After Baselworld was cancelled and the pandemic shut stores, factories and supply lines across the globe, it was rumored that Rolex would postpone all its 2020 watch launches until next year.
Thankfully, the unveiling was able to go ahead on September 1, and the reaction could not have been more frenzied from customers dreaming of scoring a new steel Sub or Oyster Perpetual.
Authorized dealers were even more excited at the bounce Rolex promised to give them this side of Christmas, as Rob Corder discovered in calls with retailers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Rolex’s authorised dealers on both sides of the Atlantic are reporting a frenzy of demand for 2020 watches launched on September 1.
“All our stores’ phones have been inundated,” Stuart McDowell, retail director for Laings, a Scotland-based AD, told WatchPro. “With our online chat and digital presence, we are also experiencing more requests coming through these channels than ever before. Even my mobile started late last night and has not stopped.”
5,000 miles away on the other side of The Pond, David Lee, CEO of Hing Wa Lee Jewelers in California, is equally excited about the reaction from customers. “Clients are blowing me up wanting to order the new Subs. In the 25 years of being an official Rolex jeweler, Rolex has never been as HOT,” he adds in a WhatsApp message.
Betteridge, a historic American jeweler with stores in Greenwich, Connecticut, Aspen and Vail, Colorado, and Palm Beach, Florida, has been equally inundated.
“It has been hectic; hundreds of calls, although with diminished expectation as the regulars are quite used to the answer,” says CEO Terry Betteridge, referring to the continuing shortages of the hottest Rolex professional watches.
Discontinued lines, which includes the entire 40mm Submariner line, are still generating inquiries. These models often become more collectible and rise in value faster once manufacturing ends.
“A number requested the old models that might be more available with the new ones stealing the lime light. The older green sub will arguably be worth a premium. That was the request quite a number of times,” Mr Betteridge reveals.
Rolex’s replacement of its entire Submariner line was the headline news from the watchmaker this year, but its less lauded Oyster Perpetual upgrade appears to have authorised dealers excited.
“I love the new Oyster Perpetual dials,” says Lisa Bridge, CEO of Ben Bridge, a West Coast of the United States multiple with almost 100 doors.
“I would have expected my favorite to be the candy pink, but there is something about that coral red lacquered dial that I cannot stop thinking about,” Ms Bridge adds. “As soon as the announcement was made, I personally had customers reaching out. Our customers are delighted with these introductions and are excited that they won’t have to wait too long for them to begin to arrive,” she describes.
Rolex would normally unveil its novelties for the year at Baselworld in March and have them on sale several months later in the summer or fall. But this year, most of the new watches hit authorized dealers in the same month.
Dealers are delighted by the timing of this year’s launches, the speed at which the new watches will hit stores and the highly commercial focus on entry level priced models including the steel Submariners and steel Oyster Perpetuals in 36mm and 41mm sizes. “I think the strategy is sound,” suggests Mr Betteridge.
“Their simplest movements with nothing but cool and shockingly new fashion colours should appeal to a new client, be easier to supply and will get those new folks into a watch that is engineered to a standard that is exceptional and will be new to them. I’ve always sold the Explorer 1 as the Timex without the stigma of low cost, but honestly it’s the most durable and accurate timepiece a rough character can buy; and then you make a buck selling it beat up,” he adds.
Damon Gross, chief executive of Hyde Park Jewelers, a Rolex AD with three stores in Denver, Colorado, is also a fan of the Oyster Perpetuals, particularly the 36mm models with vivid coloured dials.
“I think the “Stella” dials are the real sleeper,” he predicts. “If the Stella dials of the 50s and 70s are any indication, these should be a big winner for those who are paying attention.”
Rolex made DayDates with brightly colored enamel Stella dials in the 1970s, initially for the Middle Eastern market before they became more widely popular and collectible.
Commercially, it is the Submariners that have Hyde Park customers excited. “Cermit — my term for it — and the non-date Subs seems to be the big winners,” says Mr Gross.
For Roberto Chiapelloni, CEO of Manfredi Jewelers, which has a Rolex account in New Canaan, CT, the Submariner upgrade to a new movement and slightly larger 41mm case will do nothing to dent demand, but he is personally more excited about the Oyster Perpetuals and Sky Dweller on an Oysterflex strap.
“It is quite easy to love the new Submariner, but I’m really happy with the Sky Dweller on the Oysterflex bracelet. It will appeal to a much larger audience, especially men who think a gold bracelet on a larger watch is a bit more then they want. The absolute winner from my clients, and myself, are the Oyster Perpetuals. The colors are a really welcome addition, and I can’t wait to see them in my store,” he tells WatchPro.
Hamilton a venerable American jeweller with three luxury boutiques in Princeton, Massachusetts, and Palm Beach, Florida, is being hit by a wave of demand from its affluent and expert customers.
“We have received hundreds of email and phone inquiries from our known clients and collectors, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” the company’s CEO Hank Siegel says.
“The subtle but significant changes to the Submariner and Submariner Date are terrific and will serve to enhance the desirability of that model range. We are very happy that the precious metal options in 18ct yellow gold and 18ct white gold were retained, as both are very good sellers for us. The entire range is a winner and will do well,” he predicts.
Mr Siegel was the only retailer responding to WatchPro who mentioned the significant additions to Rolex’s ladies’ DateJust range. “The Datejust 31 upgrades and dial choices are terrific. As an example, the Oyster Steel with white gold and diamonds has many beautiful dial choices and provides a wonderful choice for a woman’s watch with a large number of variations in bracelet, dial, and bezel combinations to satisfy most every taste. We think that the sales of this style will continue to grow nicely,” he believes.
However, like many other Rolex partners, it is the Oyster Perpetuals that left the greatest impression. “We LOVE (Mr Seigel’s capital letters) the Oyster Perpetual introductions. Everything is right about them – the price range, the dial colors and the case size ranges. In particular the silver dial with the gold hands and chapter dots brings back a look that was made by Rolex years ago, and is beautifully updated. We think it is an instant classic. The fun other colors in tropical tones as well as the classic black and blue will appeal to an audience that previously may have passed over this reference, at an accessible price. We have had many , many calls and inquiries and are excited to be able to display these in our locations soon,” he concludes.
What most watch enthusiasts who might be considering their first Rolex purchase, the biggest question is whether they will be able to get their hands on the new Submariners and Oyster Perpetuals, or will they never make it into windows because demand continues to exceed demand by a huge margin.
“I think demand is too strong for that,” says Hyde Park’s Mr Gross. “It’s is crazy what is going on with Rolex. They’ve done a great job over the past few years and I think the over the top demand will hold for years to come,” he adds.