Certain Rolex watches, particularly the professional range, have been difficult to buy for a while now but in the last 12 months or so things have really moved up to another level.
Even though key models would be absent, not long ago it was normal for a Rolex authorised dealer to have 100-plus watches on display. Today if you look in a stockist’s window you will be lucky to find a dozen or so to choose from with those probably the less popular options. Even if you do spot your dream watch in a window you may find it has a plaque saying “exhibition only” meaning you can look but not buy.
Recently, Rolex have put out a statement saying that the shortage is due to an increase in global demand rather than a manufactured situation as many people in the trade had speculated. They also explained that production can’t be quickly increased to meet demand due to the highly skilled and labour intensive nature of manufacture.
So, what does this mean for the secondary market?
There are two parts to look at, the “normal” second hand market and the models that are selling at a premium over the list price.
The lack of supply of new watches is pushing a lot of people to consider pre-owned instead. This is meaning that prices on nearly new watches are very strong, in some cases slightly over the list prices as the motivation to buy second hand is about availability rather than price. That’s not to say that there are not bargains to be had, particularly in ten to thirty year old watches, but prices are now based on what buyers are willing to pay rather than comparison being made to the new price.
The premium models are mainly but not exclusively the professional range. Due to the extremely limited supply these watches are being offered in the secondary market at substantially more than the suggested retail prices; in the most extreme cases asking prices can be up to three times those advertised on the Rolex website.
If you’ve spoken to a stockist about one of these watches in the last couple of decades you will be familiar with the idea of waiting lists, but today it’s not as simple as putting your deposit down and taking delivery in three to five years. Demand is outstripping supply to such a degree that the distribution is being heavily curated; Rolex stockists are selling their limited allocation to select customers that have a history with the store and that they’re confident will not sell the watch straight on for a profit. Of course, this makes nearly new pre-owned stock even more scarce, further driving up values.
Similar situations exist with other luxury products; supercar manufacturers offering special editions to their most faithful collectors for example, but this whole concept is still alien to many would-be buyers who just want to treat themselves or a loved one to a nice watch.
We hope this explains a little bit about the current situation. If you have any questions or wish to know more, we are always happy to talk Rolex and offer advice.
If you are in the market for a Rolex watch, we currently have an excellent selection in store, or if you are looking to sell your watch, we are always interested in buying and can also offer low fee commission sales to give you the best possible return.