Confessions of a Reformed Rolex Hater: Three Days on the Waitlist

I’m not gonna lie. I’ve been hating on Rolex – especially the way many ADs have allocated watches – for at least 3 years now. Not terribly original but maybe you noticed a social media comment or two like, ‘until they go to First Come, First Served, this brand is dead to me. Like that. I kind of gave up on buying a steel men’s watch from an official Rolex dealer. There were many (true) stories of favored customers getting call after call to pick up their 8th, 9th, and 10th Rolex watch in the space of a year, while aspiring first-time buyers were passed over. And all the display cases are empty:

https://www.watchpro.com/corders-column-rolex-is-no-longer-a-retail-brand/

In the meantime, last summer my wife & I had a wonderful time staying at the home of family friends in Crested Butte, Colorado, including the annual food & wine festival to support the town’s Art Center. And wow, talk about living the high life – surrounded by the scenic Rocky Mountains and served an endless series of legit Chef cooked dishes with expertly paired wines – good lord that was pleasant.

Do you know what I noticed there? I was the only watch enthusiast in a crowd of well-heeled dudes who all wore the same timepiece: the Rolex Datejust. It’s the Official Watch of the Summer Home Set. One hedge-fund guy wore a gold Patek dress watch, and my wife’s brother rocked the smooth bezel platinum Day-Date 40, but other than that we saw DJ, DJ, DJ everywhere.

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After years down the rabbit hole of enthusiast watches and watch-obsessed people, it dawned on me that normal guys just buy a watch and wear it while doing their job, kicking around on the weekend, or traveling. These people don’t own a 3-watch travel case or a watch winder, and they’ve never heard of Chrono24. They’ve heard of Rolex. I started looking at the Datejust 41 for myself. Smooth bezel, Oyster bracelet, I like the white dial. It became a waitlisted item in 2020 but maybe I could get a new DJ41… eventually?

While dinking around on the Rolex website for the first time in several years, I saw a bright green dial and a checkered green dial as new options for 2022. Maybe I should try another AD, one that I’ve never been to, and strike up a conversation with the salesperson about this new mint green DJ41, and register my interest. Bring my lovely bride, let her charm the staff, and look at jewelry. Try a different approach. Diving into an AD on my own and dropping lots of watch nerd knowledge had not worked out very well. Living about 50+ miles from any Rolex AD didn’t help either.

‘The Rolexes are all heavily pre-sold.’ ‘Our clients are mostly investment bankers.’ Those statements pissed me off back in 2019. Because I let them piss me off. I let a jackass store manager ‘Dan’ take up space in my head, rent-free. Don’t do that, it’s stupid. Here’s a 75-second video that changed my perspective. I rewatch it every so often and maybe it can help you too:

Tony Robbins: Trade your Expectations for Appreciation

So now it’s 2022. A new holiday we get in the USA is called ‘Juneteenth’ – this year it fell on Monday, June 20th. Stores will be open & I’m not working. I chose an AD from the Rolex website and dropped the jeweler a message letting them know we’d be stopping by. Looked at the business’s pretty pictures on Google Maps and saved the driving directions.

Photo Credit: Rolex

Dressing nice and pulling up in our shiny Cayenne probably helped, I will admit. I had the names of a sales associate and the store owner thanks to a super cool dude on Instagram. We walked in and let the staff greet us. The associate I mentioned wasn’t working, but ‘Sam’ was happy to help us look at jewelry for the lady and watches for me. ‘Sam’ is a sharp dresser too; he looks the part. We let him do his job the way he’d been trained to do it. Didn’t mention the preferred customer topic, the wait list topic, none of that. I said something about the demand and supply of Rolex are out of balance right now and I was prepared to be very patient. I would like to buy a Datejust 41.

“Have you seen this mint green dial, it’s new for this year? I don’t think many people have heard about it.” Pulled out my phone, and showed him a couple of screenshots of that DJ41. I had QR codes for the 126300 in green, checkered green, and white dials. We didn’t need QR codes because the dude was ON it, working the Rolex tablet like a pro which I was happy to mention.

Photo Credit: Rolex

This jeweler has NO empty display cases of would-be watches for sale. They have one working display watch for every single Rolex model. I’m sure this AD re-vamp wasn’t cheap for the jeweler or Rolex. Sometimes the display is steel & gold or has an unloved dial color. That doesn’t matter because their purpose is to show how the watch fits and feels on your wrist. This is what a tailor does: make you feel comfortable and ensure your new purchase will fit you in a way that makes you confident. Again, just taking things as they were presented to me, this all started to make sense.

I only tried on two models – a DJ36 and a DJ41. The 36mm seems a little small. ‘Sam’ took out this very 1970s Rolex printed form and wrote out my name, address, phone number, and email, and registered my interest in the 126300. We exchanged business cards. He mentioned if I was flexible on dial color, he might be able to allocate me a watch that much sooner. In screenwriting, this is called foreshadowing.

Photo Credit: Rolex

Suzanne was looking at rings. She’s not lacking for jewelry but hey – happy wife, happy life. And often it’s the other way around: she goes on a shopping spree and then cheerfully offers to buy me whatever shirt, pants, or shoes I might be looking at. ‘Sam’ shows us two rings. One seems to fit her style better, which I mention. We all agree. I buy it for her. For reference, the ring costs a good bit less than the grey market premium on a DJ41. Everyone’s pleased. The staff were all super courteous and make us feel like family. They offered to clean Suzanne’s engagement ring (I whispered ‘let them’ in her ear), they got us cold drinks, and Sam wrote up the sizing order for the new ring.

This part next part might be a lucky break. I see a gentleman and ask if he’s ____ (the owner’s name). Yep. We chat a bit about his new store, the shopping complex that he had built to his plans, and the towns where he has businesses. I share an old Navy story about these same towns and bite my tongue about my brother-in-law the builder or the grail-worthy 116655 on the owner’s wrist. That seemed to go pretty well. Maybe it made all the difference.

Three days later – Thursday the 23rd – I get a message from ‘Sam’ stating that a mint green 126300 most likely won’t be available until next year, white dial maybe this year. He had a blue-dial 126300, was I interested? I ponder for well under a minute and reply: Yes, I’d love to buy the blue one. He agrees to hold the watch for me to pick up on Saturday. In conversation, a friend mentions that a blue dial matches my eyes. Six freaking years obsessing about watches and I had never thought of that.

The lady who greeted me Saturday had not been there on my previous visit (5 days if you’re counting) so when I mentioned I was there to pick up a Rolex watch, she found Sam, and then in hushed tones, she thanked me profusely for my patience. I managed to not laugh out loud. Their watchmaker fitted it perfectly – the bracelet is snug to my wrist in air-conditioning and popping the Easy Link clasp gives plenty of expansion when I’m out in hot weather.

We talked a little bit about the watches, that I was grateful to be a new Rolex customer, and was more than a little surprised. Sam mentioned that Rolex is shipping more watches, that some existing customers had tired of the long wait and gave up, and that this jeweler was looking to expand their base of customers. I got the feeling that it’s much like a small company holding job interviews – they’re not so much looking for the best CV, they’re looking for someone they can work with. Be that guy.

Try on all the steel sports from Rolex & other brands at watch meetups or jewelers in some other town, that’s my advice. At the place you want to call ‘my AD’ for life, go in with a plan. Go for one watch, get it, then go for the next. Sam knows my next Rolex interest, and it’s a hot one. I mentioned a big wedding anniversary in December 2023; if he can allocate me one by then, I’ll be super happy. If it takes longer than that, I’ll still be happy. He smiled as he wrote all of this down. I’ve got a good feeling about it.