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Old 10-13-2009, 06:50 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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The Rolex repair ripoff and the wuss (me)

Earlier this year I came into possession of a Rolex Submariner very similar to this one courtesy of my uncle's estate. I brought it to the only authorized Rolex dealer and repair center in Madison to have it appraised and "tuned up". This cost me (well, I had the estate pay for it) about $650.

I got it back 3 months later, and within a few days, the date-adjust function failed. I let this slide because I didn't really care about the date, and it was a pain to remember to adjust it anyway after short months. In another 3 months it stopped working altogether. Actually, when I shook it a bit, it would run backward, which was a new experience for me.

I called the jeweler and to my relief I found out that the they warranted their work for a year. When I described the problem to the watchmaker he said, "Your mainspring broke. Ya know, Rolex says we should replace the mainspring during overhauls, but these watches have so few problems that I don't do that. I guess yours is one of the very few that actually needed it." And I asked myself did I just hear what I thought I heard? He just doesn't bother to do the work if he doesn't think it's necessary, even when the manufacturer says it should be done? And when I was paying for it, btw.

When I got home I called Rolex corporate headquarters in NYC and started asking questions. Do you have a list of items to do for a Submariner tuneup? Yes. Are these reccommendations or suggestions, or mandatory? They are mandatory. "There is a regimen of parts to replace and tests to perform to assure your watch is running as well as it was the day it came out of the factory". Since it's a diver's watch all the seals should be replaced and it should then be pressure tested. Etc. The woman ran through a number of items and I begain to understand why a tune-up costs as much as it does. It's pretty comprehensive. And she made absolutely clear that these were not mere suggestions. Certified Rolex repair centers are obliged to do every step for every watch.

But the guy already had my watch back in the shop. Rolex offered to make good, btw, if I'm ultimately dissatisfied with the repair. If I ship my watch and receipt to New York, they will perform the tune-up and fix whatever is broke for no additional charge. I may still take them up on this.

Fast forward to today. Another solid month has passed since I brought in the watch for the second time -- it's been in the shop as much or more as it's been on my wrist, and I wanted to know when it would be ready. "Oh, you can come by and pick it up today!" WTF?? They're supposed to call when it's ready. I have voice mail at work and at home, and there was no call, and how long has it been sitting around with the work done??

And I am just steamed when I go into the store to get it, and I recognize the owner, but he's in the midst of dealing with a very loud and apparently drunk customer who wants to by a watch and wants to haggle over the price, but the owner won't haggle. It's all rather unpleasant, and I don't want to stick around to witness it, so I just pick up my watch and go.

Once I get home I do call the store and talk to the owner by phone and lay out the whole story. And I told him that his watch guy is apparently ripping off every single Rolex customer who gets a major repair, whether they know it or not, because he is not followng the prescribed Rolex protocols. I don't know how long the list is, and I don't know which items he doesn't consider worth doing, and I don't know what wasn't done to my watch that should have been.

But in the end, I don't come up with any demands to make for them to make this good. I mean, the guy did some work at least, the watch works again, and there is a one year warranty on the work -- though I'm certainly not brining it back there again. I do tell the owner that I will not bring in the watch any more, but I also tell him that I don't really know what will make it good. I did give the owner my name and phone number and email and asked him to let me know how he ultimately addresses these issues. He did promised to do that.

At one point I think to myself I should demand a refund, and then I think that since Rolex is willing to make good the work if I provide evidence of payment, it doesn't seem fair to them to send them a receipt for what I paid, if I get the money refunded.

I dunno, maybe I should offer to pay the cost of replacing the mainspring, which is the one piece of work I know WAS done, and demand a refund of the rest.

Or maybe I should give the owner an opportunity to think about what a fair resolution is and make me an offer.

Just another aside, a few months before the first watch repair, I had another encounter with the store and the owner what was entirely positive. My uncle had a large number, maybe 50 pairs, of cuff links, some of which looked like they might be valuable. I brought them into the store and the owner happened to be there and unoccupied, so he sat down with me for about half an hour and went through the whole pile with a jeweler's loupe, and didn't charge me a penny.
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  #2  
Old 10-13-2009, 07:25 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyo Jim View Post
Or maybe I should give the owner an opportunity to think about what a fair resolution is and make me an offer.
I vote for this option. I'd leave it in his hands to see what he does.

