Classic Swiss

Is The Rolex Waiting Game Driving Buyers To Rival Brands?

Everyone who loves Rolex knows that 2020 was a great year with new Oyster, GMT and Sub models proving to be immensely popular. So much so that flippers have managed to buy Subs and add another 7K to the list price to sell them on. Even Lord Sugar tweeted last year that he could not buy a GMT Batman for love or money. But has it sent buyers to other brands, and how has the demand for new Rolex models affected the prices of older pre-2020 Subs and GMTs?

We had this comment from WatchexchangeLondon, which makes interesting reading;

Rolex watches carry a value of between £2,000 to £1,000,000 and within this vast range of models, there are some timepieces that people often argue are overvalued because they trade on the secondary market for thousands over their retail price. A much less common view is that some Rolex watches are undervalued. Arfan Mohammed explains which Rolex model he feels is under appreciated:

“There are several Rolex watches that when examined in absolute terms, are incredibly good value. You can buy a fantastic condition vintage 36mm Datejust for £4,000, and a vintage 36mm Explorer ref. 14270 for less than £4,500. When compared to the retail prices of their modern counterparts, they are great value and relatively attainable. However, these price points are a result of the long production periods and relatively quenchable demand given their second-rate construction and smaller sizes, when compared to modern Rolex watches. So they’re great value but it’s hard to argue that they are undervalued.

To truly appreciate when a watch is actually undervalued, we must compare it to models at a similar price point to see what else you can get for the same money. A budget of up to £27,000 is enough to buy the vast majority of Rolex watches and so is a good sum to determine which Rolex is undervalued.

The stainless steel Rolex Daytona has always been the one Rolex to always carry a waiting list. Long before the Submariner, GMT-Master II and Sky-Dweller ever had waiting lists of their own, the Daytona was the one watch nobody could get, and everyone wanted. This timepiece has almost always traded on the secondary market for roughly double its retail value, so this is absolutely not an undervalued watch. The modern stainless steel Daytona is now trading from between £20,000 to £23,000, depending on whether you buy new or not. With decades-long pandemonium engulfing the stainless steel Daytona, one gem has slipped through the net undetected and has become, in my opinion, the most undervalued Rolex; the white gold Daytona. 

The retail price for the stainless steel Daytona was around £7,000 compared to £23,000 for the more precious metal. Trading for anywhere between £20,000 and £27,000, the white gold Rolex Daytona ref. 116509 is selling for around the same price as its stainless steel sibling, offering outstanding value for money. Given that the cal. 4130 movement still hasn’t changed since its introduction in 2000, there is nothing fundamentally different between this Daytona and a modern model. Therefore, for a relatively similar price to the modern stainless steel Rolex Daytona, you can get a white gold model with an up-to-date in-house movement, a more exclusive dial option offered only on the white gold variants and a watch made of a rarer metal with intrinsic value. To my mind, the white gold Daytona will always hold its value at the very least and it illustrates that there is such a thing as an undervalued Rolex.”

BUYERS FRUSTRATED, BUT FEW DEFECT TO RIVAL BRANDS

We took a rough n ready poll on Twitter and found that there was a general sense that Rolex were now milking the waiting game for all it was worth. Worse still, some Rolex fans who bought from authorised dealers in the past, were finding that they were still not getting a sniff of a 2020 Sub/GMT.

GrammarGuy tweeted that he was waiting for a Milgauss for a year.’ But he was looking for a pre-owned example instead. Meanwhile Shaw2Damian said that having bought Rolex watches before he was on a supposed waiting list for over a year at Goldsmiths. CryptoVinnie says he won’t buy a Rolex because the waiting list is ` a scam’ but Tuukka Pastrnak reckons that authorised dealers and flippers are using the Rolex shortages to inflate their profits. He also vowed to buy an Omega instead.

Oyster Perpetual 41

Northern Watch Co spoke to one independent Manchester watch dealer who has seen demand for GMTs and Subs rocket in the last few months;

Off the record he said;

“People are fed up waiting for the new models so they contact us – and other dealers and pawnbrokers – looking for particular models, references, even particular details like original hands because Rolex will often change the hands when they service the watch. You tend to find that Rolex GMT Hulk or Batman fans will not buy anything else but a pristine example of the watch they really want, with a full set of box n paperwork. Most of my regular customers are generally looking to own Swiss watches to make money long term, keep them in a safe at home or work, not wear them every day – it’s too dangerous now to go anywhere wearing a 10 grand watch.

Sometimes a buyer just wants a Rolex as a retirement present to themselves but it’s mainly an investment, with the idea being you sell the watch one day and make 2K profit or so. That demand won’t go away because people are getting f*** all interest in banks, so really clean used Rolexes are going to rise in value, except the knackered old 34 mil Oysters, they’ll never creep much above three grand or so because they look like a girl’s watch now.

Would they buy a different brand? Not often. The only alternatives for most Rolex buyers are AP or Patek, maybe a Breitling…they aren’t interested in anything else unless it’s a giveaway price. The lockdown has spoiled the game for me, because it’s gone brutal out there now. People can’t come in and chat, you can’t get to know them as collectors or investors. I miss the old buying signals that you used to get watching someone handle a Rolex, and of course that stuff never happens online. It’s all just low bid offers and “can you find me this?” emails. Annoying.”

 

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