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7 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Pre-Owned Rolex

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Best Practices To Follow When Buying A Used Rolex

If you’ve never done it before, buying used Rolex watches can be a little intimidating. From picking the right model to fit your taste to researching the Rolex serial number and right pre-owned Rolex seller to ensuring you’re getting a genuine watch, there’s a great deal of information to process. As a result, we’ve compiled a how-to guide with some of the best practices to follow when buying a used Rolex. Following these tips can help make the process a whole lot smoother and enjoyable when looking for that perfect pre-owned Rolex.

Set A Budget Before Buying A Pre-Owned Rolex

The first thing that you should do if you’re in the market for a pre-owned Rolex is to set a budget. Deciding on how much you’re financially and emotionally comfortable spending will determine the type of Rolex model you can feasibly get.

Prices for used Rolex watches vary wildly, from as low as a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, start with a price range in mind. Not only will setting a budget help keep spending out of hand (which could lead to buyer’s remorse) but it will also clearly establish which Rolex models you can realistically afford.

Decide On The General Style Of The Pre-Owned Rolex You Want

There are a couple of questions you should be asking yourself. Is this watch going to be one you wear often or is it more of a special occasion watch? Is your sense of dress typically formal, laid back, or somewhere in between? If you’re looking for Rolex watches to wear regularly then make sure it fits with your everyday personal style rather than just going for one that you think is popular with everyone else.

While not a hard and fast rule, in general, Rolex watches can be organized into three styles: casual, dressy, or sporty. Naturally, some models overlap these categories and a particular watch can be considered casual if they are rendered in full stainless steel and have a smooth bezel, simple dial, and three-link Oyster bracelet while another watch from the same family can be dressier if made in full gold and combined with a fluted bezel, diamond-set dial, and five-link Jubilee bracelet.

Some examples of casual Rolex watches include Oyster Perpetual watches, Date watches, full steel Datejust watches, older Air-King watches, and certain Milgauss watches. Famous dressy Rolex watches include gold Day-Date “President” watches, two-tone Datejust watches, and Sky-Dweller watches. Finally, iconic Rolex sports watches include Submariner and Sea-Dweller dive watches, GMT-Master pilot watches, Daytona chronographs, Yacht-Master nautical watches, new aviation-inspired Air-King watches, and adventuring Explorer watches.

Rolex Milgauss, Rolex Datejust II, and Rolex GMT-Master II (Left) Rolex Milgauss Ref. 116400GV (Middle) Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust II Ref 126334 (Right) Rolex GMT-Master II Ref. 116710BLNR

 

Casual Rolex WatchesDressy Rolex WatchesSporty Rolex Watches
Oyster PerpetualDay-Date “President”Submariner
DatejustDatejustSea-Dweller
Lady-DatejustLady-DatejustGMT-Master
DateSky-DwellerDaytona
MilgaussPearlmasterExplorer
Air-KingCelliniYacht-Master

Research The Rolex Models And Materials That Catch Your Eye

Once you’ve set your budget and decided the style of Rolex you want, you should have a shortlist of models in mind. When you do, it’s important to research these Rolex models to understand what they should look like, what type of functions they offer, what materials they’re available in, what size options are available, and roughly when they were made.

The Internet is packed with blogs, online magazines, and forums dedicated to Rolex watches old and new so finding the information is not difficult. You can also check out our article that further explains Rolex serial numbers and Rolex model numbers to get a better understanding of what they mean.

Another important tip is to spend time looking at pictures of the Rolex models you’re interested in so you can get comfortable with what design details to expect. Rolex tends to stick to a certain set of designs for watch components such as bracelets, bezels, and materials, and combines them in different configurations depending on the collection. Here are some of the materials and designs you can find in various different pieces made by Rolex:

Rolex Materials

Stainless SteelGoldPlatinum
316L Steel (discontinued)18k Yellow Gold950 Platinum
904L Steel18k White Gold
Oystersteel: A Type of 904L Steel
(Rolex Now Uses)
18k Everose Gold
A Proprietary Pink Gold Alloy

Material Combinations

Yellow Rolesor
The Combination of Yellow Gold and Stainless Steel on a Rolex Watch.
White Rolesor
The Combination of White Gold and Stainless Steel on a Rolex Watch.
Everose Rolesor
The Combination of Rose Gold and Stainless Steel on a Rolex Watch.
Rolesium
The Combination of Platinum and Stainless Steel on a Rolex Watch.

