How to Buy a Pre-Owned Rolex Watch

How to Buy a Pre-Owned Rolex

Rolex is undisputedly the most popular among luxury watch brands. With that title often comes a challenging dilemma for many watch buyers: whether to buy brand new or pre-owned. Weighing the pros and cons before spending a good amount of money on a Rolex is always the best start.

If buying a pre-owned outweighs getting a brand-new one, what’s the first good lead? What are the right questions to ask? How do you get the best deal? In this buying guide, we’ve rounded up the frequently asked questions and tips on how to buy a pre-owned Rolex.

What kind of Rolex do you want?

If you’re ready to buy your first Rolex, it’s likely you’ve done enough research about its history, its craftsmanship and legacy, and why it’s one of the most coveted luxury watch brands in the market.

Rolex Cellini WatchesA bevy of Rolex Cellini watches. 

With many of its most iconic models dating back to the 1950s, Rolex has a long history, and a very wide range of models offered. It can be overwhelming when you browse a retailer’s website, and maybe even more so when you walk into their showroom. Nothing will make your search easier than zeroing in on one or a few models – those that really caught your fancy, and those that fit your budget (we’ll get to that part in a bit).

Here are some of the most in-demand Rolex models and what makes them so popular:

Rolex Submariner
The Rolex Submariner is consistently on the top list of coveted Rolex models. It debuted in 1953 and was designed as a timepiece that can be used while diving, while looking elegant enough for daily wear. It also made history as the first wristwatch waterproof to a depth of 100 meters. Its timeless design is easily recognized and often copied. James Bond, Steve McQueen, and celebrities like Daniel Craig and Orlando Bloom sport the Rolex Submariner.

Rolex Submariner Steel Yellow Gold Blue Dial Bezel 16613 / 116613The Rolex Submariner remains one of the most popular Rolex models.
Seen here: Rolex Submariner Steel Yellow Gold Blue Dial Bezel 16613 / 116613

Rolex Daytona
The Rolex Daytona stands out among chronographs because of its combined history with racing and status as a luxury timepiece. The Daytona was introduced in 1962, and was named after Daytona, Florida, home of America’s racing capital. Earlier Daytona watches have very low production numbers because they didn’t sell very well at first. It was racer and movie star Paul Newman who catapulted the Daytona to mainstream consciousness, as he was a consistent Rolex Daytona watch wearer from 1972 until he died in 2008. His own “Paul Newman Daytona” watch was auctioned in 2017 fetching over $17 million.

Rolex GMT-Master
First unveiled in 1955, the Rolex GMT-Master is celebrated as one of the world’s best pilot watches. Initially made by Rolex for PanAm Airlines’ pilots, its now iconic bi-colored 24-hour bezel was designed to allow the wearer to read two different timezones. The original GMT-Master was made in a blue-red “Pepsi” theme, and a slew of iconic models with quirky nicknames followed: the Root Beer, Coke, Batman, and Sprite are names every Rolex fan knows.

Rolex GMT Master Pepsi, Batman, and Sprite with Jubilee braceletsThe Rolex GMT-Master was created for pilots and has evolved into one of the most
coveted luxury sports watches. Seen here: Rolex Pepsi, Rolex Batman and Rolex Sprite

Rolex Explorer
The Rolex Explorer was designed in 1953 with mountaineers, hikers and climbers in mind. With its stainless steel body and high-contrast dial, it became a must-have tool for outdoor enthusiasts. One of the celebrated Mt. Everest pioneer climbers, Tenzing Norgay, was wearing one of the prototypes of the Rolex Explorer, prompting Rolex to release it as a part of their range. Today, the Rolex Explorer is a two-part collection – the Rolex Explorer I being a time-only model, and the Rolex Explorer II with a date and 24-hour bezel.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is a Rolex watch distilled to the most important elements – the Oyster case, time-only dial, and the Perpetual self-winding movement. Its simplicity makes it ideal as a daily wear watch. Aside from its simplicity, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual offers a lot of variety. From its older and current range, case sizes are available from 25 – 41mm. Dial colors also vary from neutral to bright lacquered finishes.


How much are you willing to spend?

