Yesterday, I called a Texas Rolex dealer to scout for Rollies. “What are you interested in?” the salesperson inquired. “The usual suspects,” I answered. “I’m afraid we don’t have anything but women’s models and a gold Cellini,” he admitted ruefully. “We’re awaiting our next shipment.” “When might that be?” I asked, trying not to sound like a film noir private eye. “I honestly don’t know. Rolex doesn’t tell us.” “That’s not very nice,” I observed. “They’re Rolex. They don’t have to be nice.” I didn’t say it then but . . .
No sh*t Sherlock. Rolex is selling every watch it makes as fast as it can make them – and it can’t make them fast enough. Demand outstrips supply to the point where many of their authorized dealers (AD’s) don’t have any. To the point where Geneva’s favorite son can pick and choose what to deliver to whom, and when. Knowing that all but a few oddballs are pre-sold. And they don’t have to tell anyone who got what when and why.
Mind you, there are some Rolex out there, somewhere, but nothing worth writing home about. Ringing round Rolex dealers, I can confirm the cupboards are more-or-less bare at Le Chateau de Rolex’s U.S. authorized dealers.
I discovered the odd couple of authorized dealers have an odd couple of Rolex for sale. That’s assuming the sales associates weren’t lying, hoping to lure me into the store to pull a horological riff on Monty Python’s cheese shop sketch. Only ending it with “Have you see the latest Breitling? Grand Seiko?”
Here’s the thing: you can’t buy a box fresh Rolex unless you’re physically present and accounted for. Hang on. I’m getting ahead of myself (and ending a sentence with a preposition). Here are a few samples from my non-scientific telephone survey.
Miami’s 39th Street dealer doesn’t have a single men’s Rolex in stock. As for when that might change, “I couldn’t tell you” the salesman admitted, failing to warn me that if he did he’d have to kill me. “Come to the store and register and we’ll call you when it comes in.” Sure! Just out of curiosity, how many people are on the waitlist? “Many, many,” he said casually. “Come in. You will get you watch.” “Eventually,” I finished. Oh how we laughed!
Chicago’s Kleinhenz Jewelers has two Datejust 41’s on hand: a yellow gold and steel example for $12,60 and a rose gold and steel with diamonds for $15,500. “They won’t last long,” the salesperson assured me. New Mexico’s Lee Michael’s Fine Jewelry revealed that they had just one Rolex: the same $15,500 model as Chi Town.
Geary’s Century City Rolex Boutique in Los Angeles reported two men’s Rolex: a 40m Day-Date in white gold with a diamond bezel and markers on a solid gold Presidential bracelet for $59,100, and the same watch in yellow gold with a black dial for $56,400. I wonder if pics of Trump wearing his Rolex President while President put people off . . .
New York City’s Wempe has ten – count ’em ten – Datejust 41’s available. No more and soon to be a lot less. If you want one, you have to journey to The Big Apple; the dealer doesn’t sell them over the phone. As mentioned above, that’s the deal for all Rolex authorized dealers.
So how is Rolex allocating their stock of men’s watches?
We get a clue from Westlake Ohio’s Kleinhenz Jewelers, a store with just one men’s Rolex for sale (a solid gold Submariner for $36k). The voice on the other end of the phone got a bit testy when pressed, revealing that Rolex dropped Kleinhenz as an AD. “They’re dropping a lot of dealers,” the salesperson sighed, sounding like a bosu ball stabbed by a Ka-Bar. (Don’t ask me how I know.)
I reckon Rolex is shedding multi-brand stores with a Rolex franchise in favor of Rolex-only boutiques and big players like Wempe. So, as of this writing, the supply of men’s Rolex is extremely limited or completely non-existent, depending on where you’re trying to buy one. (Note: Rolex is as transparent as the Kremlin. I have no idea how Rolex is allocating watches by country.)
I’ve already explored the potential negative effects of the product shortage on Rolex’s rep (Rolex Shortage – Is It Killing the Brand?). On the positive side, deep-sixing multi-brand dealers with empty Rolex showcases stops them from looking as empty (and uninviting) as a Communist-era East European department store.
The Rolex shortage will end. Sad to say, it might take a worldwide economic downturn for that to happen. Meanwhile, watchcharts.com reports rising prices on virtually all modern Rolex. New Rolex Explorers, Submariners, Daytonas, etc. are proving only slightly less elusive than leprechauns.
Question: why bother hunting Rollies? There are plenty of excellent Rolex alternatives available right now (e.g., re-sellers are lousy with discounted, new-in-box OMEGAs). The only thing they can’t provide is a factory warranty and Rolex cachet. Cachet schmachet. Out of sight, out of mind I say. What say you?