It’s no secret by now that the availability of many new models from Rolex official retailers is limited, to say the least.
More and more models in the Rolex collection have become harder and harder to acquire, and plenty of models (if not most) now have ”waiting lists”.
We won’t go into the details and the reasons for the Rolex shortage in this article – that’s a topic for a completely different article. But what will do is discuss which models are the hardest to buy from official Rolex retailers – at the recommended retail price.
Background to the hardest Rolex models to get
Over the years, more and more watches have become more difficult to buy from Rolex retailers. Models that you could essentially just walk in and buy a couple of years ago now have waiting lists or may not be possible to request at all unless you have a good purchase history and are considered a ”VIP client”. As a matter of fact, it was not too long ago that Rolex Submariners and other steel professional watches stood readily available in the windows at ADs (Authorised dealers).
Without speculating too much in the nitty-gritty, the simple and short explanation is the basic principle for business – supply and demand. As the demand for Rolex watches, in general, has surged, the availability of Rolex watches from retailers has dramatically decreased, making them harder than ever to buy. And as a result, the values of these watches have also dramatically increased on the secondhand market. Now to the point where some Rolex watches sell for as much as 100% or more above the recommended retail price.
If you are looking to buy a Rolex from an official retailer, it can be good to know which the most difficult watches to acquire are so you can plan your purchase accordingly and adapt your expectations.
Hardest Rolex models to get
As mentioned, the short explanation for the poor availability of Rolex watches around the world is that the demand is higher than the supply. Whilst Rolex produces about a million watches per year, the demand for them is even higher. If you then factor in that they have a lot of different models, and plenty of Rolex retailers that have to share these watches, the production is simply too low for the current demand. When it comes to how many watches Rolex retailers receive of each model, it varies depending on the location of the store, how big the store is, and what Rolex decides to send in the end. In general, for most stores, we are looking at about 5-20 pieces per year (of course with a lot of variations depending on the above-mentioned factors) of the most popular models. And as you can imagine, the demand is in general far higher than that.
Rolex Daytona 116500LN
The Rolex Daytona 116500LN was released in 2016 and instantly became a huge success. The Daytona has been an extremely popular model for a long time, but we could say that the Rolex craze really started to take off in 2016 when this model instantly became a waiting list piece.
From the Rolex retailers we have spoken with, they get basically the same amount of white-dial versions as black-dial versions. In addition, they receive between 5 and 10 in total per year. As you can imagine, the availability gets extremely difficult when most stores have a waiting list of hundreds of people for this model. If we say they receive 10 per year (which is in the higher end of the spectrum of what most stores actually receive from Rolex), and they have a waiting list of 100 people, we could say that the waiting time is 10 years. In other words, it may sound absolutely insane to have a waiting time of 10 years, but with the limited supply from Rolex, the waiting time quickly adds up.
Being one of the most sought-after Rolex watches today, it has become a watch that is, at most stores, only reserved for the absolute top clients with long purchase history, but the way stores allocate watches of course varies a lot.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 126000 & 124300 ”Tiffany” dial
The Oyster Perpetual 36 and 41 were both released in 2020 and gained immediate and huge popularity with their striking and eye-catching dial colors, including yellow, green, pink, and more. But the dial color that became the most popular and sought-after was the turquoise dial version, now nicknamed ”Tiffany”, due to its resemblance to Tiffany & Co’s signature color.
From the Rolex official retailers that we have spoken with, Rolex official retailers receive fewer pieces of this model than the Rolex Submariner – probably the most popular Rolex watch in Rolex’s collection. This was for the Oyster Perpetual 41 overall, so those with a turquoise dial specifically are even fewer in quantity. The information we got from Rolex retailers was that they receive only a few pieces per year, and with the huge interest, it’s easy to see how the waiting list has quickly built up at Rolex retailers around the world. One Rolex AD stated a 2-year waiting list for the Oyster Perpetual 41 in general, and that is for any color – and that is also assuming that they follow the waiting list, which we know isn’t the case for most Rolex retailers.
With this said, the availability for the Tiffany dial 12600 and 124300 is extremely difficult, now to the point where many stores have closed their waiting list as the demand is simply too high.
Rolex Daytona 116506 platinum
The Rolex Daytona 116506 in platinum was released in 2013 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Daytona model. At the point of being released, and for a long time after, it remained a ”cold” watch with not a lot of interest from the market due to the extremely high price tag in relation to the brand’s other models. But in around 2018-2020, the interest in this model started picking up.
