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Can’t get your hands on a Rolex? We may know why they’re so hard to come by

Everyone's favorite watch brand can be hard to source - here's why

Paul Newman's Rolex on a wrist
Rolex / s

Whether you watch movies, listen to music, or read books, you have likely heard that Rolex watches are the pinnacle of stylish luxury in men’s watches. Gorden Gecko sported a Rolex when he became the picture of wealth on Wall Street. Elvis Presley got one of only 100 Rolex King Midas watches for selling out the Houston Astrodome for six straight days. The brand has always been the gold standard in men’s luxury.

However, that may not be the case any longer, as the brand seems to be losing its grip on the watch pyramid of superiority

Adam Golden, owner of Menta Watches who specializes in new and vintage luxury timepieces, says he no longer believes Rolex is the cream of the crop. He tells The Manual why other brands may be a better buy and a better fit for your lifestyle and offers up a few brands he believes are a better options if you’re looking to invest in timepieces. 

Rolex were never meant to be luxury watches

While Rolex may have been the number one luxury watch for decades, the original intent was always to create timepieces that could be used to accomplish some of the world’s most dangerous and vital jobs. Golden believes that this has been lost on the Rolex market. “Rolex is a juggernaut in the watch world, with a rich history of producing some iconic wristwatches. However, people often forget that Rolex was not founded or intended to be a ‘luxury’ watch brand — they were tool watches,” he said.

It’s hard to argue that point with him, as many of its most popular models were intended to be worn in the harshest environments. For instance, the Explorer was designed to summit Mount Everest in the 1950s, the Submariner was meant to assist our divers post-WWII, and the GMT was meant to cater to the long-haul pilots of the 1950s. Sometime in the late 1960s, the watches became more of a status symbol than true tool watches, and the focus of the company pivoted to luxury. Fashion over function.

Man wearing a suit and a Rolex

They no longer have the innovation of the past

Men’s luxury watches are a cut-throat business. Every year, watches have to become new and better or be left behind. With the addition of feature after feature, there are always ideas and brands ready to take over the industry. Rolex may be the biggest offender of the phrase “resting on your laurels,” as they have not changed much in the last few decades. Golden weighs in on that problem. “While they still make amazing watches, with other brands out there pushing the horological envelope as it pertains to innovation — whether it be mechanical or aesthetic — Rolex remains more or less the same and is not considered by everyone to be the ‘gold standard’ when it comes to high-end watches.”

If brand recognition is what you are going for, men’s Rolex watches are the perfect place to invest money, as the rare and vintage finds will look nearly identical to the newer models. When you are a brand that boasts one of the most popular and expensive names on the market, innovation needs to be at the top of your priority list.

Man in white shirt with a Rolex watch and hand in pocket
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Other problems Rolex faces

Abandoning its original intent to focus on brand recognition and a lack of innovation aren’t the only issues the brand is facing that can cause experts to dislike Rolex. The brand faces two more problems that have been impacting the market and may cause other brands to take over the business.

  1. There seems to be a shortage of Rolex watches in many markets. While COVID-19 caused many issues in all sorts of markets, luxury markets seemed to flourish. With people unable to spend their money on vacations, fine dining, and other social activities, the desire for Rolexes skyrocketed. Combine that with a stall in production due to the pandemic, and Rolex now has a supply and demand problem.
  2. Dealers seem to be making it worse. Authorized Rolex dealers know there is a shortage (at least, consumers believe there is), and they have been taking advantage of that lately. Stories of people asking to buy a Rolex watch only to be met with the condition they buy a certain amount of product in return for being added to a waitlist have driven customers to other brands, hurting the brand’s image.
  3. Rolex watches are aggressively faked and sold as imitations. While you can find dozens of pushers on the streets of New York claiming to sell a Rolex to you right in the moment, you are likely to get ripped off. This fact only exacerbates the second problem on this list. Dealers know you don’t have much choice.
Collection of Patek Phillipe watches
Patek Phillipe

Other brands to try instead

One thing that is great about capitalism, you can always count on another brand to step up and take the reins if one fails. While Rolex is far from failing, Golden has a list of other brands that can take the place of a Rolex in your collection. “A few brands I recommend looking at instead of Rolex would be Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, F.P. Journe, and A. Lange & Sohne.”

He goes on to talk about why you should try these other brands, saying, “These brands are constantly striving to create new, interesting, and unique timepieces, with better functionality, better aesthetics, and better performance.” Of course, Rolex isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. But if you are in the market for a new luxury timepiece, there are other brands that may fit you better, and with Rolex going through a branding problem, it may be the time to shop elsewhere.

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Mark McKee
Mark is a full-time freelance writer and men's coach. He spent time as a style consultant and bespoke suit salesman before…
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