Rolex Delays Get Worse in the Coronavirus Age

With the closure of 3 of Rolex main manufacturing facilities on March 17, 2020, production of new Rolex timepieces has come to a screeching halt.  Rolex CEO Jean-Frederic Dufour sent a letter to his employees saying:
“Dear Sirs and Madams. We are facing a very serious situation. In order to protect you, your families, and your loved ones, but also to limit the risks of spreading the Coronavirus as much as possible, we have decided to close our production sites in Geneva, Bienne, and Crissier from March 17 at 5:00 PM through Friday, March 27, 2020. That date may of course be pushed back according to the evolution of the epidemic.”
However, the pandemic has not halted its march across Europe and into America in its ever-Westward expansion.  The coronavirus is putting extreme pressure on a market that was already feeling strained due to massive waiting lists on some of Rolex's most coveted steel timepieces. 

The waiting lists for prized Rolex's started to really hit since 2016 when the Daytonal 116500LN was released at Baselworld.  However, even today, the waiting lists have spread to the GMT-Master II, the Submariner, the Explorer and the Sea-Dweller. 

Many believed that Rolex was cutting supply or creating shortage artificially, but that just simply isn't the case.  Demand for steel sports timepieces from Rolex just surged past what Rolex was able to produce.  Each Rolex timepiece must undergo meticulous handcrafted design and testing.  There are only so many Rolex employees entrusted to craft these works of art. 

It is true that many people have lost their jobs during this pandemic, and that a quarter of all Rolex timepieces are purchased by one of the hardest hit areas of the world - Asia.  You might think that the demand for Rolex would tumble. 

However, the opposite is true.  There really isn't an end in sight to the shutdown of production, of not only Rolex, but of many Swiss retailers.  Individual investors are still shopping online.  And with the stock market tumbling, one of the most sought after treasures is Gold Rolex and other Rolex timepieces that can hold its value and potentially grow it over time.  Quite possibly the reason for the wait list on the stainless steel Rolex lineups is because these timepieces are the lowest priced Rolexes that an investor could make. 

Add to this that the Rolex factories could be  shut down for a quarter of the year - reducing supply by a quarter million units.

Another reason demand has not dipped is the fact that many people are forced to stay home.  Rather than focusing on working, partying, or life in general, they are taking account the things they actually want - Rolex being one of these coveted items that fit almost anyone's bucket list. 

People fully expect that the markets will surge once the virus has passed us by.  In fact the market has surged, on huge government bailout-type monies.  2 Trillion dollars by the US government.  Could some of that money be used to buy a Rolex?  Why not?  Investing in something timeless, and stronger than humanity itself, could have great appeal to investors - even first time investors. 

Will Rolex Announce New Versions in 2020

When Baselworld and nearly every other event worldwide cancelled due to real scares due to the coronavirus pandemic, a question that was on every Rolex collector's mind became, "When is Rolex going to announce its newest models?"

With Rolex itself closing its doors due to fears for the safety of its workers and the outbreak of the pandemic in Switzerland and the surrounding countries such as Italy, Spain and France, it is clearly possible that any and all announcements due to new Rolex timepieces will be delayed.

Normally Baselworld is where all of these announcements are made - in April.  However, it is more than likely the new models will be announced later on - after the pandemic has run its course. 

Rolex removed the references to last year's "New Rolex Timepieces".  This section of the website, exhibited 6 or so of the newest models Rolex announced and released at last year's Baselworld in 2019.  Only recently has this part of the site been removed - probably in preparation for the new 2020 Baselworld event and the newest "New" Rolexes that would be announced. 

There are several options for Rolex.  Clearly Rolex does not need Baselworld to announce and release its latest versions of its timepieces.  It is likely that Rolex would wait for the pandemic to end and then schedule a press conference event of its very own and announce its newest models with tremendous fanfare you would expect.

However, Rolex might also be selective and only announce 1 or 2 models, rather than the entire lineup that they would normally release.  Perhaps they might pick a model like the Submariner or one of its less popular models - the Milgauss or the Air King.  Similarly, Rolex might find these announcements distasteful and just choose to slip these new models into the marketplace without much fanfare at all. 

It is even possible, although many of us anticipating the "new" Rolex lineup would fear this option the most, Rolex could announce that no new Rolex watches would be released in 2020.  Baselworld is scheduled for 2021, and Rolex could whet the appetites of Rolex followers by announcing an amazing array of changes to the Rolex line-up next year.

I'd say that 2020 is probably a wash in terms of a year.  It is over, just as it has just begun.  Although the earth has not stopped spinning, commerce has reduced to a trickle.  It is like a faucet with an incessant drip, drip, drip.  However, the rusty old handle can release a torrent of commerce when the time is right.  Slightly at first, then with the strength of full force.  I'd say that Rolex would continue to manufacture the same 2019 models and schedule the 2020 models to come out in 2021 along with the 2021 models as well - making the 2021 Rolex event to be the epic Rolex announcement year in our lifetimes.

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