Daytona, Aquanaut, Royal Oak: How To Buy One

The Holy Grail steel "panda-eyes" Rolex Daytona. Hard to buy!

When demand exceeds supply, prices goes up, availability goes down. That’s where we are when it comes to buying a box-fresh steel Rolex Daytona, Patek Philippe Aquanaut or Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. And that’s where we’re going to stay for the foreseeable future; none of these watchmakers plan to increase supply to match demand. So how the hell do you get a new one from an authorized dealer? Start with this . . .

Big watch retailers get more in-demand watches to sell than small retailers. This is simple common sense. Watchmakers distribute highly desirable models to retailers as a percentage of a store’s total throughput of their entire model line.

Aquanaut. Easy to love, hard to find.

Fair enough, right? Highly desirable models represent a small percentage of the manufacturer’s total production. They need to protect the price/exclusivity of the superstar timepieces AND sell the other watches in their catalogue; the ones that don’t sell themselves.

Bottom line: the bigger the retailer, the more non-unicorn models Rolex, Audemars and Patek they sell, the more Daytonas, Aquanauts or Royal Oaks they’re gonna get.

Don’t take my word for it. Check this quote from Watches Of Switzerland’s group’s chief executive Brian Duffy [via usa.watchpro.com]:

Watches of Switzerland: you can't always get what you want

“What we need to keep doing is investing, expanding and elevating. As you do, you are more likely to get support from these brands. That is the only thing that we have found to be reliable.”

Read between the lines. Support = supply. Expanding = selling loads o’ Rolexes, Pateks and Audemars. That said . . .

The number of high-demand pieces WOS gets from the Big Players is still a small number in absolute terms, especially relative to demand. And WOS has a huge number of well-heeled customers chasing Swiss wrist-born holy grails.

Austin's Korman Jewelers, authorized dealer for Rolex, OMEGA and Tudor

Which raises an important point: small retailers like Austin’s Korman Fine Jewlery receive far fewer watches made of unobtainium, but they also have fewer customers chasing them, and less employees competing for the commission. So the odds of landing a grail watch might actually be higher with the small guy.

If it feels like I’m teasing you, sorry. Here’s the money shot: buying a new steel Daytona, Aquanaut or Royal Oak or any other rare watch depends entirely on your relationship with the retailer/salesperson.

Truth be told, retailers choose buyers for these watches. If you want one, you have to convince them to sell it to you.

That often comes down to how good a customer you are for their OTHER watches. After all, they can easily sell a grail watch. It’s the “run-of-the-mill” expensive stuff they have to work to move. At the risk of offering a piercing glimpse into the obvious, the more watches a retailer sells, the more money they make.

Don’t despair if you’re not that kind of whale who can look at the above video and say “I’ll have both!” There’s the human factor. A Rolex, Patek and/or Audemars salesperson may deign to let you buy that waiting list diva because they like you. To play that game, you need a few tools.

Charm – Treat a salesperson with disdain or indifference and you’ll be SOL. Don’t stalk, but establish a personal relationship based on trust and, where possible, sales. Start by remembering their name.

Passion – A watch dealer wants you to hear the words “nice watch where’d you get it?” from people who will march down to their store and buy high-end timepieces. Let the dealer know your grail watch will be your everyday timepiece, worn amongst rich folk. Bring in a friend from time-to-time. Let the salesperson know you’re a mover and a shaker.

Money – Be ready to buy at a moment’s notice. Cash money.

Perseverance – Touch base with your designated salesperson on a regular basis. Let them know you’re in it to win it. If you buy another watch or four in the meantime, remind them “what I really wanted was . . . ”

Some collectors would have ANY Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

Bottom line: if you want to buy a ridiculously rare watch from the major playas, start buying lots of watches from a dealer and make nice with the highest level salesperson you can find. Play the long game; keep reminding the salesperson you’re alive and ready to rock.

The day you strap that bad boy to your wrist, it’ll be worth the effort. If not, you can always flip the grail watch for serious money. Just don’t expect the salesperson to thank you.

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