Tracey llewellyn
WatchPro editor Tracey Llewellyn.


In an expensive game of horological lucky dip, retailers and collectors placed their orders for 2023 Rolex watches and added themselves to ‘registers of interest’ before the watches were even unveiled.

While trying to avoid writing on a Bank Holiday Sunday, and struggling to press the off button on the TV remote, I stumbled across one of those mid-century, bubblegum movies that provided a perfect 90-minute distraction.

Lover Come Back (1961) is set in the world of 1960s’ Madison Avenue ad agencies where a battle of the sexes between Doris Day and Rock Hudson is tied in to the invention of a new super-product called VIP.

Beyond the instant recognition that little has changed in terms of glass ceilings and the different methods employed by men and women to progress their respective careers, there was one other striking similarity between the farcical storyline and the real-life luxury world.

The film’s punchline is that you can sell anything (or, as it turns out, nothing) to the masses if you are a good enough salesman with the most appealing marketing game.

A series of misunderstandings leads to the ‘product’ being advertised with a full, lavish TV and print campaign, whipping up a frenzy and turning VIP into a must-have.

The twist is that while everyone wants it, they have no idea what it is, what it does or what it’s made of.

The fact is that, while people the world over are queuing to get their hands on VIP, it doesn’t actually exist.

While the 60-year-old plot is intended to be ridiculous, its connections to the luxury watch world of today are undeniable.

This year Rolex released the most un-Rolex of products, kept tightly under wraps until Watches and Wonders.

Predicting what Rolex will launch every Spring has become a calendar event as regular as Watches and Wonders, itself, but nobody could ever have guessed at the Oyster Perpetual ‘Bubble’ or the Day-Date ‘Emoji’.

Yet, in an expensive game of horological lucky dip, retailers and collectors had placed their orders and added themselves to ‘registers of interest’ before the watches were even unveiled.

Rolex bubble
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Bubble.

Of course, with Rolex, Patek Philippe and a handful of other brands, any buyer is on to a sure thing – at least for now.

But the hype stretches beyond these safe bets and that’s where it starts to get increasingly questionable.

M128235 0063 2301uf 001
Rolex Day-Date.

Obsession is understandable with known objects that are rare and highly covetable, or with unique bespoke pieces.

But when series watches (no matter how small the edition) are marketed frenetically and sold unseen, or from sketches and renderings, surely it is time to ask if the emperor has indeed forgotten to put on his clothes?

In recent times, some of these uber-exclusive, only available to ‘special clients’ timepieces have been nothing short of uninspiring and one has to question whether they will hold their crazy values.

Perhaps the eager buyers would have been better off with VIP – which, when it did materialise, turned out to be a candy containing the alcohol equivalent of three reality-altering Martinis.

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