In his debut article for Hodinkee, Danny Milton writes about restoring his grandfather’s 5513 Submariner and making it his own daily wearer.
“The watch had no bezel, but it looked like it should have. The crystal was so scratched and foggy, and the dial rusted over, it was almost impossible to make out anything. I looked closer, and I brought it to the window to get more light. Then, I started to see. Amidst the heavy water damage to the dial, I could make out the Rolex coronet, and I could start to see some of the hour markers, the large circles and rectangles as I liked to describe them back then,” wrote Milton of the condition he found his grandfather’s watch in.
Basically, it was trashed. And, Milton had it repaired with updated replacement parts from Rolex, and the result was basically a brand new watch that he could wear like any other modern watch.
The result is shown here:
Photo courtesy of Hodinkee
The cost of the restoration and replacement parts most likely cost quite a bit, but the incredible story of the watch’s history and its connection to Milton superseded other considerations.
So can you fix and enjoy a broken, beat-up Rolex? Most likely you can but consider the reasons you might go through the process.
If it’s really in bad shape most of the parts will need to be replaced with new parts that aren’t true to the original. In the instance of Milton’s Submariner, the glossy dial with white-gold surrounds on the markers are very different from the original matte dial and printed markers. When any original parts are replaced, the value of a vintage watch will usually take a big hit. So if you’re not looking to sell your watch, by all means, you can have it reinvented to be a fully functional, great-looking Rolex.
At the end of day that’s what we at the Everest Journal would strive for. We are believers in simply enjoying our watches. Naturally, we encourage you to try your Rolex on alternative straps such as our rubber and leather offerings, which can make an old Rolex feel like new on the wrist.
It’s incredible what can be done to restore damage on a Rolex watch. Our friends at Rolliworks can add extra 904L steel to a case and refinish a case so that there’s minimal loss of material. Check out their article on how they spruced up a Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller.
BEFORE PHOTO COURTESY OF ROLLIWORKS
AFTER PHOTO COURTESY OF ROLLIWORKS
Now there are lots of considerations when it comes to fixing up a broken Rolex. You can just sell it to a dealer who will probably restore it and resell it or use the parts. But, you probably won’t get that much in return in that exchange.
We definitely would not recommend scouring eBay for broken Rolex watches to restore and wear. If you have a broken Rolex already in your possession, it would be worth exploring options. If you want to retain the original parts of the watch, DO NOT send it to an authorized Rolex repair center. It is their policy to replace old worn out parts with new ones.
If you want your Rolex to be brought to working condition but with the original parts maintained, there are independent watchmakers who specialize in these types of projects. Rolex Forums, an online discussion board for Rolex enthusiasts, has many recommendations worth searching for.
In conclusion, given that a Rolex watch that’s not running and in bad shape can be repaired and restored to look like a brand new watch, we wholeheartedly recommend that you restore your Rolex, so you can enjoy wearing it. If you have the means to do so, you can wear a watch that has its own backstory like Milton’s watch has.
Going through this, the wait and then unboxing the results, is part of the fun of watch collecting. The experience, the hunt for the right watchmaker, and the satisfaction of reviving a high-quality watch adds up to a pretty cool experience.