Is repairing a standard Rolex that much different than other watches?

Discussion in 'Watch Repair' started by Weight Driven, Mar 20, 2019.

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  1. Weight Driven

    Weight Driven Registered User
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    My longtime watch repairer passed away just after Thanksgiving, someone who has been working on my watches for over 15 years. He had been working on watches for over 50 years, took movements completely apart, even removing the jewels from the plates. His prices were very reasonable for cleaning a watch, usually around $80-100. I asked one day about Rolex watches and he said well made watches but basically the same as other like watches, manual winds, automatics, etc.
    I am now looking for someone else to work on my watches and this past weekend I picked up a Rolex automatic, cal. 1520. So I went to someone local and it seems that just because it has the magic Rolex name the price for just a cleaning is way, way more than he would ever charge. This is not the first time this has happened. It seems that if I take a Hamilton in for cleaning there is one price but when I mention that I have a Rolex, the price skyrockets. So I guess my question is why is a Rolex so much more to work on than a Hamilton, Elgin when the process is basically the same. I also know parts are more expensive but I am just talking about a basic cleaning. Is this something other folks have experienced? I understand about overhead and all that but this is pushing me to maybe work on my own watches, something I started to do a few months ago. I work on all my clocks so maybe this will push me to work on my own watches as well, I have all the tools to do so.
     
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  2. Harvey Mintz

    Harvey Mintz Registered User
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    Jun 7, 2002
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    Back when I fixed other people's watches for money. I was approached by a guy who said the local Rolex certified place had given him an estimate of $600 for a clean/oil/regulate on a self winding watch, and he asked how much I'd do it for.

    I told him $300, with no water-proofing guarantee (since I didn't have a tester), and he gave me the watch to do.

    It was pretty much a standard self-winding wrist watch movement and I had no trouble doing the work. My normal charge for a self-winder at the time was $75, but he figured he only paid 1/2 so he was happy.
     
  3. karlmansson

    karlmansson Registered User

    Apr 20, 2013
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    The difference is probably licensing fees but mostly price of parts. You need a special parts accounts with Rolex to be able to get parts and to get that you need to comply with equipment demands and training through Rolex. That expense has to be taken out somewhere.

    I’ve never worked on a Rolex myself but I hear they are very nice watches to work on, mostly. A cheaper watch would likely be more work for a watchmaker to service, but then again the standard of time keeping may be set lower. 80-100 dollars sounds almost suspiciously cheap. As a comparison, an Omega Speedmaster (chrono so not really apples to apples) costs about 1200 dollars to service through a reputable service center in Stockholm. That varies greatly with geography though.

    Either you find someone without a parts account and have them service your watches for as long as the parts in them will last, or you will probably have to adapt to a new range of prices.

    Best regards
    Karl
     
  4. Al J

    Al J Registered User

    Jul 21, 2009
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    "took movements completely apart, even removing the jewels from the plates."

    Very strange if he actually did that. Not something that is in any way normal to do in a regular watch service...

    As for Rolex, no they are not any more complicated to work on than any other watch of the same general movement type. I charge the same for all watches of the same movement type, so if it's a 3 hand automatic with date, it doesn't matter if it's an ETA 2824-2, Rolex 3135, Omega 1120/2500, etc. they all cost the same.

    I charge a flat fee for labour, and parts are extra as required. Many watchmakers will charge more for "premium" brands like Rolex and others, but to me that has never made any sense at all from a cost standpoint, and it's most likely because they feel they can charge more for an expensive watch, because the owner has the money to pay for it.

    Cheers, Al
     
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  5. DeweyC

    DeweyC Registered User
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    Feb 5, 2007
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    I read your question a little differently. Yes, in pocket watches it is typical to remove jewels that are capped so you can get the jewels cleaned. I did not think you were talking about plate or friction jewels.

    The simple answer regarding difference is "no". The more complicated answer is yes. As Karl points out, parts availablity. Especially case parts if you want original.

