If you are buying a Rolex or any type of other luxury timepiece from an independent watch dealer that you haven’t worked with before, your first question is probably going to be, “but how do I know it’s real?”
It’s a great question but perhaps not exactly the right one. I know that purchasing an item such as this online can be daunting if you are new to Rolex; and if that’s the case, even if you were able to come to the store and hold the watch in your hand — let’s be honest — you probably still wouldn’t know what to look for to determine if it is authentic or not. People buy aftermarket Rolex all the time in brick and mortar stores, even after holding inspecting it for themselves.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts and just like any other discipline, it takes time to learn the ins and outs of Rolex. There is a rule of thumb at Watch Chest: just stick to learning what a real Rolex is and don’t worry about memorizing all the different ways an aftermarket one can be made. This philosophy is adhered to because there is just too many different ways to make a counterfeit Rolex, where the black market is always evolving and sometimes even getting better.
Point is, the way you’ve asked this question probably isn’t ideal. You’re asking, more or less, “how can I trust you?” and not just about the authenticity of the Rolex you’re scoping out. If you are asking this question, and especially if you keep asking, it’s because you don’t trust the dealer you’re working with yet.
I wrote an article earlier this year with a few tips to help you choose an online independent watch dealer, but I would like to dive into the specific topic of trust when it comes to authenticity a little deeper.
Trust is the most important thing if you want to buy a Rolex or other luxury watch online successfully. Otherwise, you can look at the photos until your eyes hurt, talk to a sales representative until you are blue in the face, and analyze every word of the watch’s description and return policy but you may still have a looming feeling of uncertainty. That feeling is never going to go away until you trust the seller is who they say they are and are selling what they say they are selling.
If you can’t seem to ever get over that hump, or you continuously keep asking, “but how do I know it’s real?” over and over because no matter how the dealer answered you the first twenty times, then buying a pre-owned watch online probably isn’t for you. I’m being serious; I recommend buying from the local jeweler dubbed with the authorized dealer credit so that way you don’t feel the need to continuously question your purchase. You will definitely pay for the extra peace of mind considering it is brand new and the addition of sales tax, but you will at least be able to sleep at night knowing that your Rolex is absolutely authentic.
For those who don’t mind to put in a little time, you will reap the significant benefits of purchasing your pre-owned luxury timepiece from an online independent dealer. When I was in the offices at Watch Chest, it was always pretty clear to me when the client wasn’t feeling it when it came to trust. It was usually their first time buying a Rolex and probably their first time buying a large ticket item online. In those cases, I would go through a few things with them: who Watch Chest is and how long we had been in business, the rigorous process in which a watch is checked out and authenticated when it comes in to the office, the 100% money back guarantee, and finally all of the reviews and feedback posted about the company all over the internet. I would always encourage them to check out the reviews for themselves and remind them that they are welcome to take the watch to their local Rolex authorized dealer for inspection.
That’s pretty much all I could do for them. There comes a point that you realize the person just won’t ever be comfortable with whoever they are buying from. To be fair, it is a high ticket item, with an unfortunately very famous black market.
You should always be cautious. But it’s really not as hard as you think if you just keep a few things in mind as you shop. There are red flags that will instantly let you know to move on but if you want your buying experience to be successful, you still have to be open to trusting someone.
So, at this point you’ve ruled out going to an authorized dealer, either to save money or they don’t have what you want. Many people recommend to buy a pre-owned Rolex from a private collector that connect through forums and the like, but if you are a first time buyer I don’t necessarily recommend this. Buying from a reputable independent dealer allows you a few perks on your first Rolex purchase, like a multi-year warranty or money back guarantee, that will help cushion your first transaction and make it a more comfortable experience.
Back to the red flags I mentioned above, pay attention to these things when shopping around online and it will help aim you in the right direction of finding an online watch dealer to trust.
1. Price is too good to be true. Honestly, this is the first thing that will help you weed out a seller or company. If the price is a ridiculous amount lower than what other companies are selling a similar model for, just move on. Don’t even entertain the idea that you are the luckiest person on the planet and have found a steal for $1,800 when the rest are $3,650. The pictures even look real! No. You know better. It’s a scam and save yourself the headache.
