Why is Rolex so popular? Why?

I was talking to an authorised dealer for Rolex the other day and mentioned the fact that the Submariner and certain other models are seemingly being constrained in terms of the volume on sale.

He disputed this and advised that the company is simply making as many as it can to keep up with demand, but did admit that to even buy a Submariner from his store you would have needed to have already spent money on Rolex in the past. Apparently this is the only way to prioritise the sheer number of customers who want a new Submariner.

The discussion continued with me politely calling BS on what he was telling me, but still the rehearsed words came to me. The fact that you have to spend money on Rolex watches to buy the Rolex watch you want is crazy, but this is not an isolated case. It is common knowledge that this happens and if you visit any authorised Rolex dealer you will see many Datejust watches and very very few Submariners. The waiting list according to the AD I spoke to was months which goes to show that limiting supply can increase demand and it would appear that Rolex can use any argument for this happening.

Scarcity creates more publicity and flicks the switch in many men’s brains that means they want to own it, purely because it is scarce. This article sums it up and it would appear that Rolex understands this and is doing the ‘right business thing’ by stirring demand in the most capitalist of ways.

Aside from this, and on a personal level, I just don’t get it. The designs have barely changed over the decades, which is of course a good thing, but to me the forms suggest old, mature, stable and any other word I can find to suggest that they are dull and overly traditional.

The Sea Dweller is the perfect example. It’s huge. It’s heavy. The dial is busy and small within a case that is big and numerated in too large a way. The specifications regarding how deep it can go are ludicrous and aim at the need for some men to have a watch that will live long after they have died at the bottom of the ocean. I can’t deny the quality of the movements or the finishing, but remember that this is a mass-market brand producing 100,000’s of watches per year, and still they command prices that would suggest the number is in the 1,000’s.

I can’t help but admire how Rolex does this and the way the company has created the brand that those who reach a financial point in their lives look to first. A Rolex is a sign of success and stability on a wrist and few other watches can do this. It is the brand that people who know nothing about watches admire when they see one, or at least the 1 out of 100 who does not think it is a fake, and it is so embedded in our minds that the designs are perceived to be timeless and perfect, even though they obviously are not in so many ways.

Personally, I much prefer the Tudor range for the pricing, designs and modern sense the watches offer, even if ironically the majority are styled on vintage watches. I also prefer to wear a watch that most would not know such as an Oris or a Bremont, but Rolex will continue to flourish and give steam to the train that is the watch industry and I shall continue to never own one. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Rolex or the watches per se, but I am uneasy about the constraining of the most popular models for presumably no other reason that to drive demand upwards.

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