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Old 9 March 2009, 03:33 PM   #1
Vanessa CW21
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What does a service on a Rolex include?

Some common questions I hear a lot: "What does a service include?" "Why does it cost so much?" "How long does it take to service a Rolex?"
I'm sorry if the answer is a bit long, but this is what, why and how long:




This is what I do when I service a RolexÖ.

I open the case and remove the rotor.
I remove the movement from the case. I continue to take off the hands and remove the dial and date disc. The mainspring gets unwound and at this point the movement goes into the cleaner.

I continue with taking the case apart; removing the bezel, and crystal.
I change into a different lab coat, put on gloves and a face mask to start the refinishing of the case and bracelet.
First I buff the case with a hard wheel and a certain compound which makes the case so hot that the wheel starts smoking. I then clean the case in the ultrasonic cleaner and continue with a different polishing wheel thatís softer. I will high-polish the bezel and case back and the bracelet if applicable.
Once the case back is clean in the ultrasonic, I will now high-polish that one as well.
I will change the polishing wheel once more to a soft wheel and again a different compound and give it the finishing super high polish on the parts needed.
While all those finished parts are in the cleaner, I will brush polish the clasp with a hard wheel, followed by a softer brush wheel.
Then I tape off the polished areas on the bracelet to brush-polish the rest of it. When thatís done I change back to the high-polish wheel to polish the side of the bracelet and clasp.
I steam clean all the parts of the case and put them on a dryer. Once the case is dry, I put the final brush polish to the lugs and case back with a special filing technique.


The movement (letís say a 3135) has finished the pre-cleaning process, and can now be checked and disassembled.
The date parts are first, flowed by the automatic mechanism: I first check the end-shake* on all wheels.
I then take out all (3) screws and put them in the small cleaning baskets. I will check the rotor axle and replace it when necessary. I continue with the disassembling of the movement.
I first check the end-shake on the balance wheel. Then I remove the shock-absorbent jewels. The balance wheel is carefully removed and put aside after I unscrewed the 2 screws that hold the bridge in place. I proceed with the pallet fork. Again I check end-shake and remove 2 screws to take off the bridge and remove the pallet fork. At this point I check the freedom of the train with winding the mainspring just a little bit. Then I check all the gearsí end-shakes and remove the 3 screws that hold the train bridge to remove the escape wheel, second wheel, third wheel and great wheel. I then check every wheel meticulously to check for worn pivots, and replace the one that are not perfect anymore with new ones.
When at any moment the end-shake wasnít satisfactory I then move the jewels up or down to correct the error and reassemble the wheel to check again until it's perfect.
I proceed with removing the screws on the ratchet wheel and bridge to remove the barrel with the mainspring. Now I can open the barrel and remove the mainspring which goes straight into my garbage can.
I proceed with taking the rest of the watch apart, including the winding mechanism. I put the balance back onto the main plate to prevent the hairspring from getting tangled up while itís cleaning.
Now the disassembled movement goes into the cleaner again to get its full cleaning. In the mean time Iíll have a coffee, and I will assemble the case with crystal and bezel.

When the movement is clean I put on some finger cots, and start with putting the reversing wheels, pallet fork and escape wheel into a special liquid lubricant.
I apply grease on the inside of the barrel wall and put a new mainspring in it. I close the barrel and check the end-shake of the arbor to make sure itís free.
I continue with taking the reversing wheels, pallet fork and escape wheel out of the special lubricant and dry them with hot air from a hairdryer. Now I can take the balance back of the main plate and start putting the watch back together. Again the watch has 6 different lubricants and every lube has a very specific role into making the watch run as perfect as possible. When a grease or oil gets applied too much or too little, or at the wrong location within the watch, the amplitude and timing of the watch wonít be as it should.
Once the watch is assembled (and Iím not going to explain every single step as this is already getting way to long) I put it on my timer to check the beat, amplitude and time. Everything gets adjusted accordingly if necessary and I time the watch in 6 different positions to be within -1 to +4.

Once thatís achieved I assemble the dial and hands (when the date jumps at 12) and put the movement in the case. At this time I do the final timing at full wind and half wind, and adjust if necessary.
Then I assemble the automatic mechanism and check for freedom of the rotor.

Once thatís all up to standard, I close the case with new gaskets and put it on a dry pressure test. When it passes (or not) I proceed with the wet test, and make sure the watch doesnít leak.
I can then put the bracelet on, set the time equal to my atomic clock and store it in my safe with the crown left, until the next day.
Then I check the time again compared to the atomic clock and note the amount of seconds itís + or -.
Then I put it on my automatic winder for a day, check again and finally I put it dial up in my safe again to check the next day, and the day thereafter to see when the watch stopped to check the power reserve.
At this time, if everything is within standards I call the customer that his/her watch is ready. If not, I have to find the problem, possibly adjust or start over! This all comes with a 2-year warranty on the work performed.