Once you have a few models on your wish list, the next step is to see which one first your budget. As of 2022, the retail prices of brand-new Rolex watches range between $6,500 to $75,000. A pre-owned Rolex, depending on which model you’re interested in buying, has a price range between $5,000 to the high five digits. Pre-owned refers to a wide range of models including vintage references, limited editions, and discontinued styles, so it’s hard to pinpoint the exact range.

Rolex Day-Date Masterpiece Platinum 18946At SwissWatchExpo, we have a wide range of Rolex watches to suit every taste
and budget. Seen here: Rolex Day-Date Masterpiece 18946

It’s possible to find a Rolex priced under $5,000 such as the Rolex Air-King ref. 14000, and Rolex Date references 1500, 15200 and 15210. For a Rolex below $10,000 you can look at the Rolex Datejust 36 collection, Rolex Explorer II models with 40mm cases, as well as Rolex Milgauss and Rolex Oyster Perpetual models.


Where should you buy your watch?

The pre-owned Rolex market is thriving. As much as there are reputable pre-owned luxury watch retailers, there are plenty of counterfeit sellers as well. Here’s what to look for in a trusted and credible pre-owned Rolex dealer:

Authenticity guarantee
Any retailer in the business of selling of luxury watches should be able to provide a guarantee of authenticity for every brand they sell. As a buyer, you can also request a second opinion on the authenticity of the Rolex, and the seller should be open to coordinating with an authorized dealer when you do so.As a buyer, it is still advisable to do your research about the watch even when buying from a reputable dealer. Doing so will just make it easier for you to spot a fake watch, but enhance your knowledge in watches down the line.

Rolex Yacht-Master II in Stainless SteelAt SwissWatchExpo, our online buying environment is enhanced by real product photos, taken in high resolution, from every angle. Seen here: Rolex Yacht-Master II

Sellers should be transparent about the condition of their watches. If you cannot inspect the watch in person, you should go for a retailer who provides high-resolution photos of the actual watch they are selling. This will allow you to look for any defects such as scratches and dings. Other factors to consider are:

Has there been any service done on the watch before? Are its parts original or have they been replaced? Does the watch come with box and papers?

Competitive pricing
Always check and compare prices with other pre-owned sellers. Doing so will not only help you get the best deal, you will also easily spot a watch that’s selling for a too-good-to-be-true price.

At SwissWatchExpo‘s showroom, clients are able to compare, inspect, and try on the
watches before their final purchase – all while being assisted by our expert staff.

Quality customer service
Luxury watch sellers must be there for the buyer from inquiry to purchase and even after-sales service. Look for a seller who has already built a good reputation with customers. One of the ways you can do this is by looking at their reviews on Facebook, Google, or Yelp. A retailer with trained and attentive staff will not only be able to help you with your transaction, they can also give advice on the best model for your needs, how to care for your watch, and even after-sales concerns like returns, warranties, and repairs.

Warranties, Shipping & Return Policies
Do your due diligence and take the time to read about the retailer’s warranty and shipping & return policies. Now that you’ve chosen your watch, knowing these policies will help ensure that your watch arrives safely, that you can return or replace the watch for accepted reasons, and that you are guaranteed a replacement or repair should the watch develop a fault within a certain period.

What should be included in your purchase?

It is always ideal to get a complete package that includes the following:

– Rolex box with a pillow or stand

– Instruction booklet

– Service booklet

– Warranty card

If you’re only getting the watch, make sure to check that the product matches the specific model that you are purchasing.

Getting a model complete with box and papers will often cost more than buying the
watch alone. Seen here: Rolex Submariner Kermit and Rolex Submariner Hulk

Compare prices and get the best deal

Once you’ve narrowed down your choice models and retailers, take note of their prices. Prices for the same model may vary as well depending on their condition, the availability of box and papers, as well as any replacement parts. Do factor these in your comparison as well.

Another important thing to note is when the watch was last serviced. Rolex recommends that their watches be taken in for a full service anywhere from 3-5 years. If the watch that you’re buying has not been serviced, it is ideal to factor in this cost in addition to the watch’s price, and then consider if it’s still worth going forward.

Buying your first pre-owned Rolex may seem like a daunting task at first, but doing your homework will make your hunt for the perfect Rolex much more smooth sailing.

Rolex GMT Master II with Jubilee Bracelets



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