How To Sell Your Rolex: An In Depth Look
Watch & Bullion4 July 2018 | 7 min read
To one or two of us old dinosaurs who believe a watch is for life (and not just for Christmas) the idea of selling a once prized prized possession seems an anathema, however there is actually a thriving market for re-selling luxury watches and the jewel in the crown amongst resale brands is, unsurprisingly, Rolex.
Rolex have long been regarded as by far the numero uno of all watch marques and their unique marketing strategies and iconic branding and design have made them hugely sought after both in retail and second-hand markets. Indeed such is the demand for this prestige brand that re-sales actually now account for the majority of all Rolex watch sales globally and given that the company produce approximately ¾ million units each year there is a huge amount of value to tap into for those who know what they are doing.
Unfortunately there are also far too many unscrupulous companies and individuals all too willing to take advantage of the unwary so we have put together this guide to try and help make the process of selling your Rolex as safe, painless and ultimately profitable for you as possible.
The first important piece of advice we would give to anyone intending to sell a Rolex watch is to take a considered approach to the matter. Any sale is effectively a business transaction and whilst your Rolex may be of sentimental value to you, such sentiment is unlikely to mean a great deal to most buyers; conversely if you can identify key aspects of interest that will appeal to your buyer it may ultimately help you to secure a better price. As such you should invest a little time and try to plan ahead to make the process as smooth as possible. In the same way as people who buy in haste tend to regret their purchase soon after, a rushed or ill-judged sale is equally likely to lead to seller’s remorse!
Following on from this there are a number of staple rules we would advise any seller to stick to, whilst they don’t cover every eventuality by any means they do provide a “best-practice” framework that, if followed, should ensure you have every chance of getting the best possible price with the least potential for problems.
Firstly do your research. If at all possible find out roughly what demand there is for the model(s) you are selling and get some guide prices for second-hand or resale. Pricing is often driven by the condition of the item, so there may be quite a lot of variation between those available on the market at any one time so ideally get multiple professional appraisals or valuations done. This will give you a clear indication of what a realistic price should be for your watch and avoids the risk of disappointment, wasted time or potentially missing out on making a tidy return! Valuations can appear to be relatively expensive, but in real terms are a small price to pay to ensure you get the best return on your original investment. Even with regard to the sale of a single watch, this may ultimately help decide where your target market is most likely to be found.
Also be prepared for the fact that pre-owned prices are generally far below the R.R.P for the equivalent new model once factors such as wear and tear and depreciation are taken into consideration. That said, Rolex do generally hold their value considerably better than the vast majority of their competitors and in rare instances lucky or astute sellers have made two or three times the original selling price.
Secondly, if you haven’t already done so (for insurance purposes etc.) record the Model Reference and Serial Number of the piece to be sold and take photographs showing front/back/side view of the the watch and a picture of the Warranty Card that came with it. This makes selling online more practicable, protects you as the seller in case the watch should be lost in transit at any point and also reassures the buyer that they are getting a genuine Rolex. As a premium brand Rolex are unfortunately a prime target for counterfeiters and the reference and serial numbers help identify information unique to your watch.
To avoid confusion, remember that the Model Reference Number and Serial Number are two distinctly different things. The Model Number (or Reference/Style number) identifies which series or issue a watch belongs to. Rolex watches typically have this engraved on the case at the 12 O’Clock end between the case lugs and it is also displayed on the paperwork.
The Serial Number is unique for every watch, so where two apparently identical watches would display the same Model Number, their Serial Numbers would always differ. Up to 2005 Rolex engraved the serial numbers of each watch on the opposite side of the case to the Model Number, after which they moved it onto the band between the crystal and dial at 6 O’Clock.
PLEASE NOTE: Do not publish or make public any photographs where the Serial Number is visible. Often sellers will block out these details (i.e. if trading online) in order to deter fraudsters from copying these unique details.
An important but often overlooked factor of reselling is to ensure that wherever possible all of the original box, packaging and papers are available so that the watch is essentially sold as “complete”. This includes the official warranty card, manual and any service documentation. Inclusion of these items can help increase the overall value of the watch considerably as well as giving the buyer proof of authenticity and reassurances that the watch has been well cared for and properly maintained.
It is also worth keeping any spare links or old parts which may have been replaced during service or repair as many collectors care more for having a timepiece with all-original parts as opposed to necessarily having a pristine item.
