Getting on the Daytona Shortlist

“I have very good clients who won’t get it this year or next,” a saleswoman at London Jewelers admits—and she’s likely being optimistic. The authorized Rolex dealer in tony Southampton, New York, has clientele that expect what they want when they want it. With the new 2016 Daytona, though, they’re outta luck. Waiting lists of two, three, even five to 10 years have been common since the mid-’90s.

The Rolex boutique on Fifth Avenue confirms the five-year estimate. Wempe, the largest Rolex dealer in Manhattan, tells us it might take eight years, given that the dealer already has 200 names on its list. As we discovered, it’s a worldwide problem. “Oh, monsieur, it’s quite impossible,” one Côte D’Azur Rolex dealer proclaims. Ditto in Italy, where a salesman simply laughs at the question. And then apologizes.

Rolex doesn’t release sales figures and strictly limits the number of Daytonas it releases. The latest version, in something it calls “904L steel,” features a black ceramic bezel “reminiscent of the 1965 model fitted with a black Plexiglas bezel insert.” Rolex blogs and forums are filled with anecdotes of long lists and forget-about-it dismissals. Industry insiders echo what some dealers will only sheepishly admit: It’s not who you know, but who knows you. Translation: Good customers who buy more than just Rolexes at stores that also peddle costly baubles like diamond earrings and sapphire tiaras have the best odds of getting nudged closer to the top.

Still, even the biggest spenders can’t just stroll in and buy one. According to our recent marketplace survey, that’s happening only online, and at markups that bump the $12,400 list price to near $20,000. One store in California, as of this writing, had two at $19,500 in your choice of white or black dial. Gee, thanks.

The better value, though, might be found in the last generation of the popular line that’s been made since 2000 and trades in the $10,000 to $15,000 range for a stainless-steel variation. After all, it looks better on your wrist than a promise.

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