First, let me say that Rolex Service Centers – official Rolex restoration and repair facilities – do an incredible job. However, depending on the Rolex watch you own, you may not want to use them. Let’s dig into the positives and negatives of Rolex’s restoration facilities.
What is a Rolex Service Center?
Before we go too far, you should know what a Rolex Service Center (RSC) is. In short, certain Rolex Authorized Dealers feature in-house servicing, utilizing Rolex-trained watchmakers that have direct access to Rolex parts. For example, Brinkers Jewelers in Evansville, Indiana is a Rolex Authorized Dealer and RSC. They sell Rolex watches and also service them. I personally have visited this Rolex Service Center and it is quite nice. They utilize the latest technology for testing and servicing watches and the team is highly trained by both Rolex and other well-regarded watch trade schools. I suspect there are requirements for becoming a RSC and all of the locations on Rolex’s website must meet these stringent requirements.
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I used the Rolex website to help me identify how many Rolex Service Centers there are in the United States. To be honest, finding this number wasn’t too easy, but from what I can tell, there are 144 locations spread across the US. Additionally, every Rolex Service Center is also a Rolex Authorized Dealer, but not every Authorized Dealer is a Rolex Service Center. Judging by the map view of Rolex’s website, it seems that they are pretty well-spread-out across the US, depending on population clusters. Just to note, if you bring your Rolex into a Rolex Authorized Dealer that is not a RSC and want it serviced, they will send it to the Rolex corporate service offices. These large servicing facilities (confusingly also dubbed “Rolex Service Centers” by Rolex) act as large hubs for watch service and repair. To my knowledge, there are just two: one in New York and one in Dallas, Texas.
Pros and Cons of Using a Rolex Service Center
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Now that you get the jist of what a Rolex Service Center is, let’s discuss the positives and negatives of these facilities, starting with the positives. First, you should expect an excellent service to your watch. Think of taking your watch to a RSC like taking your Mercedes-Benz to the dealership you purchased it at. They have direct access to brand new Mercedes parts and the staff will be specifically trained on servicing your Mercedes. I think the big difference is that the watchmakers servicing your Rolex will be highly trained, with literally thousands of hours of training on Rolex movements, cases, and bracelets. If your Rolex was made in the last forty years, this is likely the right location for your watch to be taken care of. However, one big negative is the cost will likely be higher than a local watchmaker.
The traditional watchmaker won’t have the large overhead, won’t have access to the Rolex parts account (like an RSC does), and most likely won’t have been trained by Rolex. However, they might have a ton of experience servicing watches in general, and depending on the age of your watch, this may be the right location for the budget minded person. You may not get all the bells and whistles of a Rolex Service Center, but taking your watch to a traditional watchmaker will surely be lighter on your pocket book. Is this something that you care about when talking about a five thousand dollar watch (on the low end)? For me, it makes sense to spend the extra money, but that is just one writer’s opinion.
Replacement Parts and Vintage Rolex
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Another clarification you should know about – that can be seen as both good and bad – is that RSCs are known for replacing everything on the watch to brand new status. So, if you wanted to keep the patina on your father’s 1972 Rolex GMT-Master, it will likely be gone when you get the watch back from your RSC. They are attempting to bring the watch back to its original condition (including polishing and brushing), whereas a vintage watch specialist will make sure not to remove or replace anything that would take away from the Rolex’s visual look. Those types of vintage watchmakers will ask you directly on each step of the process. Many will also provide you with any and all parts that were replaced, especially if you ask. Rolex Service Centers will not do this: introducing spare OEM Rolex parts into the market, even used ones, does not serve them. As a vintage Rolex lover, I would not send my vintage watches to a Rolex Service Center, not because they would do a bad job, but because I like the aged look of these gorgeous pieces of history.
In conclusion, there are plenty of reasons to bring your treasured Rolex to an official Rolex Service Center. The quality, service, and attention to detail you should expect and will get from one is likely guaranteed. However, depending on your budget and age of the watch, you may want to look at alternative options.
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