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Carl S. Cunanan
June 25, 2022     |    

Service and Serenity

More important than you may think

Maintenance and service support for modern watches is often an afterthought. While this is a testament to advances in design, engineering, metallurgy and more, the truth is that we should at least understand the needs and demands for proper care and possible service needs for modern watches.

This is particularly important now because more people and more new people are buying watches. While you may have expectations for someone like Rolex, which has official service centers around the world, you need to understand that that is pretty much the gold standard for taking care of your customer. This isn’t always the case for many established brands, and the commitment to put specific servicing systems in place is a big expensive and complicated one.

Rolex
The customer reception area of the service center is designed to be of the same standards as those of the boutiques.
Rolex
Bracelets can be complicated on their own, and much care must be taken when handling them. Proper tools are often created for specific model lines just to lessen any concerns.
Rolex
The movement, still with its hands and dial attached, is taken out of the case.
Rolex
It is extremely hard to keep track of everything that comes out of a watch. Here all the components are separated in a special basket before they go in for an ultrasonic cleaning bath.
Rolex
After components are cleaned and dried, the movement is reassembled. Here the watchmaker is fitting the pallet fork.

Additionally, there are so many new micro brands popping up, buyers need to understand the issues and be tolerant of things that may come up. There are many different approaches to this, which we will discuss another time. But know that there are many different sources of movements for these micro brands, at different levels of personalization. So you run the range of simple easily-serviced generic movements (nothing wrong with that, they are widely-used for a reason) to specially-modified movements by smaller movement-makers that may have caché but may also need more specialized service.

Rolex
Timekeeping accuracy is of course a key point. In this case a microstella regulating key is being used for adjustment.
Rolex
The watchmaker remounts the dial and carefully manually fits the hands one by one.
Rolex
The Rolex Service Center will repolish or satin-finish parts according to how they were initially produced. You need to understand this and discuss this with them if you do not want your watch polished. Many collectors avoid polishing.
Rolex
All watches are tested for for waterproofness in a hyperbaric tank developed specifically by the brand. Note that for some vintage pieces with possible case issues they may not do this but they will tell you.
Rolex
The waterproofness test itself.

For now, let’s look at the ends of the spectrum for most people. On one hand you have your neighborhood watch repair shop. He is probably well-trained and has left a larger company, he works in a stall that allows you to see what he is doing because it used to be that people worried about swapping parts and actually still do. If you have one of these you trust, that is a good relationship to develop for things like inexpensive older watches that many need particular care within a budget.

Rolex
After the movement is cased back up, the watch is tested in different positions to check true chronometric performance.
Rolex
Chronometric performance is tested over a cycle of at least 24 hours using machines meant to simulate what a watch would go through on the wrist.

At the other end is the gold standard we mentioned, the authorized Rolex Service Center. These facilities are an integrated part of the whole Rolex organization, and the heads of service regularly work with the watch designers and engineers and the whole supply chain. Service is not an afterthought here, remember than Hans Wilsdorf started Rolex because he wanted to provide consistency and reliability across the board to a world that badly needed it. The ability to provide proper service is a crucial part of that, and a crucial part of why Rolex watches command the secondary market premiums they do.

The watch is fully wound by hand before being returned to the owner. It is the final step to make sure everything feels and works right. Note that the winding hand is ungloved.
Rolex
Many don’t realize TUDOR watches are handled the same way and in the same facilities as the ROLEX watches.
Rolex
The Rolex and Tudor after-sales service is premium and secure from beginning to end, from acceptance and checking to handing it back with an international two year guarantee.

This commitment isn’t cheap, and is often under appreciated. These are million-dollar investments everywhere the RSCs (Rolex Service Center) appear. The experience has to be a proper premium one, for the owner and for what they do with the watch. The end result though is a big part of why Rolex watches last so long, why they are valued so much and why indeed they are the gold standard for consistent and solid watch value and indeed valuation.