December 1, 2022
by David Bredan
Hot off the press is the news that Rolex has launched the “Rolex Certified Pre-Owned” program, offering customers the opportunity to purchase from its official retailers pre-owned watches that are certified as authentic and guaranteed by the brand. In this article, we look at the specifics Rolex provided about its new pre-owned program and highlight those pressing details we need to know more about. Rolex Certified Pre-Owned watches will initially be available at Bucherer boutiques in six countries — Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France, Denmark, and the UK — from the start of December 2022. Other Official Rolex Retailers who choose to be part of this program will be able to join beginning in Spring 2023.
As we’ve all witnessed pre-owned and gray market prices of Rolex watches skyrocket, we also saw official Rolex shop windows and display cases empty, with the little plaque saying “For Exhibition Only” — i.e., the shortage of watches has become such that displayed watches needed their own disclaimers to hold off buyers from asking for them. Thousands of prospective Rolex customers entered the green and beige store only to be greeted with a smile and an apology for the cold, hard truth: They won’t be able to have the watch they’ve been dreaming about for months or years, and often without any promise as to their future availability. Although some might think this is the best situation for any corporation to be in, in fact, it is terrible for public relations — all it takes is a quick glance into online forums or the comments sections under virtually any official Rolex Instagram post to get an idea of the current public sentiment.
Rolex is constructing a new factory space, and sources tell us it has been expanding its production annually by tens of thousands of pieces even without that new facility up and running. The bottleneck is often said to be labor — any number of state-of-the-art machines can be fitted into a building the size of an entire Swiss canton, but there are not enough trained staff to operate them, or to assemble, finish and handle the watches as they are being made.
Certified pre-owned is, therefore, a logical next step to fill the gaping holes in the supply of Rolex watches. It is a tried and proven technique that’s been widely used in the automotive industry, where authorized dealers take in used cars, service them, and then sell them at a profit, supported with an official warranty. Rolex Certified Pre-Owned works largely the same way. Rolex makes its goals clear by saying:
“These certified-authentic second-hand watches offer customers a tangible and immediate opportunity to become part of the world of Rolex.”
“A tangible and immediate opportunity” — bold claims given the endless waiting lists for fan- and investor-favorite models like the Daytona, Submariner, Oyster Perpetual, and others.
This raises the first pressing question, which concerns pricing. Will Rolex aim to price out flippers by selling officially certified pre-owned Rolex watches in its boutiques at prices below those on the second-hand market? Will prices vary depending on the location and the condition of the piece? We are yet to see how these work out, and as with everything Rolex, a slow roll-out is to be expected.
The next question is how Rolex will source these pieces. What we know is that for a watch to enter the program, it will need to be at least three-years-old. That said, we are yet to learn whether one will be able to walk into a boutique that is part of the Rolex-certified pre-owned program and offer to sell their watch on the spot, or trade it in towards a new purchase. We’ll see if other businesses can sell larger quantities to Rolex, or if retailers are allowed to go on the hunt for used pieces sold online.
We know that the Rolex Certified Pre-Owned program will offer a two-year international warranty, valid from the date of resale, following a certification process. All certified pre-owned Rolex watches will come with a seal that symbolizes their status as certified second-hand Rolex watches. The Rolex Certified Pre-Owned guarantee card, delivered at the time of the sale, officially confirms that the watch is genuine and guarantees its proper functioning. This card bears the words “Certified Pre-Owned” and serves as an official certificate of authenticity.
Rolex is yet to specify whether its certified pre-owned Rolex watches will come fully serviced or overhauled, but we’ll go out on a limb and say that this is highly likely. The company says that “[Rolex] wishes to accompany the second life of its watches already circulating on the market, with a view to preserving, maintaining and guaranteeing what already exists.” Also, “All watches benefit from the quality criteria inherent to all Rolex products and from the full know-how and professionalism of the brand’s worldwide network of experts.”
Rolex puts its elbows out and says: “Rolex watches — new or second-hand — should only be bought from Official Rolex Retailers.” The company’s reasoning is that its retailers are authorized to sell and care for Rolex watches and that, thanks to their skills and technical expertise, they can ensure the continued smooth functioning of each timepiece over the years. “Only the official Rolex network is able to provide these guarantees.” This brings to mind the rumored practices of Ferrari, the carmaker that offers the chance for the customers of its brand new cars to sell them back to the official dealer network when they want a new one. With an extensive warranty period and the peace of mind that a brand-certified pre-owned label brings, the same product — be it a car or a watch — can be sold multiple times over its five-plus-two-year warranty period by the same retailer — first new, then potentially a couple of times as pre-owned.
As with everything Rolex, there are a lot of details that are we actively looking to discover. Once we have more, we will bring you all updates. To learn more, visit the brand’s website.