Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would’ve heard of the new suite of watches that Rolex announced on the 1st of September 2020. Likened to the Second Coming, images of the new suite of watches spread like wildfire on social media platforms.
Particularly, the Submariner collection finally received its first update in 8 years. With the release of the new 41mm Submariner collection, Rolex also discontinued the previous “11” generation of Submariners, including the reference 116610LV, also known as the Hulk.
Secondary Market Explosion
The discontinuation of the Hulk in 2020 brings its 10 year production run to an end. The secondary market’s response was explosive and immediate, with private sales listing prices increasing by a jaw-dropping $5,000 overnight.
This phenomenon can be clearly observed through the WatchCharts Price Guide. Below, we show the one-year price history for the Hulk, with annotations to indicate specific historical listings and the time of discontinuation.
With asking prices currently ranging between $19,000 to $28,000, it’s hard not to be green with envy when hearing stories of individuals purchasing the Hulk at its retail price of $9,050. Retrospectively, even secondary market prices from earlier this year seem like a bargain, at $13,000 in June, and $16,000 a mere 3 weeks ago.
With reference to the price graph above, the data-point demarking the day in which the Hulk was officially discontinued is circled in red. Both the market price of sold and unsold listings have skyrocketed overnight.
One thing to note is the price of sold listings is significantly lower than the price of unsold listings. While this is generally true historically, the discrepancy in these prices is now greater than ever. This means that while sellers feel that they can get away with the prices they’re asking, buyers may be hesitant to take the bait.
However, a handful of listings over $19,000 have been confirmed to be sold, as shown above. Could this be FOMO (fear of missing out), or are we going to see the price of the Hulk stabilize above $20,000? Only time will tell.
The Perfect Storm
Of course, if you were on the fence about buying a Hulk before discontinuation, hindsight makes the decision an obvious one. However, some may argue that all the signs were there, which could explain why Hulk prices steadily increased throughout this year, despite the global pandemic.
While rumours of the Hulk’s discontinuation have been circulating for years, this year brought about particularly heavy speculation. Multiple credible sources such as Milenary Watches and EverestBands predicted an overhaul of the Submariner line.
In fact, it was clear that a refresh was inevitable, as all modern Submariners were powered by the previous generation 3135 movement, as opposed to the second generation 3235 which debuted in 2015 and boasts a 70 hour power reserve. The new movement had already been rolled out across other prominent Rolex collections, including the Yacht-Master last year and the Sea-Dweller in 2017.
Further details comparing the two movements can be seen in this comprehensive article.
Before Rolex’s announcement, the only models that were still running on the Caliber 3135 were the Date 34 and the Submariner. With the introduction of the upgraded movement, Rolex also modified the Swiss Made signature at 6 o’clock dial position, to include the Rolex crown between the words.
Do all discontinued models follow such a trajectory? The simple answer is no, reality is often much more nuanced. So why has The Hulk seen such an increase?
First and foremost, the Submariner is arguably Rolex’s most popular collection, enjoying strong sales and an absurd waiting list to match. Although the Hulk did not have the most welcoming reception when it was first announced, its popularity among collectors has been growing steadily the last few years.
Recently, the Hulk has rivaled the traditional black dial Submariner in terms of secondary market demand. Our data shows 523 sold black dial Subs in the past year, compared to 448 sold for the Hulk. While the 116610LN is still traded more frequently, the Hulk’s activity is high relative to its production numbers.
With the Hulk being a rare deviation from Rolex’s unflinchingly consistent design language, and the only stainless steel Submariner ever produced that featured both a non-black dial and bezel, Rolex gave the model a good chance at becoming a recipe for success.
The Hulk’s legacy is further cemented by the fact that its successor, the 126610LV Kermit, does not follow the same design. Instead, Rolex chose to keep the green ceramic bezel from the Hulk, but replace the sunburst green dial with a more standard black dial. The evolution of the green Submariner can be seen in the graphic below.
If Rolex stays true to its release schedule, it could be 10 years, if ever, before we see another Submariner with a green dial and green bezel.
In the 1st Century BC, Publilius Syrus wrote: “Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it”. This statement holds very true to the topic at hand. Although we are seeing Hulk prices skyrocket on the secondary market, the majority of them remain unsold.
Will the discontinuation of the Hulk further increase its popularity? Does the public opinion of the Hulk justify the current listing prices? What we are seeing is the immediate market reaction, and opportunism in relation to sellers riding the hype train. It will be weeks if not months before we see the price of the Hulk reach an equilibrium.
What would you be willing to pay for a Hulk? Chime in the comments below.