One article that published on the Internet on September 1 that caught our interest was that of a Rolex looking dealer in downtown Bagdad. From the outside it appears as a certified Rolex Authorized Dealer complete with cases filled with Rolex, Patek Phillipe, and Raymond Weil wristwatches. Because of the danger associated with being in Bagdad, the Rolex shop recognized by Rolex Switzerland, but rather is a replica store selling genuine watches.
Bagdad, despite not being declared a war zone, is still off limits for international brands. Car bombs and violent attacks make opening a chain store a somewhat high-risk, reluctant affair. Subsequently, many fake shops have opened including a Facebook café, Pizza Hut, and (our favorite) a KFC Krunchy Fried Chicken.
Rolex store owner Ali Abodi hired a contractor to build the replica store. Abodi says that he buys his watches from Dubai and sells them in Bagdad in and Amman. Even though Rolex Switzerland is aware of the store, “it is difficult for us to undertake any action,” because of the security environment in Iraq.
Essentially, Abodi’s Rolex shop is no different than a grey market (or gray market) dealer in the west, selling new or pre-owned Rolex and other Swiss brands. Although frowned upon by watch manufacturers attempting to support their official retail channels, the grey market is essential for authorized dealer’s survival. Many official Rolex, IWC, Omega (or anything in the Swatch corporation) all have sales quotas to maintain. If a dealer does not sell enough watches to meet their sales quota, the store could lose its official designation from the manufacturer. Many times, and official dealer will sell some of their prized stock out the back door to gray market dealers such that they maintain their sales quota and keep their prestigious manufacturer designation.
Grey market dealers many times have better counter service than an authorized dealer as they are not pushed to makes a sales quota and they can source hard to find pieces much quicker. With grey dealers, there are no “waiting list” games that many established official dealers maintain for their high dollar patrons. Grey market dealers know their watches and thus are many times better teachers than the counter help at official retail establishments. The drawbacks to grey dealers are that they cannot provide official maintenance, repair, and warranty services as an official dealer can, or their store front can close at any time as this business takes a lot of cash to run and maintain inventory. Despite these drawbacks, there are many well established grey market dealers and Internet storefronts such as BeckerTime that can get you the timepiece you want and get all your questions answered.