Want a Rolex? Easy! Just pay a large premium to a “flipper” or gray market dealer and Bob’s your uncle. Either that or buy a large number of Rolex that you don’t want from an authorized dealer and wait your turn to buy the one you do want at the official retail price. An increasing number of watch enthusiasts aren’t willing to do either . . .
Disgusted by favoritism and free market profiteering, they’ve launched an unofficial Rolex boycott. The brand’s recent, unexpected statement about the shortage will do nothing to stem to the rising tide.
The scarcity of our products is not a strategy on our part. Our current production cannot meet the existing demand in an exhaustive way, at least not without reducing the quality of our watches – something we refuse to do as the quality of our products must never be compromised.
This level of excellence requires time, and as we have always done, we will continue to take the necessary time to ensure that all our watches not only comply with our standards of excellence, but also meet the expectations of our customers in terms of quality, reliability and robustness. Rolex does not compromise on what it takes to produce exceptional watches.
Rolex’s “it wazzunt me” opening salvo (courtesy finance.yahoo.com) depends on what’s called a false dilemma: a statement that “oversimplifies the choice by excluding viable alternatives.” Rolex is asserting that they have two and only two alternatives to address the shortage: increase production (“in an exhaustive way”) or fuhgeddaboudit (to maintain quality).
On the face it, Rolex’s defense makes sense. Increasing production from the brand’s estimated 1m-watches-per-year output would be no simple task. While Rolex relies heavily on computerized machinery, the technology requires a lot of highly skilled labor and fastidious quality control. Expanding production would require a significant investment in both new equipment and [unionized] workers.
Would Rolex quality necessarily decrease if the company increased production? Nah. But it would take both time and money to ramp up production to the point where it could make an appreciable dent on existing demand. Neither expenditure appeals to the powers-that-be.
Rolex is owned by a foundation, not shareholders. Public companies value market share surtout. Rolex’s beneficiaries are insulated from this goal and they’re banking billions, thank you very much. The Foundation has seen good times and bad. Why suck dividends out to pay for increased capacity that would be worthless if the Rolex bubble bursts?
Anyway, Rolex wants you to believe that quality control eliminates the possibility of increased availability. So . . . suffer. A sentiment that does nothing to assuage enthusiasts currently committed to a Rolex boycott. The second paragraph of Rolex’s statement throws these frustrated buyers a bone . . .
All Rolex watches are developed and produced in-house at our four sites in Switzerland. They are assembled by hand, with extreme care, to meet the brand’s unique and high-quality standards of quality, performance and aesthetics. Understandably, this naturally restricts our production capacities – which we continue to increase as much as possible and always according to our quality criteria.
A million watches per year assembled by hand? Seriously? Awesome! That said, OMEGA might take issue with their crosstown rival’s use of the word “unique” when it comes to “quality, performance and aesthetics.” As would many other watch brands. Meanwhile, I’m offended at the terms “understandably” and “naturally.” They drip with Rolex-knows-best condescension.
Be that as it is, the brand’s publicly pledged to “increase [production] as much as possible.” Vague much? Post-pandemic, how many watches is Rolex currently cranking-out? What percentage increase are they promising? You know the answer: none, really. But the real kicker, the part that exposes the false dilemma, is in their close:
Finally, it should be noted that Rolex watches are available exclusively from official retailers, who independently manage the allocation of watches to customers.
Our man Adams’ post Watch Dealer Markups – A Proposal flagged an easy solution to the Rolex shortage: let authorized dealers (ADs) charge a premium. That would eliminate the rapacious gray market, which would nip the growing Rolex boycott in the bud.
Enthusiasts resent the fact that Rolex AD’s slip new watches to high-spending customers and the gray market, even as they put “lesser” inquiries on an entirely fake and completely capricious “waiting list.” Not to mention Rolex’s hands-off policy when it comes to either practice. Which their statement makes entirely clear.
Rolex dealers do not have to “independently manage the allocation of watches.” The corporate mothership would be entirely within their rights to require dealers to sell coveted watches on a “first-come, first serve” basis. But that would pull the rug from under what Rolex cherishes more than fairness: class.
Rolex has left its tool watch rep behind. It’s no longer the watch brand associated with professionals, adrenaline junkies and professional adrenaline junkies (e.g., pilots, race car drivers, submarine captains, mountaineers). It’s now the watch of millionaires and billionaires, whether actual or wannabe. Make no mistake: Rolex likes that.
Thanks to gray market prices and dealer arrogance, a growing number of enthusiasts have soured on the brand. They wouldn’t buy a Rolex at retail even if they could. Mind you, this unofficial Rolex boycott will have no effect on Rolex demand, prices or availability. Not now. And maybe not for a long time. But Rolex’s self-righteous statement tells us the damage is real, and ongoing.