Rolex tool watches lose luster as investment-class assets


Read 52,189 times in 2019

Rob Corder, editor of WatchPro.

CORDER’S COLUMN: The only reason for buying a Rolex steel sports watch today is — thankfully — for the love of owning and wearing it.

A multi-pronged mission to rid the market of flippers who buy these unicorn watches only to sell them immediately on the secondary market is reaching its endgame.

Market forces have made scouring the world for the likes of Rolex’s steel Submariners, Daytonas and GMT Masters as investment-class assets almost pointless in three significant ways.


First, selling prices have cooled by 10-15% in the last six months for these models on sites like Watchfinder, Chrono24 and WatchBox. Secondary market players have been fighting to buy these watches on such thin margins in recent years that this drop in sell prices means they are making losses on significant parts of their inventory. As a result, the buy prices being offered are falling even faster.

Secondly, waiting lists to buy these watches new from authorised dealers are eye-wateringly long. At Dubai Watch Week, Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, the biggest multi-brand watch retailer in the Middle East, said some waiting lists are over a decade long for some models, and there is no chance of getting to the top of them unless customers are regularly buying watches. “Some references have a 12 year waiting list … customers buying one, two, three, four, five watches might get a Pepsi as a Christmas present,” the company’s chief commercial officer Mohammed Seddiqi said in an open forum session.

This means that even though a £7,000 Hulk is advertised today for twice that price on the secondary market, it is almost impossible to be the person who makes the profit from the sale of that watch.

Thirdly, people that do mange to buy an investment-grade watch and flip it for a profit are being hunted down and blacklisted by brands, retailers and sometimes both. Serial numbers can be traced back to an authorised dealer that sold a watch that was then flipped. The customer can be identified and, “They will never get a watch from us again,” Mr Seddiqi revealed.

So, genuine collectors are the only people that have any chance of buying these unicorn watches. If they they flip them, they risk being blocked from buying any more watches from authorised dealers (unless they sell them back to those same authorised dealers, but that is a story for another day).

Professional flippers have no chance of buying the watches and now have to move onto other brands and watch models. This will take even more heat out of the market and deflate the bubble in prices.

Ergo: Rolex tool watches have lost their value as investment-class assets.


  1. Good on you lot I brought a Perpetual Datejust_11 Wimbledon face new in Wellington partridges and I love it I would love to have a submarine or gmt but the wateing time is long new I hope I get one day new too

  2. I think the industry needs to police itself. Why not require ADs to register each watch sold with the buyer’s information, and also have the buyer agree, in writing, not to sell the watch for a specific period of time. High end watches can be tracked by serial number, AD, buyer and seller. It shouldn’t have to be this complicated, but true watch lovers / collectors are unable or unwilling to buy the watches they desire. I recently saw a pre-owned Patek Weekly Calendar watch for sale at twice the retail price (US$70,000); this is a watch that is brand new in the market, available for less than one year!

  3. Great news have wanted a submariner for a long long time but couldn’t keep up with the yearly inflation! Here’s hoping I can afford one soon

    • well said dude. In response to the article, now that the aftermarket is selling Hulks at only 8.5k, sign me up. oh wait……..they’re not! still 13.5k. ergo, crock of shit. well said Utrik!

  4. I’m so glad that now people who have saved up money to by a special gift such as a Rolex Submarener .will no longer be ripped off from second hand sellers wanting double the original shop prices only 1 or 2 year old some people don’t have deep pockets to buy 2 or 3 Rolex watches in there life so when you. Save up for your husbands big birthday or special occasion and go to a retail watch shop only to be told sorry there’s a waiting list to buy the watch of your husbands dreams 4/5 years long .but watchfinder & other online retailers second hand sellers wanting double the original price just for someone to make a profit Rolex should have stopped this year’s ago but they only care about millionaires not hard working people who end up getting ripped off from second hand sellers &might be a fake

  5. It’s a dirty game played by the AD’s and Grey dealers and now that the market is overheating they blame it on the retail customers. Real classy

  6. „Unicorn watches” you see them everywhere! Every car retail or real estate douche has one. Neither rare, nor special.

  7. I have a close friend who is a major player in the secondary Rolex watch market in Hong Kong and Singapore. A very small portion of his purchases/inventory comes from watch flippers. Up to 90% of his inventory comes from Rolex ADs across the globe that sell to him at prices above MSRP or at MSRP if my friend purchases a significant number of unpopular watches that the AD has in stock. When an AD says things like, “Some references have a 12-year waiting list … customers buying one, two, three, four, five watches might get a Pepsi as a Christmas present…” and ‘Serial numbers can be traced back to an AD that sold a watch that was then flipped. The customer can be identified and, “They will never get a watch from us again,” ‘ I find it rich because they are usually the ones that are causing the shortage of desirable Rolex pieces at ADs. The whole market is a dirty game played by ADs and secondary dealers. Putting the blame on retail customers or flippers is only a way to divert the attention away from themselves.


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