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.