For those unfamiliar with the world of luxury watches, the whole Rolex buying process is incredibly confusing. Not only are the retail prices of even the brand’s most affordable watches prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of the human population, buying a Rolex isn’t as simple as just walking into a store and plonking down a fat wad of cash.
No, if you want to get a Rolex – especially popular models like stainless steel Daytonas or Submariners – you need to build up a purchase history with an authorised dealer (AD). Even then, you can expect to spend a long time on a waiting list before you get the chance to buy the watch you really want.
Alternatively, if you can’t wait, you could try buying a watch on the grey market – but that’s a sucker’s game. Not only are aftermarket prices ludicrously expensive, but most watch resellers won’t provide a warranty, or transfer the Rolex factory warranty to you. Buying Rolexes on the grey market can be a very risky enterprise for a number of reasons.
To make matters worse, the world’s in the midst of a Rolex shortage. Despite the fact Rolex has produced hundreds of thousands of watches a year for decades, demand has always outstripped supply. The COVID-19 crisis has added extra pressure: not only has it sparked even stronger demand for luxury watches (alternative asset classes are in, baby!) but it’s also dealt a hammer blow to Rolex and other watch manufacturers’ supply lines and manufacturing capacities.
In short, it’s never been tougher to get your hands on new Rolexes. But there’s a solution to this growing problem that’s been staring all us watch fans in the face for ages: we just need to stop being so poor.
Now, we’re not entirely just being provocative with that statement… Or just stating the obvious.
Conventional Rolex buying wisdom suggests that the way you get into an AD’s good books is by buying up less popular models (typically hard-to-move women’s models like Lady Datejusts) over a long period of time, working your way up through the Rolex ranks before landing on your GMT-Masters and Submariners.
But as a DMARGE correspondant who works for one of Sydney’s biggest watch boutiques has shared with us, another tactic that’s successful is just to go in and buy the most expensive Rolex in the boutique. They shared an anecdote where a buyer with no previous purchase history simply walked in to the Rolex boutique, bought a platinum Daytona ref. 116506-0002 (a roughly AU$350,000 watch) and instantly found himself placed at the tippy-top of all the desirable waiting lists.
Other incredibly expensive Rolex models that could net you the same effect, we wager, include the Pearlmaster 39 ref. 86409RBR-0001 (~AU$290,000) or the ultra-exclusive Daytona ‘Eye of the Tiger’ ref. 116588TBR (~AU$310,000), which doesn’t even appear on Rolex official catalogues.
So rather than spending six figures over a couple of years on a bunch of undesirable, smaller watches, the better tactic is to just bellyflop in and splash your cash all in one go on a super expensive piece. At least, that’s the theory.
Of course, the other solution to this perverse state of affairs, as jeweller and watch journalist Joseph Adams has suggested, is for Rolex to relax their notoriously strict control over retail prices and let ADs markup watches however they like – like how car dealers do.
“If manufacturers allow dealers to mark up watches to what the market will bear it would solve the current shortage in one fell swoop… They reduce access to a simple metric that everybody can understand,” he argues. “Every other way of selling sought-after watches is cronyism of the worst sort… All of us – from the manufacturer to the consumer – should embrace it.”
Which brings us back to our central thesis… Maybe you just need to stop being so poor.
Speaking of stupidly expensive watches, check out our guide to the most expensive Rolex watches of all time below.