WatchPro has written about the current shortage of steel sports watches from Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet for so long now that it hardly needs repeating that these unicorn watches are still impossible to find.
Hank Siegel, the highly respected chief executive of Hamilton Jewelers, told WatchPro in a Big Interview publishing in August that the situation today is unlike anything he has experienced in his 40-year career.
Demand is exceeding supply by such a margin for models like the steel Daytona, GMT Master II and Submariner from Rolex; Nautilus and Aquanaut from Patek Philippe and Royal Oak from Audemars Piguet that authorized dealers are constantly at risk of losing the goodwill of customers.
“When a local consumer walks into a local retailer and says, ‘My son is graduating and I’d like to purchase A, B, C Rolex’, and they’re a regular client of the store and you don’t have what they want, you have to go into an explanation about why it may be a few months. They then say, ‘What do you mean? Graduation’s next week!’. It’s a tough conversation many times but I think those brands are working to address the shortages and the production issues and I know they’re working very hard at it,” Mr Siegel says.
Shortages need to be resolved, Mr Siegel suggests, or decades of brand building with customers could be undone.
“We’ve built our business over 107 years by knowing and assisting clients and we think we do a good job of creating nice relationships in our communities. I think the brands recognize that they need to walk a fine line between getting the benefits of scarcity and alienating clients who are simply looking to celebrate special occasions. At the local level where we’re dealing with these people and know them in our community, that is a frustrating part of the business today and it’s unlike anything I’ve experienced in my 40 year career,” Mr Siegel suggests.
Although there is no sign that production has been increased to meet the current stratospheric demand for unicorn watches, Mr Siegel is confident the issue will be resolved in time.
“What we’re experiencing now is an unusual time in the watch industry and I hope that things will level off and return to normal, whatever normal is! I’m confident that these issues over time will be addressed, but it’s a challenge for the authorized dealer, who serves a regional market and whose business is not tourist-based in a major city,” he concludes.