pre-owned rolex watches for sale
Verrien | Rolex Shortage: Why the Luxury Watch Brand is Hard to Find

If you’ve been on the hunt for a Rolex watch recently, you may have noticed something strange. Retail displays for one of the most prestigious brands in the world sit mostly empty. The state of the luxury watch industry is surreal: there aren’t enough Rolex watches to go around. The result? Waitlists, unscrupulous dealers, empty display cases, ballooning prices, and record-breaking auctions.

So what’s going on? The roots of this scenario are fervently debated and theorized in watch-collecting circles. Some call it a “perfect storm” of interrelated factors that’s driven the watch world into hyperdrive. In this article, we’ll explore why only some Rolex watches are scarce, why Rolex scarcity isn’t new but it’s increasingly extreme, and whether Rolex is artificially restricting supply. We’ll also take a closer look at how the pandemic affected supply, how it drove demand for luxury watches, and what you can do if you still want to buy a Rolex.

Key Takeaways

  • Rolex watches are in high demand and low supply due to a “perfect storm” of interrelated factors.
  • The pandemic affected supply, but that’s not the whole story.
  • You can still buy a Rolex, but you just have to pay more for it.

Only Some Rolex Watches are Scarce

If you’re in the market for a luxury watch, you may have noticed that some models are particularly hard to come by. This scarcity isn’t due to a general shortage of watches, but rather a phenomenon that affects the most hyped and coveted models from a handful of brands. Rolex is a prime example, with their steel sport (or “Professional”) watches being the most visible examples. Models like the Submariner, GMT Master II, Explorer, and Daytona are highly sought after and difficult to obtain. Even some Rolex Oyster Perpetuals are hard to get and selling for well above retail.

This scarcity has led to a surge in demand for alternative models, which are also becoming increasingly difficult to find. Outside of Rolex, exclusive steel watches like the Patek Philippe Nautilus are similarly difficult to come by. This phenomenon isn’t exclusive to watches and can be attributed to the psychology of scarcity.

Rolex Scarcity Isn’t New, But It’s Increasingly Extreme

Rolex scarcity has been a growing issue for years, with waiting lists becoming increasingly long. The current generation of Rolex Daytona, released in 2016, is seen as the starting point for the real scarcity of Rolex watches. However, the origins of this mania can be traced back even further.

According to Joshua Ganjei, CEO of European Watch Company in Boston, watch collecting used to be a closed community made up of passionate people having small private meetups and events. But with the rise of internet blogs, forums dedicated solely to watches, and Instagram, the hobby has been democratized. This democratization applies not just to sharing information and enthusiasm, but also to buying and selling watches.

Learning about and acquiring watches has become easier than ever, which has led to speculative buying of hot-ticket items for the express purpose of turning a profit. This, combined with the limited supply of Rolex watches, has created an increasingly extreme scarcity of these timepieces.

Understanding the Rolex Shortage

The Rolex Shortage is a phenomenon that has been affecting the luxury watch industry for several years. It is characterized by the scarcity of Rolex watches, particularly the stainless steel sports models, which are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts. In this section, we will explore the reasons behind the Rolex shortage and its impact on the industry.

High Demand and Low Supply

The primary reason for the Rolex shortage is the high demand for the brand’s watches. Rolex is one of the most prestigious and recognizable luxury watch brands in the world, and its watches are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts. The demand for Rolex watches has been steadily increasing over the years, driven by a combination of factors such as the brand’s reputation, quality, and timeless design.

On the other hand, the supply of Rolex watches is limited, which exacerbates the shortage. Rolex is known for its meticulous production process that involves several stages of quality control, and the brand is committed to maintaining the highest standards of craftsmanship. This means that the production of Rolex watches is slow and deliberate, with each watch taking several months to complete. As a result, the number of watches that Rolex produces each year is limited, and the brand is unable to keep up with the high demand.

Grey Market and Counterfeits

Another factor that contributes to the Rolex shortage is the grey market and counterfeit watches. The grey market refers to the sale of genuine Rolex watches outside of the brand’s authorized dealer network. These watches are often sold at a premium, and the prices can be significantly higher than the retail price. The grey market creates an imbalance in the supply and demand of Rolex watches, as it diverts the supply of watches away from the authorized dealers and towards the grey market.