From Rolex retailers we have spoken with, Rolex has also communicated that they will limit the production of this model further and produce even fewer pieces, leading to an even poorer supply.
The Rolex Daytona 116506 in platinum is, in general, a watch that stores have to request specifically in order to receive, unlike many other models. It’s easy to see why it is so difficult to acquire when the information we have gotten is that most Rolex Retailers receive a maximum of 1-2 per year. In other words, it only takes about 3 people to create a waiting time of 1 year. Add a few more people to the list and you have a waiting time of 2 years. This is a model with an extremely limited production, and as a result, it has become tremendously difficult to buy from Rolex retailers in the last couple of years.
Rolex Submariner in steel
The Rolex Submariner is probably the most requested stainless steel professional watch in Rolex’s whole catalog. This includes the 124060, 126610LN, and 126610LV, with the last-mentioned being the most difficult by far.
The Rolex Submariner is also Rolex’s probably most iconic timepiece, and it is the watch that a lot of men think about when they think about Rolex. It’s easy to see why the Submariner is so immensely popular with its iconic and versatile design that works just as great for everyday wear as with a suit.
Whilst Rolex retailers receive quite a few pieces of the Submariner models in steel, in general about 10-30 pieces in total, the demand for this model is extremely high, resulting in really long waiting lists and difficulties in acquiring it from Rolex retailers.
Rolex Daytona 116508 green dial
The Rolex Daytona 116508 in yellow gold with green dial is one of the most striking and special Rolex watches ever made. This watch was popularized by John Mayer in his conversation with Hodinkee in Talking watches, and since the release of this video in 2019, the popularity for this model surged.
The Rolex Daytona 116508 with green dial is even more difficult to acquire than the Daytona 116500LN in steel in many places, and this does not have to do with the fact that the demand for it is higher (although it is extremely high), but it has to do with the extremely limited and low production from Rolex. In general, Rolex retailers only receive a few pieces per year of this watch at max, with most receiving only about 1-3 pieces. And as you can imagine, this results in extreme difficulties in acquiring this piece.
Rolex GMT-Master II 126710BLRO
You could say that getting any professional Rolex watch in steel is extremely difficult. But after the Daytona 116500LN, the GMT-Master II 126710BLRO is probably the most difficult.
With its iconic design and eye-catching Pepsi bezel, this is one of the most iconic, and in more recent years, popularized watches on social media. The demand for this watch is extremely high, and the result is never-ending waiting lists and also the fact that in most cases, it is reserved for premium and VIP customers.
Rolex GMT-Master II 126719BLRO meteorite dial and blue dial
The Rolex GMT-Master II in white gold reference 126719BLRO with a meteorite dial, in particular, has become one of the most difficult to acquire. And the blue dial version is not far after in terms of difficulties with the availability.
The GMT-Master II white gold reference 126719BLRO in particular is one of the Rolex watches that is the hardest to get. This is primarily due to the highly limited production and the pieces that the Rolex ADs receive. As a matter of fact, the Rolex retailers we have spoken to receive about 1-3 per year, but it obviously varies depending on the factors we discussed earlier. With that said, it doesn’t take a lot of interested clients to create long waiting lists.
Rolex Sky-Dweller 326934
The Rolex Sky-Dweller 326934 is definitely the top amongst the Rolex models that are the hardest to get. Of them all, the Sky-Dweller 326934 with blue dial is the most difficult to acquire. One of the reasons why this watch is so difficult to acquire partially has to do with the complexity of producing the movement. The Sky-Dweller features what is one of Rolex’s most complex movements, and therefore, Rolex’s production capacity is limited. And like with most watches, the blue dial version is the most striking and sought-after.
The watches above are currently the hardest models to get from Rolex ADs today and have the longest waiting time. Of course, few Rolex watches are ”difficult to get” if you are willing to pay the market price for them. But if not, it’s much more difficult. In general, the harder it is to get a watch, the more they are reserved for premium and VIP customers rather than being sold according to the waiting list, but it varies greatly depending on the store. As models become almost impossible to acquire, the waiting lists are expanded to more models, which we have seen happen over the years. For example, when people cannot get a Daytona in steel, they opt for the closest, for example, the Daytona in white gold with Oysterflex. But when this model becomes so hard to get, they, in turn, look for the next closest thing, for example, the full gold white gold Daytona. And this is part of the reason why more and more models are becoming more difficult to get.