Resolute that every Rolex watch be designed and built to last, Hans Wilsdorf instilled a philosophy of perpetual excellence on which the brand has established its reputation. From the very beginning, the manufacture’s founder initiated Rolex World Service, a network of dedicated after-sales service workshops in countries where the brand was present to render servicing to preserve the impeccable technical performance and finish of any Rolex.
The visionary entrepreneur had such foresight that after-sales service procedures are planned in advance during product development for maximum efficiency, so that new watches can be serviced with optimal results. The availability of parts and labour is assured for every model for at least 35 years even if it is discontinued. In the event that components are no longer available, they will be recreated by the manufacture’s Restoration Atelier. This means there is no limit to how long a Rolex watch can keep working, ensuring that it will be passed down to future generations in pristine condition.
With the mission of providing top-quality service to customers, every workshop operated by Rolex World Service must meet the manufacture’s rigorous standards with respect to the quality of its infrastructure and equipment. Another testament to the company’s unceasing dedication to excellence is the Rolex Training Centre in Geneva that was launched in 2018. Among its programmes is an 18-month course, Rolex Watchmaking Training, which ensures participants are able to carry out full servicing on Oyster movements upon completion.
All watchmakers working in the brand’s after-sales service centres are trained in-house and attend regular courses to maintain their level of expertise, as well as keep abreast of changes to the manufacture’s latest products, technologies and techniques. This ensures consistent quality and servicing procedures are performed in adherence to Rolex’s exacting standards at all its centres globally. Rolex World Service workshops offer various servicing operations. A full service can involve the complete overhaul of the watch movement, case and bracelet, while specific operations such as adjusting the bracelet length or refinishing the case are also available.
The service process
Servicing a Rolex watch comprises several steps, which require specific tools and instruments that are tested and sometimes developed in-house. Once a watch has been received, assessed and its service estimate approved by the owner, the watchmaker begins by separating the bracelet from the case and removing the movement, still fitted with its dial and hands. The movement, case and bracelet will follow separate servicing routes from here.
The dial and hands are then detached from the completely dismantled movement. Each component is examined thoroughly to determine if it still meets Rolex’s requirements, failing which, it will be replaced with a new part from the manufacture in Bienne. After impurities are removed from the components in an ultrasonic bath, the clean and dried movement is reassembled and lubricated. The watchmaker proceeds to refit the dial and hands after making the first adjustments to the precision of the movement.
Next, the case is disassembled and its parts – in Oystersteel, 18k gold or 950 platinum – are each repolished or satin-finished by hand to restore sheen and lustre, while marks or scratches are removed. Seals are also replaced before the crystal, bezel and middle case are reassembled.
The bracelet is treated similarly to the case, with each link restored to its original finish.
The watchmaker puts the movement back into the case and measures its accuracy again, making any adjustments necessary for it to achieve the expected chronometric performance. A precision test lasting a minimum of 24 hours follows before the case is pressure-tested in water. Once the waterproofness test is passed and the bracelet is refitted, the watch is ready for a final inspection where its rate and functions are checked, and its aesthetics verified to ensure an impeccable finish. Every watch benefits from a two-year international service guarantee, which covers parts and labour after maintenance in a Rolex World Service workshop.
The Restoration Atelier
Exceptional historic watches are restored exclusively at Rolex’s Genevan Restoration Atelier by master watchmakers, who are specially trained in collectors’ timepieces. The specific nature of the work requires a combination of in-depth historical research with traditional methods and state-of-the-art techniques to be employed on the extraordinary timepieces. Components that no longer meet Rolex’s quality criteria will be restored or recreated using techniques of the period. The owner receives the restored timepiece in a special presentation box accompanied by a personalised booklet.
(All images: Rolex)
This story first appeared in the May 2021 issue of Prestige Singapore.