Jeff Maysh wanted to buy a Rolex Oyster Perpetual for his wife. He went into a Rolex store in Los Angeles and "found only empty cabinets and an apologetic salesperson." As he soon discovered it's almost impossible to buy a Rolex at a Rolex store because scalpers snap them up and resell them at ten times the retail price on the gray market. And anyone who buys a watch on the gray market risks getting a realistic counterfeit watch.
Rolex, the company, has a rule forbidding scalping, but a lot of Rolex store employees are in cahoots with scalpers, receiving kickbacks for breaking the rules. Or the dealers reserve watched for people who buy a lot of jewelry.
From Maysh's article in Financial Times:
On internet watch forums, I read a lot about dealers using Rolex watches to offer customers quid pro quo deals. Spend a few hundred thousand dollars on jewellery and, only then, would you be offered a coveted Rolex. "It's not technically illegal," says Ariel Adams, a lawyer who publishes the watch review site ablogtowatch.com. But it's infuriating watch-buyers around the world. Brian DeSantos, a 41-year-old creative director in Los Angeles, recounted on Reddit a similar experience at his local Rolex store. The dealer "just straight up told me: 'Steel sport watches are reward watches . . . there's no way you'll ever be able to buy one just by shopping for one.'" DeSantos was left fuming. "I'm supposed to be able to access this. I'm rich," he tells me on the telephone. "I'm willing to give you an insane amount of money for this silly thing you offer. Why won't you let me?"