A brief history of the luxury watch market


It all began in 2014, where the average joe could walk into a local authorised dealer and pick up a Rolex Submariner model 116610LN at list price and maybe even wangle a small discount of 1-2%. 
You could then walk home with your watch on and be pretty happy with yourself that you had bought a popular watch which was already admired and desired by many who could afford it. 

However, in 2016 this all changed. 


The waiting list wasn’t an uncommon formality to many watch enthusiasts as they were already waiting to purchase highly desirable models such as the stainless Rolex Daytona. However, in 2016 the waiting list was soon applied to other models, which 2 years before, used to sit happily in the store window for days, weeks even months at a time. 

The introduction of the new Rolex GMT Master 2 BLNR (Batman) became the catalyst to this new waiting list with demand far reaching above its current supply. Upon the day it was released it accumulated an approximate 6 – 8 month waiting list. 

For those not familiar of the waiting list month/year system, this is how it works. 

Authorised dealers (AD’s) receives 1-2 watches per month of particular models. This is usually a mixed bag of precious metal models, a few common models and some professional models. Ad’s never get told what they will be receiving until the day before they are delivered. This is to later phone up their client to tell them a watch has come into store. 

If 10 people are on the waiting list and they are expecting approximately 2 watches a month it’s a 5-month waiting list.  

Fastforward to 2018 and the waiting list had expanded to not only the GMT & Daytona but had now covered the entire steel professional sports model range with the Rolex Daytona waiting list reaching a staggering 20 year wait.  

Needless to say, the watch market was hot, real fucking hot. 

As of October 2019 the steel Rolex Daytona with the white dial is trading at £26,000 - Approximatly £16,450 over the recommended retail price.


While the waiting lists were growing every month, something strange happened.
The price of a second hand watch market was now excelling the new market. Which in turn created what AD’s called the Grey Market. 

The Grey Market was your average joe who bought his watch in 2014 for £5600, and selling it to an Independent jeweller for £7000. The independent jeweller would then put it in their window for £8500 and thus becoming a tidy earner for both the average joe and the Independent Jeweller. 

Now I know what you’re thinking, why wouldn’t you just sell it yourself for £8500 and get more profit…

Well more reward also brings more risk. Face to face transactions with people you don’t know or have spoken to over a shady Ebay transaction could result in you losing the watch all together. As let’s be honest if someone pulls a knife on you for your watch, you give then the watch.  


You might be thinking how Rolex profits out of this second hand transaction in a dark alley. And you are correct. It doesn’t make a profit from it at all. So, in late 2018 AD’s receive a bollocking for selling watches to people who aren’t interested in wearing them, but are just looking to make a quick buck.
This kick up the arse resulted in new rules to all AD’s which involved profiling… and yes it’s as bad as it sounds.  

In order for an AD to sell you a watch costing in excess of £5000 they will (more or less) profile you to see if they think you will push (sell on) the watch on or actually wear it.  

Seems silly doesn’t it. You have to personally get profiled by a jeweller in order to be put onto a waiting list to then wait up to 5 years buy a product worth more than the average second hand car…however rules are rules I guess.


The year is 2019 and at the moment, the watch market is still riding high. Professional models on all Rolex’s are a minimum 5 year waiting list, with some AD’s scrapping the list all together. Blue face Date just models have now entered a waiting list of 3-5 months due to the demand shifting from the professional sports models onto cheaper and more available alternatives. 

Right now the UK has become the cheapest place to buy a luxury watch as the pound slumps due to uncertain Brexit negotiations.  

In conclusion, the luxury watch market is pretty lucrative, especially if you know an AD in the UK…