So, you’ve got a nice bonus from work, and you want to treat yourself. You have always wanted a Rolex Submariner and finally now the time has come that you can get your hands on this coveted possession. You walk into a Rolex Authorised Retailer and ask to buy one.
‘Yes sir that is a very desirable watch. We are happy to register your interest.’
‘No, I want to buy one. Today.’
‘Regrettably sir we do not have one available to purchase today.’
‘Ok, let me know when you have one in stock and I shall be back to get it.’
‘Certainly sir. We shall take your details and let you know.’
‘Any ideas as to how long?’
‘We are unable to predict timescales for potential future availability or guarantee supply.’
‘I’m sorry, what?’
So, with this avenue seemingly closed you venture down to a pre-owned watch shop. You’d rather it be new, but you also want it now not in some undisclosed period of time in the future.
You find one that’s current model, box, papers, everything! Wait, why is it £12,000??
This is the situation when trying to buy a modern Rolex these days. Unless you are prepared to either wait 5 years or pay thousands over retail then it is unlikely that you will be able to get one. If you have a great relationship with a Rolex retailer then it will shave some time off that waiting list, but it will mean having to buy several other items from them before you will even be considered.
Waiting lists are nothing new, with specific pieces being tricky to get hold of such as the Rolex Daytona in steel, the Patek Phillipe Nautilus 5711 and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 15400, the latter two ironically both designed by Gerald Genta. But never has an entire range of watches become virtually unobtainable until the last few years with Rolex’s Professional range. Even the Explorer I with its simple 3/6/9 time only dial has become difficult to get your hands on.
The main cause of this? Demand vastly outweighs supply. Authorised retailers get allocated a mere handful of these watches every year and therefore must be extremely selective as to which clients will get them. Hence why you need to be pretty high up in their books before you will actually get a look in.
The alternative? Buy pre-owned. It may seem a bit galling to be buying something at a price which is over the recommended retail price but even this can still be viewed as an investment.
It is unlikely that Rolex will change their allocation rates as the lack of supply is what pushes the demand. Therefore, it can be fairly confidently predicted that the price of a Professional model Rolex will remain high on the secondary market. The key then is to find one at a good price. The closer to retail the safer the investment. Unfortunately, the majority of known desirable models are already pretty high but you can shop around to find something at the right price. Plus there are little tips and tricks to help you invest more sensibly.
Often one particular model will see an influx of popularity such as the GMT Master II 116710BLNR, nicknamed ‘The Batman’. This surged to popularity as it was the first two tone ceramic bezel watch Rolex produced. This was ground-breaking technology at the time as no one before had managed to make a monobloc piece of ceramic in two colours. This model saw another rise in popularity when it was ‘discontinued’ and replaced by the slightly more feminine ‘Batgirl’. (Which, let’s be honest, is the same watch on a jubilee bracelet.) Regardless, now that the Batman was a discontinued model the preowned price shot up. It seems people really do just want what they can’t have.
These little flurries in popularity have become subject of speculation by collectors and flippers a like. It has become possible to predict highs and lows within the watch community to at least some degree. And here lies a solution to the investment problem. If you can identify a particular model which is difficult but not impossible to get, it has characteristics which make it stand out and you can get one close to the retail price then I would argue it’s a good investment.
One particular model that springs to mind is the white gold Rolex Yacht Master 226659. This watch only comes in one configuration. It’s the only current Yacht Master you can get in a 42mm case. It comes exclusively on an Oysterflex rubber strap and only has white printing on the dial. These may seem like limitations, but they are specific characteristics only available in this one particular model reference. Its also regarded as a bit of a ‘stealth’ watch as the white metal could easily be misconstrued as steel and the rubber strap means that it isn’t all that ‘blingy’ for a gold model.
This watch is currently listed on the secondary market at anything from roughly the retail price all the way up to 10k over retail, which suggests that people already see its future market potential. You will struggle to buy this at a Rolex Authorised Retailer but if you can pick one up close to retail then I can only see the price going up.
There are other reasons behind spikes in popularity. Should a watch fail slightly in its first release, for example, then there is every chance that Rolex will decide to pull production. This is when watches that flopped on release suddenly become the one that everyone needs for their collection. Must have what I cannot get seems the mantra here, and this is also the gateway into vintage Rolex collecting but that’s a story for another time…