Rolex, a name synonymous with luxury, precision, and timeless elegance, has been a cornerstone of the watch industry for over a century. As an aficionado with five decades in the industry, I’ve witnessed firsthand the ebb and flow of market trends and consumer preferences. Recently, Rolex and their Authorized Dealers have made a significant shift in its business model, by limiting the amount of new watches that are produced and sold directly to retail buyers. This strategic pivot has sparked much discussion and speculation. In this article, we’ll delve into the reasons behind this change, explore the introduction of Rolex’s certified pre-owned program, examine how this move bolsters their sister brand, Tudor and how this strategy may backfire by turning away watch enthusiasts that love the brands attention to detail, esthetics and the status it provides.

Rolex’s decision to limit supply to retail customers to bolster demand marks a notable shift in the luxury watch market. Historically, Rolex watches have been a staple in high-end retail stores worldwide, drawing enthusiasts and collectors alike. However, several factors have contributed to Rolex’s strategic redirection:

1. Market Exclusivity and Brand Prestige:

By limiting the availability of new watches, Rolex enhances the exclusivity of its products. Scarcity creates desire, and in the luxury market, exclusivity is paramount. This move ensures that owning a new Rolex remains a prestigious and coveted achievement. The company is only producing approximately one million pieces a year worldwide which creates a vacuum when the demand chases.

2. Controlled Distribution:

Rolex’s stringent control over distribution helps maintain its brand’s integrity. By managing the supply chain more tightly, Rolex can better regulate who sells their watches and ensure that their brand values are upheld across all points of sale.

3. Controlling the Gray Market:

Back in the days, an Authorized Dealer was contractually obligated to move a certain amount of units to maintain their AD status but when the AD didn’t have enough customers to sell to, they turned to the gray market to help them move units. Now with the limited amount of new watches being produced, it’s caused the perfect storm! Let’s think about this… the AD sells the watches directly to the Gray Market at a premium, they then force retail customers to buy less desirable inventory to establish a relationship with the AD and have purchase history with the hopes of getting that call for the piece they really wanted to begin with, they steer people to Tudor to bolster the sister brands sales, the gray market dealer turns around and marks up the price and the retail customer is forced to pay sometimes double the amount of the original retail price depending on the model. As long as the retail market is willing to pay a premium for watches, the  secondary market will continue to pump up the prices on used and new models. In the immortal words of Juan from @OpusnTime, “STOP being Window Lickers and Lollipop Suckers!!!”

4. Combatting the Gray Market and Watch Flippers:

•The Gray Market, where watches are sold through unauthorized dealers, has long been a thorn in the side of luxury brands. Additionally, the rise of watch flippers—individuals who purchase watches with the sole intention of reselling them at a profit—has distorted the market. By reducing retail availability and screening these people out, Rolex aims to curb these practices, ensuring that real customers receive authentic products with verified provenance at fair market prices.

The Certified Pre-Owned Program: A Strategic Masterstroke

In tandem with limiting retail sales, Rolex has introduced its certified pre-owned (CPO) program. This initiative is a game-changer for several reasons:

1. Quality Assurance:

The CPO program guarantees that each watch has been meticulously inspected and certified by Rolex. This ensures that customers receive a product that meets Rolex’s exacting standards, even if it is not brand new.

2. Extended Reach:

Pre-owned watches open the door to a broader customer base. Collectors and first-time buyers who might not be ready to purchase a brand-new Rolex can now access the brand’s heritage and quality at a different price point.

3. Sustainability and Value Retention:

The luxury market is increasingly mindful of sustainability. By promoting pre-owned watches, Rolex supports a circular economy, where high-quality products are reused and appreciated over time. Additionally, Rolex watches are known for their value retention. The CPO program further reinforces the investment potential of owning a Rolex.

4. Customer Loyalty and Brand Trust:

Offering a CPO program strengthens customer loyalty. Buyers can trust that they are receiving a genuine product with Rolex’s stamp of approval. This trust builds long-term relationships with the brand, fostering repeat business and brand advocacy.

5. Bolstering Tudor: A Sibling Strategy

An often-overlooked aspect of Rolex’s recent strategic shift is its impact on Tudor, Rolex’s sister brand. Tudor, known for offering high-quality watches at a more accessible price point, stands to benefit significantly from Rolex’s new direction:

1. Market Segmentation:

By stepping back from direct retail sales, Rolex paves the way for Tudor to capture a larger share of the retail market. This allows Rolex to maintain its image as a highly exclusive brand while Tudor attracts customers who seek quality and heritage but at a more approachable price.

2. Brand Differentiation:

The strategic focus on Tudor helps differentiate the two brands more clearly. While Rolex continues to epitomize luxury and exclusivity, Tudor can emphasize its value proposition, appealing to younger buyers and those new to the world of luxury watches.

3. Shared Heritage and Craftsmanship:

Both brands benefit from their shared history and reputation for craftsmanship. By promoting Tudor alongside Rolex, the company reinforces the perception of Tudor as a brand that offers exceptional quality, benefiting from the expertise and legacy of Rolex.

4. Increased Brand Visibility:

With Rolex reducing its presence in retail, Tudor gains more visibility. This increased focus can drive sales and strengthen Tudor’s position in the market, further solidifying its role as a significant player in the luxury watch industry.


Rolex’s shift from retail sales to a focus on certified pre-owned watches is a strategic evolution that reinforces its commitment to quality, exclusivity, and customer satisfaction. By controlling distribution and ensuring the authenticity and condition of pre-owned watches, Rolex continues to uphold its legacy as a leader in the luxury watch industry. Simultaneously, this move bolsters Tudor, providing it with a broader market presence and a clearer value proposition. For collectors and enthusiasts, this new direction offers an exciting avenue to explore and appreciate the timeless elegance of Rolex and the exceptional value of Tudor.