Back in 1985, the CEO of Coca-Cola, Donald Keough responded to the "New Coke" situation. "Some critics will say Coca-Cola made a marketing mistake. Some cynics will say that we planned the whole thing. The truth is we are not that dumb, and we are not that smart." I believe Rolex is in that same boat, but painted green, not red.
Here is my theory...
Rolex is a huge corporation with a vertically integrated supply chain. They have historically made changes in a controlled fashion. With the Chronergy technology released in the 3255 movement of the Day-Date 40, how would a company incorporate this across the product line? What do you do with all the on-hand inventory of current parts? How do you swap out the old manufacturing equipment with the new equipment? How do you move out old stock at authorized dealers, before the new stock arrives? What would be the impact of the supply chain? Plus a multitude of other questions.
I believe Rolex had a plan to flush out the old before delivering the new. I also believe that Rolex had unexpected problems ramping up the volume of the Chronergy technology. I believe that Rolex squashed COSC reporting, so the industry couldn't accurately gauge their production output (or problems).
The recent consumer market demand, attention from social media, stimulus money, low interest rates (and other factors) has created an insatiable environment that Rolex can neither control or supply (or want to supply).
I believe the mock-up watches are a stop-gap measure by Rolex not to aggravate too many customers. This will give authorized dealers a chance to engage their clients and keep them on the hook a bit longer, until this settles out.
How long will this last? Who knows.
Wishing Rolex, their authorized dealers and customers the best!
P.S. Remember the Panerai feeding frenzy days? High velocity of inventory movement. Empty spots in the display cabinet. Individuals buying at the store level and selling on chat boards. Successful individual sellers becoming "dealers". Hype. Energy. Excitement. Anticipation. What happened? Where did it go?