What's up with Rolex exhibition “for display only” watches?

What's up with Rolex exhibition “for display only” watches?

A few months ago we covered that Rolex is making “Exhibition Watches” for Authorized Dealers and Rolex Boutiques to show to prospective customers. The idea of Rolex doing this has been heavily debated amongst watch guys since us publishing the story. We felt we should do a follow up with a few collectors, and some store employees' points of view on this new idea.

I personally have been to a lot of Rolex boutiques and Authorized dealers since the idea of this first came out. I have touched these watches myself and spoken to more than a handful of employees about these watches. Just to clarify, there is a set of watches that Rolex has been getting into the dealers hands. It seems to be an identical set of high interest/selling watches. Here is a short list of the “for display only” watches that I have seen commonly:

  1. Oyster Perpetual 41 - Green Dial
  2. Daytona - Yellow Gold and Steel (two-tone) - White Dial
  3. Submariner - Black Dial
  4. Explorer II - White Dial
  5. GMT Master II - Blue and Black Bezel (BLNR) - Jubilee Bracelet
  6. Rolex Datejust 41 - Yellow Gold and Steel (two-tone) - Gold Dial, Jubilee bracelet and Fluted Bezel
  7. Deepsea Sea-Dweller
  8. Sky-Dweller - White Gold and Steel - Jubilee Bracelet
  9. Explorer I - both new variations

I have been able to see these watches in US boutiques and Swiss ones, and I am not sure if these are offered world wide yet. It is likely that Rolex will roll these out to all major metropolitan locations across the world. However, I have spoken to a few smaller dealers and they have informed me that they do not expect to have many if any of these watches. So, it is not clear if all Rolex AD’s will have these for their customers to view/try on. 

Lastly, some of the watches I have tried on are fully working models. They tell time, you can move the crown and and set the date. Other versions do not work and have the hands set to 10:10:31 with the date at 28. I asked every dealer who had the non-functional variations if they had movements in them, and all of them told me they have no idea and do not plan to check. After some research I see that David SW was trying to sell a non-working model calling it an “exhibition model” but from the pictures I see that the hands have moved. It’s definitely a bit of a confusing and inconsistent situation. 

Now that we have all the details of the try-on program Rolex has been doing, what do the public and the store sellers think? The public seems torn on both sides. For one, they can try on the watch and see if it is worth the wait. You can determine if you like the look, feel, and size of a watch in real life that you maybe only saw online. On the other hand, it makes some collectors even more enraged they cannot have the watch now. Some other questions people have are, if these are real and working Rolex watches, why aren’t they for sale (and will they ever be for sale?) 

From the dealer's side, they seem pleased overall. I spoke with a Rolex boutique store manager, and he explained that not having watches whatsoever makes it even harder than having these “not for sale” and “display only” exhibition models. He explained that by having the samples to show the customer, he can at least have a future sales opportunity and he can at least give a customer confidence in Rolex to deliver on their cherished timepiece. Having something to show is better than nothing at all.

Our opinion is that in general, it is a good thing. We do not have any affiliation with Rolex, other than an undying passion for the brand. So, our opinion is unfiltered and we do not need to “kiss the ring of the King.” We look at it from this point of view: touching a watch gives you a better understanding of what you are buying. Putting a watch on your wrist solidifies your desire for it. A Rolex is a lifelong purchase, so if you have to wait six months to a year or more for yours...so what. We are excited to see Rolex cases full again even if for try-on purposes only.

If you already have a collection of watches, you can create that boutique feeling in your own home with an Everest Watch Box. If you haven’t checked this bad boy out yet, please do. It’s our hottest selling item this holiday season and is a perfect way to make your home feel like a high end Rolex Boutique...except the watches inside are not just to try-on...they are yours to keep!


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