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.
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.