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05/15/2023
 5 minutes

How are Rolex discontinuations affecting the watch market?

By Thomas Hendricks
ONP-402-Snapshot-of-secondary-watch-market-April-2-1

Watches and Wonders is the biggest event in the watch world. The annual extravaganza takes place in Geneva from late March to early April. Dozens of manufacturers unveil their new releases and write a new chapter in their brand legacies. It’s a high-risk, high-reward scenario for the brands as everyone lays their cards down at once, eliciting praise, criticism, or confusion from watch media and enthusiasts around the globe.

The mega fair also has an impact on the secondary and gray markets, and as the world’s largest watch marketplace, we at Chrono24 have kept a close eye on the ripple effects coming out of Switzerland.

DEMAND SPIKES FOR SELECT BRANDS AND MODELS FOLLOWING W&W

For our first segment, we’re analyzing which brands and models saw the largest spikes in demand on Chrono24 following the fair. The results may surprise you.

A quick note on methodology: We’re comparing demand in the four weeks leading up to Watches and Wonders with the four weeks following the event, to capture a before and after effect. Demand here includes purchase requests, price negotiations, and messages to dealers.

We’ve rounded up the top five brands that experienced the biggest increases in interest following Watches and Wonders. Number one is Chopard, followed by JLC at number two, and Cartier in third. TAG Heuer and Tudor round out the top five.

That’s three dress watch brands in the top three. Chopard came through with the super sharp L.U.C. 1860, which got a lot of exposure on Instagram, and JLC had what many consider the best watch of the show with the Reverso Tribute Chronograph. Those watches in particular will be quite hard to get, but it shows that individual highlights can lead to broader brand visibility.

L.U.C. 1860
L.U.C. 1860 (image: Chopard)
Reverso Tribute Chronograph
Reverso Tribute Chronograph (image: Jaeger-LeCoultre)

The numbers get much more dramatic when we look at demand for specific watch models. There’s one watch that saw a 264% increase in demand following Watches and Wonders, but we’re going to tackle that in depth in just a minute. In the meantime, let’s look at watch number two.

The centerpiece of IWC’s 2023 novelties is undoubtedly the new Ingenieur. The watch is a revamp of the Gérald Genta-designed icon, and it has proven to be a tad bit divisive. As a result, the IWC Ingenieur experienced a 97% increase in requests… for the old AMG version, that is. We don’t have access to IWC boutique sales data, and they’re certainly not sharing that; maybe people really are paying five figures for the new Ingenieur? In any case, this level of nostalgia for the old reference is not a great sign from our perspective. Perhaps they shouldn’t have added those crown guards!

IWC Ingenieur AMG
IWC Ingenieur AMG

The Tudor Black Bay 41 experienced an 80% increase during this period. Tudor debuted an improved Black Bay 41 with a burgundy bezel this year, featuring a Master Chronometer-certified movement and a five-link bracelet. The Tudor/Rolex family is very picky about their terminology, so it’s a “5-link bracelet” and not a Jubilee, FYI. There’s no definitive answer as to why we’re seeing a spike in interest for the previous generation of the Black Bay, but our best guess would be that people are looking for deals on the older models now that a new generation is hitting stores.

Tudor BB, BB 58, BB 54
Demand for older versions of the Black Bay is rising after the new Black Bay release (image: Tudor)

The 10 models with the biggest spikes in demand are a bit of a mixed bag, to be honest. Some seem connected to what happened in Geneva, and some seem to come out of nowhere. JLC is in the top three with the Master Ultra Thin Moon, but they haven’t touched that model in a while. Oris is in the top five, but not for a model line that they released or discontinued. Hublot is also in the top 10.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Moon
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Moon

2023 DISCONTINUATIONS: MARKET IMPACT

Okay, we won’t tease you any longer about the number one slot on the list. The Rolex Milgauss has seen the biggest uptick in requests of any watch on Chrono24 following W&W. The model family that encompasses all references of the Milgauss, including the green sapphire and standard versions, saw a 264% increase in demand following the fair – that’s about 2.5x more than the watch in second place.

