Price increases happen for a lot of brands, but no brand does waitlists better than Rolex. You may get on the waitlist at your favorite authorized dealer (AD), but while you’re waiting for your watch — and for who knows how long — the price increases just continue to happen. To me, the idea of a waitlist in itself doesn’t sound like something I’d like to be a part of. But it’s even worse when you sign up for something at a certain price and then that price just keeps creeping up while you’re standing in line.

This last year has been a particularly bad one to be on the waitlist for anything. A friend of mine bought a new 36mm Rolex Explorer in October 2021 for €6,050. That watch now retails for €1,100 more — €7,150 just one year later. That’s a price increase of no less than 18%. And like I said, Rolex definitely isn’t the only one here. My Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic Medium Duoface retailed for €9,100 in April of this year when I bought it. That price has now increased by almost 29% to a total of €11,700 in only seven months. In the case of the JLC, though, it’s just bad luck when you walk into a store and find out that the price of your favorite Reverso has increased. With Rolex, on the other hand, it just feels unfair to see the price increase while you’re waiting for “the call”.

Participatory observation

But I figured that I couldn’t really form an opinion until I’d experienced this myself. Plus, as I’m an anthropologist by training, I’m all for participatory observation. I am actually thinking of buying the new Explorer, so I thought, “Why not walk in and see what happens?” That’s why I stepped into my local Rolex dealer last week with the notorious “stainless steel sports watch question”. It took me quite a bit of courage to take that step, but as I heard so many stories about it, I finally wanted to experience it myself. And what I was already afraid of happened right there in front of me. The representative immediately started saying that it would be difficult and that buying something else from the store could perhaps ease the process. I told him I was only interested in the Explorer and that I didn’t mind waiting for my opportunity.

So here I am now, waiting for “the call”. I must say, it feels a bit weird. Of course, it has only been about a week now, so everything is still very fresh in my mind. But this past weekend, I was already thinking, “Could the call come today or tomorrow?” Yes, that’s highly unlikely, but I have bought a few watches from that AD, so if a watch comes in and he doesn’t have any other interested customers, he could indeed call me. But then when it didn’t happen last weekend, I was imagining how long this process could actually take. And that imagination also included the continuous price increases.

Waiting to pay more

Because when you consider what happened with my friend’s Rolex Explorer and my own JLC Reverso, this whole waiting period could become a very frustrating one, during which I’m waiting to get “the call” while I see those prices go up, and up, and up. Again, this past year might be a bad example because Swiss companies have also adjusted their prices in relation to the weak euro. But still, prices usually increase about 5–8% per year, and that turns into quite a substantial amount when factoring in a stainless steel Rolex.

I still remember buying the new Omega Speedmaster Professional at the beginning of this year. Prices had already increased, so I already felt a bit bad that I didn’t get it any earlier. But at least I was able to just go to an AD, pay for the watch up front, and not worry about any price increases while I was waiting for my watch to arrive. And that’s exactly what I think is so frustrating about being on a waitlist for a brand-new Rolex sports watch. You’re basically waiting for your watch to arrive and almost certain that you’ll have to pay a substantially higher price for it than when you signed up for it.

Possible solutions?

You could say that watches are a luxury anyway and that people who buy watches shouldn’t be bothered by price increases. But don’t you agree that it feels a bit unfair? Or should we just always dance to Rolex’s tune without ever nagging about it? Can’t we think of a solution to at least get an idea upfront of what the price increase might look like over time? Or maybe even a price ceiling? If we could, at least you’d know what you’re signing up for. Though I guess that these are fairly unrealistic solutions, I do think it feels a bit fairer for the one waiting for his or her turn in line.

And I know that imaginary line is probably also a complete farce, but that’s a whole different discussion for some other time. As it stands, I’ve only been on the waitlist for about a week, but I’m considering getting a neo-vintage Explorer because I found that I prefer it over the newest one. If prices continue to rise as I wait, that could be a determining factor in my decision. So I’d love to hear about your experience on the waitlist regarding the price increases that happened while you were on it. And if you have any good ideas on how to make this experience a little less frustrating, please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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