The biggest name in luxury watches is jumping into the secondhand game.
Rolex is starting a certified pre-owned program, which will enable its official retailers to sell secondhand models it has certified as authentic.
All the watches sold in the program must be at least 3 years old, in a seeming attempt to discourage “flippers.”
The certified pre-owned watches will be sold with a guarantee card, which confirms that the watch is genuine. The watches carry an “international guarantee” for two years after their date of resale.
The Rolex Certified Pre-Owned program will launch this month at Bucherer boutiques in six countries—Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France, Denmark, and the United Kingdom. Other official Rolex retailers can join the program in the spring of 2023.
“This is earth-shattering,” says Paul Altieri, founder and CEO of Bob’s Watches, an online secondhand retailer. “It’s like we wake up in the morning and read the U.S. has bought Canada. Rolex controls 50% or more of the secondhand market. So for them to dive in, it’s a big splash.”
He adds that a lot of the details remain to be seen.
“Steve Jobs said execution is everything. It’s taken us 12 years to develop our program. I have a million questions and no answers. Who does the pricing? Who does the authentications? Will they offer cash? Will there be trades? Will the watches be sent out? We will just have to see how it works out.”
He believes “some authorized dealers may decide they don’t have the personnel or expertise to do it,” and that the program will ultimately help him and other secondhand dealers.
“It’s validating the pre-owned category. Will there be some players that are affected? Probably. But it gives further credibility to the market,” Altieri says.
He notes that the Rolex-certified pre-owned watches will not likely be sold online, so e-tailers like him will still have a certain advantage.
Rolex’s statement announcing the program closed with a clear shot at other secondhand dealers, as well as gray-market sellers, stating that “Rolex watches—new or secondhand—should only be bought from Official Rolex Retailers, who are authorized to sell and care for Rolex watches.”
Rolex is not the first watch brand to join the secondhand watch bandwagon, even if it is surely most prominent. In 2018, watch giant Richemont purchased secondhand online trading site Watchfinder, which is launching an online platform for other brands.
The news comes amid reports in the Swiss press that Rolex is constructing a new production facility in Bulle, Switzerland, to meet what has been a chronic supply shortage. The one-billion franc facility should open in 2029, the reports said.
Last month, a Rolex filing confirmed that it had appointed Nicolas Brünschwig its new chairman.
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