How To Buy A Used Rolex — The Ultimate Buying Guide

These days, more and more people are turning to the secondary market to get their favorite luxury timepieces. Of course, Rolex watches are up there on the scale of most desired luxury watches which is why it is important now more than ever to learn how to buy a used Rolex.

The sad and complicated thing about buying Rolex watches is the fact that Rolex watches are about the most faked watches in the world. For every original Rolex watch released, there are about twice as many fake watches in the market.

You must be ready to exercise a healthy dose of patience to get an original watch that’s worth the thousands of dollars you’re going to be spending getting the watch.

What Used Rolex Model Should You Get?

There are all kinds of models when it comes to Rolex watches. In the end, you’d have to pick one that suits your personal tastes. Of course, no two Rolex watches are the same, all the same, all Rolex watches are tastefully made.

You have the Sea Dweller which comes with Oyster straps and amazing capabilities. Some even go all the way to 3,900 meters in depth. You also have the classic Submariners which are known for their incredible resilience. Did you know that James Bond used a Rolex Submariner, this already crushes any question of doubt anyone might raise about the Submariner because James Bond, duh.

You also have the Oysterquartz and the Datejust which many say are the ancestors of modern watches as we know them today.

What Are The Most Popular Used Rolex Models

One of the most popular Rolex watch models is the Datejust. This watch debuted in the year 1945. It is known as the first automatic chronometer in the world to come with a date window as well on the dial.

About ten years later, the Day-Date president made its debut, another one of Rolex’s most popular watch models. This watch tells the time but also tells the date as well as the day. This feature makes the watch a staple among those who like to show off their status of personal success.

In the 1950s, Rolex released some of its greatest and best tool watches ever ranging from the Explorer to the Submariner to the GMT-Master.

All that said, research and statistics from Rolex watch sales from 2016 to 2018 show that the Datejust is the best selling Rolex watch of all its watch models. Well, this is only expected as the Datejust is about the most Rolex watch of all the Rolex watch models. Plus, it is Rolex’s flagship model, after all. The watch does a good job of bringing the compromise between luxury and practicality.

With the Datejust leading, we have other watch models like the Rolex Submariner, Rolex GMT-Master, and the Rolex Day-Date following behind. Behind the Day-Date, we have the Explorer and the Daytona which seem to constantly switch places at different points through the years.

When you look at the Rolex models, especially if you know Rolex, you find that this does not exactly come as a surprise as these Rolex are well-established models. For more than 50 years, these models have built and sustained a largely enthusiastic audience, and each year, the demand for these watches only seems to be growing.

Furthermore, from what we know about these six models, they have the highest resale value when compared to other Rolex models.

The Thing About Used Rolex Metal Options

Gold and platinum are common precious metals Rolex uses for its watches. Naturally, they should demand the heftier prices, right? At least, compared to the stainless steel models. Well, yes, if you’re getting a brand new watch. In the secondary market, however, things are sort of, different.

Let’s look at the 2016 Daytona 116500LN, a highly sought after watch that comes in stainless steel. Originally, the MSRP of this watch is about $12,400. In the secondary market, though, prices are about double that. Go figure.

In comparison, let’s take a look at the Daytona 116505 in rose gold. This retails for about $37,450. But when we get into the secondary market, that prices fall to about $30,000, which is roughly a 20% discount. Pretty significant if you ask us.

Even with vintage and discontinued Rolex watches, stainless steel Rolex models are still more highly demanded in the secondary market than precious metals.

So, why is this so? Well, it’s a simple matter of demand and supply. Stainless steel watches have become more popular these days because there are only very few watchmakers that make their stainless steel sport watches as excellently as Rolex does. So, naturally, their value is much higher and so is their demand.

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Rarely (you can also read never), do you ever find even on stainless steel Submariner, GMT-Master or Daytona on display in a Rolex boutique for customers to walk in and buy. If you want to find a stainless steel Rolex watch, then you’re going to have to turn to the pre-owned market. This, ultimately, drives up the prices of these models in the secondary market.

So, in the end, you, oftentimes, get better deals when looking for two-tone or gold pre-owned Rolex watches than if going for a stainless steel version.

Different Classes Of Used Rolex Watches

When it comes to Rolex watches, if you’ve been around for a while, you’d definitely have heard them constantly talk about the condition of the watch. This is because the condition of the watch you intend to get is very important and is central to how much you should eventually pay for the watch.

New Old Rolex Watches

What do we mean, right? Sometimes, even in the secondary market, you find watches that are actually still in new condition. Most of the time in such cases, the watch is an older model that hasn’t been sold yet. Other times, the watch was indeed sold, however, it was unused by the owner for whatever reason, maybe the owner received it as a gift but didn’t consider it appropriate.

