ROME - Luxury watchmaker Rolex demanded an apology on Wednesday from Italy's prime minister and interior minister for saying that violent demonstrators who devastated parts of Milan last week were "rich, spoiled brats with Rolexes".
The company took out full-page advertisements in major national newspapers to contest comments both politicians made after police fired tear gas at protesters who threw stones and petrol bombs and broke shop windows.
In his address to parliament on the riots - protests against Milan's Expo global fair - Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said police photos showed that one demonstrator who defaced a bank window appeared to be wearing a Rolex.
"Yesterday, on the streets I saw bastards wearing hoods and rich, spoiled brats with Rolexes," Alfano told parliament.
Later, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi thanked the citizens of Milan for cleaning up the damage caused by "those with Rolexes who went around destroying shop windows".
The watchmaker, which sponsors major sporting events and has supported Milan's famous La Scala opera house, was not pleased.
Rolex's CEO for Italy, Gianpaolo Marini, wrote in the open letter in the newspapers that the low quality of the pictures of the violent demonstrators left considerable doubt as to whether they were wearing Rolexes and whether they were real or the cheap knock-offs sold on Italian streets.
He denounced "the unacceptable linking of the image of Rolex with the devastation in Milan and the world of subversive violence".
Both the prime minister and the interior minister had no immediate response to the advertisement.