Green Rambles: Are You Already Part Of A Tribe?

This article is from the WatchTime Archives and was originally published in 2022.

It is no secret that there are brands in the watch industry where the demand for their timepieces is far greater than the supply. Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Richard Mille are often the ones mentioned in relation to this. The focus was mainly on their sports models with the first two, but even that has changed. Now, even getting a newer style Datejust requires a great relationship with your Rolex dealer and a lot of patience. The same goes for the Calatrava. It also doesn’t stop there as many other brands are now so in demand that they can’t or won’t, and often both, match production. This trend has reduced boutiques to temples of frustration, with many talented and knowledgeable sales staff singing the monotonous hymn of saying no.

Many brands struggle with this, as this is a position that sounds like the best thing even for them, but it is instead the opposite. One of the solutions utilized is rewarding brand loyalty by allocating new models first and foremost to existing clients that are part of “the tribe.” This sounds great, as these people are less likely to flip the watches as soon as they are delivered, but it also creates a sharp contrast between the have and have nots. In particular with limited editions or brands that have a fairly limited production, it means that the vast majority of their products end up with the same small group of people. Unless you have deep pockets, it also forces you to focus your collection on one or more brands, as having an eclectic taste is these days a disadvantage.

MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual - YG

For those not part of the “tribe,” life becomes even more frustrating. With some brands, they can wait for a “drop.” This is like a concert, with a limited number of seats that can be bought through an online frenzy, often at the most inconvenient times. Another option is actually paying the prices asked in the grey market. It will cost you, but it can give you a foot in the door, as it allows you at least to establish a relationship with a brand, increasing your chances to become one of the “tribe.”

This sounds almost like an initiation from The Godfather. It also takes away from the experience that buying an exclusive watch once was when you were welcomed in a boutique and had the opportunity to compare and discuss various models of your preference in a luxurious atmosphere. Those days are long gone and replaced by a frenzy in which many people blindly order watches they have never seen in the metal before. The only good news is that the brands hate it as much as you and I.

What is your biggest frustration when buying watches? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. Jeff Taylor

    I had patiently waited to buy a Rolex until I hit 50. Now that I’ve hit that milestone, they are too expensive compared what I’m willing to spend plus I’m not willing to play the games to get one. There are so many other wonderful watches that can be purchased, why bother with these hype watches?

  2. The hinted brands and products are not the only ones in the world where the habit I have the money why I cannot get it on the normal way doesn’t help. Same can be observed for other luxury goods as well e.g. a certain Porsche model but also one cannot have access to best medical doctors etc. I concluded 3 reasons looking at this question: 1. following inerviews with Mr.Stern or the CEO of A.Lange we learn that scarcity is partly determined due to limited availability of peak educated watch makers and the strategic aim of not being hurt by economic ups/downs. 2. Some brand identity aspects for what is real luxury. Even an economic term definition of real luxury explains that real luxury is not purely a matter of price but also of being rare. 3. For Patek, Lange owners (and the “applicants”) is a tangible value not having a mass product like Rolex which is expensive but not as exclusive. In fact a certain portion of customers feed this situation also due to the desire having something which is not much spread. A sort of “painting phenomena” where a Mona Lisa exists only once. This is not the case with watches but maybe we cannot exclude this type of desire. Conclusion: in life things are complex. A simplification e.g. just on production volume is easy and logical but mostly isn’t enough for reality. I’m not happy either. However once understood all these implications I can develop my strategy which obviously has to be more clever than just to have money. Maybe the appropriate view: lets enjoy the hunt.

  3. Steven Butler

    Right you are Martin, and then add to all that, the rising prices of watches as well. It seems crazy to me that there are so many time-only watches in steel cases that are $30,000 and more. Honest, non-flipping collectors are getting priced out of the market for many brands including newer independents.

  4. It’s very frustrating. I have talked to 2 Rolex ADs In my area that I have established relationships over the years with multiple purchasers of different jewelry items and non rolex watches but they won’t even give me the time of day when I ask about purchasing a Rolex watch. I guess I haven’t spent enough money with them.

  5. The article hits the nail right on its head. As a watch enthusiast with an eclectic taste, I own several brands. Trying to complete the Swiss holy trinity I’ve visited Patek snd AP several times. Having 4 Vacheron does not help. As such, I’m distancing myself from those snobby brands. At the Rolex Boutique in Miami, the salesperson did not even open the door completely for me, mind you I was wearing a platinum, tourbillon timepiece.

    • Why open the door at all
      If they had no
      Intention of letting you in . Guess it’s a Miami thing

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