New Rolex – Where Are They?

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Hardly any new Rolex here

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 Rolex boutique for new Rolex

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 Rolex dealership - new Rolex?

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.

Kleinhenz Jewelers

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.)

Rolex ad for Daytona

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.

OMEGA Constellation discounted watches

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?

10 COMMENTS

  1. As much as I like me some Rolex, their behavior and contempt for customers has completely turned me off of them. Nothing new there… I’ve said it before. I’m as likely to get another Rolex as I am to wearing an Apple “smart watch.” Zero. Negative zero?

    I think a part of it is also that so many other people are “excited” about Rolex, I DON’T want to be part of that “club.” Rolex is for suckers.

  2. “New Rolex – Where Are They?” On the grey market with the smarm and douches that are The Timepiece Gentleman, WatchEric, Roman Sharf, etc…

    I’d be surprised if they throw their lot in with the big players considering they refuse to do business with Bergdorf Goodman and other fine department stores since they almost got burned by one closing some years ago. For the life of me, I can’t remember the name as we sold everyone except for Vacheron and Patek.

  3. What Racer said.

    Got an email last month from one of the two AD’s within 30 miles, yep, “we are no longer a Rolex dealer”. When the new 41mm’s were coming out I was at a big box store asking when they’d be getting them. Flat out, without hesitation, the response from multiple sales reps was that it depended on how good of a “friend” you were to the house. Read: you buy >20K of product and maybe we let you look at an OP.

    Kiss my everlovin’ stinkin’ ass I say. I will only buy a Rolex as a gift for someone who promises never to buy one themselves.

  4. As I said once before, I bought a Rolex Day Date Presidential in gold (I’m not sure of the name, but it’s the classic one.) It never occurred to me to think about cachet. I just thought it was the best looking watch I have ever seen. I still think so. And it works. In 40 years, I have had it cleaned a few times, but that’s all. No batteries. No one has ever commented on the watch I am wearing – I don’t think people even notice.
    The Swiss are strange and sometimes unpleasantly rigid or amoral. However, I really like my watch. My father fought the Japanese in WWII – they were certainly unpleasant. I drive an LS500. I like the way it looks and it works.

    • Clean and crisp drjeffpj1877. 👍 Certainly a lot to unpack. I suppose I should remind myself that what is Rolex is inherently what the Walsdorf Trust (ie members) says it should be, it has its own motives and goals which in many ways appear to run counter to what might be expected of a global corporation.

      • When you remove the short term profit motive (i.e., don’t answer to shareholders), you get product continuity – and corporate lethargy.

        Rolex has seen good times and bad times and found a way to ride out both. As for their current situation, they’re reaping decades of clever, consistent marketing and admirable quality control. Even so, as my father used to say, it’s better to be lucky than smart.

  5. It is possible to buy new, sought after Rolex watches, such as the GMT Pepsi, Submariner Kermit and Daytona Cosmograph (white dial) at retail from an AD. I was able to buy all three between January and March of this year. There’s no doubt that it helps to have a long-standing relationship with the AD (I’ve been dealing with them regularly over the past 25 years) and to be recognised by the AD as a knowledgeable watch-lover, collector, etc. and not a “flipper”.

    The AD in question operates a genuine waiting list (and not just for Rolexes), but is at the mercy of the manufacturers when it comes to supply. For example, this AD is forced to accept whatever Patek deigns to send them.

    At present, some ADs in popular, up-market tourist destinations (in the Caribbean, certainly) have stocks of watches they haven’t been able to sell because potential customers simply haven’t been able to travel. I suspect this may be true of various tourist destinations.

    I appreciate that this is cold comfort to most of us, but if anyone is planning to visit a popular, hitherto locked- down tourist destination, he may want to make a bee line for the authorised ADs when he arrives.

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