Rolex Prices Are Coming Down, But Don’t Get Your Hopes Up
Last week, we received a report on the pre-owned watch market from Morgan Stanley and WatchCharts. In their latest report concerning Q3 2022, we read that Rolex, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Philippe make up approximately 70% of the total trading value in the pre-owned luxury watch market. The report also indicates that Rolex prices are down 21% compared to March and April this year. But does that mean you’ll soon be able to buy one at retail? Well, it depends on what you’re after.
Not too long ago, I wrote that there are signs that Rolex authorized dealers and boutiques (which are not owned by the brand, except one in Geneva) seem to be getting more watches in stock. Even after that article, one of our guys bought a Rolex Explorer II at retail from an authorized dealer. He didn’t even have any “purchase history” (I would have never imagined this would become a phrase) but just walked in and asked if they had anything. Yes, this is a sample of one, which isn’t much of a sample. Nevertheless, it is possible, for some models at least.
Morgan Stanley & WatchCharts Report for Q3 2022
The Morgan Stanley/WatchCharts report also includes other brands and reports even a little boost in performance for brands like Girard-Perregaux. That said, I have yet to see a GP watch in the flesh this year, be it in the wild or at a show, so let’s not think they are suddenly top of mind among most collectors and speculators. It seems the report is focused on the latter group, as the first paragraph started with the words “Investment implications”. Nevertheless, it gives an interesting insight into what has happened in the past quarter.
Prices came down in Q3 2022 compared to the previous quarter
Back to Rolex. The pre-owned prices are down 21% compared to their peak trading moment in April but “only” down 8% compared to Q2 2022. The watches that came down the most in price were often also those that appreciated the most in recent years. The Rolex Daytona 116500LN is the example given in the report. At its peak, this reference changed hands for $47,400. In Q3 2022, it was at $32,600. That’s a major price drop, but it’s still more than double its retail price. Have no faith in buying one at retail; these Daytonas are hard to come by. Morgan Stanley relies on the data submitted by WatchCharts, which uses the pre-owned prices of the 30 most-sold Rolex references.
Over 900 Daytona 116500LNs on Chrono24… What scarcity?
I would be interested to see how long it takes for a Daytona to sell at $32,600. On Chrono24, the largest platform for pre-owned luxury watches, there are currently 901 Rolex Daytona 116500LN being offered, the cheapest starting at $26,132. The expensive ones are hitting the $50K mark, though, nearly double the price of the cheapest. Some examples are new and unworn, but others are worn and also priced very high. The number of available Daytona watches also shows that it’s a very artificial scarcity game.
As you probably guessed already, many of the Daytonas offered at higher price points were bought by speculators at their peak. If they bought them at retail ($14,550), it’s easier to come down to the aforementioned $32,600 price than if they bought it at that price or slightly more. We hear rumors that many pre-owned watch dealers find themselves in trouble because they purchased these watches during the peak period. And as a dealer, if you only bought one, perhaps you could take the loss, but if you have purchased a dozen or more, it starts to hurt, especially if you didn’t use your own money to invest.
Three brands are up in the pre-owned market
An interesting thing to mention is that the overall pre-owned market was down by approximately 9%. Only pre-owned watches from A. Lange & Söhne (+3%), Girard-Perregaux (+5%), and Bvlgari (+1.4%) are positive compared to the previous quarter. However, these three brands only account for about 1% of the total pre-owned luxury watch market.
Games are still being played
Are we going back to normal? Not even remotely, in my opinion. Especially regarding trophy watches, we’re looking at pre-owned (and gray-market) prices that are still much higher than retail. The Rolex Daytona 116500LN is a good example, but so is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 16202. The official retail price is $33,200, but those offered on Chrono24 start at $130K. Suddenly, a white-dial Jumbo 15202 at $60K sounds cheap, doesn’t it? (No, it doesn’t…)
How about Omega? Even though the Silver Snoopy Award 50th Anniversary is still in production and has a retail price of $9,600, it trades for $22,900 and up. And yes, the waitlist is long and annoying, for sure. Many of these watches seem to be allocated to friends of authorized dealers, people with purchase histories, or those willing to buy something unsalable in full gold at retail price to go with it. It’s the game that dealers and boutiques play, unfortunately.
Everyone is after the same watches
The good news is that there are still many watches out there that can be had at retail or even with a slight discount. As for the three brands that account for 70% of the pre-owned market, however, it will be tough. The problem is that “everyone” is after the same watches. There are probably reasons for that besides the resale price hikes. They’re likable watches, often iconic designs (or at least inspired by them), and they maintain a certain degree of recognition among other people.
A new Rolex production facility
As for Rolex, aside from the Daytona, GMT-Master II, and Submariner, we see that Air-Kings, Explorers (“I” and II), Yacht-Masters, and so on are getting a little bit easier to get. And that’s relative, of course. It also largely depends on the authorized dealer you must deal with and how they treat their waitlists and customers asking for watches. Hopefully, Rolex is adding a new facility in Bienne, Switzerland to increase production. If you want a Rolex now, you must either get lucky today when entering a boutique or you need to pay more than retail. In the end, that is up to you. We don’t see the prices in the pre-owned and gray markets going under retail, at least not in the foreseeable future. The days when you got a 20% discount at an authorized dealer on a Rolex sports model are long gone.
Morgan Stanley’s report gives us some insight into the pre-owned luxury market. It’s interesting, but it isn’t hugely eye-opening information. It confirms what we already thought and witnessed ourselves, backed up by the numbers that Morgan Stanley received from WatchCharts.
What does this all mean for you? It shouldn’t make much difference if you’re just a collector or watch enthusiast. If the report makes one thing clear, it’s that the pre-owned market is still very strong. Especially compared to the years before the pandemic, we’re still looking at much higher trading prices. For speculators, especially those who paid top prices last year, times might be less enjoyable, especially if they gambled with money that wasn’t theirs to start with.
More information via Watchcharts.
Do you have any thoughts on the state of the pre-owned market? If so, let us know in the comments.