If at all possible always deal with a reputable buyer. This may seem glaring obvious but these days more than ever the ease of buying and selling goods in various forums makes it far easier for the criminal element to profit at your expense. At the very least if you are dealing with a business make sure they are well established specialists and preferably Rolex certified dealers if at all possible. Most bona fide businesses accept that they will be expected to provide proof of their honesty and integrity and that they conform to certain business standards so will either prominently display certificates to this effect or be happy to provide such proofs on request. If you need any additional reassurance the local Consumer Association or Company’s House can provide background information for U.K. based companies and if the company is based abroad the relevant country should have a trade association (such as the Better Business Bureau in the U.S.A) which can help.
The situation is slightly more complicated with a private sale so unless you are lucky enough to have a Rolex timepiece beloved by collectors these are generally best avoided unless you are supremely confident of the buyer’s credentials. If you do venture along the private sale route it should be treated with the same seriousness and attention to detail as you would the sale of say a house or piece of land. We cannot stress strongly enough that agreeing to sell your precious Rolex to a complete stranger you’ve met via social media is really NOT a good idea. (Yes, it happens.)
Also remember that if you do have to send your Rolex watch anywhere, whether it be for appraisal/valuation, cleaning, repair or ultimately to conclude a successful sale make sure you know exactly where it is going and insist on proof of delivery and that the shipping includes insurance to cover the full replacement cost should the worst happen.
An enormous contributor to the growth of the resales has of course been the internet. The ability to buy and sell online has helped turn what was previously the preserve of only the most avid collectors and hobbyists into a huge global market and opened up trade possibilities which were previously unheard of. Whilst internet-based buying and selling is not without its pitfalls there are companies out there dedicated to making the whole process as secure and pleasurable as possible.
One of the leading lights in the area is Chrono 24 who champion themselves as “The world’s watch market” and whose CEO, Tim Stracke, has gone to great lengths to establish his company as something of a superpower in the online luxury watch trade with their authenticity guarantee and over 2,000 approved dealers registered with them. With a decade and a half of trading luxury watches on the internet behind them and up to 380,000 watches available at any one time, Chrono24 offer a variety of seller packages to cater for everyone from private individuals looking to sell their old Rolex to dealers selling hundreds of watches. Such is the reputation of Chrono24 that they now boast over 10 million visitors to their site each month with over 2.5m downloads of their app, so anyone looking to maximise the potential market for their own sale(s) online could do a lot worse than giving Tim Stracke’s team a look.
We would strongly recommend that you avoid certain other sales channels entirely no matter how convenient or enticing they may seem on the face of it. Very few can offer the same specialised care as outlined above and unless you are fully cognisant of the risks the following can prove to be something of a minefield……..
Social media: has worked its way into every aspect of our lives and there are people who make a very good living using it as a sales tool and many businesses who have adapted it as a platform for their own marketing initiatives. Now take a moment to dissect what Social Media’s primary purpose is and reflect on some of the truly negative national and global events which it has helped spurn. Is that a medium you’d feel confident would be a safe and secure conduit for selling your once prized Rolex?
Pawn Shops: in their traditional form and their modern equivalents like Cash Converters are also to be avoided. The basic rule of thumb for these establishments is that they buy at rock bottom prices and they lack the expertise to be able to properly asses and value luxury items, so you are unlikely to get anything more than a risible offer from them. To be blunt most would probably struggle to recognise a genuine Rolex and if they did would immediately be suspicious of why you’d approached them rather than a specialist in the first place.
We would also advise against approaching local jewellers unless they happen to be of the very highest renown. Again most smaller jewellery concerns simply don’t have the experience or expertise of the Rolex brand to be able to do you justice on the price they might offer for your watch. This is not to suggest that there aren’t many such businesses that are perfectly reputable, just that the harsh reality is that very few will likely meet the exacting standards Rolex set for their own approved dealers.
Perhaps the most salient piece of advice is that if you are looking to sell your Rolex watch or watches and you’re unhappy with any aspect of what the potential buyer wants or you simply get cold feet do not be afraid to walk away. Rolex is the most recognised and popular luxury watch brand in the world and the company have deliberately cultivated a culture where demand for their product far outstrips supply. There will always almost certainly be multiple potential buyers out there for the particular model you are looking to sell and a little patience and careful groundwork along the lines we’ve detailed should ensure you secure the best possible outcome.