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Throwback Sunday: Six highly desirable, modestly priced watches which you may not be able to buy

by Peter Chong on October 7, 2018

There are some watches in current production which are very desirable. Some of these have astronomical price tags. But there are some which have more modest price tags. Today we focus on the latter. But only those which are very difficult to get. Of the six on this list, only one is a limited edition, and only one retailing above S$20,000. But all have long wait lists, and almost all have appeared in the grey market at above retail price.

Leaving out the expensive and those with very small limited editions, we look at six which are difficult to get. They are the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona in SS with ceramic bezel, the Rolex GMT-Master II in SS “Pepsi”, the Omega Speedmaster Professional “Ultraman” (Limited edition of 2012 pieces), the Patek Philippe Ref. 5711/1A in SS, the Tudor Black Bay Bronze Blue Bucherer edition, and the Citizen Chronomaster.

 

The grey situation

 

A Tom Bob street art illustration.

 

We start with the unsavoury business of the grey market retailer. Some of these are the so called gentleman dealer, a term coined perhaps by our friends at Watchonista. These flip watches because of an ad hoc opportunity, but do not pursue it on a consistent basis. But also increasingly, used market dealers have added BNIB (Brand New in Box) to their inventory. And we see the emergence of a new breed of professional grey dealers who specialize on capitalizing on the market demand/supply arbitrage. For us, we find the grey market distasteful and abhorrent for the following reasons:

  1. The grey market does not contribute to brand development in any way. The only reason why these dealers exist is because there are some collectors who are prepared to pay a premium over difficult to obtain watches. Their motivation is pure profit, and they are able to arbitrage the difference because of under the table tactics they employ to obtain the watches. This may involve the illegal offering of cash bonuses to the sales people who work at Authorized Dealers. On the Authorized Dealer books, the watches are sold at retail prices, but the sales people are motivated to prefer to sell to grey dealers due to this under the table bonus. As a result #2 happens.
  2. The grey market prevent real collectors from gaining access to these desirable pieces. We have, however seen some positive changes which suggests that some retailers are trying to control this situation. One recent example is what is practiced by Max How, the owner of Kee Hing Hung in Singapore. Max ensures that each of the rare pieces are sold at full retail to real collectors by a detailed review process which frequently involves background checks and interviews. In a recent conversation with Cortina Watch Executive Director, Jeremy Lim, he told Deployant that he personally approves each client which these watches get sold to at retail. We have also seen Omega acting to delete duplicates from the list of applicants for the recent Speedy Tuesday release, and offering these to names on the waitlist. Are these methods and actions fool proof? Perhaps not, but we support it because it limits the extend in which the watches end up in the wrong hands.

As a site for collectors by collectors, Deployant urge our readers not to pay above retail for any watch. Cultivate a relationship with the right Authorized Dealer. The word customer is a derivative meaning  “one who purchases goods or supplies, one who customarily buys from the same tradesman or guild,” from Anglo-French custumer.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at the six watches which make this list.

 

The watches:

As described, the criteria we apply are the following:

  1. Highly desirable watches but difficult to get.
  2. Modestly priced. We understand this is a difficult line to draw. So arbitrarily, we draw this line at S$20,000 retail. This excludes the mega buck pieces like the Richard Milles. But we do make one exception in our list: to allow for a watch retailing just below S$40,000.
  3. Not limited editions. In our list, we make one exception to this rule. Only one watch is a limited edition of 2012 pieces, which in our minds is a mitigation as this is a rather sizable number.
  4. Sold above retail in the secondary market. Again we make one exception to this in our list.

We will not be describing each watch in any detail. Full reviews of each is found by clicking on the link in the sub-titles of each watch. Grey market prices are roughly estimated by quick searches on Chrono24 for BNIB watches.

 

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 

Retail price: S$16,600 inclusive of GST.

The Rolex Daytona was released in Baselworld 2016 to great applause. The ceramic bezel, previously only available in precious metal, has arrived at the stainless steel version, and the aesthetics are very attractive. The Daytona, particularly in steel has been the elusive watch for the last couple of decades (at least). All versions of the watch have consistently achieved prices which are above retail in the secondary market. The latest Daytona is no different. The waiting list on many Authorized Dealers for the regular Joe collector is anywhere up to 10 years, often more.

 

 

For almost all collectors, being allocated a Daytona and not to have to pay above retail is like winning the lottery. And while most have a preference of either the white dial or the black dial, almost all are just happy to buy whichever is available.

 

Rolex GMT-Master II Pepsi

Retail price: S$12, 430 inclusive of GST.

The second entry from Rolex. The Pepsi is also considerably constrained that the grey market prices hover at about 2X above retail. The watch was released relatively recently at Baselworld 2018, and limited stocks have been released into the market steadily since August this year, but the demand outstrip supply and there is a rather long waiting list.

 

 

We could, perhaps have filled the entire list of 6 watches with the Rolex sports models, but we stop at two to illustrate. Truth be told, the Rolex Sky Dweller, Sea Dweller, GMT Master II in two tone “Root Beer”, the GMT Master II “Batman” are further candidates which meet all the criteria we set out.

