You received a vintage Rolex recently as a gift. You adore the time-honored flair and classic charm of the watch. You’re eager to get it serviced so it looks and runs even better. Can you go through Rolex to service your wristwatch?
Rolex services old watches, but this might not be the best idea. Old parts are becoming increasingly more expensive as well as harder to come by. Rather than restore or replace vintage parts with vintage parts, Rolex will upgrade your watch.
This guide will explain what Rolex does when it services your watch and whether it’s worth getting a vintage Rolex serviced by Rolex themselves. Keep reading, as there’s lots of great information to come!
What Does Rolex Watch Servicing Entail?
As one of the top luxury watch brands on the planet, Rolex builds wristwatches that are designed to last a lifetime. Part of that is through your everyday care, and the rest occurs through their high-quality servicing.
Per the Rolex website, here is the full extent of how Rolex services its watches new and vintage alike.
Rolex watch assessment
A professional watchmaker receives your Rolex. You’re allowed to include notes with the delivery of your watch, but this is optional.
The watchmaker will inspect the watch inside and out to determine the scope of work it requires. Then you’ll receive a quote.
If you approve of the quote, then the Rolex moves on to the second phase of servicing.
Disassembling the Rolex
Okay, disassembling sounds like a scary word, but it’s okay. The watchmaker is a professional, remember that.
They’ll begin by taking the bracelet and movement from its case. Next, the watchmaker will investigate the internal parts one by one.
Note this section from the website, as it will come up later: “The movement is entirely dismantled and all the parts are carefully examined. Those that no longer meet Rolex requirements are systematically replaced.”
Cleaning the Rolex
Using an ultrasonic bath, the watchmaker will clean impurities from every component of the Rolex.
What is an ultrasonic bath, you’re wondering? The bath entails dunking the Rolex parts into a combination of liquid and ultrasound. It’s a very efficient cleaning method.
Lubricating the Rolex
Once the watchmaker hand-dries all internal components of the Rolex, they will lubricate the movement. They’ll also adjust its precision so the watch works “according to the brand’s accuracy criteria.”
Finally, the movement is reassembled.
Refinishing the Rolex
From there, the watchmaker moves on to the bracelet and case.
The case is taken apart completely so the watchmaker can satin-finish or polish the bracelet, case back, bezel, and middle case. The goal is to restore these parts “to their original finish,” according to the Rolex website.
Reassembly of the Rolex case
The case doesn’t put itself together, so the watchmaker will next handle that. In reassembling the case, the watchmaker will replace old seals. Then they’ll determine how waterproof the case is.
Finally, they put the movement in the case again. This only occurs after “rigorous technical and aesthetic checks of all these elements.”
Precision Testing of Rolex
The testing isn’t finished yet! The watchmaker will now test the chronometric precision of the Rolex watch one more time for good measure. Chronometry is a means of precision as related to keeping time.
When the watchmaker is pleased with the condition of the Rolex, they’ll screw the case on and do another round of testing on the watch. Yes, that’s right, more testing still.
This test is 24 hours or longer and determines if the movement works accurately over time. There’s also yet another waterproofing test thrown in.
The last step of the entire Rolex watch servicing process is the final control. The watchmaker will triple-check that the watch is working well and looks its best. Then the watch is returned to you as good as new or better.
The Downsides of Rolex Servicing for Old Watches
With the utter complexity, precision, and almost obsessive attention to detail that Rolex pays to each watch it services, you’d wonder why anyone would ever have an issue with what Rolex does.
Look, we’re not here to discount Rolex’s wristwatch servicing. It’s obviously some of the best care you can get for a watch, period. However, for vintage Rolexes, problems arise.
Potential over-restoration of your vintage Rolex
As we said we would, let’s go back to that section from the Rolex website. “The movement is entirely dismantled and all the parts are carefully examined. Those that no longer meet Rolex requirements are systematically replaced.”
This tells us a lot. Rolex will see old parts from a vintage watch and replace them with newer parts. This allows Rolex to maintain those “Rolex requirements” they talk about on their website.
It’s not necessarily Rolex’s fault, at least not entirely. Unlike some other luxury watch manufacturers, Rolex lacks heritage watch care among its team of watchmakers and servicers.
In other words, there are no experts who understand what makes an old watch tick (quite literally, in this case).
Restoration vs. Preservation of your Rolex
Even if Rolex did have a heritage watch care team, it likely wouldn’t make much of a difference.
Vintage Rolex parts are becoming nearly impossible to find these days. The parts have long since fallen out of production, so whatever stock currently exists is all there is. Once those parts are gone, they’re gone for good.
The rules of supply and demand make these Rolex replacement parts far costlier than ever before, with prices that seem to be steadily on the rise. Thus, it would behoove Rolex more to replace the parts of your watch to meet their current standards than to pay for vintage parts.
All this is sad news considering that vintage Rolex watches appreciate in value rather than depreciate.
How Much Does Rolex Watch Servicing Cost?
You’re still unsure whether you’ll get your Rolex professionally serviced through the manufacturer. One factor that’s weighing heavily on your mind is the cost of the servicing.
How much would you pay for Rolex cleaning, testing, and recalibrating?
The price for these services starts at $800. That’s a one-time fee, but you will not get your Rolex serviced only once over its lifetime. You should do it once every five to 10 years, so the cost of servicing can add up.
Rolex watches don’t have a specific lifespan either. They’re supposed to last for life, as we said, so depending on how old you are and how long you keep the watch, you could have to shell out $800 semi-regularly for a long time to come!
Should You Get a Vintage Rolex Serviced?
Now comes the question that many vintage Rolex owners have asked themselves. Is it better to bite the bullet and get your Rolex professionally serviced or should you just use the watch until it doesn’t work anymore?
Both options have their pros and cons for certain.
Depreciation and value impact on your Rolex
If you allow Rolex to service your watch, then you can be reasonably sure that the OG vintage parts will not be included with the version of the watch that’s returned to you. Your watch will be stripped of its personality and vintage appeal.
Very importantly, its value will likely have been thrown out the window.
Using your vintage Rolex until it breaks isn’t ideal either. Then all you have on your wrist is an expensive but ultimately useless piece of jewelry. You can wear the Rolex as a fashion statement, but it certainly makes less of a statement when it isn’t ticking away.
Skills and expertise required
Your best bet is to look into a third-party company that services vintage Rolex watches. Depending on where you live, these companies might be plentiful or more difficult to find.
You must do a lot of research into the third-party company before you hand over your precious Rolex. The watch servicers should use official Rolex parts only. They must also be specialists in vintage watches.
Watchmakers are often certified, so ask to see the staff’s certificate before entrusting them with your watch. You will likely pay more than $800 to get your vintage Rolex serviced, and the process might not emulate that which Rolex uses.
Keep in mind also that even if you do go through a third-party service, eventually, this won’t be an option. As we’ve talked about, there exist a finite number of official vintage Rolex parts. It doesn’t matter if the local vintage Rolex servicepeople have them or Joe from down the street.
When they’re gone, they’re gone, and they won’t be returning.
Rolex services old watches, but the process entails the watch being updated to meet Rolex’s current quality standards. That can cause vintage watches to lose their old parts and thus much of their value.
For now, you can seek out a professional watchmaker who specializes in vintage Rolexes. However, the increased prices for vintage Rolex parts and the reduced supply mean that these parts will soon disappear forever.
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