You’ve put in the time and effort to save some extra scratch, and have narrowed down what exactly it is that you’re after. Though the modern offerings are nothing short of over-engineered perfection, you’ve decided it’s a Rolex of generations past that you want. For an experienced collector, getting that watch on your wrist can be as easy as making a few calls and reviewing a few photos, but for the uninitiated, it can be quite the daunting task. With the Wilsdorf brand’s watches being among the most counterfeited in the world, many approach the purchase of a vintage or pre-owned Oyster with apprehension and unease, but it doesn’t have to be this way. To cap off the week, let’s take a moment to explore the correct mindset and method with which to go about buying a Rolex.
If you’ve ever bought a diamond, you’ve likely heard of the four C’s. Cut, color, clarity, and carat. Rolex’s four C’s are far easier to remember, and are as follows. Condition, condition, condition, and yes, you guessed it — condition. Sourcing the best possible example which your budget will allow is always recommended for a couple of reasons.
First off, working towards a great watch only to purchase one in mediocre shape will undeniably be a let down, though more importantly, clean examples are both more liquid and likely to appreciate. Anyone who’s ever sold their watch will know, it’s much easier to unload a crisp piece than it is one with signs of abuse. With this in mind, avoid visibly over-polished cases and watches with damaged components, as those in tip top shape will make for a better investment and enjoyable wear.
This brings us to our next point, which can be a rather hot topic of discussion in the world of Rolex. Knowing every last part that makes up your watch was there when it first left the factory is a good feeling, and explains much of the reason why collectors value all original watches. In recent years, the sound instruction to opt for all original timepieces has resulted in many overly questioning watches they’re offered, and fearing they’ll mistakenly pull the trigger on a chop shop franken.
In response to this, here’s what I have to say. As strange as it may sound, you need to assume every Rolex available on the market could have some replacement parts. The iconic watchmaker designed their many references such that parts could be easily replaced upon wearing out, and as a result of several parts not bearing unique serial numbers, there is truly no way to determine if most components are original. With parts readily available for swapping, and collectors understandably wanting their watches to look as best as possible, there’s always a chance that something might’ve been replaced in favor of a cleaner piece.
Having said that, it’s easy to determine if a part is period correct and belongs on the example in question, as incorrect parts stick out like sore thumbs, and certain eras of production are defined by the presence of specific components. Reviewing the details of other examples and comparing them to the one you’re considering is the best way to go about seeing if the math adds up, but if unsure, it’s always recommended to consult whoever’s offering the watch. While skepticism can be advantageous, don’t go engaging every example you encounter with looming doubts and concern. You’re only going to drive yourself crazy, and that’s the last thing anyone wants.
Though it probably goes without saying, my last and most important piece of advice would be to always buy the seller before buying the watch. When a price seems too good to be true, it almost always is, and when you’re getting shady vibes from a dealer, you might be getting taken for a ride. An honorable and trustworthy seller will always be willing to break down the finer points of a watch for you, and disclose all important notes without you needing to pry for the full scoop. Ultimately, disclosure is the name of the game, and a good way to tell that you’re dealing with the right individual is when all their cards are laid out before you’ve even asked.
All in all, there isn’t all that much to buying a great example of a desirable Rolex model, and the process should be exciting, not intimidating. With passionate collectors and authorities continually producing invaluable reference guides on the legendary brand’s offerings, it’s easier to get educated on the product than ever before, leaving little to guesswork and luck. If you do a bit of homework, ask the right questions, and make sure to deal with upstanding folks, you’ve got absolutely nothing to worry about.