No - I'm not talking about a Rolex watch or
any Rolex watch in particular. The question I would like to get an
answer for is this: Is Rolex Swiss Watchmaker a broken company in desperate need of repair?
I have to confess, I have never bought a brand new watch from an
authorised Rolex dealer. But today on my way to work, I stopped at the
Rolex Sydney Boutique, rang the bell and walked in as a customer,
holding in hand my hard earned cash.
When a 56 year old clean cut chubby man wearing glasses walks into an establishment, and I mean any
establishment you can think of, he is a man on a mission. There is no
time to be wasted. A mature man needs no sales pitch, he knows what he
wants. He can afford it, and he wants it now.
"I would like to buy two Rolex watches please - Rolex Submariner and Rolex GMT Master."
Instead of "Yes Sir, cash or card?" the dealer offered the lost puppy
look. In a hushed voice, he started sharing that old, worn out,
well-crafted story of how Rolex sports models are practically
unobtainable, that global demand outstrips supply and that even putting
my name down on the five years waiting list would make no difference.
Finally, he made an attempt to sum up and tie up altogether in one: Rolex watches were always hard to get!
"That is complete nonsense" I said. "Rolex stainless steel models were always easy to get.
Until recently, Rolex produced one million watches per year and every
dealer's window was literally crammed with Rolexs to the point that just
looking at them would make one sick. For the past 80 years, buying a
Rolex watch was never a hard thing to do, there was no waiting list."
"Not anymore," he said, "I could sell 100 a day, but we only get one watch of each model per month."
Make no mistake, the Rolex dealer was courteous, patient and genuinely
disappointed that he could not sell me a watch. And the situation we are
in right now is the least of his fault. But neither is it mine.
Punishing a buyer for wanting something that everybody else wants simply
doesn't make sense.
I left the shop disappointed, and as I type this, I can only think of
those 99 Rolex customers who will feel the same today. Their loyalty to
the brand will be tested and they will be left with only three options:
to remain loyal to the brand that will never sell them a watch that they
dream of, to pay almost double for a second hand Rolex, or to buy an
Omega. When a loyal customer is left with these three options, two of
which are deeply humiliating, then perhaps something is broken; not in
Sydney but in Switzerland, something that no watchmaker can fix.