One question, though. Did you tell the Rolex the name of your jeweler? Because they may remove his rights as an authorized Rolex dealer so he may pay for this in the end one way or the other.
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Old 10-13-2009, 07:58 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Yes I did, but I also told them I would prefer to work out something satisfactory locally.

They might de-certify the watchmaker, and they might remove the store for the list of Authorized Repair Centers. Not every dealer does repairs, and I would guess they wouldn't go so far as to revoke the right to sell their product.

The store owner seems a very decent guy. He was extremely apologetic, and seemed thankful that I told him about his scamming employee. OTOH, he would probably have the exact same surface response if he was a sleazeball who was in on the ripoff. The watchmaker MAY have been making a lot of money for the store, basically charging for parts that are never bought or installed. But if his work is routinely shoddy, he might spend a lot of time doing make-goods on failed repairs, and costing the company in the long run.

I'm really curious as to what the owner will do. How many Rolex-certified watchmakers are walking the streets looking for work? If he fires the guy he might lose that whole part of the business. OTOH, I can't imagine it's a real big part of the business (I'm talking repairs, not sales).

And actually what CAN he do, besides a refund? He could do a "recall" of repaired Rolexes to try and make sure his former customers actually got the work done. That seems real unlikely -- he would just anger a bunch of well-heeled customers most of whom would be blissfully ignorant up to the moment he tells them that an employee ripped them off.
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Old 10-15-2009, 02:53 PM
Snickers Snickers is offline
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I had a similar repair problem - took my Rolex in for its second tune-up (apparently they recommend one every five years or so. I think I'm somewhat due for another.)

My Rolex is nothing special - it's just a stainless model - but its face does have gold hour markers and gold hands (the face itself is white). It was purchased this way new. When it came back from the tune-up, the gold hands and markers were replaced by silver ones. The sales guy said that it was due to Rolex regulations, but I doubt that. (I'm rather nonconfrontational myself, so didn't call Rolex for confirmation. Probably should have.) I did insist that I wanted it back the way it was, the way it was purchased, but still ended up paying for the gold to be put back on at the jewelry store's cost.

However, by that time I was just happy to have my watch back. In between all that, the sales guy I'd been working with had quit, but had sent my watch somewhere to have the gold put back on but hadn't told me or anyone at the store where it was...It was a nightmare. I'm never getting it tuned up at that store again.
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  #5  
Old 10-15-2009, 05:22 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Maybe their plan is to sell you the watch, and take it back piece by piece every time you bbring it in for service. Did your tune up cost what mine did - a little over $600?
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Old 10-16-2009, 11:30 AM
Snickers Snickers is offline
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Yep, that sounds about right.
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  #7  
Old 10-16-2009, 12:01 PM
hellpaso hellpaso is offline
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It always costs at least 500 to have it checked out. I've had them serviced at a local store in El Paso and here it had to be sent to Dallas to be serviced. I doubt the store in El Paso was an authorized service center--they were an authorized sales store though. They are supposed to replace the crystal and all the seals, as well as pressure test the watch. My watch is over 30 years old and still runs like new (sometimes slow, sometimes fast) Servicing it every 5 years is way more than what it cost new!
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Old 10-16-2009, 08:06 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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The good news is that I've had it back for 2 days now and it's still within a second of a satellite-corrected clock.
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  #9  
Old 10-16-2009, 09:36 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hellpaso View Post
It always costs at least 500 to have it checked out.
IME it doesn't cost anything to have it checked out. But yeah, it will probably cost at least $500 if they do any work. I think it cost between $500 and $600 when I had my Sub overhauled. I haven't had the GMT II done yet, though it's overdue. It's still running fine.
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  #10  
Old 10-16-2009, 09:50 PM
minor7flat5 minor7flat5 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Snickers View Post
When it came back from the tune-up, the gold hands and markers were replaced by silver ones. The sales guy said that it was due to Rolex regulations, but I doubt that.
That's exactly what they do.

