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.
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.
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.