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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.