Counterfeit watches are also a significant problem in the luxury watch industry, and Rolex is one of the most counterfeited brands. Counterfeit watches not only hurt the brand’s reputation but also affect the demand for genuine watches. This is because counterfeit watches are often sold at a fraction of the price of genuine watches, which can make genuine watches seem overpriced in comparison.

Impact on the Industry

The Rolex shortage has had a significant impact on the luxury watch industry, particularly on the prices of Rolex watches. The scarcity of Rolex watches has driven up the prices of both new and pre-owned watches, with some models selling for several times their retail price. This has made it difficult for collectors and enthusiasts to acquire the watches they want, and has created a sense of exclusivity around the brand.

The Rolex shortage has also led to an increase in demand for other luxury watch brands, as collectors and enthusiasts look for alternatives to Rolex. This has created opportunities for other brands to gain market share and establish themselves as competitors to Rolex.

In conclusion, the Rolex shortage is a complex issue that is driven by a combination of factors such as high demand, limited supply, the grey market, and counterfeits. The shortage has had a significant impact on the luxury watch industry, affecting prices, demand, and competition.

History of Rolex Scarcity

Rolex has been a luxury watch brand for over a century, and it has always been in high demand. However, the scarcity of Rolex watches has become a more significant issue in recent years.

The shortage of Rolex watches can be traced back to 2016 when Rolex released the Daytona 116500LN at Baselworld. This iconic piece has always had a special place in history and played an important role for the Rolex brand. The release of this watch caused a significant increase in demand for Rolex watches, leading to an increase in waiting times for customers.

Another factor that contributed to the scarcity of Rolex watches is the brand’s production process. Rolex produces its watches in-house, and the company is known for its meticulous attention to detail. Each watch is handcrafted to perfection, which means that the production process is time-consuming.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a significant impact on the supply chain, causing production delays and shortages across various industries, including the watch industry. Rolex was no exception, and the pandemic has caused supply chain issues and product shortages, making it even more challenging for customers to get their hands on a Rolex watch.

Despite the scarcity of Rolex watches, the brand remains one of the most prestigious and influential watch brands in the world. Rolex’s commitment to quality and attention to detail has made it a favorite among watch enthusiasts and collectors.

Factors Contributing to Rolex Shortage

Increased Demand

One of the main factors contributing to the Rolex shortage is the increased demand for the luxury watches. Rolex has always been a symbol of status and wealth, but in recent years, it has become even more popular. The rise of social media has played a significant role in this increased demand. Celebrities and influencers often wear Rolex watches and post pictures of them on social media, which has led to more people wanting to own one.

Another reason for the increased demand is the growing interest in luxury watches among the general public. As people become more interested in luxury goods, they are willing to spend more money on high-end watches like Rolex.

Limited Production

Rolex produces a limited number of watches each year, which is another major factor contributing to the shortage. The company is known for its strict quality control and attention to detail, which means that each watch takes a significant amount of time to produce. Additionally, Rolex has a limited number of employees and production facilities, which limits the number of watches that can be produced each year.

Another reason for the limited production is the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic forced Rolex to halt production for a time, which led to supply issues and a general shortage of new watches. The pandemic also disrupted the global supply chain, which made it more difficult for Rolex to get the materials it needs to produce its watches.

Overall, the combination of increased demand and limited production has led to a significant shortage of Rolex watches. As a result, the prices of Rolex watches have skyrocketed, and it has become increasingly difficult to purchase one.

Impact of Rolex Shortage

On Consumers

The Rolex shortage has had a significant impact on consumers. With fewer watches available, it has become increasingly difficult to purchase a new Rolex watch. This has led to frustration among consumers who are eager to own a Rolex timepiece.

In addition, those who have been lucky enough to purchase a Rolex watch may find that the value of their watch has increased significantly due to the shortage. This can be seen as a positive for those who already own a Rolex watch, but it also means that new buyers may be priced out of the market.

On Market Prices

The Rolex shortage has also had an impact on market prices. As demand for Rolex watches continues to outpace supply, prices have increased significantly. This has led to a situation where some authorized dealers are selling Rolex watches above their recommended retail price.

This increase in prices has also led to a rise in the number of counterfeit Rolex watches on the market. Consumers who are unable to afford a genuine Rolex watch may be tempted to purchase a counterfeit, which can lead to disappointment and potential financial loss.

Overall, the Rolex shortage has had a significant impact on both consumers and the market as a whole. While some may see the increase in value as a positive, it has also created frustration and potential risks for consumers.