 

Omega Speedmaster Professional Speedy Tuesday Ultraman

Retail price: S$9.180 inclusive of GST.

This is the only limited edition (2012 pieces) watch in the list. And it open for sale by application at the Omega site on the internet on a first come first served basis at 6pm Singapore time on July 10, 2018. The waiting list started at about 6:45pm the same day. Official Omega communication states that applications closed after 1 hour, 53 minutes and 17 seconds. The same night, various online sources were advertising the Ultraman at up to 100% over retail. But the grey market prices have settled somewhat. Omega has started delivery of the watches in late August.

We carried an opinion piece on the previous Speedy Tuesday, the first offered by application in 2017. Here is our opinion piece. 

 

 

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711/1a

Retail Price: S$39,300 inclusive of GST.

The Nautilus is perhaps the most special on the list. As it is also the most expensive timepiece, we have to make an exception on the price ceiling.

The demand for the stainless steel Nautilus is so high, that some Authorized Dealers have taken it off their waiting list, as they do not know when they can fulfill it. We understand that Wempe in Germany is one such retailer.

As a result of the high demand and low supply, secondary market prices have shot up. This phenomena is relatively new. Prior to 2016/17, steel Nautilus were hard to come by, and were trading above retail, albeit hovering at about 50% above retail prices. From the 2017 Patek Philippe price increase in April/May, the demand has apparently shot up, and grey market prices rose to more than 100% premium. This subsequently settled a bit, but the watch still frequently trade for 2X above retail, at a price which is approximately the retail price for the gold version. Though that too is trading in the grey market at a premium.

 

The new 5711/1P in platinum. This was unveiled for the 50th Anniversary of the Nautilus and is a limited edition. It is perhaps the most special of the 5711 series, and perhaps the most desirable than the SS version, though the 1A remains to have the highest premium over retail. We currently do not have a 1A photograph in our archives.

 

To this end, we have seen other stainless steel Patek Philippes, especially the latest Aquanaut Chronograph and other Nautilus models also fit our classification except that all are more than S$40,000 retail.

 

Tudor Black Bay Bronze Blue Bucherer

Retail price: CHF3,800 inclusive of VAT.

The Tudor BBBBB is perhaps unique in this list that it is only available through one retailer – Bucherer in Switzerland. Typical grey market trades are offered at about 50% above retail. A similar Black Bay is also offered by Harrods in a stainless steel case with the Harrods green dial, and is also commanding similarly high premiums in the grey market.

 

The Tudor Black Bay Bronze. This is the Bucherer Limited Edition, which comes with a special blue dial, bezel, and fabric strap.

 

Citizen Chronomaster “The Citizen”

Retail: ¥ 330,000 excl Japanese VAT.

This is a remarkable watch, which we think is perhaps the most advanced quartz watch in the world today. Read our full review to appreciate the excellent qualities offered.

Our final selection is also a unique situation. It is not typically found in the grey market at a premium, as perhaps the demand is not as high, but we think this is a highly desirable quartz watch.

While not typically constrained, it is offered by Citizen only in the Japanese domestic market. The company is reluctant to release the watch, which is offered with a rather long 10 year warranty period, outside of the home country. Perhaps we should not blame them for rewarding their home market who have supported them over thick and thin. But these JDM watches have become treasured by collectors worldwide and are difficult to obtain.

 

 

We are not picking on Citizen for this practice. Almost all the Japanese manufacturers practice this JDM (Japanese Domestic Model) philosophy. Seiko and Grand Seiko are also in a similar position. Seiko have also previously only made Grand Seiko and Credor for the domestic market, but have begun to internationalize these brands circa 2006. The latest is the branding of Grand Seiko as a standalone brand in 2017. And the establishment of Grand Seiko USA as a independent company as recent as October this year. Bravo to Seiko for taking these steps.

 

Concluding thoughts

This list is offered to provoke the collector. It is meant as a conversation starter on whether one should pay a premium over retail for a watch which is currently available from the manufacturer’s catalog. And we hope that you will think about why the grey market exists, what it is doing to the industry, and if its desirable from your point of view. Of course, it already clear that from our point of view, the grey market does not offer any value to the collector. And we should shun this market. Please do not pay above retail. Support the brands.

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

 

 

 

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15 Comments
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  • Just another guy on the web
    October 19, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    NOBODY thinks a Rolex or a Patek is a modestly-priced watch.
    NOBODY!
    Get a grip!

  • Henry
    October 8, 2018 at 8:22 pm

    I have never paid a premium for my Rolex watches bought from one and the same AD – Batman, Hulk, Daytona White ceramic, Daytona black ceramic, Seadweller 43 red, Deepsea blue, etc – but did pay a premium for the Seadweller 40 which I bought from a reseller from
    HK which was at that time already discontinued. However, the process of collecting all of them is arduous, at times frustrating, and requires a lot of patience. A friendly staff at the AD does help to move things along faster. But one cannot help but ask what this world has come to, where it’s the customer who has to be chasing the AD rather than the other way around. Supply and demand isn’t enough of a reason for this to continue. Buying these luxury watches should not strip away, but should keep intact one’s dignity.

