If you want to get an advanced education in watches, you can of course dive deep on the internet. But you can also just…listen to a lot of rap music. It’s no secret that rappers are more into watches now than they’ve ever been—but the depth and specificity of their adoration is worth dwelling on. You can find a real appreciation for master chronometer certification on Yasiin Bey’s “Speed Law” when he says, “Stay on time like Omegas.” And it doesn’t take too much digging on Genius to find rappers advising the best way to maintain your investment: “When you add diamonds on to your watch, you lower the value of it,” A$AP Ferg adds in the margins of his song “Plain Jane.” And over the past decade a relatively arcane piece of watch trivia has evolved into a brag for rappers who really want to prove they’re in the know: the fact that Rolex watches don’t tick has become major grist to rap songs.
You start to hear it everywhere once you know what to look for:
On “Astronauts,” Future raps: “Richard Mille or the Rollie it don’t tick-tock”
Lil Uzi Vert boasts, “This Rollie don’t do no tick-ticky (No ticky)” on “She Never Been to Pluto.”
Both Lil Durk and Rio Da Yung OG use this quality as an insult. On “Lil N****z”, Lil Durk taunts: “And your Rolex tick, lil n***a.” Rio Da Yung OG asks on “Roll Call,”How the fuck you go to Golden Sun and your Rollie tockin’?”
The tick-tock is offensive enough Travis Scott can assassinate his imagined foe’s entire character with a comparison in “Apple Pie” that goes, “I’m for real and your Rollie tick (Whoa).”
Scott’s insult implies a different kind of f-word: that if your Rolex ticks, you’re fake. The idea that only a faux Rolex ticks is a nuanced piece of information often buried at the bottom of guides that help you spot a counterfeit. But a little digging shows that things aren’t so black and white. So how did it become the rap world’s most specific brag—and is it even accurate?
Tracing the origin of this line isn’t difficult. On 2011’s Watch the Throne, Jay-Z set the standard when he took the baton from Kanye and rapped, during “N****s in Paris,” “Ball so hard, got a broken clock / Rollies that don’t tick-tock / Audemars that’s losing time / Hidden behind all these big rocks.” And where Jay-Z goes, other rappers often follow.