Five Things You Should Know Before Buying a Preowned Rolex
If you are in the market for your first or next preowned Rolex, chances are you have spent a fair amount of time doing your research before coming to a decision.
There is absolutely no shortage of information out there; some good, some fairly questionable. But one thing all seem to be agreed on is, high end watch collecting is becoming more and more a pastime fraught with danger. Everyone seems to have a story, firsthand or ‘friend of a friend’, of some unscrupulous swine selling them a fake, getting ripped off or generally running afoul of various footpads and vagabonds. It’s enough to scare the bejesus out of you.
Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a lot to learn before you can enter into a transaction with any degree of confidence. The profits in the preowned watch market, and where they concern Rolex in particular, are currently vast. That amount of money on offer has always attracted its share of ne’er-do-wells, regardless of the industry.
However, all those doom mongers needn’t put you off. Armed with the right knowledge, the experience can indeed be a pleasant one. And buying preowned comes with a number of irresistible advantages over buying brand new.
Below, we have mapped out the five things you absolutely have to know before you pull the trigger.
Who You Buy From Makes a Difference
We are going to put this first because it is, without any shadow of a doubt, the most important point.
Google ‘buy preowned Rolex watches’ and you will see that just about every man and his granny is willing to sell you one. Like I said, this is now a huge business, and the internet has done wonders in making the whole process as easy as typing in a credit card number.
Does this mean you should trust all those people? No, no it does not.
The ability to make a website does not make someone trustworthy.
You will have no doubt heard the old adage of ‘buy the seller’. It is now so overused in the vintage watch business as to have become a cliché, but clichés generally become clichés by virtue of them being true.
The market is saturated with those looking to take advantage of the unwary and it takes about as much research on the dealer as it does the actual watch to avoid a costly mistake.
Good guys are still out there if you know where to look, and they make it easier on the novice by offering additional benefits both before and after the sale.
A dealer who offers a cast iron guarantee on every watch they sell is worth their weight in gold. It is estimated there are more fake Rolexes out in the wild than real ones these days, and the quality of some of the counterfeit pieces is extraordinary. They are so good, in fact, that you almost have to have the sort of breadth of knowledge that you can only come by from making the spotting of forgeries your full time job. There is a seemingly endless amount of barely discernible minutiae that surrounds every Rolex model—the various dial types, bezel types, band types, and a hundred other things to be aware of.
Unless you are able to dedicate yourself to learning all the various differences, you run the risk of missing something vital and winding up with a dud. Very few have that sort of time to hand, and so the next best thing is to find a specialist you trust to do it for you.
BeckerTime has spent the last 20+ years selling preowned Rolex watches, making them one of the leading experts in the field. They are also unique in having Rolex experts and a Certified Master Watchmaker who can guarantee the authenticity of everything that makes it into their inventory. It also means they are able to offer warranties on each watch—again, something you really should have in place before buying any preowned Rolex.
But more than all the guarantees, you also want to be able to speak with someone knowledgeable before, during and after the fact. One quality all Rolex watches share is that they cost a not insubstantial amount of money. Parting with it is something that should only be done following careful consideration and after getting all the facts straight in your head. Make sure whoever you buy from is happy, willing and able to discuss the exact watch you have your eyes on.
After the sale, the very best dealers will strive to build a relationship instead of seeing you as just another customer. They will have the ability to offer maintenance and repair services along with things like insurance appraisals or simply being available via email or on the other end of a phone to answer questions about your new watch.
And one other unique offer from BeckerTime is their Lifetime Trade Up Guarantee, where you can trade-in a qualified Rolex watch purchased from BeckerTime towards the purchase price of another timepiece.
It is all these important add-ons that separates the white hats from the black hats when it comes to preowned watches. Make sure you spend some time investigating exactly where you want to spend your hard-earned cash before cutting loose with the plastic.
You’re Going To Get A Much Wider Selection Going Preowned
If, for whatever reason, you have found yourself too happy lately, pop into a Rolex Authorized Dealer and try buying the brand new watch you really want. Unless it happens to be Datejusts, Presidents, or Oyster Perpetuals chances are you are not gonna get the one you’re actually after. The brand’s most popular creations, by which I mean every one of the steel sports models, are about as rare as a politician’s apology if you go through the official channels. This is no accident. Rolex artificially restricts the supply of their most sought after models. Why? To make them more sought after. The company has made exclusivity their watchword (Ha! Unintended pun, but I’ll leave it in) since the 80s, and it can be a fantastically frustrating experience for the average buyer.
It is one of the things that has driven such a sharp rise in the preowned market in recent years. In many cases, it is the only way to track down the most elusive pieces without joining the back of an insanely long waiting list.
It is also, obviously, the only way to get your hands on a classic. Vintage Rolexes just seem to get cooler every year—after all, who wouldn’t want the exact same reference once worn by the likes of Steve McQueen or Paul Newman? Wearing a model that is 10, 20, 30 years old, or even older, is the mark of someone who really knows their watches, and it makes them stand out even in the company of the real aficionados.
Bottom line; buying brand new is an extremely limiting experience. Buying preowned gives you decades-worth of choice.
