Tracking Swiss Watches in Sinaloa: Top 5 Luxury Brands Among Mexican Drug Lords


By François Pilet (L’Hebdo) and Aliaume Leroy

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Spanish Version

In the old days, secrecy and discretion were the rule for Mexican drug lords. Take Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, for example. Known as “the world’s most powerful trafficker,” the 60 year old only appears on a handful of pictures. He does not need to cultivate his fame, especially since his latest MacGyver-style escape from a Mexican prison attracted a worldwide media coverage.

Things have started to change with the rise of social media and the emergence of a new generation of narcotraffickers. This new breed of young drug barons loves to brag on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, showing their flashy lifestyles like football stars.

Drug dealing in Mexico has become public and ostentatious for two reasons.

First, drug cartels have become so powerful that they show absolutely no fear when confronting or being dismantled by the Mexican security forces.  Their organisations have infiltrated most, if not all levels of government. El Chapo’s recent flee, for instance, which is rumoured to have been staged and used by the Mexican government as a way to let him go, shows the omnipotence of the Sinaloa drug cartel.

Second, in times of economic hardship, the flamboyant lives of drug barons are appealing to millions of young and poor Mexicans abandoned by the state, who failed to restore peace and security under the presidencies of Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto.

On their social media profiles, the modern narcotraffickers post pictures of their planes, drugs, luxurious cars, ladies, gold-plated guns, posh houses and Swiss watches.

Twenty-five years after Pablo Escobar and his gold Rolex, Swiss watches remain the most popular sign of wealth among the narcos in 2015. They appear to wear rare limited editions worth hundreds of thousand euros as well as much more affordable models.

To better understand the reach of Swiss luxury brands among the Mexican drug lords, we analyzed the social network profiles of three high ranking members of the Sinaloa cartel: Ivan and Alfredo Guzmán, two of the most influential sons of El Chapo Guzmán, and José Rodrigo Aréchiga-Gamboa, alias “El Chino Ántrax”, who was a rising star of the organisation -leader of the cartel’s violent gang named “Los Ántrax” – before his arrest in Netherlands at the request of the US authorities in late 2013.

Here is a top 6 of the favorite Swiss watches luxury brands appearing on their profiles – ranked by the number of models per brand and overall value.

Sources and background information are discussed below. Not all models were included because of issues with identification (bad quality of pictures, etc…) and for clarity.

UPDATE: As you can see below, some tweets along with their pictures were deleted from one of the account after the publication of this article. We nonetheless kept the links and added the original images.   


1. Richard Mille

The small brand from Les Breuleux, in the Swiss Jura mountains, was founded in 1999 by French businessman Richard Mille. It wins the first place in our ranking with 5 appearances for a total of 1, 098 million euros. (It is worth noting that Richard Mille made the headlines recently when Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov was photographed wearing a $620 000 model, raising questions about his wealth).

– From left to right: Richard Mille RM 59-01 Tourbillon Yohan Blake limited edition (50 pieces), 648 000 euros. Richard Mille RM 011 Rose Gold Felipe Massa Flyback Chronograph, 100 000 euros. Richard Mille RM 055 Bubba Watson, 105 000 euros. Richard Mille RM 011 Flyback Chronograph Black Phantom, 140 000 euros:

richard mille jackpot


– Left: Richard Mille RM 055 Bubba Watson, 105 000 euros. Right: Audemars Piguet (see section on this brand):

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2. Hublot

Although it was originally created in the 80s, Hublot only found its real success after Jean-Claude Biver took over the management section in 2003. Hublot loves the Mexican market. The brand owns two shops there and works with 34 retailers. This is more than in Great Britain (29) or even China (14). The CEO of TAG Heuer is not surprised by the success of his brand among the narcotraffickers: “If you prefer Lamborghini over Bentley, rap over classical music, then you will like our watches.” Hublot is in second position with a total of 5 models valued at 554 400 euros.

