“Glendale police circulated security images of a man wanted for stealing several Rolex watches in a ‘smash-and-grab’ burglary at a Glendale jewelry store,” LA’s dailynews.com reports. Check out the video after the jump. I’m thinking “several” means one. Maybe two. I’m sure the robber didn’t attack an authorized Rolex dealer because a) there’s none on the block mentioned and b) Rolex AD’s don’t have any Rolex to steal. Which is a serious problem for the brand . . .
Smash-and-grab burglar steals @ROLEX watches from Brand Boulevard jewelry story in Glendale in broad daylight — watch him do it on surveillance video from @MyGlendale PD https://t.co/eeJmFo3Uti pic.twitter.com/s0XQn6CyCZ
— L.A. Daily News (@ladailynews) February 3, 2021
Thanks to a combination of COVID-19-related production cuts and soaring demand, Rolex authorized dealers’ display cases are virtually or totally empty. While large swathes of the American watch buying public revere Rolex as the ultimate watch, the ultimate status symbol, they can’t buy one. They haven’t been able to for months. And there’s no word when that will change.
Short term, the Rolex shortage works in the Geneva watchmaker’s favor. Our watches are so awesome they’re sold out! Reputation enhanced! Long term, it’s an existential threat. Why should consumers wait to buy a Rolex when no one knows when that’ll be possible?
Remember: American consumers have been Amazoned. A two-day delivery seems a bit sluggish. Coronageddon increased this impatience, as well as disposable income (no vacations, fine dining or expensive parties). Well-heeled consumers are ready, willing and able to buy a Rolex – to feel better about their interminable isolation. Only, again, they can’t.
At the same time, social isolation presents precious few occasions to gawk at other people’s watches, or have them look at yours. Unplugged from the normal milieu – that determined that a Rolex is the ne plus ultra of timepieces – they’re free to think outside the box. To buy another luxury watch brand.
Rolex isn’t “in trouble.” Far from it. It take a long time for a strong brand to die. Rolex is the Oleksii Novikov of the luxury watch world.
Rolex will eventually restock its authorized dealers with watches – maybe even to the point where they have Rolex models for walk-ins. This one, two or maybe three year drought will fade from the consumers’ consciousness. Rolex rep will emerge unscathed. Or will it?
Let’s face it: an empty Role display case at an authorized Rolex dealer looks odd. It reminds me of a Hungarian department store during my ancestral homeland’s membership in the Soviet Union. With all that expensive Rolex branding signage nearby, the “here’s where we used to display Rolex” showroom looks post-apocalyptic. Unprofessional. That’s bad for branding.
What’s more, a luxury watch buyer forced – forced I tell you! – to pick up a Rolex alternative isn’t going to say “Well, I really wanted a Rolex but they didn’t have any so I bought this instead.” They’re going to say “my new luxury watch is at least as good/better than a Rolex.” Word-of-mouth social buzz will aid and abet Rolex’s competitors.
I reckon the Rolex shortage opens the door to non-Rolex horological status symbols. OMEGA sure isn’t complaining (although the flight from Rolex is leaving their display cases a bit threadbare).
Does the Rolex shortage put the Swiss watchmaker on the path to becoming “a” luxury watch brand instead of “the” luxury watch brand (for the sub-high horology set)? That depends how quickly they fill those cases. For a luxury watchmaker, what you can’t sell can hurt you.