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Scratches in your Rolex: scratches or battle scars

Scratches in a well worn Rolex Sea Dweller

For anyone who just invested in a nice watch, there is always the fear of getting scratches. No matter the type of metal –gold, stainless or platinum, to the type of watch, there is always the fear of getting scratches on it.  Other valuable items such as diamond rings or necklaces that like watches are worn close to the skin and are vulnerable to unpredictable bangs against the wall, do not scratch like wrist watches do.

There is plenty of information on the Internet and here on Beckertime for keeping your watch clean and somewhat scratch free (see the Beckertime posts here and here). Keeping your watch clean prevents the watch and the strap from premature wear because of lingering dirt, salt, and other ick that prevents a caseback from being easily removed for service, or a bracelet removed for resizing or placed in an ultrasonic for cleaning.

Scratches as Battle Scars

Daily Use Scratches
Daily Use Scratches

Scratches are another story.  Scratches either take away from the value of the watch, or add to it depending on the type of watch and its use.  Rolex sport watches are meant to be tool watches. For more background and a definition of a “tool watch” see the blog post here.  If used as a tool watch, scratches come with the territory. Scratches add patina to a sport watch and every scratch is a hint to the stories the watch could tell if it had a voice.  For some Rolex wearers, scratches are considered battle scars. For the truly sensitive ones to scratches, there are some techniques for removing scratches. A good tutorial on the Internet is found here.   Despite being able to remove some scratches, the bigger ones should be either kept to show the watch is a true tool watch, or be removed by a competent watchmaker or by Rolex during a service.  A bad refinishing job will decrease the value of the watch much more that what the scratches themselves would.

Another story with dress watches?

With dress watches, scratches can detract from the appeal of the watch.  Dress watches, like jewelry, are meant to be visual. Scratches on dress watches can be removed, but like jewelry, a dress watch should be worn when the activity looks to be scratch free. Fortunately, Rolex’s dress watches from the DateJust and Cellini line age gracefully with or without scratches. Sapphire crystals do not scratch easily, and Rolex’s move towards ceramic bezels such as on the Daytona appears to be in the spirit of declining the scratch potential of a dress watch.

No matter if your watch is a Rolex dress or sport/professional watch, expect scratches as that is part of the watch wearing experience.

  • Sam Binder

    I have recently purchased a 14270 Explorer – 1996 and noticed a smear/smudge on the dial. (only noticeable at certain angles and worse under artificial light. Is this an indication the watch has been tampered with?
    Am wondering how the mark could have been made?

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