This discontinuation has been a long time coming for Rolex, since the Milgauss was always the black sheep of the professional series. While others are designed for divers, pilots, mountain climbers, and race car drivers, the Milgauss is designed for… scientists in lab coats. Scientists are impressive, essential, but not exactly sexy, and even a master marketer like Rolex had given up on hyping the Milgauss. But the tides have changed in this revenge-of-the-nerds scenario, because people always want what they can’t have. To quote the rapper Mike Jones, “Back then they didn’t want me, now I’m hot, [they] all on me.”

Rolex Milgauss 116400GV
Rolex Milgauss ref. 116400GV

The Milgauss wasn’t the only Rolex discontinued this year. If you’ve watched the famous episode of Talking Watches with John Mayer, you may remember a pair of precious metal Daytonas gracing the screen. The white gold, blue dial ref. 116509 saw a modest increase in listing price for unworn models, rising from about $53,000 in February to around $57,000 in April. But it’s the other version, the one nicknamed “The John Mayer Daytona” that has seen the real surge. The yellow gold, green dial ref. 116508 has soared in price on Chrono24, going from approximately $86,000 in February to just south of $120,000 in April.

Rolex Daytona 116508 "John Mayer"
“The John Mayer Daytona” ref. 116508

This all makes sense because discontinuation results in renewed interest for a watch, especially for yellow gold ones, which are having a moment, and especially for Daytonas, which have long been the most desirable of all Rolex models.

We’ll end this segment of the report with a watch that was very quietly discontinued with, so far, essentially no media attention surrounding its departure. The Tudor Heritage Chrono, a stunner of a watch, was still in production in 2022, but now is nowhere to be found in Tudor’s catalog. Why did the brand discontinue this watch? Was it due to stagnant sales? Was it time to develop a new replacement chronograph? Or is it something else entirely? We’re scratching our heads here, so please, drop a comment below if you have any information or theories.

Tudor Heritage Chrono
Tudor Heritage Chrono

W&W 2022 NOVELTIES: PRICING THEN & NOW

Our third and final segment looks at Watches and Wonders releases from 2022 and asks, where are they now? We’ll focus on Rolex releases, since those captured the most attention in the media and the markets.

The Rolex Destro GMT, now nicknamed the Sprite, was certainly one of the more divisive releases of the previous year. The watch retails for $11,450 in the US, and prices on Chrono24 currently sit around $25,000.

Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126720VTNR
Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126720VTNR

The new Air-King is a more modest watch and is seeing more modest appreciation in turn. The retail price is $7,450, with current prices on Chrono24 hovering around $10,000.

The Rolex Yacht-Master in 42-mm yellow gold on the Oysterflex bracelet is performing slightly better with a $35,000 price tag on Chrono24 versus $29,200 at retail.

 

And finally, the platinum Rolex Day-Date with a fluted bezel is marked as “price on request” on Rolex’s website. That’s an intimidating sign, and perhaps part of the reason why prices on Chrono24 are up to about $96,000 at the time of reporting.

Rolex Day-Date Platinum ref. 228206
Rolex Day-Date platinum ref. 228206

If I had to predict the crown’s biggest star one year from now, I’d put my money on the full-gold GMT, but I’ve certainly been wrong before.

There you have it, a snapshot of the secondary watch market in April 2023.

If you’d like to read more about Watches and Wonders 2023, check it out here.


About the Author

Thomas Hendricks

I didn’t grow up a watch guy, but a few years after graduating from university, I landed a job at the online publication Watchonista as a writer and marketer. “Welcome to the watch world,” my colleagues told me half-jokingly, “no one ever leaves!” Now at Chrono24, I work as a private client advisor, helping people find the perfect watch for major life moments.

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