The Rolex Submariner is nothing short of a legend in the watch world. It boasts a rich history and is not going to go out of style anytime soon. But the problem with such coveted watches is that you can’t just wander into a Rolex boutique and saunter back out with this diving watch on your wrist. If you go the official route, you’ll be subjected to an agonizing waiting period, and even then there’s no guarantee that you’ll definitely be offered one. Should you add your name to the wait list, or buy online and get your Sub right away?
How long is the waiting list for a Rolex Submariner?
There’s no getting around it: The fact that we have to wait to get our hands on the Submariner only makes it more appealing. It’s in our nature to want what we can’t have, so to that extent, there’s nothing wrong with the concept of a waiting list. It eliminates the possibility of an impulse buy, and the anticipation builds tremendously as you wait for the call from your dealer. But how long should a waiting list be? At what point is it all just an unnecessary hassle?
Unfortunately, no one knows exactly how long you have to wait to buy a Rolex Submariner from an offline dealer. It varies greatly from case to case, and it’s rare to be absolutely guaranteed a copy or given a specific date of when to expect it, so you’ll have to be okay with the unknown. One thing has been proven, however: repeat customers who have already bought several watches from their official retailer have a better chance of getting their hands on one of the coveted models. So if you’re lusting after the Rolex Submariner but don’t plan on buying any other watches beforehand, you’re better off turning to the secondary market.
Why buy a Rolex online?
Buying a luxury watch is definitely not an everyday occurrence, and for a long time, I was a firm believer that you should only buy one in a physical store. The atmosphere is ideal for such a special occasion, and in combination with one-on-one service and a refreshment, the moment is truly celebrated. Apart from the actual sale itself, brick-and-mortar stores offer other advantages: You can spontaneously walk into a boutique and peruse the offerings, get expert advice, and try on watches without committing straight away.
But over the years, I’ve had a couple of negative experiences with retail stores, so when I bought a luxury watch online for the first time, I was impressed at how smooth the process was. I chose the watch I wanted, clicked on it, paid for it – and a few hours later it was there. Delivered as promised without the hullabaloo of a waiting list: brand new, without as much as a micro-scratch, and still partially covered with protective film. I was more than happy to pay the then relatively small markup of $200 above the list price; after all, I had the watch faster than a Rolex concessionaire could pick up the phone (even if in this case it was a Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight). I celebrated the purchase in the comfort of my own home: I made myself a fine cappuccino, got comfortable on the sofa, and unpacked the watch in peace. Later on, I took a long walk and got some fantastic wristshots. It was one of my favorite buying experiences, possibly because it was so simple.
Online marketplaces have really caught up with physical locations. Even luxury brands like Omega and Breitling are keeping with the times and sell their entire portfolios online. Even if you’re not completely taken with the Rolex Submariner, your online options are virtually infinite; you can even find rare collector’s items and discontinued models relatively easily. Buying online can turn your wish list into a reality very quickly. You can get your watch of choice, complete with original box and papers, delivered right to your door. And don’t forget the cappuccino or champagne. After all, a new luxury watch deserves to be celebrated.
Join the waiting list, or buy online?
This brings me back to the initial question: Should you accept the long wait that comes with buying a Rolex Submariner from a boutique, or just buy it online? Of course, that’s entirely up to you. But before I tell you what I think, I’d like to share another experience: When my previous dealer became ever more non-committal regarding a white Rolex Datejust 41 I wanted, I had another Rolex boutique put me down for the watch. When I didn’t hear back from that store either, I bought the watch online. I didn’t mind having to pay a premium; I had already waited almost a year, and wasn’t interested in buying other watches just to move up on the boutique’s waiting list. The clincher was that no one could tell me if I’d even get one for sure, someday, and I wanted it bad. The fact that I could have bought the watch later at the list price doesn’t bother me in the least. I had already had my dream watch for over a year, and during that time there had also been one or two price hikes.
In general, if waiting isn’t a problem for you, because, for example, you have other watches you want to add to your collection first and wouldn’t be all that disappointed if the Rolex Submariner didn’t work out in the end, then you should put your name on the waiting list and try your luck. If the Rolex Submariner is your dream watch, and you absolutely need to have it, and don’t want to buy any other watches just to better your chances, then buying online is the better way to go.
Read 10 Surprising Facts About the Rolex Submariner by Barbara Korp