The number of Authorized Dealers of Rolex watches online = 0
KeepTheTime deals in new and pre-owned authentic watches, but one thing you won’t see on our site is a Rolex being sold as brand new. That’s because it’s impossible for a brand new Rolex to be sold online. Perhaps it’s subjective, but we have a firm belief that the term “brand new” entails the watch is being delivered exactly as intended by the manufacturer.
“One point of an AD is to control the distribution of higher end brands to keep a level of service, experience, pricing, etc… consistent with what the brand wants, so they create these “exclusive” places to buy the brand.” –Jiman on watchuseek
In the case of Rolex, they sell watches to their ADs, then the AD sells the watch new, unsized, with stickers attached, at full (or very close to it) retail price. Discounts are highly unlikely, but you’re getting a “brand new” watch with the full warranty, etc. Speaking of warranty, here’s a question we often get asked about Rolex warranty cards:
A Rolex watch without a warranty card? How do I know it was sold by an authorized dealer?
As mentioned in the quote above, Rolex is a highly regulated brand that controls every aspect of distribution very tightly. With or without a warranty card, the chances of buying a Rolex watch that didn’t originate from an AD is basically zero, unless the watch fell off the back of a truck or was brought in from overseas. In that situation, the serial number on the watch can provide insight. Having the card would make it easier to find the serial number on the older models since it was located between the lugs, but even then you should always match the number to the one on the card.
Some Rolex dealers are known to “file the card” for you or keep it safe in their vault. This is just another way of controlling the sale of the watch on the second hand market. They don’t want you to go to their store, negotiate a great price on an all steel sport model, then go online to flip it for a profit to some poor soul in a region that doesn’t have the said model in stock. Dealers will pretend to be nice, doing you a service, but are actually protecting their own asses by hanging on the to card and matching hangtag.
With or without a warranty card, authentic Rolex watches are first shipped directly to a dealer, then sold either to a customer over-the-counter or to a wholesaler. Rolex is very strict about their dealers wholesaling watches, which is why you don’t see many “brand new” Rolex watches for sale online. It’s just worth it for them to risk losing millions of dollars worth of revenue to sell a few pieces online. Also remember, there is no such thing as an online Authorized Dealer of Rolex watches.
Are Rolex warranties transferable?
Rolex warranties have recently been extended from 2 to 5 years of coverage, but keep in mind that for Rolex watches sold in USA, the warranties are non-transferable… at least that’s how many have interpreted the warranty jargon contained in the warranty booklet (ref 563.83):
“ROLEX WATCH U.S.A. INC. warrants this watch against manufacturing defects for the period of two years from the date of purchase, under normal use. This warranty does not cover normal wear and tear, accidents, loss, misuse, abuse or neglect.
ROLEX WATCH U.S.A. INC. will remedy any covered defect at no cost tot he consumer, once the consumer delivers the watch, with the original warranty card, to either (1) an Official ROLEX Jeweler or (2) any of the Official ROLEX Service Centers listed in this booklet.
This warranty will be valid only if (1) the watch was sold to a consumer by the Official ROLEX Jeweler whose name appears on the warranty card and (2) the warranty card is completely filled out by the Official ROLEX Jeweler at the time of purchase.
This warranty is void if there is any intervention by a third party, or if the watch is modified by the addition or substitution of parts or accessories not supplied by Rolex.
This warranty gives you specific legal rights and you also have other rights which vary from state to state.”
This is an ongoing argument online. The confusion stems from the term “third party” as mentioned in the booklet. What is a third party? Does the original owner become a third party when they sell a watch? Is a gray market seller a third party? If true, this means that even when buying so-called “brand new” Rolexes online, you won’t be getting the warranty – whether you have the card or not. If you have a good relationship with an AD, they may take the watch in on warranty for you… but if you have a good relationship they are going to wonder why you didn’t buy the watch from them in the first place.
UPDATE: The language has been updated by Rolex and basically says the same thing:
“Rolex guarantees the proper functioning of its watches for a period of five years from the date of purchase. The Rolex guarantee excludes normal wear-and-tear (notably the wear-and-tear of non-metal bracelets and straps), loss, theft, or damage due to misuse. The substitution of components with, or the addition of, components or accessories not manufactured by Rolex will invalidate the guarantee. The guarantee is valid only if (1) the watch has been sold by an Official Rolex Retailer; (2) the guarantee card has been completed in full by the Official Rolex Retailer at the time of purchase; and (3) the guarantee card is presented with the watch, either to an Official Rolex Retailer or to an Official Rolex Service Centre. Any work carried out by third parties will render the guarantee null and void.”
Based on this, it can be interpreted that the warranty is only valid when the watch is sold by an Official Rolex Retailer (aka AD). A grey market seller is not an AD. A used watch seller is not an AD. A private seller on eBay is not an AD.
