Friday, November 1, 2019

Is Rolex broken?

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. 

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