    Then, depending on the caliber, there are Easter eggs, particularly with the date justs. There are rolling jewels and springs that can catch the untrained. Finding those parts will not be easy. They are free sprung and require a special tool for adjusting. On some calibers the balance bridge is actually adjustable for endshake.

    Plus, the simple liability from assuming responsibilty for the piece. A Hamilton can be reaily replaced at not much cost. Rolex is a bit more costly.

    Finally, Rolex (Omega, etc) helped raise prices by their prices at the service center. There is no such price comparison for pocket watches.

    Professional watchmakers are running a business. We know no one "needs" a watch. So we make money where we can and use the service center prices to determine our prices.

    Hope this helps.
     
  6. Al J

    Al J Registered User

    Jul 21, 2009
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    I suppose the OP would have to clarify what was meant by that statement...but yes, of course cap jewels are removed for cleaning, and it applies to pocket or wrist watches.

    The bottom line is that servicing a Rolex is no more expensive from a labour standpoint for a competent watchmaker, and the OP already acknowledged he understands parts are more expensive. The idea that special tools or parts accounts can come into play is a valid one, but only to a point in my view. Yes to be certified by various brands comes with requirements that can cost money in training, tools, etc. but once those costs are sunk they are in your overhead calculations, and would contribute to the service prices charged across all brands, not just when working on a premium brand.

    The liability angle is an interesting discussion. I do limit the number of high value watches I have in the shop, but I can't plan for replacement on many of them because these watches are often not replaceable. In some cases only a handful of examples are known to exist, so how would I account for the replacement of something like that into my prices?

    Service center prices do have an impact for independent watchmakers certainly. Once Rolex decides that the 1500 series watches are no longer going to be serviced at local service centers, and must go back to Switzerland, I think the prices people are charging for these calibers will jump again. I'm hearing through the watchmaker grapevine that this is something that will be done sooner rather than later.

    Cheers, Al
     
  7. SmithyMoarra

    SmithyMoarra Registered User
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    Oct 22, 2018
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    Never had the the privalidge, but was well advised by a novice seasoned watchmaker that since they are so well built, they literally fall back together!
    Cheers
     
  8. SmithyMoarra

    SmithyMoarra Registered User
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    and when presenting a price of $600-$1000. remind customer that at 28,000 beats an hour, thats 1million beats in a day and half. then break price down by 5 years(their next likely service) and you should have no problem
     
  9. glenhead

    glenhead Registered User
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    Nov 15, 2009
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    Nope, a Rolex is just a watch. Yes, it's incredibly well made and has really pretty guts, but it's just a watch. I've done several.

    As Al J said, I charge the same for a Rolex Date as I do for any other automatic watch with date. Most of my customers don't want the case or bracelet polished; if they do, that costs a bit more. All my work is done to the same standards as any Rolex-certified watchmaker, except the customer doesn't automatically get whatever parts they would get from a Rolex-certified shop. However...

    If you need parts and don't have a Rolex account, you're looking at after-market or grey market. The only way to get a Rolex account is to spend multiple tens of thousands of dollars on the tools, equipment, and supplies they specify, set up your shop the way they specify, and be subject to them sending someone to your shop to ensure you toe the line. Even with all that, they tend to cancel parts accounts on a whim. That's one of the reasons why certified Rolex mechanics charge as much as they do. (Well, that and "because they can, and everyone else does it".)

    If you aren't Rolex-certified and you work on a Rolex, that blows up the warranty or extended warranty or whatever. Any further problems that require a trip to the factory will either be returned unrepaired or will cost a LOT more money.

    I agree that removing friction-fit jewels is a bit of a stretch. Removing all the cap jewels is an "of course". It would be *possible* to remove and correctly reinsert the ones that are friction-fit, but hoo, doggies! The extra work that would be required to seat the jewels at the correct depth and whatnot (document each and every one before removal, etc.) would chew up a terrible amount of time for zero benefit. You can't do any better job of cleaning a friction-fit jewel with it removed.

    It's just a watch.

    Hope this gives further thought.