Rolex Shortage and Collectors

Rolex watches have always been a status symbol and a valuable asset. They are known for their precision, durability, and timeless design. However, the recent shortage of Rolex watches has created a frenzy among collectors and enthusiasts.

Many collectors are willing to pay a premium price for a Rolex watch, especially for the popular sports models like the Submariner, Daytona, and GMT-Master II. The shortage has caused the prices to skyrocket in the secondary market, making it even more difficult for collectors to acquire their desired timepieces.

The shortage has also created a waiting list for some models, and some authorized dealers have even stopped taking orders due to the limited supply. This has led to frustration among collectors who have been waiting for months or even years to get their hands on a specific Rolex model.

Despite the frustration and disappointment, many collectors remain loyal to the brand and are willing to wait for as long as it takes to acquire their desired watch. Some collectors even see the shortage as an opportunity to invest in Rolex watches, as the value of these timepieces is expected to increase in the future.

Overall, the Rolex shortage has created a sense of urgency and excitement among collectors, making the hunt for a Rolex watch even more thrilling. While it may be difficult to acquire a Rolex watch in the current market, the wait and effort are often worth it for collectors who appreciate the craftsmanship and history of the brand.

Rolex Shortage Controversies

The Rolex shortage has caused a lot of controversies in the watch industry, with many speculating about the reasons behind the shortage. Here are some of the controversies surrounding the Rolex shortage:

Artificial Restriction

Some people believe that Rolex is artificially restricting the supply of their watches to create a sense of exclusivity and increase demand. However, Rolex has denied these claims and stated that they are working to increase production to meet the high demand for their watches.


Others believe that the Rolex shortage is due to underproduction. According to Hodinkee, Rolex has been underproducing certain stainless steel sports watches for years, which has resulted in a shortage of these models. Rolex has not confirmed or denied these claims.

High Demand

One of the main reasons for the Rolex shortage is the high demand for their watches. Rolex is a highly coveted brand, and their watches are often seen as a symbol of wealth and status. As more people become interested in luxury watches, the demand for Rolex watches continues to increase.

Supply Chain Issues

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused supply chain issues and product shortages across various industries, including the watch industry. The pandemic has disrupted the production and distribution of Rolex watches, which has contributed to the shortage.

Gray Market

Another controversy surrounding the Rolex shortage is the role of the gray market. The gray market refers to the sale of Rolex watches outside of authorized dealerships. Some people believe that the gray market is contributing to the shortage by buying up watches and reselling them at a higher price. However, Rolex has stated that they do not support the gray market and that buying from an authorized dealer is the best way to ensure the authenticity of a Rolex watch.

Overall, the Rolex shortage has caused a lot of controversies and speculation in the watch industry. While the reasons behind the shortage are not entirely clear, it is clear that the high demand for Rolex watches is a significant factor.

Future of Rolex Availability

The future of Rolex availability is uncertain. While Rolex has announced plans to increase production, it will take several years for these plans to come to fruition. In the meantime, demand for Rolex watches continues to outstrip supply, leading to long waitlists and inflated prices on the secondary market.

Rolex has stated that it plans to increase production by opening new factories and hiring additional staff. However, these plans will take time to implement, with the new factories not expected to be fully operational until 2029. In the short term, Rolex is setting up temporary facilities to help meet demand.

It is unclear how these changes will affect the availability and pricing of Rolex watches in the coming years. While increased production may eventually lead to more watches being available, it is also possible that demand will continue to outstrip supply, leading to continued shortages and high prices.

In the meantime, collectors and enthusiasts may need to turn to the secondary market to acquire the Rolex watches they desire. However, they should be aware that prices on the secondary market may be significantly higher than retail prices, and that the authenticity of watches sold on the secondary market cannot always be guaranteed.

Overall, the future of Rolex availability remains uncertain, and collectors and enthusiasts will need to stay informed and patient as Rolex works to meet demand.

Rolex isn’t artificially restricting supply

There is a common belief among watch enthusiasts that Rolex is purposely restricting its supply to create artificial scarcity. However, in a rare statement to Yahoo Finance, Rolex categorically rejects this idea. The brand insists that “the scarcity of our products is not a strategy on our part.” Rolex further explains that its current production cannot meet the existing demand in an exhaustive way, at least not without reducing the quality of its watches. Rolex refuses to compromise on quality, and that’s why it cannot keep up with the demand it created. While speculation about Rolex’s supply chain is rampant, the brand’s official statement makes it clear that it is not artificially restricting supply.

