Saturday, February 4, 2023

As Demand Soars for Luxury Watches, Rolex Makes Time for Certified Pre-Owned

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Luxury Swiss watchmaker Rolex has launched its own certified pre-owned watch program.

Already one of the most popular watch brands on the secondhand market, Rolex will begin selling its own authenticated pre-owned timepieces for the first time in a partnership with luxury retailer Bucherer.

Authenticated secondhand Rolex watches will initially be available at six Bucherer locations across Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France, Denmark, and the U.K. — just in time for the holiday season. Next year, it will expand to other retailers, likely including locations in the U.S.

Rolex sustainable
Courtesy Bob’s Watches

Pre-owned Rolex watches sold into the program must have been purchased from authenticated dealers and must also be more than three years old to qualify for resale — a move aimed at keeping new models from being flipped. Demand for Rolex watches in recent years has seen months-long shortages on new watch models.

The shortages come even as Rolex is the largest producer of luxury timepieces, producing about one million watches per year, with annual sales of more than $8.5 billion.

Rolex hasn’t revealed information yet about its pre-owned pricing structure, or even how many pre-owned watches it anticipates moving in a year, but it could see some authenticated older pieces fetching higher prices than new watches.

“Questions abound. For instance, if you walk into a Rolex retailer next spring to see about getting a Submariner, which will cost more: a brand new example with a five-year warranty, or a certified pre-owned example with a two-year warranty?” asks Hodinkee. “Furthermore, it is yet to be seen specifically how the Rolex certification process will deal with factors like patina and originality (not authenticity) of components like the hands, dial, and bezel. The CPO process does not appear to include servicing or any mentioned consideration for service parts changed over the life of the watch.”

Pre-owned watches

Rolex’s announcement comes as the pre-owned luxury watch market is booming; platforms like WatchBox, now valued at more than $1 billion, and the Richemont-owned Watchfinder, have seen rapid growth and expansion in recent years — despite the risks that come with purchasing pre-owned watches, especially when not purchased through an authorized dealer or the brand.

Competing luxury watch brands, including Vacheron Constantin and Zenith, sell certified pre-owned watches through their own locations, and independent brands such as H. Moser & Cie, and MB&F, also sell pre-owned.

pre-owned rolex watch
Courtesy Rolex

Consumers are also shifting their positions on pre-owned pieces from watches and jewelry to clothing. According to Fashionphile’s 2022 Ultra Luxury Resale Report, Rolex watches are driving the secondhand jewelry segment as resale shoppers seek out “tried and true” luxury brands.

Rolex says its pre-owned watches will come with a certificate of authenticity and a two-year warranty.

The company says that “[Rolex] wishes to accompany the second life of its watches already circulating on the market, with a view to preserving, maintaining and guaranteeing what already exists.” Also, “All watches benefit from the quality criteria inherent to all Rolex products and from the full know-how and professionalism of the brand’s worldwide network of experts.”

New Rolex watches may be more widely available in the coming years as well. Last month, Rolex announced plans to invest $1 billion in a new watchmaking production site located in western Switzerland.

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