It will come as no surprise to anybody in the industry that, when asked to name a watch brand they would most like on their wrist, the majority of people named Rolex.
But the scale of the Rolex appeal should be deeply troubling to every other brand and the wider industry because, when 55% want a Rollie, that leaves hundreds of other watchmakers fighting for the other 45%.
It is hard to think of any other sector where a single brand has such dominance.
Demand is also feeding into sales. Watches of Switzerland Group now says that 80% of its sales come from 10 brands. That is obscuring a fact the business used to share until last year, which is that over half of sales are from Rolex.
A survey carried out by Richemont’s Watchfinder & Co. asked over 20,000 watch lovers, from over 140 countries, to name their dream watch.
Rolex dominated the responses, not only as a brand with 55% naming it as their dream watch brand, but also as the most popular watch with its Daytona chronograph, particularly the ref. 116506, the 50th anniversary Daytona model made in platinum (pictured top).
It has a retail price of £59,600, but is now routinely offered for three times that price on the secondary market.
Patek Philippe was the second most popular watch brand, accounting for 12.5% of the votes, and Omega came in third place with 6.7%.
Audemars Piguet scooped fourth place.
Disappointing to Richemont, since it ultimately funded the study, was the discovery that only A. Lange & Söhne from its stable made the top five.
Breitling was at number six, and then Richemont’s Jaeger-LeCoultre, Vacheron Constantin, Cartier and IWC made up the rest of the top ten.
When it came to the most wanted watch model, six of the top ten were from Rolex.
More than 16% of survey respondents named a Rolex Daytona as their number one pick.
In second place was the Rolex Submariner with 12.4% of the votes.
Patek Philippe’s Nautilus came in third with 6.2%, followed by Rolex’s GMT-Master with 5.1% and Rolex Datejust at 4.9%.
Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak crept into the top five with 3.9% listing the famous Gerald Genta designed watch. The rest of the top ten were:
Rolex Oyster Perpetual (3.7%)
Patek Philippe Complication (3.5%)
Rolex Day Date (3.5%)
Omega Speedmaster (3.3%)
Arjen Van de Vall, CEO of Watchfinder & Co., remarks: “Steel sports watches continue to stand the test of time so it was little surprise to see a Daytona at the top of this years ‘most wanted’ list. The platinum Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph, which proved to be the most wanted of all Daytona references, became an instant collectors piece when it was launched in 2013. Demand for this timepiece has continued to outweigh supply ever since and currently the watch is near on impossible to buy new.
“And this is where buying pre-owned really comes into its own; providing watch buyers with unprecedented access to those hard to get pieces – whether that’s a vintage or limited edition, a cult classic that has been discontinued or, of course, a current best seller that is impossible to access new due to impenetrable and lengthy waiting lists. The length and breadth of choice in the luxury watch sector has never been greater and each year more and more watch enthusiasts are recognising trusted pre-owned specialists as the best route to accessing more of this stock.”
Watchfinder’s survey also asked about behavioral issues when it comes to watch research and shopping.
Interestingly, social media and influencers were less powerful than some may assume.
Twice as many people first came across their dream watch on the wrist of someone they know rather than seeing it on the wrist of a celebrity or an influencer. 24% of people first discovered their dream watch in a physical boutique, 20% saw it in editorial and 16% discovered it whilst online shopping online.
The emotional impact of wearing a dream watch was enormous, with 93.8% of respondents believing that wearing their dream watch would positively impact their confidence.
One in three said wearing their dream watch would make them feel successful, wealthy and accomplished and almost one third said wearing their dream watch would make them feel more suave, sophisticated or elegant.
Only 25% of those surveyed selected their dream watch because they considered it a sound investment.