Rolex is boring. Their product development is boring, their marketing is boring and their fans are boring. Caught between a Rolex collector and a Porsche aficionado at dinner, I considered stabbing myself in the eye with a shrimp fork. Equally boring: Rolex availability, or lack thereof. The Great Rolex Shortage of 2021 goes on and on and on. With this tedium in mind, I walked by the Rolex-branded monoline AD at the Valley Fair Mall in San Jose on my way to pick something up for my wife . . .
The Westfield Valley Fair isn’t just any mall. It the highest revenue of any shopping center in California. It sits in one of the richest neighborhoods in one of the richest parts of the world. I peeked in on the Rolex authorized dealer, entertaining the fantasy that maybe they’d put something interesting out.
The Rolex AD had bupkis. The store had so little inventory that some of the window displays had a single watch. Other displays had nothing at all.
Inside, it was the same story. Many of the display cases were less than half full or completely empty.
Ominously, most of the other high end stores had serious lines of post-pandemic people waiting to get in (COVID limitations). The queue formed in front of Christian Louboutin, Yves St Laurent and Tiffany.
The Rolex dealer had a couple of people in line when I walked by the first time. It was completely empty when I took these pictures.
I stopped by the other high-end watch dealer and they had a good selection of Patek Philippe, IWC, Grand Seiko, OMEGA and the like.
Maybe Rolex knows something we don’t. Maybe the supply and demand shocks will work themselves out and everyone will be happy. Eventually. But when your flagship store in Silicon Valley has pretty much zero Rolex availability, when can’t keep the shelves stocked to meet demand – any demand – you have a problem.
We explored that problem in the post Rolex Shortage – Is It Killing the Brand? To which the only answer is yes. That said, Mercedes screwed the pooch in the late 90’s, launching the horrific M-Class SUV (a.k.a., the “Bubba Benz”). The brand’s reputation for quality survived its own incompetence.
Similarly, Rolex’s refusal to allow dealer markups – and thus ensure an adequate supply of watches for customers – won’t spell the death knew for Geneva’s favorite son. But, to quote Winston Churchill, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Taking us to a place where Rolex is just another luxury watch.
It’s kind of weird how the other watch sites don’t comment on the Rolex shortage, and its possible implications, even though they aren’t authorized dealers for Rolex or Tudor.
And what’s funny is if you go into the comment section on any Rolex review or unveiling, they’re full of cynical comments about how you couldn’t get the piece anyway.
How can you pay your rent if you have nothing to sell? Should be a problem for the dealers no?
Also, is that a two tone bluesy just sitting there? So the gold ones are in stock?
I assume they’re selling their entire allocation so they should be balanced as far as store profitability goes. However, they’re leaving money on the table. The general rule is that you want to have about 10-20% more inventory than you can sell since those are high margin items (since your fixed costs have already been serviced, and in retail, real estate is a high fixed cost).
Last picture isn’t mine. Although I’ve seen/been offered a few precious-metal tool Rolexes over the past couple of months.
Been eying a Bluesy for some time (only othe Rolex I’d get is a YG day/date or the skydweller), but it’s just too expensive and I keep seeing it on some undesirable people. LOL
Not a good look for a store, especially a purveyor of luxury goods. Also, not a good look for a brand.
The whole thing is really quite bizarre.
But if you watch the youtubes, you’ll notice how a couple of watch channels (TPG & Roman Sharf) seem to have the new models no problem, hmmmm…………….
A few things are super annoying there. First of course, a normal guy can’t go buy one.
Second, the gray market pimps. Now their Youtube channels are blowing up and just watching dudes like Time Piece Gentle”man” (dudes shaving their arms and wearing girl-tight shirts, heh) …. it’s nauseating.
Really, people pay double retail for an Oyster?!
And third, Rolex actual service. For reference I own five sports models (bought 2016/17 when Rolex was seriously cheap second hand). Walking into RSC, being told two months wait, $100 if I don’t accept their service quote (heh, come on you f*cks), and almost $1,000 for a regular clean & oil. It was $500 and 2 weeks in Hong Kong two years ago, and the attitude also wasn’t like you are at a parole hearing.
Just all very non “luxury” experience. Having a reasonable degree of self esteem, not being into retail masochism, and generally not just trying to set money on fire, I’m not buying more Rolex. Not till the next inevitable meltdown, when these things will yet again be 40% below retail, as it usually happens to go.
Waiting for the lean times. Waiting for the crying and begging and selling off things cheap
What’s great about this is that people are looking at other brands and realizing they offer a superior product without the stigma (a la the Seaq from Glashutte). Hopefully people are realizing that the Pateks and Rolexes of the world aren’t worth the hype or $$$
I think, but don’t know for sure, that Rolex represents a safe luxury choice when you can only have 1 or 2 watches. It’s accessibly priced luxury so many people can splurge and afford 1 even if they can’t afford a full luxury collection. And if you only have 1 or 2 nice watches, good chance one of them is a Rolex more than a Lange or something. Because it’s safe, normal, doesn’t requires years of reading watch blogs to appreciate. Rolex is basically what an LV bag is for many women.
Frank, I largely agree with you. It’s like Mercedes – safe and everyone knows what it is. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
Honestly, this particular store, a few of their SA are pretty rude, you walked and asked if they have anything for sale, they would just lie to you that they have nothing. A couple walked out before us were offered with some 41 DJ that they did not like, but when it was our turn,, they simply said they do not have anything.