The Pandemic Affected Supply, But That’s Not the Whole Story

Like many other industries, the watch industry faced supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rolex was no exception, and its factory was shut down for several months in 2020. However, the pandemic is not the sole reason behind the current Rolex shortage.

Rolex’s manufacturing process is unique in that it produces almost every part of its watches in-house. This means that even a delay or unavailability of a single sourced component or material can halt production entirely. Additionally, the demand for Rolex watches has been increasing, making it challenging to keep up with the supply.

Rolex does not disclose its production numbers publicly, but it is estimated to produce around 1 million watches in a normal year, although not all of them belong to its list of highly coveted models.

The conditions of the pandemic also drove demand for luxury watches

The luxury watch industry has experienced a surge in demand during the pandemic. The widespread disruptions caused by COVID-19 led to halts in production, which resulted in supply chain issues and shortages of new watches. People were also stuck at home with limited options for spending their money, leading to an increase in online purchases of luxury goods, including watches. Rolex sport watches were already highly coveted, but the pandemic pushed them into even greater demand, making them almost unattainable. The market remains hot, and there is no telling when it might cool down.

The pandemic created a perfect storm of factors that boosted the luxury watch industry, including Rolex. The supply chain disruptions and increased demand for luxury goods have led to a shortage of new watches, making them even more desirable. As a result, the market for Rolex watches has become highly competitive, with buyers willing to pay top dollar for these coveted timepieces.

You Can Still Buy a Rolex, You Just Have to Pay More for It

If you’re willing to pay more than the retail price, you can still buy a Rolex watch. The demand for Rolex watches far exceeds the supply, leading to inflated prices for both new and pre-owned models. Even pre-owned models often sell for above retail prices of new ones. However, you can find pre-owned and vintage models for sale from reputable dealers like Watch Box, Bob’s Watches, or even eBay with their Authenticity Guarantee.

If you choose to buy pre-owned Rolex, it’s important to trust the seller and ensure that the watch is authentic. Vintage Rolex is a whole other story, but you can check outfits like the Hodinkee Shop, Wind Vintage, Analog/Shift, and others. With patience and a willingness to pay a premium, you can still add a Rolex watch to your collection.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is causing the Rolex shortage?

The Rolex shortage is caused by a combination of factors, including high demand, limited production capacity, and supply chain disruptions. Rolex watches are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts around the world, and the company has struggled to keep up with demand in recent years. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions in the global supply chain, making it more difficult for Rolex to obtain the materials and components it needs to manufacture its watches.

When did the Rolex shortage start?

The Rolex shortage has been an ongoing issue for several years, with the most severe shortages occurring since 2020. However, the roots of the shortage can be traced back to the early 2010s, when demand for Rolex watches began to outstrip supply.

Is the Rolex shortage improving?

There are some signs that the Rolex shortage may be improving, as the company has recently announced plans to increase production capacity and invest in new manufacturing facilities. However, it is still difficult to predict when the shortage will be fully resolved, as demand for Rolex watches shows no signs of slowing down.

What is the current state of the Rolex market?

The current state of the Rolex market is characterized by high demand and limited supply, which has led to rising prices and long waitlists for certain models. Collectors and enthusiasts are willing to pay a premium for rare and highly sought-after Rolex watches, and the secondary market for these timepieces is thriving.

Are prices for Rolex watches increasing?

Yes, prices for Rolex watches have been increasing in recent years, due to the combination of high demand and limited supply. Some models have seen price increases of over 50% in just a few years, making it more difficult for collectors and enthusiasts to obtain the watches they want.

Should I wait to buy a Rolex?

Whether or not you should wait to buy a Rolex depends on your personal preferences and financial situation. If you are willing to pay a premium for a highly sought-after model, you may want to buy now rather than wait. However, if you are willing to be patient and wait for prices to come down, you may be able to get a better deal in the future. Ultimately, the decision to buy a Rolex should be based on your own priorities and preferences.

Verrien | Rolex Shortage: Why the Luxury Watch Brand is Hard to Find

By Rose Spencer

Rose is an experienced writer and a watch seller, making use of pop-up shops space. She got into watches thanks to her granddad, who introduced her to the wonderful world of watches. Two of them still collect watches together, and Rose is always on the lookout for rare watches (and colorful) varieties.

Verrien, 667 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10065, United States, 845-548-5583