Buying a Rolex is really difficult. Even if you’ve spent months or years saving up for the Swiss watch of your dreams, it is currently almost impossible to buy certain models of Rolex from the company’s own shops.
There are all sorts of reasons for this, ranging from supply and labour shortages, to the murkier side of high-end watch retail, where loyal customers are more likely to bag a new model than someone hoping to pick up their first Rolex.
The difficulty purchasing Rolex flagships like the Daytona and Submariner has pushed second-hand prices through the roof, as wealthy watch fans are willing to pay whatever it takes to get hold of the latest models, while investors speculatively purchase from the second-hand market in the hope that prices will climb even further.
Now though, there’s another option. Rolex has announced the creation of a certified pre-owned retail channel, where second-hand watches are bought from owners, checked for authenticity, blessed with a manufacturer-backed warranty, and sold on.
Itr’s a retail model the car industry has successfully operated for years, with manufacturers selling second-hand vehicles to customers who are happy to pay a premium for the reassurance that comes with a first-party warranty. For Rolexes, this also means authentication that the watch is real and hasn’t been interfered with. Each timepiece comes with a two-year international Rolex warranty, along with a Rolex Certified Pre-Owned label and pouch
For its first European retail partner, Rolex has chosen Bucherer, a family-owned Swiss watch retailer founded in 1888. Initially, second-hand Rolexes will be available to buy from six Bucherer boutiques in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France, Denmark and the UK. This will be expanded to other official Role retailers in the spring of 2023.
Second-hand watches that are at least three years old qualify for the Rolex Certified Pre-Owned programme, but it isn’t clear yet how many watches Rolex plans to offer for sale at a time, or if this supply will keep up with demand. It also isn’t known yet what sort of price Rolex will pay sellers, or what profit it intends to make.
Clearly, the company has the power to move the pre-owned market by either under- or over-cutting existing second-hand sellers. We would expect that, given the backing and reassurance that comes from manufacturer authentication and a warranty, prices will be high. We wonder if, in some cases, desirable pre-owned Rolexes with a two-year warranty will be priced higher than a brand-new version with the standard five-year warranty, such is demand for the former.
Bucherer says the programme gives its customers “outstanding added value, unlike any to be found on the market. The collaboration sees the two companies generate the ultimate in security and transparency”.