According to Insider, Rolex makes up to a million new watches a year, each by hand. While there's no doubt that's a lot of fine watches to go around, they are still confusingly hard to find and the new ones are also appreciating in value like never before.
Yet this year, more than ever, buying a new Rolex model from an authorized dealer and selling it on the secondary market is virtually guaranteed to bring returns that (dramatically) outperform the stock market.
Take, for example, the new 36 mm Rolex Explorer in Oystersteel (ref. 124270). Introduced at Watches and Wonders Geneva in April for a retail price of $6,450, the model is currently valued between $10,026 and $11,246 on Chrono24, which bills itself as “the world’s largest marketplace for luxury watches.” As of Aug. 3, the reference was fetching a premium of 66.4 percent above retail.
It's more remarkable to note this when it comes at a time of economic volatility worldwide.
Robb Report goes on to cite several more examples of new Rolex models appreciating wildly in value, such as a "new 36 mm two-tone Rolex Explorer in Oystersteel and yellow gold (ref. 124273)" which is selling on Chrono24 for up to 32.5% over its original MSRP of $10,800.
Paul Altieri, founder and CEO of preowned Rolex site Bob's Watches, tells Maxim.com that even as "the global economy is still recovering from the effects of the COVID pandemic, the US stock market, real estate, and yes luxury watches are all booming."
"Rolex has been around for 100 years and demand for their products has always been strong," Altieri admits, "But not like this. International demand for Rolex watches these past years is fueling this surge in prices because supply simply cannot keep up."
"Their products are super high quality," Altieri notes, "...yet they are still considered affordable luxury."
The Robb Report goes on to point out that the price boom isn't limited to relatively lower-priced Rolex models:
In short, virtually every Rolex model introduced in April—from the references noted above to the yellow gold Daytona with the meteorite dial (ref. 116508), which retails for $41,000 but lists for £66,950, or $93,050, on Watchfinder—is selling well above retail.
Rare Rollies—a famous example is Paul Newman's legendary Daytona—are as in-demand as ever. Robb Report quotes WatchBox CEO Justin Reis in offering examples such as "Precious metal Daytonas" which he says "have exploded — from yellow gold greens (ref. 116508-0013) to white gold blues (ref. 116509-0071), and the white gold on Oysterflex (ref. 116519ln-0027) — all of which are commanding over retail market values.”
Even authorized dealers, according to Robb, must put in requests to Rolex "well in advance of any special occasions" due to the time it takes to get the desired model.
Of course Rolex quality is part of the luxury brand's legacy, so it's a guarantee that a new Oystersteel Datejust will bring enduring quality and be a worthwhile investment, but collectors in the know don't always buy using investment as their main criteria. Often, it just has to do with what interests or even obsesses them—like (for example) Rolex models with historical resonance, such as the Daytona, or the Day-Date made famous by Alec Baldwin's legendary monologue in Glengarry Glen Ross.
For that, the preowned market is still a good bet as far as availability goes, at least—Bob's Watches, Chrono24, and WatchBox are examples of reliable retailers where you'll find gorgeous luxury timepieces that have already accrued investment value and will continue to do so for decades to come.
So, if you're looking for a new Rollie, be prepared to wait. For a great preowned Rolex—now more than ever—be prepared to pay up.