should-you-buy-a-rolex-certified-pre-owned-watch?-–-the-truth-about-watches

Should You Buy A Rolex Certified Pre-Owned Watch? – The Truth About Watches

It’s easy to understand the reasoning behind the new Rolex certified pre-owned (CPO) program, launched in Europe, heading stateside. The watchmaker spent the last two years watching re-sellers make more money on their watches than the company that made them – at a fraction of the cost. Rolex will bank big bucks in the pre-loved space. But what’s in it for you? Rolex’s ALL CAPS press release makes the pitch . . .

ROLEX IS OFFERING THE OPPORTUNITY TO PURCHASE FROM ITS OFFICIAL RETAILERS PRE-OWNED WATCHES THAT ARE CERTIFIED AS AUTHENTIC AND GUARANTEED BY THE BRAND. THESE TIMEPIECES BENEFIT FROM THE EXACTING QUALITY CRITERIA INHERENT TO ALL ROLEX PRODUCTS AND FROM A TWO-YEAR INTERNATIONAL GUARANTEE, VALID FROM THEIR DATE OF RESALE IN THE ROLEX NETWORK

The first thing to notice: Rolex is certifying their CPO watches as authentic. So what? More specifically, how worried should buyers be that they might buy a fake Rolex if they purchase a Rollie from someone other than Rolex?

If you’re buying a Rolex from a reputable re-seller/dealer, I’m thinking not at all.

Resellers/brokers don’t want to sell you a fake Rolex any more than you want to buy one. chrono24.com, for example, protects customers against this horological horror by putting buyer’s cash into escrow until 14 days after delivery.

If a faux Rolex somehow slipped through the net and you didn’t notice until later, you’d still have the right to legal redress. Besides, the big players in the pre-loved luxury watch biz didn’t get that way – or stay that way – by peddling fake Rolex. Far from it.

Interestingly, Rolex does NOT say their dealers’ CPO watches are inspected or serviced.

No surprise there. Your average Rolex service costs a grand (to the customer), takes weeks and may well involve new parts. It’s faster and cheaper for the CPO dealer to sell a pre-owned Rolex as is with a two-year warranty, assume it’ll go two years without the need for service or repair and eat the cost if it fails.

It’s a safe bet, right? Rolex are robust. Hence the two-year CPO warranty.

Fine print-wise, all we know is that the CPO warranty “guarantees [the watch’s] proper functioning for a period of two years in accordance with the guarantee manual.” The manual is not available.

Perhaps the CPO warranty will be the same as a new Rolex’s five-year coverage, which “excludes normal wear-and-tear (notably the wear-and-tear of non-metal bracelets and straps), loss, theft, or damage due to misuse.” 

I betcha Rolex is NOT guaranteeing the CPO timepiece’s accuracy or water resistance (which they’d have to test before selling). Only failure due to a manufacturing defect.

How easy would it be for Rolex to claim a stopped CPO watch is your fault (accident, bad storage, immersion, etc.)? Damn easy. Would they? It’s too early to tell. Who pays for shipping? How long would repair take? Hmmm.

What about that “normal wear-and-tear”? Are all CPO watches pristine? Will dealers “recondition” scratched cases and bracelets? Will they reveal the repair if they do? The web page for first-mover Bucherer’s CPO Rolex selection doesn’t make any mention of condition.

And then there’s value for money.

Given that Rolex are robust, given that reputable resellers/dealers offer warranties as good as Rolex CPO’s (e.g. Watchfinder’s two-year warranty), why pay more for a Rolex CPO than the non-CPO market price? Because yup, Rolex is pricing their CPO watches above the going rate for a private or a non-authorized dealer sale.

As you’d expect, our man Tian at watchcharts.com is on the case, checking Bucherer’s prices against his private sale data. Even a glance at the chain’s CPO prices tells us they’re charging a premium for pre-loved pieces. As well they must; Rolex gets a cut of their cut for branding the program and marketing it to the world.

Then again, maybe the secondary market will pay a premium for a CPO Rolex. If so, a Rolex certified pre-owned watch would be a better investment than a non-CPO Rolex – worth the up-front price bump. The CPO program hits our shores in Spring; we won’t have a clear picture until summer.

Bottom line: if you want to shop for a pre-owned Rollie at a swank authorized Rolex dealer (although you can buy online), if you want the full faith and credit of the Rolex Foundation behind your pre-loved purchase, you’re going to have to pay extra for the privilege.

U.S. Rolex dealers are chomping at the bit for this. “Sorry, we don’t have any new pieces in stock. May I draw your attention to our certified pre-owned Rolex?” Win-win or lose-win? When you get right down to it, that depends entirely on whether or not you care about saving money. And a leather-bound guarantee card.

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