March 3, 2016
by Ariel Adams
Watch warranties are a confusing matter for a lot of people, and it is an important thing to consider because mechanical watches can get very expensive, very fast. We get a fair number of questions about timepiece warranties, especially for Rolex watches. It isn’t that people need to use Rolex warranties more than they do for other watches, but rather that the popularity of Rolex watches makes Rolex warranty issues and questions come up a lot more often. One common question is whether or not a valid Rolex warranty transfers to a new owner if the original buyer sells or otherwise transfers ownership of their Rolex. I’ll get to the answer a bit below.
Rolex made relatively big news in the summer of 2015 when they announced that new Rolex watches would now come with a five-year warranty. This was a big deal since Rolex is often seen as the hallmark of mechanical watch service and reliability and even a slight increase in the covered warranty period was welcome news to the watch community.
So what happens if a watch is out of warranty or if it never came with one in the first place? That means that anytime the watch needs repair, the owner will need to pay for that – and watch repair isn’t typically very cheap. With Rolex, things get a bit more complicated because Rolex really wants you to use only authorized Rolex repair centers – which are more often than not exclusively through Rolex (as opposed to a third-party service provider).
Having a valid warranty for a watch doesn’t mean that anything that happens to it during the warranty period is covered. Warranties often explicitly disclaim coverage for “normal wear and tear.” This means if you bang up, drop, scratch, or otherwise damage your watch due to normal wear, then Rolex or any other brand will happily fix it – but for a cost. Rolex has a special area dedicated to service on their website where you can learn more.
Warranties for Rolex and other watches are typically there to cover manufacturing defects which more often than not occur with the movement inside. With that said, sometimes warranties apply to things like the crown, bezel, or bracelet that, depending on the watch brand and model, can require repair or replacement due to a manufacturing defect when they exit the factory. Though, to be honest, with most modern watches, the majority of warranty repairs have to do with movement performance or other issues related to accuracy and reliability.
Rolex has shared with me that in order to keep a Rolex watch warranty valid, it is necessary for anyone with a Rolex watch to have it serviced exclusively at authorized repairers. That means if you try to have a non-authorized watch service center or watchmaker repair your Rolex and Rolex finds out about it, they will void your warranty and charge you for service that might otherwise fall under a warranty repair. Thus, it is important for people to remember that the “safest” (not always the cheapest, of course) way to repair your Rolex watch is to go through Rolex. Of course, this rule also applies to other brands which tend to have the same policies. It is also the fact that Rolex sets the tone on watch warranty and repair policies and many other companies tend to follow suit.
Getting back to the original question of whether or not a Rolex watch warranty is “mobile,” the answer is yes. If you are the original buyer of a Rolex purchased at an authorized dealer, then you can transfer any remaining warranty period to a new owner. So if you buy a Rolex Submariner with a valid five-year warranty, and then decide to sell the watch three years later to a new owner, then that second owner would have two remaining years left on the warranty. After that, all repairs would be out of warranty and up to the owner to pay for.
Another important caveat that Rolex feels is important to mention is that modifying or customizing a Rolex watch that is otherwise under warranty immediately voids that warranty. Watch and car makers are often quite similar in their position that if any after-market changes to an item occur, then all warranties are made invalid. Moreover, Rolex even reserves the right to not service modified Rolex watches at all – even for a cost.
So if you are in the market for a modified Rolex watch or want to make changes to one that you bought, it is important to know this. Some of the more enterprising Rolex customizers such as Bamford Watch Department actually have their own service departments because they are the only ones who can really service their watches properly. Rolex often has contentious relationships with Rolex customizers which began long ago when people started to put aftermarket diamonds (real or fake) into watches and Rolex didn’t like the idea of a lot of “franken-Rolex” timepieces out there that they felt didn’t truly represent their products or their aesthetic and detail choices.
Watch repair is a notoriously contentious area for a range of reasons which are not all related to cost. The biggest issue for most people aside from the price of repair is effectiveness of the service or repair and what state their watch comes back in. We’ve heard a lot of sad stories about watches coming back from service in poor state, not fixed, or in an otherwise unacceptable state. Most of these stories don’t relate to Rolex since they have a very good service reputation, but when it comes to watch repair, people always want a solid warranty to help cover unforeseen circumstances.
Furthermore, companies don’t have to service your watches forever. Rolex as well as others often refuse to service timepieces more than 25 or 30 years old. It isn’t to say that they never will (especially if it is a historically important watch), but they typically will not service “vintage” timepieces which are often referred to various specialists.
Watch repair, like initial ownership, is not typically an inexpensive endeavor any longer, but knowing the right things and having the right people service your watch in the first place can resolve many headaches. What I have yet to see (and would like to) is for watch companies themselves to offer extended warranties (for an additional cost), as well as for someone out there to sell watch repair insurance – especially for those who have large timepiece collections. Do you have additional insight or comments about Rolex watch warranties or other matters related to watch repair and warranties? rolex.com