Guide to buying your first Rolex
Many people aspire to buy a Rolex watch, whether it is to mark a special occasion in their life, to gift another person to mark a special occasion or just because they love watches.
Me, I fall into the later of these demographics, I have been collecting watches for a number of years since I was 20 years old (I am now 37 as of writing this). The first watch I ever bought was a Tag Heuer Indy 500. I loved that watch, it made me feel really great and made me feel a level of success at that age that I could afford a £500 wristwatch.
Now fast forward 17 years and my taste for watches has developed, I gradually bought and sold my way up to owning a number of Rolex watches with many Tags, Breitlings and Omegas along the way. The very first Rolex I bought was the Rolex Deepsea Sea-dweller, I love big watches after owning a number of Breitling watches and this was the biggest watch Rolex produces and still is to this day.
At one point in my collection I owned 5 Rolex watches:
- Rolex Deepsea Seadweller
- Rolex Submariner Bi-Metallic (gold / stainless steel / Blue Dial)
- Rolex GMT Master II with Coke bezel
- Rolex Explorer II Polar
- Rolex GMT Ceramic with Black Bezel
I really enjoyed owning all of these watches but things in life come around and I have liquidated some of my collection to start businesses or fund home moves etc. But I am now building my collection back up. I am actually thinking of buying back every watch I have ever owned previously which is probably in the region of 25 watches. Just don’t tell my wife :)
My passion for watches has evolved over the years to the point where I have started a business in the watch industry, manufacturing high end vulcanised rubber watch straps for (initially) Rolex and then moving on to other models. As a luxury product designer, qualified mechanical engineer and watch collector/enthusiast it was an obvious choice for me, albeit one that took me a while to discover that this is what I wanted to do, develop high end vulcanised rubber watch straps for Rolex, I think I made the right descision.
From the Rolex collection I mentioned earlier I still own the Rolex GMT Master II with Black Ceramic bezel (116710 LN) and the Rolex Explorer II Polar dial (16570), I have also just invested in a watch I have loved for a long time, which is the Rolex Submariner green bezel green dial (116610 LV) referred to as the “Hulk”. And also after discovering the Tudor brand and getting over the “poor mans’ Rolex” vibes which it was labelled with until recently, I now own one of their Black Bay Models. I have to tell you for the money the Tudor is one hell of a watch, and happens to be the next watch we are developing rubber straps for. But that discussion is for another time you came here to learn about buying your first Rolex.
That’s enough about me; I just wanted to give you some background information on what qualifies me to be able to share my experience and advice about buying your first Rolex. So here goes; how do you go about buying your first Rolex?
There are a number of stages you need to go through when you are looking to buy your first Rolex and the first of these steps is to determine your budget. Sounds obvious right? Now I am sure that you know that you can spend any amount of money on a Rolex you can imagine, the most expensive Rolex ever sold at auction in 2017 for nearly $18 million (£13 million)! And you can pick up a low priced Rolex for as little as £1500 - £2000 and Rolex watches sell for everything in between these figures. So it’s sensible to decide on your budget first and the amount you would like to spend on your watch purchase.
Something that also goes hand in hand with your budget is to determine if you want to buy new or pre-owned. I have always bought pre-owned models which have been like new, always with box and papers as this impacts the value tremendously as well as the ability to sell your watch in the future should you need to. I will at one point buy a brand new Rolex form an Authorised Dealer (sometimes referred to as AD in discussions online) but I would only do this to really experience the whole Rolex buying experience or to get a newly released model, at present in the UK with VAT set at 20% that is quite a lump of cash just to “experience” buying new from an Authorised Dealer, but if money is not a barrier to you then go for it and enjoy the experience which buying a new Rolex brings.
If you have decided to buy in the pre-owned market this is where you need to be careful, I would advise to only buy from reputable luxury watch dealers, and always with box and papers, there are quite a few reputable dealers about online and offline. I would rather pay an extra couple of hundred pounds (or dollars) to know that the Rolex is what they say it is. There are some really good fakes out there and to an untrained eye, you could be tricked into buying a fake watch. But don’t worry this is highly unlikely and very rare but it would be my advice to use a reputable luxury watch retailer with a great reputation. I will post a blog about how I look for fake Rolex watches at a later date.
During your buying experience you will hear something referred to as box and papers (as mentioned above), now not trying to insult anyone’s intelligence here but box and papers refers to if the watch comes with its original box (i.e the packaging) and the original Rolex warranty card which displays the serial number of the watch (check this serial number matches your watch when buying) on new Rolex models the serial number is visible inside the dial at the 6 o’clock position so you do not need to remove the bracelet to check the serial number matches, but you will need to on older models.
You may also hear “service papers” referred to in the buying process, this is when a watch has been sent to Rolex for an official service (normally due every 4-6 years for normal casual wear, if you are using it for diving really often etc I would recommend every couple of years) take it to a Rolex AD and they will send the watch to Rolex for a service and Rolex will send back with a certificate to prove the watch has been serviced. On this note when you have purchased your watch I would always recommend having it serviced at the correct intervals with Rolex. This not only guarantees longevity of the watch but ensures that everything is working as it should and keeps your watch in great condition.
Another tip for keeping your watch in good order is to make sure that it is always wound and moving, with a mechanical watch (99% of Rolex watches are mechanical movement) if you don’t wear it for a few days the movement can stop. This is not the end of the world but keeping it moving keeps it lubricated and in good order. You can buy a watch winder for this purpose to ensure they are continuously wound.
So we have gone a little off track here, where were we, ok now you have set your budget and decided on if you are buying new or pre-owned, you are armed with some of the sales terminologies you will encounter, you are ready to go out there to buy your first Rolex. I am going to focus on the pre-owned market for this next blog post as this is what I have the most experience in. The information on the Rolex models is the same but obviously, the prices are a lot higher when buying new.
Take a look at part 2 where we get into the buying process.
Vulcan Watch Straps