In this article, we're going to talk about the reasons why certain Rolex watches have long waiting lists and find out how you can go about skipping the queue.
As a manufacturer, Rolex needs no introduction. It is hands-down the most instantly recognisable watch brand in the world. Even for those who aren’t aficionados of luxury timepieces, the Rolex name is synonymous with craftsmanship, engineering prowess, and of course, success.
With such credentials and pedigree, it should come as no surprise that demand for modern Rolex watches is always high. As a result, prices on the secondary market often increase, making a Rolex timepiece a reliable investment for the future. However, some of the brand’s most sought-after watches are in such high demand that there’s a Rolex waiting list just for those who are desperate to get their hands on rare or esteemed models.
To understand the Rolex shortage - or rather, how the demand for Rolex watches has created a waiting list - we have to take a look at the beginnings of the brand. While Rolex has always been at the forefront of horological technology, its products were initially sought-after for their technical prowess (think diving watches like the Submariner, for example).
Over the years, Rolex has done an incredible job in building its core values, its brand and what it represents as a company. Today, owning a Rolex is typically seen as a symbol of personal or professional success. It’s therefore often the case that demand overtakes supply, thereby causing a backlog among authorised Rolex retailers.
When did the Rolex shortage begin?
While certain models have always been in demand (for example, the Paul Newman Daytona could be considered to have been in short supply back in the 1970s), perhaps the most obvious turning point for the current Rolex drought began in 2016, when the firm unveiled the Oystersteel Daytona 116500LN at the same year’s BaselWorld.
Rolex fans will understand that the Daytona has always had a special place in horological history, and was a major turning point for the Rolex brand from a cultural perspective. However, things really hit fever-pitch with the 2016 launch of the ceramic-bezel 116500LN Daytona, complete with a choice of white or black dial.
Perhaps social media played a role in the shortage: by 2016, most of the Rolex-owning demographic had handheld access to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, complete with the option to follow literally thousands of taste-making accounts which so often drive product crazes in this hyperconnected age.
At this time, speculation on social media had begun regarding year-long waiting lists as soon as the 16500LN had officially launched. This possessed those who already owned the Daytona 116500LN to flaunt it on their accounts, thereby causing demand for Rolex watches to increase exponentially. When you throw celebrity endorsements from the likes of Jay-Z into the mix, it’s easy to see just how viral the craze of getting your hands on the latest must-have Rolex took hold.
However, while 2016 marked a turning point for Rolex waiting lists, the release of the Daytona 16500LN was by no means the catalyst. A rush on Rolex watches, and steel sports models, in particular, has been standard since the 1990s, with the following other models also in short supply:
Rolex GMT Master II Pepsi
Rolex GMT Master II Batman
Rolex Yellow Gold Daytona with Green Dial
Rolex Steel Submariner (various models)
Are Production Issues To Blame For Rolex Waiting Lists?
The problem with such a sought-after brand like Rolex is that sometimes it is hard for the manufacturer to simply keep up with demand. Rolex watches are incredibly intricate pieces of machinery, each of which is hand-crafted, which means that they can’t simply be rolled off on a production line when demand dictates.
While some may point to production issues as the reason for long Rolex waiting lists, it’s a simple fact that Rolex does not artificially create such shortages on purpose - instead, its customers do so organically. As the firm continues to build its brand, interest in its latest models increases year-on-year. With social media playing a huge role in how young professionals, in particular, are influenced, it’s easy to see how it might be difficult for the brand to satiate demand after announcing the launch of a new timepiece.
How Times Change - Are Growing Economies Creating Rolex Waiting Lists?
It’s also worth noting that the world’s economies are changing. Some two or three decades ago, a Rolex watch might have solely been the preserve of young, mostly male professionals in the Western world.
With an increasing number of entrepreneurs entering the world stage from former developing economies and Asia in particular, the demand for luxury goods in the East has increased dramatically. This can sometimes lead to Rolex allocating more of its products to authorised dealers in Asia. If they don’t manufacture more watches to compensate for such an increase in demand, a shortage will naturally occur - and so too will waiting times.
Is Rolex Supply At Maximum Capacity And Creating Waiting Lists?
Ultimately, the modern waiting list is caused by demand outstripping supply and production capability. While the obvious solution might be for Rolex to increase production capacity to meet demand, it’s worth considering just how intricate each Rolex timepiece is. Even if Rolex wanted to increase production tenfold by tomorrow, it would take an incredibly long time to educate technicians and engineers to be able to deliver watches fitting of Rolex’s impeccably high standards - such is the complexity of its movements and trademark design features.
Nowadays, waiting lists of upwards of a year for stainless steel Rolex sports watches are commonplace, leaving many authorised dealers to suspend their waiting lists for the time being.
However, this doesn’t mean you’ll have to give up on your dream of owning a Rolex with a long waiting list just yet, as the secondary market could be the answer to your concerns. At Chrono Hunter, we work alongside a reliable network of resellers to make sourcing and purchasing even the most in-demand of Rolex watches as easy as can be - and at affordable prices, too.
If you’re looking to sell a Rolex which is heavily sought after, we can help you with that also. For more information on the Rolex models with the largest wait times, or to enquire about how we can help you to procure or sell a Rolex, please do not hesitate to get in touch today. Our friendly and experienced team have intricate knowledge of the Rolex market and will be more than happy to help answer any queries you may have.