patriarch discovered that he did indeed own the Breguet, Mr. Solovyov said. But he insisted that he had never worn it and said he suspected that any photos of him wearing it had been altered with Photoshop.

Watches, particularly those of the high-end Swiss variety, have been problematic for the Russian authorities. Many officials have come under fire after being photographed wearing timepieces with price tags far exceeding their annual salaries. Vladimir Resin, a former deputy mayor of Moscow, was once photographed wearing a DeWitt, the Pressy Grande Complication, reportedly worth more than $1 million.

But the patriarch has presented himself as the country’s ethical compass, and has recently embarked on a vocal campaign of public morality, advocating Christian education in public schools and opposing abortion and equal rights for gay people. He called the girl punk band protest at the cathedral “sacrilege.”

While Americans are used to hearing public positions on social issues from religious leaders, they were novel here, and they leave Patriarch Kirill and the church vulnerable to criticism, said Aleksei Makarkin, a political analyst who has written about the church.

“Now, the church has lost its symbolic immunity,” Mr. Makarkin said. “People will now say it has become the same as any other government structure.”

Russia’s often acerbic bloggers reacted to the scandal with something approaching glee. Bloggers have been uploading their own altered photographs of the patriarch to the Web, including one in which he has been erased and only the watch remains.

“The church can, of course, inspire fear or evoke respect, and even make mistakes,” Vladimir Varfolomeyev, a prominent liberal commentator, wrote on Facebook. “But it cannot be funny. Before our eyes we are witnessing the destruction of this institution.”

The Rev. Vsevolod Chaplin, a senior church cleric, played down the episode. In a telephone interview, he said that the controversy over the watch was distracting attention from more serious questions, like “the borders of artistic freedom and the meaning of the Gospels today.”

“Tomorrow, they will be talking about what kind of glasses the patriarch wears,” Father Chaplin said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/06/w...ishes-up-orthodox-leaders-sleeve.html?_r=4&hp
 
Dec 9, 2004
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#2
If you own a 30,000 dollar watch, you are an asshole. Even if you could afford 3,000,000 $30,000 watches, you are an asshole for owning it.
 

steve500

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If you own a 30,000 dollar watch, you are an asshole. Even if you could afford 3,000,000 $30,000 watches, you are an asshole for owning it.
Yeah. Some would argue "but it creates jobs"

True, but those jobs add nothing to society.
 

ShooterMcGavin

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May 25, 2005
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#4
He had to shove it up his ass to make sure the gooks wouldn't get it.
 

Lord Zero

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Aug 25, 2008
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MOSCOW — Facing a scandal over photographs of its leader wearing an enormously expensive watch, the Russian Orthodox Church worked a little miracle: It made the offending timepiece disappear.
It's nice to see that Russia is retaining it's traditions in the 21st century.
 

Creasy Bear

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There was an Catholic church in my hometown that all of the Eye-talians used to go to... Saint Greaseball's or something... they made a FORTUNE off their BINGO and monthly "Monte Carlo nights". The holy jabroni who ran the racket was Father Catugno. He used to drive around town in a bigass Cadillac that had the license plates HOLY MAN. He used to take "pilgrimages" to Vegas twice every year, and it was just about common knowledge that he'd drop 10s of thousands of dollars gambling and banging who-weres on his trips... common-fucking-knowledge. Yet all of the old geezer Vitos and Carlas would line up every Sunday to throw stacks of money in the church's begging basket. It wasn't uncommon in the town for old Eye-talian geezers to drop dead and leave all of their money to St. Greaseball's while their relatives got squat.

Man... what a fricken racket the small-town Papist mafia had going back in those days. That shit's deader than disco these days.

The corporate Catholic offices are the only place where you'll find the big bling these days.
 

Hoffman

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Sep 28, 2006
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#8
As a watch snob myself (I wear a Breitling) I gotta admit that's excessive.
 

Cunt Smasher

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Aug 26, 2005
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I have big hands and bad eyes, 53mm Russian Diver. Don't the jeebus pimps take vow of poverty? Aren't they all about being humble and modest?

Sent from my Galaxy Nexus using Tapatalk 2 Beta-6
 

Creasy Bear

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Don't the jeebus pimps take vow of poverty? Aren't they all about being humble and modest?
Yeah, and the Pope renews his vow of poverty every time he squats down on his 24 carat gold toilet to take a high, holy dump.
 

peewee

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I'm pretty sure nuns are the only ones who take a vow of poverty.
 
