23.06.2020 - Buying New vs. Vintage Rolex, Part 2

In last week’s Fratello Friday, the first of this two-part article on buying and collecting Rolex watches, I offered my thoughts on the pros and cons of vintage Rolex watches. This week, we shift the focus to the other side of the spectrum, discussing the merits and pitfalls of new and modern Rolexes.

If you read Part 1, you know that buying vintage Rolex watches can be how can I put this mildly scary shit. If you “just” want a good watch and dont want to get dragged into the quest for that perfect vintage Rolex, you might want to consider buying a new Rolex instead.

A lot of people mainly watch enthusiasts will tell you that buying a new Rolex is “boring” and that you can purchase other interesting watches for the same price or less. This may be true, but please bear in mind whats important to you. If you want a watch that will last a lifetime (or two) and that does not depreciate too much (usually the opposite will be true, if you are patient enough), then a modern Rolex might be a good choice.

Although the Rolex company is as tightly closed as its own Oyster cases when it comes to providing information, the general assumption is that it produces close to a million watches per year. The lucky few who have been inside the Rolex production facilities have reported on an impressive number of automated processes there that are unlikely to make mistakes that humans would make. All watches are still assembled by hand, of course. And the high quality that Rolex is able to maintain on such a high production number of watches is truly incredible.

It is no secret that a lot of people did complain about the lack of innovation at Rolex up until a few years ago. At the time, Rolex still used the clasp that looked as if it was made from soda-can material, the relatively small (40 mm) case diameters for its sports watches and the same movements it had been using for decades. In the last few years, however, Rolex has introduced more innovations and changes than it did in the previous four decades. Rolex upgraded its bracelets by adding new clasps that have a super-easy system for (micro)adjustment, started using ceramics for its bezels, tweaked its movements with the new Parachrom hairspring, and even made its watches appear bigger. “Appeared?” Yes. For instance, the latest Sea-Dweller 116600 and GMT-Master II 116719BLRO with Pepsi bezel are still 40 mm in diameter, but appear larger because of the dimensions of their lugs.



Another point some watch enthusiasts like to raise is that Rolex watches are outrageously expensive. I beg to differ, actually. Rolex watches were never cheap to start with, so everything is relative, but there are a few things you need to consider. A new Rolex Submariner has a price tag of just over $8,500. On the pre-owned market you can find this watch for around $7,000, in good condition, approximately 1-2 years old. I will leave the bargaining at an official Rolex retailer up to you. My point is that the depreciation is only small compared to basically that of every other brand in this price category. You can have an awesome $8,000 watch from any other brand, even with some interesting complications in there, but will it keep its value? Since you are visiting this website, I’d assume you also know how to find your way to the online watch markets that carry all sorts of watches. Take a look at what is left of the list price on many of these other watches after a couple of years. Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that Rolex has an excellent service department. A total overhaul of your Rolex watch is expensive, but when you get it back it will look as it did the day you unwrapped it for the first time.



My personal experience with Rolex’s Geneva service center is that I actually had to double-check to see if they didnt replace the case of my Sea-Dweller 16600 when I got it back from an overhaul (they didnt). I could not believe my eyes. It took them about six weeks, which is quite stunning compared to other watch companies. I have watches from other brands whose servicing took much longer, sometimes up to six months even for something as relatively simple as adjusting the movement. It’s been my experience that many watch manufacturers forget about you as soon as you buy something from them and would rather spend their money on celebrity “ambassadors” or expensive marketing campaigns, but it seems that Rolex actually cares a lot about the after-sales service.

Servicing vintage watches, of course, is a totally different issue. Parts might not be available anymore, new spare parts can mess up the value of your highly sought-after vintage watch, price quotes can be as high as those for a modern watch, and so on.

Whatever modern Rolex you will choose, it will be a quality watch. The chance that something will be wrong with it is very small, and the possible resale value (though there are no guarantees) is another incentive. My pick would be between the new Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 mentioned earlier or the Rolex GMT-Master II 116710BLNR. What would be your pick? Please share with us.Mens Quartz Watches

 

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