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by Aleta Saeger February 20, 2020 3 min read

At some point your Rolex watch will need a movement overhaul. Fortunately, modern Rolex watches have recommended service intervals of about 10 years. When that time comes, or if you have an older timepiece that needs attention, do you send it to one of the two Rolex Service Centers in the United States or do you go with a reputable independent watchmaker?

With Rolex Service Centers (RSC) in New York City and Dallas, service comes with a two-year warranty and everything is restored to factory specs, which may or may not be a good thing. For vintage Rolex models, where the owner doesn’t want certain parts replaced, this requirement of Rolex Service Centers is not a positive attribute.

In our experience RSC will allow to customer to select from their assessment that choice of only repairing functional elements versus what are deemed cosmetic repairs. For instance, Rolex will probably consider a stem repair a necessary functional repair versus a scratched bezel insert, which doesn’t affect how a watch works only how it looks.

There’s also price considerations. Service and parts at RSC typically can typically add up to around $1,200, whereas independents may charge half of that amount and they won’t have the “rules” that Rolex places 

The team at Everest have experienced service from both RSC and independents. We recently received excellent work from RolliWorks based in Campbell, California. Their movement service starts at $495 and have an estimated turnaround time of two to three weeks. We sent two Submariners to them and we also opted with case refinishing, which was completed to to the satisfaction of our very high standards.

everest bands

So what is our recommendation?

Our course, predictably, our answer is: It depends. If you have a great relationship with a watchmaker that you trust, then by all means, stay loyal to a small business that earns your business. For some vintage work that requires a lot of personalized instruction, go with an independent that specializes in vintage work. Clear communication in writing is very important in these cases. If you do not want the watchmaker to touch the case or dial, for instance, that must be clearly stated.

Also keep in mind that Rolex will generally replace parts, not repair them. So if you have a handset you just need re-lumed, not replaced, then an credible indie watchmaker will be able to honor that request. 

Consider if your service is intended to preserve resale value or if the watch is a keeper. For many collectors, preserving original parts isn’t as important if the watch is going to be kept and worn by the owner. Of course, the choice on how much you want to maintain original parts in watch is very personal, but either way proceed with caution if you choose RSC.

Advantages of RSC

We are very close with one of the chief watchmakers at the Manhattan RSC. He has told us about how strict the standards are there for service jobs. The rules they adhere to there are meant to ensure quality of functional elements and to maintain the integrity of factory specifications.

Some buyers in the resale market prefer to have paperwork certifying that the Rolex for sale has only been handled by RSC.  

Many authorized dealers will also handle your service needs and ship your watch to RSC under their watch, ensuring a certain peace of mind in the entire process.

Conclusion

Rolex has a lot of overhead and can charge what they charge to remain wildly profitable. Your get the “experience” complete with a green watch pouch and logo-ed wiping cloth. Your independent dealer option is wide open. The consensus is that Rolex movements, for the most part, although dependable, aren’t very complicated movements. Now whether or not the person doing your casework can reproduce a chamfer like the original is a major question mark. 

Below are few of the widely recommended independent watchmakers who are known for their work on Rolex watches. We do not have experience with each of these firsthand, so we encourage you to do you own research and due diligence. 

  • LA WatchWorks in Pasadena, CA.
  • Chamosa Watch Repair in Dallas, TX.
  • The Independent Watch Service Center in San Francisco (Giovanni Passalacqua) in San Francisco, CA.
  • Time Care, Inc. (Rik Dietel) in Seminole, FL.
  • Watchmakers International in Arlington, TX.
Aleta Saeger
Aleta Saeger


3 Responses

Art Wong
Art Wong

March 03, 2020

I’ve been using an independent, swiss trained and certified horologist, Setrak Maghdissian, in San Francisco for the past 30 years. His business is Setrak’s Watch Repair. His prices have always been very reasonable and the quality of his work is unparalleled. He’s been servicing Rolex, Patek Philippe, IWC, and Omega timepieces for over 50 years. I wouldn’t trust my watches with anyone else.

William Camacho
William Camacho

March 03, 2020

I send my Rolex, Tudors and Omegas to Official Time Watch out of Salt Lake City, Utah. Leo, the owner, is absolutely the best. He’s been servicing Rolex & Omegas for over 25 years, so believe me your watch is in good hands! He is the only person I send my watches too. His turn around time is 3 weeks from the time he receives the watch and the full service cost is usually less than $500. I’ve had my Rolex Submariner fully serviced and now he’s doing my Tudor Sub. He will call you when he receives the watch and will keep you constantly informed of the progress of the service. His service is simply outstanding! Most highly recommended!!!

Michael Farrell
Michael Farrell

March 03, 2020

I live in canada and send my watches to rolex canada service center .a few years ago i sent a 25 year old gmt master in for service . I was contacted by email of the quot and the option of having ( because of age ) the hans and dial replaced i op-ed out for the replacement and the service cost was around 800 dollars .the movement was overhauled and case bracelet refinished.the watch came back looking like new dispite the age .i would only send my watches to rolex for service .I’m sure if you didn’t want the refinishing that would be an option too.

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