The Real Deal, a New York City real estate trade publication, just reported that Rolex will be demolishing its Manhattan headquarters, where its Rolex Service Center is located, to make way for a brand new office building in its place.
“The luxury watch company filed an application with the New York’s Department of Buildings to begin demolishing its 1970s-era, 12-story headquarters at 665 Fifth Avenue. The Swiss company is partnering with architect David Chipperfield to build a 25-story office tower in its place,” according to The Real Deal.
Photo by Hodinkee
We’ve covered here in the past the enormity of Rolex within the industry, citing reports that Rolex accounts for 24.9 percent of the global market for Swiss watches.
“Rolex production dropped by 140,000 units (19 percent) last year to 810,000 timepieces last year but still gained market share as brands from LVMH, Swatch Group and Richemont contracted faster,” reported the industry journal Watch Pro.
What’s symbolic to me about Rolex voluntarily demolishing its storied NYC HQ is that the brand is entering a new era where Rolex ownership has become even more of a status symbol than in the past because of scarcity. We’ve all speculated on why one can’t march into an authorized dealer and purchase the Rolex model of our choice in 2021, but no one quite understands who is able to purchase a Rolex sport watch through traditional means.
For me, the demolition of the current Rolex building is the end of a tradition where the company used its massive structure to insulate itself from the unwashed masses. You needed to get through security in order to enter the Service Center, a room seemingly wrapped in green velvet, a lounge area filled with what I imagined to be hedge fund managers with the day off getting their showpieces taken care of before heading out on their yachts. The whole 1970s-ness of the building almost felt like at one point, people were allowed to smoke inside like we used to be able to do on plane rides. I’d imagine on this throwback plane ride that the men were wearing GMT-Masters and the women have 26mm-bejeweled Datejusts on their wrists.
I imagine the new headquarters to be slicker and more general audience friendly, like the newer ceramic, fat-cased sport watches put out by Rolex in its six-digit models. Rolex is now mostly about being nice jewelry and not the actual utility-based watches that collectors like to imagine was the glorious past of the brand. People complain about and admire Rolex’s unwillingness to move too quickly in making changes to its product, but the new Rolex appears to be turning a page towards modernity and precisely delivering what the marketplace craves.