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    What is a real vintage Rolex specialist?

    A specialist in vintage Rolex watches knowns everything about the history of Rolex and has the working experience. In our honest opinion only watchmakers that have worked for an authorized dealer service center. This can be a national service center, or the service center in Geneva, Switzerland. And of course has worked with vintage timepieces. 

    Why vintage watches are more complex

    Vintage timepieces are a whole different ballgame than new Rolex watches. Although there is a lot available and documented on vintage Rolex watches, each year the watch community learns something new.

    The risk of fake or incorrect part on vintage watches is higher as well. Back in the days general watchmakers replaced or exchanged incorrect parts. And fraudsters can easily swap a dial or repaint a dial and make a watch tens of thousands of dollars more valuable. So not only the risk is higher, also the possible damage.  

    With our Rolex authentication service we have encountered fake dials, re-painted dials, incorrect movements and even fake cases! Our own Rolex watchmakers are trained and have more than 15 years of experience working with fake watches. In some cases we had to observe the material composition of dials and cases to verify if they were genuine Rolex parts.

    Scarcity of specialists

    Specialist in luxury watches are scarce on itself. The main reason is the growing demand in luxury watches itself. And, it hasn't gone unnoticed, vintage watches are booming too. As such also the demand for vintage watch experts to restore or service vintage pieces. 

    Although almost every town has a someone who claims to be a "watch expert". Finding a vintage watch specialist with working experience at an authorized Rolex dealer is trying to find a needle in a haystack. These watch makers often still work at authorized dealers or Rolex service centers.  

    Rolex watchmaker checking a watch
    Relleb vintage watchmaker observing a watch

    Repair and Restoration service

    Almost every authorized dealer has a service center, or at least a watchmaker shop to service customers with adjusting bracelets and easy tasks. Then there are national service centers. Like a large service center in London to service all watches in the UK for more complex tasks. Then you have the watchmakers in Geneva that can completely restore vintage watches. The more complex the repair service or restoration, the further your watch will travel.

    Watches which have not been serviced for several years always need a complete movement overhaul. This means dismantling every part, cleaning the parts and applying new lubrication. This starts at around $1,000 for any watch. When you need a complete restoration on a vintage Daytona with replacing essential parts and more you can easily end up paying $25,000 in total.

    Rolex his own Geneva Atelier de Restoration

    We have helped a customer who bought a vintage Rolex Daytona issued in 1972 to send the watch to Geneva. This watch was a sort of "barn find" and was damaged badly on the lugs. Through a local authorized dealer, we handed in the watch and it was sent to de Atelier de Restoration of Rolex in Geneva. It took almost 8 months to get a price indication for the restoration. The service itself will take another 8 to 9 months.

    The price indication comes with a report including what will be restored and how. Supposedly Rolex has his own new old stock parts which are used for restoring watches.

    What you should know before buying a vintage Rolex

    We always say the most important aspect is condition and authenticity. Do your homework on the piece you want to buy to see the easy red flags. You should also know that watches that have not been serviced by Rolex in the past 7 years are ready for a service. So add at least $1,000 to the cost price to be safe. 

    Authenticity is maybe even more important that condition. If you have an incorrect watch or a watch with a fake dial, the value of a watch can drop with thousands of dollars. To provide an indication. We have encountered a Rolex Datejust 1601 with a fake double-signed Cartier dial. If the watch was a real Rolex, it could be worth up to $35,000. However, with the fake dial it is not worth more than $4,000.

    Thus we always advise to have your watch authenticated by and experienced watchmaker. Find out more about watch authentication services and be careful when buying a vintage watch.

    Our own Rolex specialists

    The specialist working at Relleb to authenticate watches have at least 15+ years of experience with vintage watches. They are trained by Rolex and have working experience at authorized dealers. If you are looking to buy a watch online and want 100% certainty over authenticity and quality, we always have a watch expert available. Find our more about buying with Relleb. We also provide free trading of watches online with 0% commission on our own marketplace.

    We are currently working on our own service center to service Rolex watches. Whenever we have this service available it will be provided as an option when buying with Relleb.

    Written by

    Kenny Vaes, watch enthusiast, co-owner of Relleb

    Last updated December 22, 2021

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