5 TIPS FOR BUYING A PRE-OWNED ROLEX

by | Mar 22, 2022 | Style, Watches

With recent luxury goods supply shortages and soaring watch values in the used luxury watch market, you still might be thinking about buying your first Rolex.

Related: Why do people love Rolex watches so much?

And if you want one anytime soon, you’re probably thinking about buying a pre-owned or vintage Rolex.  Here are five tips to consider before you take the plunge.

Buy what you love

The luxury watch market is currently at the pinnacle (we think) of hype in 2022.  My first tip is make sure you are buying what you love, and not buying what the hype machine says the hottest Rolex of the year is.

At the end of the day it will be your watch to wear and enjoy. It is for you after all, and you’re the only one who has to live with it.  If you purchase a timepiece that you love, it doesn’t matter if the market price for your beloved Rolex goes up or down. You’ll be happy either way.  And put a dollar figure on that. More on this below.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 31

Buy low, sell high

Prices for popular used Rolex models are at an all-time high. And yes, those who bought a Daytona while you could still get one (or any sports model for that matter) have made out like bandits in terms of what they are worth now.

My advice is that if a popular Rolex model is what you are looking for – be patient. Visit an Authorized dealer and express your genuine interest in the Rolex of your dreams. Tell them why you like the model, and if it has any associations for you to people, places or things.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner

Despite what some people may tell you, Rolex and their dealers want people to love and wear their watches, not line the pockets of serial flippers who buy up available stock to flip for a profit.

Yes, you will still have to wait a long, long time, but you’ll never get the call without putting yourself out there.

I wouldn’t be opposed to you paying a premium for a pre-owned Rolex you really love. But avoid getting sucked into the pricing frenzy. No one ever feels successful as a collector if all they ever do is buy the most popular piece for the most amount of money.

Instead, buy a piece you love, even if it requires a little patience. And if you are lucky, be pleased when the market price slowly appreciates over time for your Rolex. On the flip side, it is always best to buy the best possible example of a particular model whenever you can. And this can help support paying a premium for your desired Rolex.

Buy the seller

Found your watch perfect Rolex down a dark alley (physical or virtual) for a great price that seems too good to be true? That’s because it probably is. Always research the longevity and reputation of the seller, whether it’s an online seller or a brick and mortar establishment.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day Date 40

The watch community is a relatively small world. So there will typically be some kind of feedback about a seller on the internet. Do your homework on who is doing the selling. Your chances of not being disappointed will increase substantially.  Pay careful attention to their return policies and what your options are for confirming authenticity, condition, and history.

Authenticity, box and papers, and servicing

Authenticity is as much an issue as it has ever been with pre-owned and vintage watch market values continuing to climb. Box and Papers can help when doing an initial assessment of whether a Rolex is authentic or not.

Also ask the seller for any documentation they may have regarding the service history of the watch, specifically when it was last serviced.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona

Any seller should allow for you to have a piece checked by a professional either prior to purchase, or after. There needs to be an agreement that it can be returned to the seller for a full refund if the authenticity or condition of the piece is in question. If the service history of a Rolex is unknown you should be prepared to have it serviced. Have a basic idea of the costs involved to have the service completed by a certified professional or Rolex themselves.

The current base rate from Rolex starts at $700 Canadian for a service and goes up from there depending on the model. That’s something to consider when comparing a Rolex with a known service history with one that doesn’t.

Know your references

It is not required to have memorized every model’s reference number to navigate the world of pre-owned Rolex. You should, however, research the reference of your desired timepiece and be aware of the years it was produced and the variations that were available for that reference.

It will help you in your search to find your desired piece and help identify if it is correct it terms of dial, indices, hands, etc.  Knowing what you are looking for will reduce the chances of purchasing a “Franken-watch” – a piece that has been put together using several other watches to make one working or better condition watch.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sky Dweller

I personally don’t mind a “Franken-watch” as long as it is disclosed as such. That’s because it does have a huge effect on value, potentially reducing the value by 40 per cent or more. Keep in mind that when these watches were serviced in the past it was considered acceptable to replace things like faded or cracked dials, or hands that were beginning to show signs of patina.

It is a relatively new fixation that timepieces be “all original”. They were previously seen as functional items of everyday use, and were expected to wear and be replaced with new parts when required.

How to avoid a “Franken-watch”

I did, however, wait an extra three months for a new Rolex Datejust 41 with Dark Rhodium dial instead of buying a different dial version and paying Rolex to do the dial swap.

So I might not be practicing what I preach when it comes to changing an “original” watch – even when done by the Rolex Canada, as I chose to wait for an original Swiss factory version of my Datejust.

By knowing your desired Rolex reference number and variations you will be able to spot watches that might not be 100% original. You will also recognize rare variations that may be particularly valuable or collectable.

Colin Potts is founder of Watch off the Cuff, a watch repair service based in Milton, Ontario, and a member of the Horology Society of New York in support of advancing the art and science of horology. Top photo via Pexels. Other images: ROLEX

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