Though it might seem like an unopened watch would remain in the best of conditions, this is not always the case. If the watch is not kept under the right conditions, it is possible for corrosion and/or patina to occur. This is why even new old stock Rolex watches should be assessed first before purchase.

Used Rolex Watches In Mint Condition

Watches in this category, though used, generally show no sign of abuse or alteration in any way. Especially if the watch is made of an alloy like the modern oyster steel, Rolex watches are able to withstand many years of use and still remain intact, showing little to no damage.

Gold Rolex watches, on the other hand, are easily susceptible to dents and scratches. Same as older stainless steel models.

Mint Rolexes are usually newer Rolex models often made of stainless steel.

Used, Unpolished Rolex Watches

Used, unpolished Rolex watches, unlike mint watches, show some signs of use such as dents or scratches. What polishing does is to shave off some metal from the watch case to enable the scratches and dents to disappear getting the watch to look good as new again. Polishing also rounds sharp edges and connection points as well.

Nevertheless, most hardcore collectors still prefer to go for unpolished Rolexes over polished ones. But then it’s really up to you, every man has their own limits.

Used, Polished Rolex Watches

Polished watches typically look better than used watches that are left unpolished. However, they are usually less expensive than unpolished watches because you really can’t classify them as 100% original.

It’s possible that watch sellers factor in the amount of metal that has been shaved off during the polishing process when deciding how much to sell polished watches for. Fo most purists though, the watch of choice is usually the unpolished option.

Restored Used Rolex Watches

Sometimes, a Rolex watch takes a very serious beating, maybe the owner was a bit careless or something. Damage could range from water damage to getting run over by a vehicle, being left in a toxic environment, generally, beat to within one inch of its life. Such watches, often have to be restored to be usable again.

For restored watches, it’s better to stay away from such watches if you’re not yet experienced in watch collecting. What restoration would involve would usually vary from watch to watch. So, in the end, it can be a bit tricky deciding on a price that’s fair.

So, if you are newbie, you might want to avoid watches that come with parts that have been replaced or updated. Typically, these affect the value of a Rolex watch significantly.

Full Set Used Rolex

Whatever the condition of a Rolex watch, once it comes with the original box and papers, it is sure to fetch a higher price. When you think of the original box, think of the inner and outer, as for papers, you are looking at the warranty information as well as the original punched sales card.

Some watch buyers care less whether their watches come with documentation or not but trust us, documentation is good. If the watch comes with the original receipt containing the serial number and all, better. These documents are important as they help to validate the origin and authenticity of the watch in question.

In watch speak, when a watch comes with the papers and original box, it is called a full set watch. Some watch dealers are much stricter and require that a watch come with not just the box (inner and outer) and paperwork, but it must come with all accompanying accouterments that came with the watch originally. For instance, for some Rolex watches with oyster cases come with a tiny anchor.

Discontinued, Vintage, And Currently-In-Production Used Rolex Watches

What is a vintage Rolex watch? A Rolex watch is considered vintage if it is older than 30 years old. If the Rolex is less than 30 years and is no longer in production, then it should be referred to as a discontinued model.

When Rolex first started, it began with a four-digit reference number, then they moved on to the fie-digit serial number in the 1980s and six-digit reference numbers in the 2000s.

So, except for a few watches, most watches with a four-digit reference number are vintage watches. Those with a five-digit reference number are discontinued models, and those with six-digit reference numbers are watches that are currently still in production.

In recent years, Rolex has introduced a number of new watches all with six-digit reference numbers. Although these days, they are slightly different from what we used to have before.

Differentiating between the six-digit reference number of a vintage Rolex and a modern one is a little tricky and would require a bit of background knowledge to spot the difference.

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Right now, in the secondary market, the demand is high for current-production and vintage watches. So, if you need a great deal, you might want to go for discontinued models especially those from between 1980 to the 2000s.

Consideration Factors When Buying A Used Rolex Watch

1. Do Some Research On The Rolex Model And Year You Intend To Get

Rolex models and years of manufacture are not as straightforward as they seem. The thing with Rolex is that it makes a couple of alterations to its watches from year to year.

Plus, when Rolex makes its watches, it makes them in batches. So, a watch might have a serial number indicating that it was made in 1989 when, in fact, it was made in 1988.

To be sure of these little things, you might want to reach out to a more experienced person or read up what you can from Rolex resources. Just make sure that you do all the research you probably can.

2. What Condition Do You Want Your Watch To Be In?

We have different categories before this section. Understanding that, therefore, you are going to have to decide what condition you could tolerate. Are you looking for new old stock, mint condition? Would you mind polishing or do you want to have the watch with its scratches and dents as it is?