The tools and materials needed to work on Rolex watches and to keep the account in positive standing are about a $30,000 investment. Plus we have to maintain them and pay rent for the work space. I have gone to a 3-year full-time watchmaking school and undergone many hours of specialized training to do this job.

So now, letís seeÖ hmmm I guess the four hundred-something dollars I charge might not be enough if I think about itÖ


*end-shake: the free longitudinal movement of arbors or the like between bearings.
That means I have to evaluate the amount of movement of a wheel between the jewels. Some can be 0.01mm others 0.02 up to 0.06mm. This can only be determined by the experienced, and louped watchmaker's eye!


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Old 9 March 2009, 04:18 PM   #2
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Thank you for this information. This is good to know as my Rolex is now off to RSC in Dallas for 4-5 weeks.
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Old 9 March 2009, 04:26 PM   #3
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nice details, thanks!
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Old 9 March 2009, 07:37 PM   #4
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Vanessa, thanks for sharing.
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Old 9 March 2009, 11:12 PM   #5
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Thanks Vanessa, very timely and to the point. It saddens me to see that people that are ready to pay 4K USD or more for one of the best mechanical watches on the planet which they should know need maintenance. Then they squirm when they have to pay a highly trained professional around USD$500 to service it every 5 years. Even worse people who have achieved a position in life that can afford to purchase any one of these fine mechanical time pieces decides they don't need maintenance till they stop. To those people I say buy a quarts watch, spend USD$100 or less every two years or so to change the batteries and be happy.
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Old 10 March 2009, 12:30 AM   #6
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Great post, amazing how much work goes into just restoring the performance of these machines. Thank you Vanessa!
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Old 10 March 2009, 12:37 AM   #7
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Since I just shipped mine off for service, thanks for this info.
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Old 10 March 2009, 01:08 AM   #8
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Vanessa...so how many hours would it take to have a watch ovehauld??
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Old 10 March 2009, 01:32 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by diablojota View Post
Thank you for this information. This is good to know as my Rolex is now off to RSC in Dallas for 4-5 weeks.
You're welcome, I do have to point out that the service at a RSC works a little different since they have a different person performing every step of the way, while I do it all myself. The watch at a RSC doesn't see a watchmaker until the timing process.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bodybump View Post
Vanessa...so how many hours would it take to have a watch ovehauld??
It really depends on what needs to be done on top of the routine stuff. Meaning if I have to adjust a lot of jewels, change a balance staff, or it just doesn't time out right, it can be anywhere from 5 to 8 hours I guess... And then there are the 5 days of timing on top of that.
I never really do just one watch at a time. I usually service 2 Rolex' of different caliber at once. This can take me about 1 to 2 days + the 5 days.
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Old 10 March 2009, 02:20 AM   #10
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Thanks so much vanessa!!!
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Old 10 March 2009, 02:26 AM   #11
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Ecellent post, Vanessa.
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Old 10 March 2009, 02:46 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vanessa View Post
You're welcome, I do have to point out that the service at a RSC works a little different since they have a different person performing every step of the way, while I do it all myself. The watch at a RSC doesn't see a watchmaker until the timing process.
Really? That's interesting. Thanks for letting me know.
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Old 10 March 2009, 05:52 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Nods View Post
Thanks Vanessa, very timely and to the point. It saddens me to see that people that are ready to pay 4K USD or more for one of the best mechanical watches on the planet which they should know need maintenance. Then they squirm when they have to pay a highly trained professional around USD$500 to service it every 5 years. Even worse people who have achieved a position in life that can afford to purchase any one of these fine mechanical time pieces decides they don't need maintenance till they stop. To those people I say buy a quarts watch, spend USD$100 or less every two years or so to change the batteries and be happy.
I totally agree! First off, the ~$500 service fee once every five years comes out to just $100/year - or about $8 bucks/month. To maintain your Rolex and have it pretty much run forever, I think the $8 bucks per month is worth every penny!

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Old 10 March 2009, 05:53 PM   #14
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Oh, and thanks for the very detailed post Vanessa! It's not too long - I like it. In fact, the more details, the better!

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Old 10 March 2009, 06:02 PM   #15
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Vanessa, if you weren't so far from me, I would definitely send you my watch to service.
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Old 10 March 2009, 07:43 PM   #16
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Thank you for this wonderful insight into the world of watch service. It really is quite a detailed process and I appreciated you taking your time to explain it.
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Old 11 March 2009, 12:16 AM   #17
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Very good post . Thanks for all the details. Now i kind of know whats going on when being serviced.
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Old 11 March 2009, 05:52 AM   #18
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great post
i can see why it took so long to repair my sub
the repair is quick in respect to the testing that has to be done

just a couple of questions if i may please Vanessa

your service gives 2 years warranty but am i right in presuming rolex only give 1 year?

do rolex put the mainspring straight into the trashcan?
is it something that is that cheap to replace its just not worth the risk?