Or does it mean that the watch must originally be sold by an AD? In that case, all Rolex watches are originally sold by an AD. Rolex is so strict with the supply chain that every single Rolex watch (at least in USA) goes directly to an AD via armored truck. Therefore, every Rolex is sold by an AD in one fashion or another.
In that case, does the warranty follow the watch?
There are Rolex enthusiasts that insist the warranty follows the watch, not the person. With heated discussions on forums and used watch sellers getting into the content game, the topic has been tackled left and right and it is becoming clearer that these folks are correct: the warranty follows the watch. If you contact the Rolex service center in Dallas, this is likely what you will hear as well.
Over the years, some ADs have capitalized on the the ambiguities and various interpretations of the Rolex warranty. There was a time in the not too distant past when an AD would tell you one thing, a used watch dealer would tell you another, and neither would necessarily be right or wrong. Both have a dog in this fight.
So don’t be surprised if the sales staff at your local AD confidently affirms and swears up and down that the warranty cannot be transferred from owner to owner. Rolex doesn’t appear to be holding ADs accountable for this misinformation. This is because it helps to sell NEW watches that are guaranteed to have a full Rolex warranty included.
It’s important to realize that ADs are not employed by Rolex. ADs need to sell enough watches before their NET90 invoice becomes due. If your AD says your warranty is invalid because you’re not the original owner, then try another AD or contact Rolex service for further instruction.
If the warranty IS transferable, then why do so many ADs claim it isn’t?
Good question. Is the warranty language intentionally vague in an effort to assist Authorized Dealers in selling new watches? Is it a way for Rolex to sway customer away from the pre-owned market?
The answer to this question is rooted deeper and goes back to a time when most watch brands were scoffing at online shops like ours… a time when the watch industry wasn’t taking the internet and eCommerce seriously. ADs knew nothing about selling watches online but greed quickly made some want to sidestep the rules of being a dealer and cash in on the ability to transship stale product without getting busted.
Brands like Rolex had to step in to protect their markets, and were known for trying to track down dealers that engaged in online selling. There are stories of brands like Rolex and Omega buying “new” pieces online, just so they could trace the serial back to the original AD and possibly pull the line from their store for breaking the rules. This made some ADs never want to risk participating in selling watches online. ADs don’t want pictures of warranty cards with their store name floating around on forums and eBay. This is why some ADs will refrain from selling a watch to a known flipper.
But there are greedy ADs too! It’s not enough to have a 10+ million dollar store and sell millions of dollars worth of stainless steel watches per year. Some ADs would partner with online watch sellers to supply product in return for fast payouts. Two reasons: if a watch isn’t selling locally, it has a greater chance of selling online to buyers from all over the world. Also, as the Rolex bubble grew, they could get over retail for some pieces – that sure beats having to haggle with a loyal 20 time customer who expects a discount.
As eCommerce got easier and social media connected sellers with buyers, the market expanded and noobs entered the online watch selling arena. Their inexperience changed all the rules. New Rolex watches were being sourced and posted online without a worry in the world. Ignorance is bliss, and sometimes very profitable!
There was a time when sourcing a brand new Rolex from an AD, with the intention of selling it online, carried with it a mutual understanding that the warranty card would not be displayed in photographs (and maybe not included at all), serial numbers would be covered up, and the watch would be sold as pre-owned or at least without the manufacturer’s warranty. But the more “new” Rolex watches were listed online, the more bold the sellers became.
Today it’s nothing to see a Rolex listed as brand new, with five years of warranty remaining, stickers intact, warranty card present, with an inflated price over retail. Rolex now appears to turn the other way and allow their ADs to get away with unloading product online without consequence… at least that’s what it seems, right?
Rolex VS Tudor:
Interestingly… the language used by Tudor (the Rolex experiment lab) about their warranty (they prefer to call it a guarantee) does not leave any room for debate:
“Five-year transferable guarantee with no registration or periodic maintenance checks required.”
Why can’t Rolex just spell it out clearly like that? Think about all the sport models that sold for thousands over retail price to unsuspecting owners who believe their watch can’t be sent in to Rolex for repair under warranty.
Brand new, yo!
Other brands aren’t as tightly controlled, so you may find that there are countless “brand new” models being sold online at a discount. These so-called new watches may be in unworn and in new condition, but often do not include the original papers or warranty card. The reason might be that the seller wants to hide their source (dealer name stamped on the card), or because the warranty is not valid in the first place because it is not being sold and filled out by an Authorized Dealer. The trade off is that you are getting the watch you want at a discount compared to what you’d pay at an AD, but without a manufacturer’s warranty. Edit: the “at a discount” part no longer applies to Rolex watches. It should be rewritten as “without being put on a waitlist”.
KeepTheTime always lists what is included with the watches we sell. Sometimes the box and papers are not included for other reasons. Watches we sell may be in new condition or unworn, but we do not use the term “brand new” unless we are the Authorized Dealer of the brand. We’d sell a lot more watches if we called them brand new, but full-disclosure is more important to us.
We’d like to hear your thoughts, please comment below.