3. Decide How Much You’re Going To Spend On Your Used Rolex

When you decide to get your used Rolex watch, you should also decide on how much you intend to spend on your watch. So, you want to check the current prices in the market. A fantastic way to do that is to check recent auctions on eBay.

Also, there are a number of classified listings online on sales forums. This is another way you can check out for prices. Of course, there are also great dealers who sell Rolex watches where prices are usually quite consistent and fair. If at all, prices are only a bit higher than what you might have to pay an individual seller.

4. Decide On Your Specific Used Rolex Watch Model

Sometimes, if you are lucky, you might find that some examples of the watch model you want are available all at one time. If you are this lucky, you’ll get the power to choose which of the watches fit your needs and requirements. For the more scarce watch models, it might take a longer time to find your desired watch.

5. Find A Reputable Seller

Whomever you want to buy from, whether a dealer or an individual seller, it’s important to confirm that the seller is one of repute. For many sellers, there is a form of feedback, so you can confirm if the seller is legit. eBay and Etsy (yes Etsy, you’d be shocked to see just how many Rolex watches sell on Etsy) are great too.

For most online selling forums, there’s a way to confirm a seller’s reputation. If you’re dealing with an individual seller, you can even ask the person to give you some references. Don’t be shy to call up the seller and ask for an in-person meeting so you can confirm if there’s any shady business or not. If there is, of course, you know what to do. Bounce.

6. Check The Externals Of The Watch

After checking out the dealer or seller, it’s now time to check out the watch itself. Check out the dial, case, and hands look. If you won’t be able to see the watch in person before buying it, tell the seller to send you photos of the watch. Make sure the seller sends you tons of photos from all possible angles. Make sure you insist on hi-res photos so that you’re able to zoom into the photos and get all the little details.

Make sure you ask every question you have if you’re not particularly sure what you’re doing, and don’t hold back even if you think the question is dumb.

7. Consider The Mechanical Condition Of The Watch

Typically, Rolex watches should be serviced every ten years. It used to be five to seven years, initially. However, you find that many watch owners do not send in their watches for servicing as at when due, maybe because doing that cost quite a bit. Service records, because they give the buyer more security, automatically increase the price of a used watch.

If the watch you want to get does not have service records, then you could ask the seller to give you the service history of the watch.

When servicing is correctly done, the watchmaker disassembles the movement of the watch and then rebuilds it. They also clean, rebuild and lubricate the movement as well. Each service should also come with a receipt detailing what the service procedure involved.

So, on the receipt, you might find services like checking over, regulation, cleaning and lubing (be wary of this one), full disassembling and rebuilding. If you notice that parts were replaced on the watch, be sure to ask if the parts replaced were genuine Rolex parts. If they weren’t, the watchmaker is actually required by law to stamp non-Rolex replacement parts as not original. On the receipt as well, the parts must be marked as third party parts.

If you couldn’t be bothered to go through all of that or it’s too tricky for you to follow through, you can always ask for photos of the movement which you can send to a reputable watchmaker to evaluate on your behalf.

8. You Should Ask For A Warranty Or Some Form Of Satisfaction Guarantee

Most used Rolex watches come with a warranty. Now, you want to make sure that the warranty is specific about what it covers and also for how long as well.

If you’re buying your watch from an individual, say on eBay, some of these guys might offer you a money-back guarantee period. This way, you can get the watch and check it out before finally deciding if the watch is good enough for the price paid;

9. Paying For The Watch

We’ve already mentioned a few factors that could affect the price you end up paying for your used Rolex model. Generally, once you’re buying a great watch in good condition from a reputable seller, the prices are usually quite stable.

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Of course, you might not exactly get the most incredible deal but you shouldn’t exactly expect to be cheated either.

As a tip, usually, if you offer to pay for your watch in cash, you might end up spending a little less than what the seller offers as the final price since you’d have saved the dealer some credit card processing fees.

Telling A Fake Rolex From A Real One

Rolex watches are some of the most faked luxury timepieces in the world. That much is a fact. Some are even quite expertly or professional counterfeited, they are referred to as super fakes. Nevertheless, what you want is a Rolex, yes? So, here’s how tell a fake Rolex from an original one. What we have below is an abridged version, for a more comprehensive story, click here to read our article: How Can I Tell If A Rolex Is Real.

1. Jerky Movements On The Second Hand

Rolex uses superior mechanical movements for all its watches and these watches are super smooth in their movements. In truth, yes, Rolex’s second hands tick, somewhat, but that’s about four to six times per second. So, they end up looking like they are sliding rather than ticking.

If the second hand of a Rolex watch is ticking like quartz movement, then chances are almost 100% that you’re dealing with a friend.

