How to buy a Rolex: The risks and solutions for new or vintage
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When you are reading this, you are most likely looking for a new Rolex and wondering how to make sure you buy a Rolex online safely. This blog is a very extensive explanation on how buy a Rolex in the best way possible, but that is because it is just not that easy… The first question is whether you are looking to buy a Rolex online or to buy one 'offline'? We will also cover how to buy a Rolex offline, since this will give you some more insights on the difficulties to buy a Rolex online.
In this blog we will explain how to safely purchase a new or vintage Rolex online and give some background on buying offline as well to better compare between the options at hand.
A complete guide on how to buy a Rolex online.
Online versus offline
How to buy a Rolex online or in store differs much. Authorized Rolex Dealers (“AD’s”) are only allowed to sell new watches offline in their retail stores and not allowed to sell Rolex watches online. Since the watch market is slowly transitioning towards online selling, we can only guess if there is a moment where Rolex watches will be officially sold by authorized dealers online. Rolex authorized dealers are strictly kept on the recommended retail prices (you can find these on www.rolex.com) and may not sell watches for a higher price than the official listing price that Rolex determines.
Buyers are exposed to multiple risks when buying online, and that risk increased when buying a vintage Rolex compared to a new Rolex.
Online you can find a broad selection of Rolex watches, but they are always pre-owned (used) when they are sold online. So all Rolex watches for sale online on Chrono24 and eBay or other websites such as Crown and Caliber or Chronext are pre-owned (used Rolex watches). These can still be in 'as new' condition, but have at least had one owner between the AD and you.
New versus Vintage Rolex
How to buy a Rolex is also dependent on if you are looking for a New rolex or vintage Rolex. Although we may argue about what is vintage and new, or even neo-vintage, we classify watches younger than 5 years as new Rolex watches. Watches of 5-20 years old as neo-vintage and older than 20 years as vintage. The reason why this is important on the topic how to buy a Rolex, is because buyers are exposed to different risks when buying a new Rolex compared to a vintage Rolex. We will explain this in detail below.
What does “NOS” mean
Broadly speaking this means “New Old Stock”, basically telling you this watch is not worn but has been safely held in his box in a vault somewhere. Some people also refer to this as “New On Stickers”, which basically means exactly the same (watch is unworn and in new condition). When you buy a Rolex in NOS condition, you must sure you buy a Rolex that really is in NOS condition. Because, you pay for it!
These days new 2020 or 2021 Rolex models are sold by authorized Rolex dealers to individuals first and then directly sold -sometimes via so called grey watch sellers- with a mark-up on for example Chrono24 or eBay. These new and unworn watches are often indicated by “NOS”.
Looking to buy a Rolex
When you are looking to buy a Rolex for the recommended retail price, you are bound to authorized dealers. The problem here is, most sport models are almost never to be found in the retail stores because of the high demand as everyone want to buy a Rolex these days. We have another blog explaining how to buy a Rolex at list price. The trick is patience and bonding with the authorized dealer.
You can find new “NOS” Rolex watches on eBay and Chrono24 which are unworn (see NOS explained above) but are often sold with a hefty mark-up compared to what you pay for the watch when you would buy it at an authorized dealer. This is mainly driven by demand and supply, as Rolex sports models are HOT currently and therefore Rolex buyers are willing to pay a higher price to get their new model, instead of waiting for an authorized dealer to have one available for them. People just splash their money after waiting for a long period at the dealer, when they buy a Rolex on the grey market.
What are the risks when buying a new (unworn) Rolex
As long as you make sure an authorized dealer is really an authorized dealer as indicated on the Rolex website (Rolex store location tool) there is no risk you will buy a Rolex that is incorrect or fake. You just have to waitv to buy a Rolex… very, very long…
When buying a new Rolex online, there are tons of risks.
When you buy a Rolex online in new condition, there are tons of risks. We will provide you with the main risks:
- New Rolex is not in stock: It is often said on forums that sellers on eBay and Chrono24 are selling new models and when you have agreed on a price to buy a Rolex, they will try to find it for that price… So you don’t know what you actually will receive and there might be a time-delay between putting in your order and receiving the model you choose…
- Super replica’s as indicated by many on YouTube and on forums, there are tons of very convincing replica watches out there.
- Polished NOS Rolex watches: sometimes new Rolex watches are briefly worn by somebody and then polished shining like as if it real. The problem is, the Rolex will likely lose his “Rolex finish” after being polished. Which is something that diminishes value for most Rolex watch enthusiasts, as they prefer to buy a Rolex in completely original condition.
- Tempered Rolex watches: unfortunately, and don’t ask me why, people who think they are a watchmaker temper with Rolex watches and damage bracelets, movements and cases or replace parts with unauthentic parts. You shouldn’t pay the full premium for a new Rolex watch when it is damaged or contains unauthentic parts. When you buy a Rolex, make sure to have it checked for defailts, damages and incorrect parts.
Example: New Rolex probably not in stock
Above an example of a Rolex 2020 model for sale (by a Trusted Seller) without any real photos proving the seller actually has this Rolex in his stock. Often when you agree a price, they start searching for it, with you never knowing what and when you will actually receive…
Super replica Rolex watches
Comparison of super replica Rolex Submariner 2020 (fat lugs edition). Could you tell which one is fake and which one is real?
What are the risks when you buy a Rolex pre-owned or vintage
Vintage/Pre-owned Rolex watches are a whole different game. When you buy a Rolex pre-owned and especially a vintage, you have to be very careful. We will first explain the risks associated with buying a vintage Rolex.
When buying a vintage Rolex online, there are even more risks with a (much) higher impact.
