Thursday, July 25, 2013

ASK A JEWELLER --- rolex?

This weeks instalment of Ask A Jeweller focuses on high end watches and their maintenance as answered by our Master Goldsmith Dino Giannetti.

I am considering purchasing my first Rolex watch but I have heard from some people with these and other high-end watches that their upkeep can be quite expensive - as much as $500 for a servicing. I'd hate to think that after spending this much on a new Rolex, I will have to keep pouring more money into it. Is it common for these types of watches to require expensive servicing?

- Monique R.

It is important to note that all watches - from the low end to the high end, from mechanical to perpetual motion to battery operated - are machines with moving parts that overtime are guaranteed to fail. The difference between a high end watch and a low end watch in this circumstance is that one is more likely to simply replace one and repair the other.

 (This Bulova watch, from 1945 continues to run - it's original mechanism intact. This is only possible because the watch was regularly cleaned by a professional watchmaker.)

A high end mechanical watch, such as a Rolex, will continue to function forever if there is a degree of maintenance and care invested into it. Overtime dust will infiltrate the mechanism and the grease that oils the gears will dry causing the watch to seize up and stop running. To prevent this, it is recommended that mechanical watches are serviced on a semi-regular basis - every 5 years or so if no problems arise. This servicing will include a complete cleaning or overhaul - in which the watch is disassembled piece by piece, cleaned, and the watch reassembled. It is an incredibly labour intensive procedure, especially considering the intricacy associated with mechanical mechanisms. 

(This photo shows the inner workings of a mechanical watch - this complicated movement would require the skill and expertise of a professional watchmaker, with significant knowledge of high-end mechanical watches. Since most watches sold are now electronic, finding a watchmaker skilled in these types of watches has become increasingly difficult.)

It should therefore come as no surprise that accounting for both the time and expertise required to perform a professional cleaning, such a service could cost anywhere between $300 - $400 and up. The consequences of not maintaining such a watch include the risk of corrosion accumulating within the mechanism, leading to a much more costly repair once the watch fails entirely. 

The best way to think about this Monique, is to compare the purchase of a Rolex to the purchase of a new car - a car will fall apart in no time without regular tune ups, be it a Ford or a Ferrari. The only difference is that a high end watch like a Rolex is made to last a lifetime if it is well taken care of - they become family heirlooms passed down from generation to generation.

Have a question? Email them to us at service(at) with the subject line Ask a Jeweller. We will answer your questions here, every Thursday.

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