Aug 16, 2006
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#15
I'm pretty sure nuns are the only ones who take a vow of poverty.
Nuns, sisters, priests of specific orders (Jesuits, Oblates, etc.) and brothers. Regular "parish" priests don't take ANY vows: they only make oaths to their bishop (including one of celibacy (no marriage), as opposed to the orders' vow of chastity (no sex)).
 

Neon

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#16
As a watch snob myself (I wear a Breitling) I gotta admit that's excessive.
Yeah, a $5,000-6,000 Tag Heuer or whatever is about as extravagant as I can ever imagine owning, even if I won 100 million dollars in the lottery.
 

Don the Radio Guy

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He's their version of the Pope. Why does he even need a watch? It's not like he's going to get fired for being late.
 

LiddyRules

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Jun 1, 2005
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He's their version of the Pope. Why does he even need a watch? It's not like he's going to get fired for being late.
The "Ten To...Ten To Your Own Damn Business" joke is funnier with a watch than with a cell phone.
 

Hudson

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#19
Yeah. umm I can see an expensive watch if it has a purpose. Don't understand Jewelry watches. Timex is fine by me.
 

LiddyRules

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I'd pay $30,000 for a laser watch like in Goldeneye. I'd pay substantial less for a From Russia with Love garotte watch, though I would be willing to pay more than typical watch prices.
 

Don the Radio Guy

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Yeah. umm I can see an expensive watch if it has a purpose. Don't understand Jewelry watches. Timex is fine by me.
No watch has a purpose these days. The highest I'd go in a watch would be a Submariner or a Doxa Dirk Pitt model. But I don't begrudge anyone who likes crazy expensive watches. I didn't donate to his church, and the people who do surely expect the head guy to outwardly show a certain level of affluence. It's part part the show. You wouldn't expect Madonna to perform in a burlap sack.
 

whiskeyguy

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#22
I think the most I ever spend on a watch was ~$200, and that was for one that had a built-in barometer, altimeter, compass, etc. Regardless of how rich I got, I couldn't see spending more than $1k on a watch, unless there was simply nothing else left to spend money on.
 

Jon the Cop

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#23
I think the most I ever spend on a watch was ~$200, and that was for one that had a built-in barometer, altimeter, compass, etc. Regardless of how rich I got, I couldn't see spending more than $1k on a watch, unless there was simply nothing else left to spend money on.
Most I EVER spent on a watch was $150. And that was back in like...the 90's. 1997? I think. Just never got into wearing a watch. Didn't see the need I guess. My dad on the other hand. He has two Rolex watches. I know the better of the two is over ten grand. I like that he buys himself nice things now, he's a self made successful man who deserves whatever he wants to buy. He paid more in taxes last year than I made. Sad. I should have went to pharmacy school like him. I think the watch should fit the guy though. I was raised that a "man of God" should devote his life to the lord etc, not buy or accept lavish items.
 

whiskeyguy

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Most I EVER spent on a watch was $150. And that was back in like...the 90's. 1997? I think. Just never got into wearing a watch. Didn't see the need I guess. My dad on the other hand. He has two Rolex watches. I know the better of the two is over ten grand. I like that he buys himself nice things now, he's a self made successful man who deserves whatever he wants to buy. He paid more in taxes last year than I made. Sad. I should have went to pharmacy school like him. I think the watch should fit the guy though. I was raised that a "man of God" should devote his life to the lord etc, not buy or accept lavish items.
One thing I've noticed is a cool (not necessarily expensive) watch seems to be a good discussion starter with girls. Maybe the rural ladies around here aren't use to those fancy wrist clocks, but whenever I'm out at a bar it seems to give them a reason to grab my hand and look at the watch. Same with playing poker at the casinos.

Like I said, I don't wear anything expensive. My current watch is one of those Relics that have all the mechanisms on display... and I only bought that because I got a gift certificate to some store and couldn't think of anything else to buy. I don't think it was much over $100.
 

Creasy Bear

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I'm still rocking the calculator watch.



It tells people that I'm a man to be reckoned with... a fellow who does a lot of advanced figgerin' and ascertainin'.