When you buy a Rolex online that is a vintage Rolex, there are even more risks with a (much) higher impact. We will provide you with the main risks:
- The Rolex is incorrect: if a Rolex consists of only original parts, the more collectable it is. Watches sold online can be assembled by parts from models from different years that originally did not belong together. For example: when a Paul Newman dial from is put in a Daytona that originally cannot have a Paul Newman dial. Or a re-make of a Paul Newman dial is put in a Vintage Rolex Daytona. But this can also be the case for more general Rolex watches such as 5513 Rolex Submariners with a glossy dial in it from the 90’s or worse a remake (also called “re-dial”) as well. If a watch is fully original for a Rolex 5513, value can be around €14k-€18k, while with a fake re-dial it might only be worth around €7k.
- Convincing replica’s we see more often faked patina and fake vintage Rolex models coming on the market. Once again with a very high level of finishing and detail. It takes an experienced and well trained eye to see a watch is a replica (and means taking apart the watch sometimes)
- Polished Rolex watches: sometimes Rolex watches are over-polished. The problem is, the watch will lose its “Rolex finish” after being over-polished. Which is something that diminishes value for most Rolex watch enthusiasts.
- Tempered Rolex watches: similar to as we described above, watches that have been tempered with are a risk particularly with pre-owned (vintage) watches.
How to buy a Rolex safely online?
If you want to buy a Rolex safely online you must be sure to vet both the seller as the watch. Visit our other blogs if you want to understand how eBay protection and Chrono24 protection actually works. We will now explain what you can do yourself to buy a Rolex safely.
Before purchasing Rolex online, make sure to vet the seller and the watch.
Vet the seller
The following checks should be made in connection to vetting the seller:
- By checking if the seller has a valid website, social media and an email address that the seller responds to
- By checking reviews (in depth!) on Chrono24, eBay and Trustpilot
- By checking if the seller is actually registered in the Chamber of Commerce (if possible) and has an actual location in Google maps
- If the seller is easy to contact via Phone or Email
- And how the Seller responds to questions (get a feeling about his/her knowledge and if a seller is polite and not aggressive)
Vetting the Rolex watches
When you buy a Rolex, vetting the Rolex watch means observing the pictures and doing extensive research. The difficulty remains the fact that you should do it based on only pictures, while that is never good enough but will catch the largest errors or flaws.
- Check the photos in detail and make sure the crown/pushers are in good condition and connect directly with the case, the lugs are in good shape and the watch is more or less clean
- Check the finishing of the dial. Rolex has a name for being very precise in printing. Although crispness of printing van deteriorate while ageing, make sure to check the dial up close with examples shared by Rolex itself or on forums.
- [New watches] should always come with box and papers (if not, that could be considered a clear red flag!)
- Make sure to observe the Rolex from every angle (also the bracelet, to make sure it is really in new condition)
- Make sure to observe the Rolex movement and check the finishing of the movement in detail. Superfakes are sometimes not as well finished on the inside as you might expect from Rolex watches. Do check this with the official Rolex website which shows calibres of all new watches.
- [vintage-only] Check if Rolex boxes and papers are time correct. Some say about 80% of boxes and papers of vintage Rolex watches are not original, just try and find boxes and papers on the internet – it is quite easy. What you can do: ask about the story behind it, check if the boxes and papers are time correct by validating the box numbers and type of boxes and papers by reading on Rolex Forums (for example here) .
- Check the serial number and clasp codes to make sure the watch is fully correct (you can check it here)
When there are no red flags based on observing the photos, we are good to go and buy the Rolex. It is best to use an escrow service or a marketplace which services in providing safe transactions. When you buy a Rolex, you want to make sure the money is taken good care of.
What to do when you have your Rolex
When you buy a Rolex, the steps after receipt are crucial. Perform the following steps to make sure you buy a Rolex that is real and the condition is as was presented in the listing. Both Chrono24 and eBay provide return policies which you can use if you timely indicate if something is wrong.
Get the Rolex authenticated by hand by an expert and verify if it corresponds with the online listing.
- Validate if the Rolex you receive corresponds in in detail with the listing. This means again closely observing the Rolex details and making sure they correspond with the listing photos and again with the photos on Rolex his own website.
- This is the ultimate check!: Get an independent authentication: go to an authorized dealer, watchmaker or an expert to help you authenticate the watch, and box & papers if these are included. Find someone experienced who works at a Rolex boutique or has years of experience with Rolex watches. When you buy a Rolex, you want to be sure it is correct - ESPECIALLY FOR VINTAGE!
We buy a Rolex quite often for clients online, and notice knowing how to buy a Rolex can be extremely difficult and tricky. The journey when buying online just feels like you are in a rollercoast, not the way we think it should be when you buy a Rolex.
We hope this How to buy a Rolex blog will give you some insights and support. Since we believe you can only safely buy a Rolex in case you authenticate the watch, we have founded Relleb. A place where we can help you buy a Rolex on Chrono24, eBay or any other website.
We have even launched our own Relleb plaform where sellers and buyers can safely trade Rolex or other watches that are always authenticated by an Independent watchmaker in our authentication center.
Other blogs of interest
More about Relleb and the founders
We founded Relleb to provide buyers peace of mind when buying a luxury watch online. We hated to see beloved colleagues and friends being scammed on the internet and we experiences first hand how diffefult it can be to only buy a watch online and also authenticate a watch by yourself.
We stand for the ultimate customer experience when buying a watch:
- Customer focused process and facilitating customs import duty policies and risks
- Authentication by hand by an experienced watchmaker
- Quality certainty over movement, timekeeping and condition
- Authentication report and photos/videos documenting the authentication of the watch
- Insured shipment with a priority carrier to your doorstep
- Free returns and refund if a watch is fake or incorrect
Video: How our watch authentication process works
Video: Why we founded Relleb