Rolex fluted bezels in Everose, Yellow, and White Rolesor Fluted bezels in Everose, Yellow, and White Rolesor on Rolex Datejust II’s

Rolex Bezel Types

Smooth
Fluted
Engine-Turned
Gem-Set
Rotatable Timer (Unidirectional and Bi-directional)
Smooth
Fluted
Engine-Turned
Gem-Set
Rotatable Timer (Unidirectional and Bi-directional)

Rolex Bracelets

Bracelet TypeDesignMaterials
OysterFlat Links: Three-Link DesignStainless Steel Gold: Two-Tone Steel + Gold Platinum
JubileeSemi-Circular Links: Five-Link DesignStainless Steel Gold: Two-Tone Steel + Gold
PresidentSemi-Circular Links: Three-Link DesignGold Platinum
PearlmasterFlat Links: Five-Link DesignGold Platinum
OysterflexBlack Rubber-Style Strap w/ an Interior Metal BladeBlack Elastomer Exterior Gold Clasps
LeatherLeather StrapsVarious Leather Colors/ Metal Clasps or Buckles

Rolex Jubilee bracelet and Oyster bracelet (Left) Two-Tone Yellow Rolesor Jubilee bracelet (Right) Two-Tone Yellow Rolesor Oyster bracelet

Understand The Different Generations Of Rolex Watches

One of the major benefits of buying a used Rolex from the secondary market is that you are not limited to only the current-production collection. You can choose from a wide variety of models ranging from vintage to modern.

Since Rolex has been around for well over a hundred years, it’s useful to segment the watches into three general categories based on age. First, there are vintage Rolex watches. A watch is typically considered vintage if it is at least thirty years old. So anything made before 1990 is now classified as a vintage Rolex watch. Second, there are the discontinued Rolex watches that are no longer in production but cannot be considered vintage due to their younger age. These are the Rolex watches made from 1990 onwards. Finally, there are the current-production Rolex watches that are manufactured by the company today and are part of the existing Rolex catalog.

While most Rolex watches have retained the same fundamental design blueprint over the years, the watches have of course evolved in terms of improved mechanics and enhanced materials. For example, while Rolex only makes automatic watches today, the company did make manual-winding watches and quartz watches in the past.

Some important material changes to consider when searching for a pre-owned Rolex include the luminous material on the dial, the crystal type, and the type of material used for bezel inserts.

Evolution Of Lume Material, Crystal Type, And Bezel Material In Rolex Watches

Rolex Lume EvoulutionRolex Crystal EvolutionBezel Insert Material Evolution
Vintage Models: Radium or TritiumVintage Models: Acrylic CrystalVintage: Bakelite or Aluminum
Discontinued Models: Tritium, Luminova, or SuperLuminovaDiscontinued Models: Acrylic or Sapphire CrystalDiscontinued Models: Aluminum or Ceramic
Current Models: SuperLuminova or ChromalightCurrent Models: Sapphire CrystalCurrent Models: Ceramic

By and large, vintage Rolex and current-production Rolex watches are more expensive while the discontinued models made from 1990 onwards are typically priced lower. In fact, some of the best deals you can find when shopping for used Rolex watches are those models made from the early-1990s to early-2000s.

Find Out If The Pre-Owned Rolex Has 100% Original Parts

An important question to ask the seller when buying used Rolexes is if the watch has only original parts. Many buyers prefer Rolex watches that are as close as possible to how they originally left the factory.

However, this is not always feasible, especially with older watches, as they will commonly have parts that have been replaced during servicing. If that is the case, then make sure to ask if all the parts are 100% genuine Rolex components or if aftermarket parts were used.

The use of custom or aftermarket components on a Rolex watch greatly impacts its value in the market. There are also the so-called Frankenwatches to be aware of, which combine parts from different watches. It’s important to understand that once a Rolex watch includes a non-Rolex part (be it an aftermarket crystal, modified bezel, or customized gems), Rolex will not service the watch as the company no longer regards it as a genuine piece.

Only Buy A Pre-Owned Rolex From A Seller You Can Trust

Having a seller that you can trust when buying a pre-owned Rolex is the most important factor in the whole process. Not only will you have peace of mind knowing that the Rolex you’re purchasing is authentic but a knowledgeable and trustworthy seller can also guide you on which particular Rolex watch is best suited for you.

Honest sellers should always be ready and willing to answer any of your questions, send over any additional information or pictures if required, and prioritize customer satisfaction over making a quick sale. Buying from a less-than reputable source to save money upfront can cost you more in the long run if you get deceived with a faulty or counterfeit timepiece.

At the end of the day, topnotch as the best pre-owned Rolex sellers that stand by their reputation ultimately want to ensure that your Rolex purchase is a happy and stress-free one.

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