The Rolex tech looks up the serial number of your watch and checks out how it left the factory. It is restored to the exact factory state, regardless of what extra fittings might have been added. (and I did see that you said you bought it this way).

I believe Omega does the same. It's a way of maintaining their brand purity, weeding out weird watches with off-market bands and knockoff bezels and such.

They don't want their name on a watch that isn't exactly the way they made it.

It is not uncommon for guys to buy a stainless steel Submariner and put a gold bezel and two-tone band on it, imitating the SS/gold Submariner at a much lower price (see this watchseller page for the various Sub models and resale prices)

When those guys send their watch in, Rolex simply makes it a normal SS Sub again.

Oh yes... I would send it to Rolex for repair if I were you. I do so with my watches, and even though it takes forever and a day to get them back, they are fixed correctly.

Last edited by minor7flat5; 10-16-2009 at 09:51 PM..
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Old 10-16-2009, 10:02 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Here's a question: My GMT II came with the Oysterlock bracelet. The Jubilee bracelet was discontinued for this model, however I managed to find a new, original Rolex Jubilee bracelet with the correct GMT II end links. What would Rolex do if I sent the watch in for overhaul with the correct, OEM, but not to that serial number, Jubilee bracelet?
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  #12  
Old 10-17-2009, 01:48 AM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by minor7flat5 View Post
That's exactly what they do.

The Rolex tech looks up the serial number of your watch and checks out how it left the factory. It is restored to the exact factory state, regardless of what extra fittings might have been added. (and I did see that you said you bought it this way).

I believe Omega does the same. It's a way of maintaining their brand purity, weeding out weird watches with off-market bands and knockoff bezels and such.

They don't want their name on a watch that isn't exactly the way they made it.

It is not uncommon for guys to buy a stainless steel Submariner and put a gold bezel and two-tone band on it, imitating the SS/gold Submariner at a much lower price (see this watchseller page for the various Sub models and resale prices)

When those guys send their watch in, Rolex simply makes it a normal SS Sub again.

Oh yes... I would send it to Rolex for repair if I were you. I do so with my watches, and even though it takes forever and a day to get them back, they are fixed correctly.
I got my Rolex without a band, and when I asked what it would cost for a genuine Rolex replacement band, they told me $4000. No thanks.

If, as part of my $600 overhaul, they would swap back in a Rolex band for my $60 no name band, I would be overjoyed. The local dealer didn't, and I would bet that Rolex Corporate wouldn't either. There's got to be a limit, and what they'd better NOT do is add $4000 to the overhaul fee and put a Rolex band on it.

Last edited by Boyo Jim; 10-17-2009 at 01:49 AM..
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Old 10-17-2009, 09:52 PM
minor7flat5 minor7flat5 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
Here's a question: My GMT II came with the Oysterlock bracelet. The Jubilee bracelet was discontinued for this model, however I managed to find a new, original Rolex Jubilee bracelet with the correct GMT II end links. What would Rolex do if I sent the watch in for overhaul with the correct, OEM, but not to that serial number, Jubilee bracelet?
Only way to know would be to call them and ask.

I imagine that they would remove the non-compliant hardware, put it in a little ziplock baggie, and put on the authorized bracelet, charging you for the replacement bracelet.
Since the old one is still your property, they would send it back in the baggie.

Of course, maybe they have a slightly more lenient policy toward bracelets. I know that they definitely will replace aftermarket dials, bezels, hands, etc. with original equipment.
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Old 10-18-2009, 08:42 AM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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I'm gonna find out what they do, I guess, because I found this morning that the repair failed -- again. Not the mainspring, it still is keeping good time; but the manual date adjustment has failed. I pulled out the stem to spin the date ahead, and it went through about 5 days and then the date wouldn't advance any more. It would roll like half way to the next date, but then slip back instead of ahead.

