Some of this, Mr. Duffy said, was the result of production delays. Switzerland was shut down for much of the spring. Areas of Rolex’s factories had to be evacuated during Covid outbreaks over the summer and fall. All the while, the stock market soared, leaving high-earning investors with huge amounts of disposable income.
Still, Paul Boutros, the head of Phillips Auction House’s U.S. watches division, doesn’t see the possible end of the pandemic as being likely to change things. “I’ll put it this way,” he said. “If you are a regular person trying to buy your first good watch and you choose a Rolex sport watch, a Patek Phillipe Nautilus or a Royal Oak from Audemars Piguet and want to buy it on the spot — I think those days are over.”
Currently, Mr. Boutros is waiting on something else: a $4,329 Bull barbecue grill that he ordered from an online dealer in early April and won’t be arriving until July, at the earliest.
And Neal Bascomb, the author of biographies on Henry Ford and Walter Chrysler, has seen the renovation of his Philadelphia home grind to a halt because of a spray foam shortage that’s hobbled scores of construction projects in the area.
“It seems like a rather odd thing to stop construction, but there you have it,” he said, going on to note similarities between consumption today and consumption during the Roaring Twenties.
Both then and now, he said, there was “a crazy stock market,” “easy access to credit,” “scores of new products,” a growing wealth gap and a charismatic and temperamental industrialist, who not only transformed the car business but also became, as a result, arguably the defining technologist of the era.