2. They consistently have bad reviews and feedback — or none at all — about the company. If you’ve started to narrow down between a few companies to buy from, read what others have said about their experience. If there are unbiased reviews out there, feedback on eBay, etc… take it at face value at this point. Even if you read a few so-so comments, take into consideration the context and how it weighs out with what others have said. Move forward with (or rule out) a company in this step but you don’t have to feel like you are making your final decision right now on who to give your business to. However, if you read anything too out there or can’t find anything at all, I would just consider that a red flag and move on.
3. Look for the word custom in the description. Assuming you have little experience with Rolex, looking at the supplied photographs (aside from examining condition) isn’t going to help you much with determining authenticity. Of course there are sets of photos that completely give it away, where even to the untrained eye you can tell that something is off about how this Rolex looks and you instantly know it’s aftermarket. But this isn’t the case all the time, so you will want to turn to the description in search of any more red flags. Looking for the word custom as an adjective is key. In this industry, custom = aftermarket or fake. If you are shopping through items from a reputable seller, they will more than likely disclose when something is custom. The Rolex they are selling may be advertised as factory and authentic but they may also advertise a “custom Jubilee bracelet.” This is letting you know that the bracelet is aftermarket and not authentic Rolex. The same goes for the bezel, dial… anything. They are stating this plainly to you on the page but it will be your job to notice it and buy the item at your discretion.
4. They don’t have a return policy. As you narrow down your search I recommend going with a company that has a return policy. A 100% money back guarantee is best and it can help instill a little more trust. You may say, “it says there is a money back guarantee, but that doesn’t mean they honor it.” And that’s true. However, that’s where all the other factors come in. Do they have a thousand positive reviews on different sites? Can you pay with a credit card or PayPal, which will offer you protection in the event of a scam? Does the site appear maintained and the prices fair? At this point, look at the whole picture.
5. You can’t talk to anyone / they are rude or high pressure. In this particular situation, I would finally want to talk to someone, even if it was through email. How do they respond? Do they at all? You may even want to call them and talk about what you’ve read about them and ask them to explain their return and warranty policy to you. Ask them how they ship such an expensive item and what you should expect throughout the transaction. The most reputable independent dealers will take the time to kindly answer your questions and then some. They will be available for calls or get back to you as quickly as they can. They will want to sell you the right watch because it’s the right watch for you; your lifestyle and budget, not just anything.
As I said before, if purchasing a pre-owned Rolex or other luxury watch online is for you, you have to be open to trusting a company. There eventually comes a point that they can’t keep telling you “it is real.” I have outlined a few quick 5 red flags that will absolutely help guide you. If they meet your standards on paper and you get a decent vibe with communication (or even just a great vibe without talking to anyone at all) it is then up to you.
I’ve read a lot of stories on the Rolex Forums of people posting a photo of a Rolex they purchased in a private transaction — like at a local pawn shop or a Regular Joe on eBay — asking if it’s real because of one red flag or another that was waved during the purchase. Time and time again, it’s not authentic and those that respond to their post always ask why the person went through with the transaction if they were already concerned it wasn’t good to begin with. The point I’m trying to make is that you also have gut feelings.
I know you are savvy and smart — you are taking advantage of the pre-owned Rolex market, after all — so just take the time to quickly analyze the situation and if you don’t experience the confidence you need with the first company you are looking into, please do not worry. There are amazing independent dealers out there that can help you efficiently get — I’m talking money and time — the exact timepiece you are dreaming about. And treat you with top notch customer service before, during, and after you’ve made your purchase.
Don’t forget that you can always take your Rolex to your local authorized dealer for inspection (another reason a 100% money back guarantee is beneficial). I recommend having the Rolex-trained watchmaker take a look at it and not just any sales rep working the counter. In my previous post I go into much more detail about this, but you can’t expect all of the employees to know every single era of every model of Rolex. So don’t immediately worry if they think something is off or aftermarket, when in truth it probably is completely authentic but they just aren’t used to seeing anything but the new models offered in the showcase. It happens more than you think.
I would love to know what qualities that instill trust in companies for you as you shop around online. What are your red flags? What are some of the best experiences you have had purchasing a luxury item online? As we move more into a world of online shopping, trust is key. Do your due diligence and be smart but be open, too!