– Hublot King Power Miami 305 Limited Edition (10 pieces), 435 000 euros:



– Hublot Big Bang Steel Pavé 41 mm 114 Diamonds, 21 500 euros:



– Hublot King Power Unico King Gold Pavé, 53 100 euros:

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– Hublot Big Bang Gold Ceramic 44mm, 27 700 euros:


-Hublot Big Bang Steel Diamonds 44mm, 17 100 euros:

hublot big gang bang steel diamonds


3. Rolex 

Rolex is among the most powerful brands in the world. It is the only Swiss label to have made it to the wrists of two generations of the world’s most notorious drug lords, from Pablo Escobar to the Guzmáns. With 6 watches, Rolex ranks before Hublot in terms of appearances, but their total value is well below, at only 118 750 euros.

– Rolex Oyster Day-Date 36mm Yellow Gold, 19 350 euros:

Rolex Oyster Day Date 36 mm yellow gold



– Rolex GMT-Master II Oyster 40mm Steel and Yellow Gold 18 Carat, 11 300 euros:


– Left: Rolex Yacht Master II 44mm, 21 950 euros. Right: Rolex GMT-Master II Oyster 40mm Steel and Yellow Gold 18 Carat, 11 300 euros:

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– Left: Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Steel and Yellow Gold, 14 650 euros. Right: Rolex Sky-Dweller Oyster 42mm Yellow Gold 18 Carat, 40 200 euros:

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4. Audemars Piguet

Audemars Piguet was founded in 1875. Based in Le Brassus, in the Canton of Vaud, it is one of the oldest watch manufacturers still owned by its founding family. With only two appearances, Audemars Piguet is ranking in 4th position. The two watches value is however pretty high, at 360 200 euros combined.

– Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Carbone, 309 600 euros (refer to the picture in Richard Mille’s section).

– Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 18 Carat Pink Gold, 50 600 euros:


5. Romain Jerome

Romain Jerome is a new name among Swiss luxury watchmakers, but the model on El Chino’s wrist dates from several years back.

– Romain Jerome Titanic Chrono Red Gold Limited Edition (2012 pieces),
32 700 euros.

romain jerome DNA

With only one model each, the brands Urwerk and Romain Jerome rank respectively 5th and 6th.


Sources and Background Information

Our conclusions stem from the analysis of different social media accounts belonging first to the ex-leader of the armed wing of the Sinaloa cartel named “Los Ántrax,” José Rodrigo Aréchiga Gamboa (35 years old) a.k.a “El Chino Ántrax.” He was arrested, as part of the DEA Operation Narco Polo, as he disembarked from KLM Flight 686 Mexico City- Amsterdam at the Schiphol Airport in December 2013. He was caught using the fake identity of Norberto Sicairos-Garcia. His capture notably brought the DEA, Interpol and other security agencies closer to their primary objective in the year 2014: arrest El Chapo. It also led to the death of his supposed girlfriend, Yuriana Castillo Torres, who was abducted and then found dead on the street in Culiacán. Extradited to the US and indicted on charges of importing marijuana and cocaine into the US, “El Chino” pled guilty last May. We also looked at the profiles of two sons of “El Chapo,” Iván Archivaldo Guzmán-Salazar (32 years old) a.k.a “El Chapito” and Jesús Alfredo Guzmán-Salazar (29 years old) a.k.a “El Gordo” (“the Fat One”) which have also been indicted by the American justice. These were not random choices. The two sons of El Chapo and El Chino have thousands of admirants. Here is a list of their accounts – we could not verify their authenticity – with the number of followers or likes in parentheses:

  • José Rodrigo Aréchiga-Gamboa“El Chino Ántrax” (135 000 admirers in total): (58 000) (39 000) (1 000) (13 000) (10 000) (8 000) (6 000)

  • Iván Archivaldo Guzmán-Salazar, “El Chapito”(325 000 followers in total): (192 000) (88 000) (21 000) (18 000) (5 000) (1 000)

  • Jesús Alfredo Guzmán-Salazar, “El Gordo” (330 000 fans in total): (192 000) (138 000)

NB: The featured image of this article depicts “El Chino Ántrax” with a gold-plated Kalachnikov. On his left wrist, he wears a Cartier Miss Pasha, 18 800 euros.