This is the identity of the average Rolex owner (they’re not who you might expect)Luke Benedictus
Off the top of your head, what’s your mental picture of a Rolex owner? Some cigar-chomping big-shot in an oak-panelled office? A thrusting young professional who delights in his watch as a conspicuous status-signifier? Or simply a lover of fine watches who appreciates the formidable consistency and build quality of the Crown?
The reason I ask is that, while rootling around the dusty corners of the Internet, I recently came across a study that purports to reveal the identity of the average Rolex owner. Homeprotect is a British insurance company and claims that, of all the items it’s asked to insure, Rolex is the brand name that crops up the most regularly. As a result, they decided to crunch their data to get a clearer idea of how this demographic breaks down.
The company found that Rolex owners in the UK were far more likely to live in the south of England – a fact that corresponds with Britain’s long-established division of wealth. Equally predictable was Homeprotect’s finding that male owners outnumbered women almost two to one.
But what did raise eyebrows was the reported age of these men. Homeprotect revealed that the average Rolex owner was a 68-year-old man and that a mere 1.5% of this market was under the age of 35.
Two disclaimers: firstly this study was conducted five years ago in 2017. Secondly, it should also be noted that these results were no doubt skewed by the fact that this survey was based on people who had insured their Rolex. Getting a luxury watch insured may indeed be a sensible move, but not everyone does it, in fact, in a recent editorial meeting at T+T – where the assembled staffers were variously aged in their 20s, 30s and 40s – not a single person had watch insurance. Given their sample group, it’s probably understandable if Homeprotect’s demographic turned out to be older.
Except that, the Rolex owners were notably older than those of other watch brands, too. When, for example, Homeprotect did another survey looking at Omega, the owners were considerably more youthful. Indeed, Homeprotect found the average age of their Omega owners was 44 – some 24 years younger than Rolex.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised if Rolex owners are a bit longer in the tooth. Older people would, after all, have been in a far better position to buy a Rolex back when the watches were accessible at retail – compared to the current scenario where demand vastly outstrips supply. This is a well-acknowledged truth as shown by the dramatic mark-ups on the secondary market. The Rolex GMT-Master II left-hander, for example, was released this year for $15,500 AUD, but of the 100 pieces currently available to purchase on Chrono 24, the cheapest is $43,647.
Yet 68-years-old is a significant milestone nonetheless, because according to the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends survey, this specific birthday is widely perceived to signal the beginning of old age. Going by this survey therefore, Rolex is officially an old man’s watch.
The received wisdom is that young people are meant to recoil from the tastes of the older generation. Rather than aspire towards “sensible shoes” or slacks with elasticated waistbands, they’re supposed to hanker for something more dynamic, exciting and contemporary. But that’s not the case with Rolex. Many of their owners may be grey-haired retirees, but that’s done nothing to dull the appeal of what remains the single most lusted-after watch brand on the planet.