are you certified by rolex to do their serviceing or do they like to do it all themselves ie:- can you do warranty work on their behalf?
(im not in any way saying you are not skilled im just curious)
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Old 11 March 2009, 07:06 AM   #19
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Vanessa,thanks for the great post! wish to see you in person working on a rollie,nvr seen a female tech in my country.(I dun think there's any...)
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Old 11 March 2009, 07:17 AM   #20
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I promise I'll never complain about the cost of a service again.
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Old 11 March 2009, 07:21 AM   #21
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I promise I'll never complain about the cost of a service again.
me too...by the way my local RSC charges $320 for an overhual service for a sub. What about in the states..?
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Old 11 March 2009, 07:27 AM   #22
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Great stuff, Vanessa......hell's bells, with that kind of service, you can charge me whatever the hell you like, Vanessa.
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Old 11 March 2009, 07:53 AM   #23
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When I was sending my watch off for service, the AD was telling me that when you break down the cost of the service over the time of 5 years, which would be the regular service interval, it equates to almost the same amount per year as you pay to get the oil changed in your car. So my watch is 5 years old, and he was just about right when I did the math.
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Old 11 March 2009, 08:22 AM   #24
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Quote:
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great post
i can see why it took so long to repair my sub
the repair is quick in respect to the testing that has to be done

just a couple of questions if i may please Vanessa

your service gives 2 years warranty but am i right in presuming rolex only give 1 year?

do rolex put the mainspring straight into the trashcan?
is it something that is that cheap to replace its just not worth the risk?

are you certified by rolex to do their serviceing or do they like to do it all themselves ie:- can you do warranty work on their behalf?
(im not in any way saying you are not skilled im just curious)
Yes, Rolex gives one year, I give two... just so we can better service the customer. The warranty is hardly ever used anyways if the work is done right. If I send your watch to RSC for service, I will honor their warranty. If you sent it independently or through another dealer, I do not honor their warranty.

Rolex does replace every mainspring as well.
The reason the mainspring is replaced, is because they did research and noticed that mainsprings that we're being reused after a service, are 30% more likely to break within a few years.

I am trained by Rolex and I'm authorised to work on their watches, that's why I can get the genuine parts.
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Old 11 March 2009, 08:33 AM   #25
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Repair expectations

Vanessa,
Thanks for posting this info. I spent $350 a couple of years ago--actually 3--to have my watch cleaned and "made whole" again. It was gaining time and nothing I did helped. When I received it back from the watchmaker--reputedly the most esteemed Rolex guy in town--it was worse. I was snowed under with personal responsibilities (my mom died at the time) and am only just now coming out from under that to try to get my watch working properly. It's a sentimental piece: my parents gave it to me as a 21st birthday gift, just a decade shy of 50 years ago! It's a ladies' Oyster Perpetual, no date. I'm no collector, just a sentimental fan of the brand and everyone in the family has one. Can you offer any advice toward getting it right? It gains 30 minutes every hour!! It's useless!
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Old 11 March 2009, 08:42 AM   #26
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Quote:
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I am trained by Rolex and I'm authorised to work on their watches, that's why I can get the genuine parts.

so in theory if i lived near the place you work i could send my watch to you for warranty work within the warranty period and you would charge rolex direct?
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Old 11 March 2009, 09:53 AM   #27
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Vanessa,
Thanks for posting this info. I spent $350 a couple of years ago--actually 3--to have my watch cleaned and "made whole" again. It was gaining time and nothing I did helped. When I received it back from the watchmaker--reputedly the most esteemed Rolex guy in town--it was worse. I was snowed under with personal responsibilities (my mom died at the time) and am only just now coming out from under that to try to get my watch working properly. It's a sentimental piece: my parents gave it to me as a 21st birthday gift, just a decade shy of 50 years ago! It's a ladies' Oyster Perpetual, no date. I'm no collector, just a sentimental fan of the brand and everyone in the family has one. Can you offer any advice toward getting it right? It gains 30 minutes every hour!! It's useless!
Thats sound to me like its magnetised! Try to go to a local watchmaker and see if they can check for that and demagnetise it if neccesary. Otherwise I would recommend sending it to RSC.

I'm sorry about your mother.
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Old 11 March 2009, 09:56 AM   #28
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so in theory if i lived near the place you work i could send my watch to you for warranty work within the warranty period and you would charge rolex direct?
I cannot charge Rolex at all. I don't work FOR them, only with them. I would only perform warranty work if the watch is purchased through our company. That's a benefit for purchasing with us.
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Old 11 March 2009, 10:10 AM   #29
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Hey Vanessa,

Can you translate all of the above into simple English.....please?

Me no understand a word of what you've said!!
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Old 11 March 2009, 10:54 AM   #30
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Vanessa, Thanx for spending the time to explain to us the procedures for servicing a Rolex watch. I knew it was involved and technical but you have given me insight as to why the cost is what it is!!!
Thanx again for sharing!!!
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