Why is there a global scarcity in luxury watches? Not just Rolex – demand is outstripping supply for Cartier, Audemars Piguet, Tudor and Patek Philippe too

Cartier – whose location on Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong is pictured here – has had a shortage of timepieces recently. Photo: David Wong
The boom in demand for Rolex watches and a lack of sufficient supply is driving interest in other luxury timepieces, the head of retailer Watches of Switzerland Group Plc has said.

Sales of Swiss luxury brands Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet showed only “modest” increases in the retailer’s 2022 financial year, largely because of a scarcity of the most sought-after watches, chief executive officer Hugh Brian Duffy said in an interview. That drove interest in other high-end brands.

Tudor Black Bay GMT S&G. Photo: Tudor
“We more than doubled our increases with them,” Duffy said, citing Richemont’s Cartier, Swatch Group’s Omega, LVMH’s Tag Heuer, Rolex sister brand Tudor and independent Breitling.

The retailer, with 171 stores in the UK and US, said demand for certain Cartier and Tudor models is now causing new supply issues.

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“We can’t get enough Santos,” Duffy said of the Cartier aviator watch. “We can’t get enough Tudor,” particularly the brand’s chronograph models, he added.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self Winding Automatic. Photo: Audemars Piguet

Those supply concerns may have contributed to a decline early Wednesday, May 18, in the company’s shares, which traded one per cent lower at 10.49am in London after slumping as much as 4.1 per cent. The stock has fallen by almost a third in 2022, after more than tripling over the previous two years.

Sales of luxury watches jumped during the pandemic as cash-rich consumers directed funds usually spent on travel and entertainment toward high-end timepieces. Retailers benefited with soaring sales online and in stores once they reopened.

Watches of Switzerland’s full-year revenue rose 40 per cent to US$1.54 billion (£1.24 billion) at constant currencies, the company said on Wednesday. It forecasted revenue of US$1.79 billion (£1.45 billion) to US$1.45 (£1.5 billion) for 2023.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches. Photo: Rolex

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Prices for Rolexes and some other luxury Swiss brands are starting to plateau or decline slightly on the second-hand market after a feverish rise. Despite that effect, and the hit from plunging stocks and cryptocurrencies, Duffy said retail demand for Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet watches continues to outstrip supply.

“Demand is just off the scale for those brands. We would love to have more of them,” he said.

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  • Swiss luxury watch brands Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet saw only a ‘modest’ sales increase in 2022, as retail demand continues to outstrip supply
  • Consumers are also after Richemont’s Cartier, Swatch Group’s Omega, LVMH’s Tag Heuer and Breitling – ‘revenge spending’ on timepieces jumped during the pandemic