Source: Images and content by @ WatchPro. See the original article here - https://www.watchpro.com/corders-column-exhibition-only-signs-are-becoming-a-badge-of-honour/
To Cambridge at the weekend where temperatures were just moderate enough to enjoy a stroll through the university colleges, cafes and shops of the historic city centre.
I always like to study the window displays of jewellery and watch stores around town because they give me new leads on what is happening in retail and helps me keep an eye on existing trends and topics.
Exhibition Only watches are a hot topic today, particularly for Rolex, because they show the ongoing issue of supply challenges in the face of unprecedented demand.
Only two years’ ago, I would have at least seen Rolex watches for ladies in windows.
Now, even those are gone, often replaced with the most desirable and thus unattainable steel professional timekeeper’s in the Rolex range, but with Exhibition Only signs warning customers they are not for sale.
I’m not sure where I stand on these Exhibition Only watches. Visually, it is certainly better for the look of Rolex windows than completely empty displays.
They also act as an invitation for wannabe customers to go into stores and serve up personal information in an attempt to get onto a waiting list (data is a retailer’s best friend).
But a typical punter, who might have dreamed for a lifetime about buying a Rolex on retirement, could justifiably feel misled when walking into a store that appears to have watches, only to be told they would languish for years on a waiting list, if they were allowed on one at all.
This was not the full story of what I saw in Cambridge.
Yes, the Rolex windows had only Exhibition watches on view. For those in the know, this confirms the continuing shortages, and all that flows from that: waiting lists, speculators and sky high prices on the secondary market.
You could take that as a sign of Rolex’s enduring desirability, particularly if you compare its Exhibition Only watch windows with those of other brands that also like to talk about soaring demand and scarcity of their collections.
If that is causing shortages, it is now showing up in the windows of authorised dealers, which in the case of a Cambridge store, had two Moonwatches in a full Omega display.
It is a similar story with Breitling. Sales have been rising sharply, but not to the point of causing any serious bottlenecks requiring Exhibition Only labels.
Exhibition Only Tudor Watch
Perhaps the new story in the Cambridge windows was from Tudor.
It launched its Ranger watch earlier this month as a core collection product and, at prices starting at £2,170, is positioned as an entry-level proposition, presumably hoping to attract new customers to the brand.
Regrettably, those new customers will have to wait, it seems, since the Tudor Ranger in the windows also had the dreaded Exhibition Only badge.
I can’t help wondering whether Exhibition Only has been so successful for Rolex as a badge of honour for its stratospheric demand that its sibling Tudor is trying the same trick.
After all, everybody wants what they cannot have.