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What Is the Rolex Grey Market?

Rolex Air-King Stainless Steel Men's Watch
A Pre-Owned Rolex Air-King ref: 14000 Men's Watch

Luxury watches are often traded on what has become known as the grey market. It’s a poor choice of names because it makes us think of the black market and nothing could be further than the truth. If you buy a Rolex from an authorized Rolex dealer, you’re not in the grey market. If you buy it any other way, you are. That’s true whether you buy from a friend, a relative, or someone who makes money buying and selling watches. There’s nothing illegal at all about the grey market, anymore than there is anything illegal about buying a pre-owned car.

Why Does the Grey Market Exist?

The answer to this question is easy. There is a secondary market for Rolexes because people want to buy them and people want to sell them. While authorized dealers receive only new watches, the grey market has pre-owned watches from current models to models not produced for decades. The grey market provides a way for people who want, for example, a Rolex submariner made in the 1980s rather than a current model. It also allows people to purchase new models (usually at a premium) in order to avoid long waitlists at authorized dealers.

Why Is the Grey Market Booming Lately?

This question presupposes the idea that the grey market wasn’t booming before. The truth is, the Rolex secondary market has always been very robust. However, lately, Rolex has seen dramatically increased demand from new customers and collectors alike. This has created exceptionally long waitlists for popular models. A Rolex Submariner in stainless steel, for example, is so popular that waitlists can exceed three years. This has led to many customers heading to the grey market for their watches. Although authorized Rolex dealers must sell at or very near the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, the grey market has no such restrictions and many watches sell for thousands of dollars over the retail price simply because of the law of supply and demand. This has drawn attention to the grey market, which has always been robust but rarely so focused on new models.

Is It Safe to Buy a Rolex from the Grey Market?

Just as you want to find a seller you can trust if you buy a pre-owned car, a vintage baseball card, or a piece of art; you will want to buy a pre-owned Rolex with the same attention to the seller’s reputability. Many pre-owned Rolex’s sold in the secondary market come with the original box and papers. When you deal with reputable people, such as jewelers or luxury goods retailers who also sell pre-owned Rolexes, you can consider yourself safe. Just remember, if a price seems too good to be true, there’s a reason.

The Rolex secondary market is thriving as it always has. It can be an excellent place to buy vintage pre-owned Rolexes or new models if you want to avoid waitlists and you’re willing to pay a premium. Just make sure you deal with a trustworthy Rolex seller to get an incredible luxury timepiece on your wrist with no regrets.


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