So now I need to call Rolex back tomorrow and verify all the details of how to return the watch to them. I'm glad the issue of non-Rolex parts came up in this thread, because I'll ask about it in the phone call. I just can't afford to pay for an original band if it will cost me thousands of dollars -- well, technically I could, but I won't.

I;m going to email the local store owner and tell him what I'm going to do as well.
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Old 10-18-2009, 09:16 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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I've just remembered this. I took two vintage Subs to Rolex when I lived in L.A. for an estimate on overhaul. The earlier, pointy-crown, one didn't have a bracelet. In both cases I left the watch and they returned it with a detailed estimate that listed every part that would be replaced. So I'm pretty sure they wouldn't replace a bracelet and surprise you with it. I assume this goes for the Jubilee bracelet I have as well. (I've been wearing the Oysterlock, and I been wanting to swap back. Just haven't gotten to it.) The one without the bracelet didn't have pins, and Rolex gave me new ones at no charge. I wore it with a James Bond nylon NATO strap for a while before finding an original, correct bracelet.

Sometimes I wish I hadn't sold the old one. But I have the late-'70s sub, and the GMT II I bought new. I just didn't need it. Still, it was fun to wear from time to time.
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Old 10-18-2009, 09:35 AM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Is there anyplace online where you can look up a Rolex serial number and find out how old it is?
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Old 10-18-2009, 09:39 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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I found these charts:

http://www.preownedrolex.com/images/...eyourrolex.htm
http://www.messinajewelers.com/watch...erial-numbers/
http://rolex.watchprosite.com/show-n...ost/ti-413151/

I haven't checked to see if they agree.
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Old 10-18-2009, 09:49 AM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Thanks, I have the serial number on the appraisal, which is in a file at my office. I will look it up tomorrow, and let you know if all these charts are in agreement.
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Old 10-19-2009, 04:35 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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I spoke to the shop owner today about the latest malfunction, and he has promised to send the watch directly back to Rolex and cover the repair cost, so I brought it back in. He said it will take 4-6 weeks to get it back.

I went home, and thought a little more, and just sent him this email:

Quote:
Since my watch is now going back to Rolex for service, here is what I've come up with as a satisfactory resolution to the problems I've had with the watchmaker at your shop.

I want Rolex to verify that all the work that should have been done during the overhaul was actually done. If they are unable to verify by inspection that the work was already done, they should do it, and you should cover the cost. In addition, you will warrant the work done on the watch for one year, beginning on the date the watch is returned to me from Rolex. Finally, if the watch malfunctions again during the warranty period, you will return it to Rolex for repair rather than use the same watchmaker who caused these problems in the first place.

Is this an acceptable resolution to you?
Oh yeah, they took the (non-Rolex) band off the watch before packing it up, because they weren't sure what Rolex would do about an off-brand band.

Last edited by Boyo Jim; 10-19-2009 at 04:37 PM..
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Old 01-05-2010, 02:56 PM
calypso835 calypso835 is offline
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Rolex repair

Jim, I too have received a Submariner courtesy of my brother's estate. I found this blog trying to find a place in Madison to get it cleaned and repaired. I would like to avoid going through what you went through. May I ask where you took your Rolex? I found 2 places in the area while googling: one in Middleton and one in Madison? Thanks for your usefull information.
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  #21  
Old 01-05-2010, 03:32 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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I went to Goodmans in Madison. I thought about bring it to the Middleton place, but since I was already in more than $600 to the Madison one, I felt I had to push them into making it work. Which they ultimately did by sending it back to Rolex and not using their own guy who had already screwed it up twice.

The Goodmans website says their repair guy is Rolex certified, and I was also a bit concerned that this same guy might be working at both places. I didn't find out if this is true or not. Goodmans puts his name on their website, but the Middleton one (Chalmers?) doesn't.

You can contact Rolex about sending it directly back to them -- I don't know how that would compare in cost. Goodman's paid whatever Rolex charged them, and I didn't see a bill. Goodman's charged a little over $600 for an "overhaul".

I should say that as problematic as it was Goodman's did actually make good on their screwups, but it took for fucking ever. If something like this happens again, I'm gonna try and get a loaner watch for use while I wait.
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