    Glen
     
  10. Al J

    Al J Registered User

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    For me personally, the Rolex I've serviced are not under any sort of warranty, because if they were I would expect the owner to take it back to Rolex...since it's still under warranty. And most of the Rolex I service are vintage anyway...

    Not sure why after a "not Rolex certified" watch maker works on a Rolex, that Rolex would return it unrepaired or that it would cost more for them to service when it goes to RSC? Can you explain what you mean by this?

    Cheers, Al
     
  11. 4thdimension

    4thdimension Registered User

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    I do them from time to time but mostly for friends and neighbors and, as far as I know, only on off warranty ones. I cleaned a gold Daytona a few years ago but it did make me nervous. What if I get it taken down and there's an earthquake? I upcharge a bit mostly due to the liablity issue. The basic ones are just good watches but not being able to access parts easily put me off.-Cort
     
  12. glenhead

    glenhead Registered User
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    I can't explain it in detail, no. All I have is anecdotal evidence from things I've read and heard from people I trust about customers having had that experience - send the watch to Rolex after a non-Rolex-certified watchmaker gave up on it or whatever, only to have it returned unrepaired, along with a nasty note from Rolex. Perhaps someone else has more-direct experience; I can only roll with what I've been told.

    I ALWAYS tell owners of Rolexes and recent Omegas and such to check their warranties before asking me to do the work. I won't intentionally do anything that has the possibility of screwing things up for an existing or potential customer. (The "newest" Rolex I've worked on was from 2005.) I have several friends who are what I call "Big Boys and Girls" watchmakers, ones with certifications and all that so I can send people to them if either I or the customer is uncomfortable with me doing the job.

    Glen
     
  13. Al J

    Al J Registered User

    Jul 21, 2009
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    You will have to forgive me for being a bit skeptical regarding this information. Rolex will refuse service if a watch is too old for them to repair, if the watch is fake, or if the watch has aftermarket parts inside/outside and the customer refuses to pay to have them all changed for genuine parts. The first two scenarios don't seem to apply to these stories, but the third one might.

    So if the watchmaker who worked in it was using aftermarket (not Rolex) parts, and the customer didn't want to pay to have those parts changed, then I could understand this happening. This applies to both internal and external parts. So one scenario is that some watchmaker can't get original parts, so they use some crappy aftermarket wheels in the movement, and Rolex requires them to be replaced at serviced with genuine parts, and the customer would pay for those - usually these parts are built into the cost of service so it's not much of an added expense if any. Another, more likely scenario in my view is someone who has had some other modification done, so had their DateJust "upgraded" with a fancy aftermarket diamond bezel, Rolex will require that the bezel is replaced at service with the proper one for the watch at the customer's expense, and they will keep the aftermarket bezel. Same with aftermarket diamond dials you see advertised. So in a case like this it has nothing to do with who previously worked on the watch.

    I really doubt they will refuse the watch just because someone who was not certified worked on it...how would they even know if all genuine parts were used?

    Cheers, Al
     
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  14. DeweyC

    DeweyC Registered User
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    Al,

    To reinforce your point. Back in the crisis of 2008, I was able to buy a white gold Cellini for less than the value of the gold. I sent a photo of it to Bernard and he was skeptical of the bracelet. He asked me to send it in and of course I was concerned about the rumors of "confiscation". He told me to not worry about that. A couple weeks later he sent me documentation providing provenance that that bracelet was in fact real and not often seen.

    For what it is worth, although I was trained on Rolex in Neuchatel (Rolex is one of the WOSTEP foundation) I never bothered with a Rolex account. My business is focused on pieces not in current production.

    The stuff that gets into trouble at Rolex are either faking or the result of someone who took in a watch, screwed something up and tried to "get by". Couple months ago I did a datejust that "had not run right" in the 15 years since ti was last serviced. One of the issues was that the previous person had lost the date jumper spring and cobbled something out of wire. Had also modified the beak of the jumper. And this was when parts could be had! As it was, I was able to get the parts off ebay and the watch acts like a Rolex.

    While professional watchmakers are confident (and must be) we have enough experience to know we will make mistakes. There is a fairly broad line between confidence and hubris.
     
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