The Question of Age
Seeing as we are on the subject of age…
There seems to be an oversupply of opinion on forums and blogs about whether it is better to go vintage or modern when considering a Rolex.
There’s no right answer of course. Personal choice is personal choice, and there are pros and cons whatever you decide.
The newest models will have things in their favor that the older pieces won’t. On the steel watches, the metal will be tougher, and the bracelets will have solid links, making them stronger and more resilient. The movements will keep marginally better time and be less affected by things like magnetic fields. But in the real world, none of those things make a whole lot of difference to the wearing experience.
A well-maintained vintage watch will keep time just fine, and be just as durable as you could ever need, regardless of whether it is 316L or 904L stainless.
The main criteria for choice will always come down to the aesthetics. The current Rolex catalog is filled with models which have grown in size from earlier examples. Pieces which traditionally remained at 40mm have lately added a little extra to keep up with contemporary tastes. The Sea-Dweller is now 43mm. The Explorer II has bumped up to 42mm, as has the latest Yacht-Master.
Even those which, on paper, retain the same dimensions still look bigger. Watches such as the Submariner or the GMT-Master II, while still measuring 40mm, are now housed in Rolex’s Supercase. With crown guards and lugs nearly twice as thick as previous iterations, there is noticeably more wrist presence.
All of this is neither good nor bad, merely a difference. If you like bigger watches, you’re all set. If you prefer the older, more restrained versions, a delve into the archives is your only choice.
Perhaps the only area where you need to think beyond the look of the thing is in the question of maintenance. If you have a passion for classic cars, you will be well aware that the older machines take more looking after than a brand new showroom model. With vintage watches, what you gain in retro cool you have to trade off against an increased servicing schedule to keep everything running as it should.
Preowned Costs Versus New Costs
In a perfect world, a preowned Rolex, even one of the latest releases, should be cheaper than a brand new one from an Authorized Dealer.
And on certain examples that is still the case. Someone buys the watch from an AD, it depreciates the moment they set foot out the door (like anything else), they put it up for sale at some point down the line, you buy it for a reduced price. Sorted.
But as we saw when we were talking about selection, supply and demand has been turning that system on its head for a while now.
With the preowned market literally the only place you have any sort of realistic chance of getting certain Rolex watches at all, many are now selling for more than new MSRP or even in some case more than double their new MSRP. These are the ones snapped up by the professional watch flippers, the ones who have spent years cultivating relationships with a number of Authorized Dealers, and who will always get first refusal on anything that becomes available. For people like you and me, who buy watches for the love of them rather than to make a profit, it is the infuriating reality of the current industry.
The good news is, the same rules don’t apply right across the board. There are still preowned models that can be had for less than retail, or very close. Once you get away from the biggest names; Daytona, Sub, GMT-Master, etc. you find models like the Explorer II or the Milgauss. These have long been the brand’s cult heroes—watches that have never received quite the same attention as the icons, but which have stayed closer to the Rolex roots and developed a loyal fan base because of it. The most recent versions of these, and others such as the humble Datejust, Oyster Perpetual or the Air-King, can be found on the secondary market for more or less their official Authorized Dealer price.
And the best news is, they tend to be in the ascendancy. Once collectors have filled up on the most popular models, they start searching for the lesser known pieces, all for that exclusivity we already touched on. If you have bought the right watch, at the right time, for the right price, they can become excellent investments in the future.
Unadulterated Rolex or Customized?
Customizing Rolex watches is a relatively new phenomenon but one that is making huge strides at the moment.
The attraction is an obvious one. Many people want to stand out in a crowd, and adding bespoke touches to a standard-issue watch is definitely a way to do it.
It can take a number of forms. Different color dials not officially offered by Rolex, fitting diamond-enhanced bracelets, bezels, and/or dials, giving a PVD coating for that all over stealthy black finish, hand engraving the case, even taking a modern watch and making it look like a rare vintage piece.
Some people love them, others not so much. But one thing to remember that applies to any sort of customization is, unless the component being replaced is swapped for another genuine Rolex part, they will consider the watch a counterfeit. That applies even if it something as minor as substituting an acrylic crystal for a sapphire.
What does that mean for you, buying a modified Rolex watch? Beyond having to make a judgment on the quality of the alteration and whether or not it adds to the value of the watch, a key issue occurs when it comes time to send the watch in for maintenance. At best, an official center will refuse to service a watch fitted with aftermarket parts. If the piece which has been changed has Rolex markings, but not genuine Rolex markings, the part will be removed, confiscated and replaced at your expense.
As a company, Rolex really doesn’t like it when people mess with their stuff.
Of course, that needn’t put you off at all. If you love the look of a personalized model and just have to have it, there are plenty of excellent third-party centers who can look after your watch for you. BeckerTime is one of them, with the added benefit of a Rolex-trained technician.
Buying a preowned Rolex is one of those things where you get out what you put in. The more research you do, on the watch itself and where you buy it from, always pays dividends.
Hopefully this little guide will help answer some of the questions you may have had. If you need any extra assistance, please feel free to get in touch with us here at BeckerTime. We are always happy to chat and are just a phone call or email away.