NB: There was a time Rolex was making watches with a quartz movement but that was a long time ago and there were only very few copies of these watches available.

2. Light Weight

If your Rolex feels light, it’s most likely fake. When Rolex makes it watches, it uses high-quality precious metals to make them in most cases. In turn, Rolex watches feel substantial and also have a unique feel that no other type of watch has. If the Rolex you want to buy does not feel that way, it just might be fake.

3. Serial Numbers

Rolex pays attention to every single detail and leaves nothing out, down to the way the serial numbers are written on the watches even. On an original Rolex watch, serial numbers typically have super fine details. On a fake one, however, the serial numbers have a cheap look just like the body of the watch. Find out more about this is in our article on How Can I Tell If A Rolex Is Real?

4. Poor Detailing On The Movement

When you’re buying a used Rolex watch, the dealer must be willing to open up the movement of the watch to allow you make assessments of the watch. In an original Rolex watch movement, the name “Rolex” is usually engraved somewhere around the movement.

Rolex movements are typically beautiful and intriguing to watch which leads us to another dead giveaway of fake Rolexes. Fake Rolexes usually come with a pretty plain movement, nothing intriguing about it.

Also, Rolex uses mechanical watches (barring the exception we talked about). So, if you check out the movement and it even resembles quartz, that is definitely not a Rolex watch.

5. Weird Watch Face

The face of a Rolex watch is supposed to look pristine as Rolex is crazy about detail. So, smudges, uneven or incorrect fonts, weird spacing in between texts, no Rolex crown, all that should tell you that something is wrong.

Besides that, Rolex watches are popular for their cyclops which magnifies the date about 2.5 times. If the date on the watch you are being sold does not appear magnified and instead looks flat, that is, most likely, you’re handling a fake Rolex.

6. Not Waterproof

Rolex watches are typically made to be able to survive at varying depths underwater. To prove this, you’d naturally have to dip the watch in water. However, some experts advise against that for a number of reasons. If it’s a fake watch, well, you’ve damaged the watch. Secondly, it might not be a fake watch but might be an original in need of servicing, dunking the watch in water might cause complications.

7. Price Is Too Good To Be True

If the price of your watch seems too good to be true, it probably is. Run the other way. Rolexes are luxury timepieces and do not sell for cheap. If the person selling you the watch is giving it to you at an unbelievable price, it’s best to walk away. The watch is probably a counterfeited one.

Why You Should Buy A Used Rolex Watch

1. You Spend Less

This one is a very obvious benefit. Pre-owned watches are usually less expensive except you’re buying a particularly rare timepiece. Getting a brand new Rolex is quite expensive and daunting, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. If you get a used one though, you could reduce how much you have to spend significantly.

Even though Rolex watches retain value for a long time after purchase, their prices typically reduce as time goes on which makes them more affordable to people who might want something more sophisticated than an entry-level watch but can’t seem to afford it when it’s first released.

2. Used Rolex Watches Fall In Value Slower

The biggest fall in value any luxury item is going to experience is from a new watch to a pre-owned watch. So, once you get your Rolex watch and you hold it in your hands, the value of that watch falls at lightning speed even before you can strap it on your wrist. In comparison, a second-hand Rolex watch will depreciate in value much slower.

So, if you ever decide to sell your watch again, you won’t be taking so much of a hit compared to someone who’s selling their brand new watch.

3. There’s Always A Larger Selection In The Secondary Markets

If you decide to get a brand new watch, you definitely enjoy the advantages. However, you can only get what’s currently on sale. If you want access to a larger selection including watches currently on sale, vintage watches, and even discontinued models, then you’d have to turn to the secondary market.

4. Used Rolexes Sometimes Appreciate In Value

There are certain off situations where a used Rolex actually appreciates in value as time passes rather than fall. There are a number of reasons this might occur especially if the watch has been discontinued or it has been replaced by newer technology which makes it into a collector’s item making the watch more expensive.

Where To Buy Used Rolexes

If you want to buy a Rolex watch, you might want to stay away from online e-commerce sites such as eBay or Craigslist. The best place to get your used Rolex is from a jewelry store oof repute. Now, you might not necessarily get the best deals ever from a jewelry store. However, you’re sure to be sold an authentic piece.

If you must buy from sellers online, then make sure that you’re buying from someone who lives in the US. Also, look for sellers who have robust feedback and are transparent with you when answering any question you have. Especially when you’re buying from an individual, you must establish a trustworthy connection first. You should buy the seller before you buy the watch as experts advise.

Good places you can get used Rolex watches on the internet are Watches To Buy, Bernard Watch, Paul Duggan Fine Watches, and, of course, Bob’s Watches. These are pretty common online sites for collectors to get used watches online.

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