What a time to be a Rolex retailer. Yes, they may be grumbling about flippers and chancers bombarding them with demands to buy steel Subs and Daytonas but, like farmers, there will never be a time when everything is considered rosy.
By consolidating distribution into the hands of a smaller number of highly skilled, loyal and experienced retail partners, Rolex has helped major multiples and family-run independents get seriously rich.
The Watches of Switzerland Group now has sales of over $1 billion world-wide. Bucherer is nudging towards £100 million in the UK, alone.
They have responded by investing eye-watering sums in Rolex shop in shops and monobrand boutiques that lead to even stronger sales. As we report today, Rolex UK sales were up 12% last year to £367 million.
This is a virtuous circle limited in its wealth-generating potential only by the drought in supply that it has fueled.
Thankfully there are other brands sharing in this success. Patek Philippe in the UK is the most notable example, generating sales for its distributor of £163 million last year through just 22 retail partners.
Richemont reported sales of £148 million in the UK last year, and you can add around £50 million in sales for Cartier to that figure. Swatch Group turnover was £160 million.
LVMH Watch & Jewellery, the last of the big five, is yet to publish its UK accounts for 2018, but is expected to build on sales of £99 million in 2017.
That will mean that the big five are likely to total £1 billion through their wholesale operations in the UK for the first time.