Much has been written and said about the current dearth of the supply of Rolex sports models. On forums there have been no shortage of complaints about repeated rejections from authorized dealers (“ADs”), being quoted years as the expected wait time, being asked to buy a specific unwanted two-tone Datejusts, among a plethora of other scenarios. I often feel for people new to the hobby who have set their eyes on a Rolex “Hulk” Submariner, or a Rolex “Pepsi” GMT-Master II or even a Rolex “Panda” Daytona. It would be highly probable, assuming they are not extremely loaded, that their enthusiasm would quickly be doused upon finding out how difficult it is to get their hands on one. What is left for them, and the average person looking to buy a Rolex Sports model, is the waitlist game, and a decision of whether to play or not to play. It is a question that I currently face having been in this hobby for a short two years, and one that I believe many other new enthusiasts like me would face.
Before I go on, there are two camps of people that are likely to dismiss this deliberation of mine. The first dismiss the whole idea of waiting for a Rolex sports model as something of a myth, citing examples of people walking in to ADs having no prior relationships and still being able to get one. However, these are extremely rare cases and probably the exception that proves the rule. The second and perhaps more vocal group, would comprise of those who believe that we should not give the Rolex marketing machine a second thought, and move on with our lives to other brands. I will touch on a qualified version of this point of view in the paragraphs to come, but wanted to point out that the underlying basis of an instinctive statement like this usually ignores all the good that Rolex has to offer. Rolex may not always offer the best watch, or even the most value for money watch. It may not be the luxury status symbol that its marketing department wishes you to believe it is, but the quality, history and brand equity do mean something to many people. It has successfully positioned itself to be a highly esteemed item in value perceptions of millions around the world. That is in no small part attributable to the quality that it does put out.
With that out of the way, we come back to the topic at hand, is playing the Rolex Sports waiting game worth it? To qualify, most of the examples, details and experiences I cite are based in Singapore which may or may not be equally applicable in different countries and markets. In order to even begin considering this question, I presume that one has at least some disposable cash to spend on the hobby. After all, in the current market, as far as I can tell, money is the only consistent workable solution to actually getting on a waitlist, at least if you wish to see the watch in any reasonable span of time. While some may decry the policy and claim that ADs who tell customers to first purchase a less wanted watch to even qualify for the waitlist are being greedy, rude and a whole gamut of other pleasantries, from a business point of view it is perfectly reasonable to me. Clients should always come first, and by clients, I mean clients who have actually supported the ADs with their hard-earned cash. They are the ones an AD would want to retain and rightly so. In fact, I would go so far to say that if an AD had a waitlist, and a higher spending client asked for a Daytona for example, the AD should give it to that client, waitlist order be damned.
The next inevitable question would then be, how much is required for a Rolex sports model? I don’t believe that there is a fixed number, but it should be anywhere between S$50,000 to a S$100,000 depending on where you are from and which model you are looking to purchase. This, of course, is based on various experiences of people who have been either quoted figures at ADs, or actually built an account from scratch. Is that figure unreasonable? I will leave that one to you to decide, after all, it is solely dependent on one’s own budget and finances.
Assuming you have the finances and the interest, it is my opinion, that it is worth building an account that qualifies you to purchase a Rolex sports model. Why do I think so you may ask? Simply because, building an account to purchase a Rolex sports model still allows you to enjoy the hobby, experience different watches all while helping you snag that elusive Rolex sports model. In my opinion, most people focus on the fact that you have to spend that much money to get a Rolex sports model. What they often overlook, is what watches you could be buying with that kind of money. At S$50,000, you could experience most other icons in the AD, assuming your AD carries them. In practical terms, you could have enjoyed an Omega Speedmaster, a Tudor Black Bay, a Cartier Santos, a JLC Reverso, a Rolex Datejust, a Zenith El Primero and a Tag Heuer Monaco. You could swap any of them out for a whole plethora of other amazing watches too. I am talking the Omega Seamaster, or JLC Ultra-Thin, Hublot’s Big Bang, Panerai’s Submersible, IWC’s Spitfire, Zenith Defy, or any of the offerings from Glashutte, Nomos, Sinn, Oris, Longines, Breitling, Urwerk, Chopard and dozens more. While none of the ADs in Singapore do, if your AD carries Grand Seiko, you could enjoy a whole variety of fantastic watches that that brand offers. And you could enjoy all of these watches knowing that at some point, you could get that Rolex “Batgirl”, or Rolex “Hulk” having experienced all these watches.
There are of course trade-offs. Firstly, on most of these watches, you would probably take a bigger loss in the resale market than you would if you had gotten them from a second-hand dealer. Then again, personally speaking, I never buy watches to sell, so that is not an issue for me. However, even if it is a consideration for you, in my opinion, you would be taking an extra S$1,000 loss when buying new as compared to buying used. I for one think that that is still a justifiable trade-off, given that you both get the security and experience of buying new, and let us not forget that shiny new Rolex sports model at the end of the tunnel. Secondly, depending on the AD options you have in the area, you may have to restrict the brands you can choose from to the brands that those ADs carry. Choosing wisely, where possible, would be key to resolving this issue. I for one am rather fortunate that the AD I am going to carries a very decent selection of brands from which I can choose from.
To sum up, it is easy to lose perspective in light of the current supply conditions of Rolex sports models. I have read many comments on forums which complain of ADs suggesting a customer first purchase certain other pieces before being able to qualify to purchase certain Rolex sports models. Assuming the AD was not rude or dismissive above it, I find that such comments reflect the fixation on the Rolex sports models in question while dismissing all other watches as merely a means to an end. That is an inherently misguided view on things because there is a whole world of watches out there. Instead of zeroing in on just the inability to get the Rolex sports model you wish to get now, why not consider all the other watches that you could be experiencing while working your way up? Isn’t that what makes watch collecting fun, experiencing a variety of different watches? In fact, you may even find a watch that is just right for you, that isn’t that Rolex sports model that you had initially set your eyes on. Through this process, I have been introduced to a number of watches that I love, that I would not otherwise have come across. Of course, if you are new to the hobby, you may not be aware of the various options out there that are readily available. For everyone else, in my opinion, with a little focus in where you buy your watches from, the journey to purchasing a Rolex sports model could be far more enjoyable than it is made out to be. What do you think? Is it worth playing the Rolex Sports waitlist game? Let me know in the comments.