  • Sten
    October 8, 2018 at 11:46 am

    In the same way as the manufacturers have been the couse of the gray market ills with overproduction, they are equally at fault for the gray market due to artificially limiting production. Claiming that Rolex and PP are victims of evil back street dealers is ridiculous, they play the game the way they want it to be and will have to reap the consequences of others profiting from it.

    • October 8, 2018 at 12:37 pm

      Sadly, I do agree with you that manufacturers sometimes also play the game. But it is up to us, the collectors to show them that we don’t care for these games. And want to buy good products at reasonable prices without being manipulated.

    • some guy over there
      November 22, 2018 at 12:50 am

      Yea, Rolex produces a million watches a year, yet the waiting list to get a new Daytona is years long. That right there is a perfectly illustrative example of how Rolex plays the game.

  • John Peralta
    October 8, 2018 at 8:33 am

    How is the “regular guy” going to buy a new Rolex stainless steel sports model? Every Rolex AD has been out of stock for a year or more. I just bought a beautiful new Hulk last week way over retail, but I would’ve NEVER been able to buy one from ANY AD-PERIOD! Wait lists don’t even exist anymore. I just bought a new amazing 50th Anniversary Sea-dweller 43mm Red today, again way over retail, but it’s being delivered in 2 days! It would be impossible to ever buy the Red at retail prices for at least 5 years from now! Just my opinion. JP

  • Nikolas
    October 8, 2018 at 2:49 am

    these are all nonses. Most of these desirable watches sold from authorized dealers at these outrageous prices. Very sad.

  • Nikolas
    October 8, 2018 at 2:38 am

    Thera are also the official dealers who sell at these outrageous prices. Very sad. Why the brands don’t do anything about their official dealers

    • October 8, 2018 at 12:36 pm

      Some manufacturers do take action. Both Rolex and PP have been known to cancel AD contracts. But I do agree that they are probably not policing sufficiently.

  • Richard Baptist
    October 8, 2018 at 1:24 am

    Not paying a premium for a Rolex, I’m not playing that game. There are plenty of other watches out there that offer at least as much as these watches. If you are not a watch nerd, I can understand that it’s Rolex or nothing else, but I know too many other watches, their features and their movements to be locked into a particular brand or a particular model. But that’s just my opinion.

  • Heng
    October 8, 2018 at 12:25 am

    Hi Mr Peter Chong, thank you for such an informative post!

    I am a young and inexperienced watch lover in my mid-20s. I currently own a few automatic watches mainly Rolex and Seikos (going to start other brands like Omega and Tag-Heuer soon, hopefully). I currently own 3 Rolexes – Yachtmaster1Rhodium, Explorer 2 red-hand, and a brown dial Air-king, all 3 are from “dealers” as I was just starting out and did not know that there were mark ups., and I am young and stupid at that time.

    I only knew about such markups after falling in love with the Cosmograph Daytona when I saw it online in one of our grey market gentleman dealer’s website and comparing it to the official Rolex website’s RRP in SGD. I was shocked that there’s a 10k difference! I read more on such markups and found out that actually ALL sports models of Rolex are marked up in their shops, and was astonished by the markups prices.

    After reading through this post, I also agree that the markups are unnecessary for the brands’ growth and more for middle-man profits (which I detest). However (please don’t burn me for this question, I am genuinely asking it sincerely), you gave the advice for building a relationship with the ADs, of which how can one build a relationship with the AD if one only buy sports model? Eg. If the first watch I want is the Submariner that is super popular, how can I get it if the waiting list is too long? I’ve heard that the Cosmograph is something that you will never get, even if you wait 10 years because there will always be people with “better relationships” cutting the queue.

    • Jason
      October 8, 2018 at 8:28 am

      To build a relationship with an AD means you need to start buying the regular collection and not only on the best selling sports collection. Unfortunately this is also a situation most new collectors face.

    • October 8, 2018 at 12:40 pm

      indeed Heng, Jason is correct. Choose an AD who is serious about selling to collectors. Make friends with the salesman/saleswoman. And like everything else, it sometimes also takes a bit of luck.

  • John
    October 7, 2018 at 11:39 pm

    All of the watches you mention are rare commodities…hence their inflating prices. It’s pretty simple really. Omega keeps pumping all of these “limited editions” of the Speedy every other month and Rolex intentionally limits the availability of the most desired models.

    It’s the watch companies own fault that the grey market has grown so large. Surprise, surprise! When you artificially limit the availability of a desired product the few that are in circulation become more expensive.

  • Julian
    October 7, 2018 at 10:09 pm

    I shall definitely support these brands by not buying any of these watches. I am not waiting 10 years for a Daytona. Life is far too short to wait to buy a watch. There are so many more interesting brands or watches out there to wait so long.

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