Caring for your Rolex | Should You Have Your Watch Polished?
Determining the current state of your watch helps you make an educated decision. Let's get started!
The quickest ways to determine if a Rolex watch has never been polished is by studying the lugs and case back.
Definition of Watch Lugs : Also known as the horns, lugs are projections on the watch case that secure the strap or bracelet to the watch case with bracelet end caps and spring bars.
- Start at the transition in finish from the top lug (satin) to the side case with the pin hole (high polish). Do you see a rounded satin finish pushing into the side case? Is the lug SHARP or dull If the lug is not as photographed below, it could be a polished case. The main focus here is ensuring the lugs are thick and have a SHARP esthetic to the transition from satin on the top of the lug to high polish on the side of the lug. Study the photo closely as this is a sincerely unpolished watch showing the original Rolex finish.
Definition of Watch Caseback : The back of a watch (opposite of the dial or face), is called the “caseback”. (Fun Fact : A Rolex has never been produced with a sapphire caseback.)
- View the outer edge of the caseback. Use the same key words used with the lugs. Is the transition from brushed or satin finish (top of caseback) a crisp SHARP transition to high polish finish on the outer ring. The main component here is that the brush finish on the flat surface of the caseback does not dip into the high polish (even under a 10x loupe). The precision of the Rolex brush finish will not allow for this error.
- Also take not of the condition of the teeth of the caseback (ridges of the caseback that allow the caseback remover to grip the case evenly). If you see caseback teeth with knocks, dents or damage, you can assume someone attempted to open the caseback incorrectly. It's worrisome when you consider if that untrained person eventually got into the case and created further damage within the case/dial. Study the photograph below.
- Note the perfect edge to the bottom of the lugs.
Unpolished Rolex Stainless Steel & Yellow Gold Blue Submariner 16613 (Photo Below)
The quickest ways to determine if a Rolex watch has been polished is by studying the pin holes and caseback.
Definition of Pin holes : The hole in the lugs of the watch head that allow for the pins to hold the bracelet or strap via end cap. (Not all Rolex watches have pin holes, Rolex manufacturing and distribution of non lug-holes cases started late 1994 for all Oyster models. At the end of 2002, Rolex removed pin holes on all professional sport models.)
- If the watch has holes in the side of the case you can take a closer look at those to understand if a polish took place. Notice the holes on the side case have a sloppy edge where a jeweler executed a new high polish. The hole itself will show a "waterfall" dull finish to the edge of the pin hole. The pins themselves may be poking out of the case which would mean the polish removed a significant amount of metal causing an incorrect fit.
- Sometimes you can notice a WAVY or DULL appearance to the high polished areas of the watch. Under a 10x loupe you can sometimes see where deeper scratches or dents still remain even after the jeweler tried to remove them from the high polish areas. Since the high polish tends to take less metal off then the brush refinish, you have a better chance of catching one of the deeper marks.
Polished Side Case / Pin Holes on Rolex 14060 No-Date Submariner (Photo Below)
Definition of Watch Caseback : The back of a watch (opposite of the dial or face), is called the “caseback”.
- View the outer edge of the caseback. Do you see the haphazard brush finish dipping into the high polish of the outer ring of the caseback? This should be obvious, if you're not sure if you see it go back to the 16613 caseback photo and compare the two closely. Under closer inspection you may see a slight WAVY or DULL quality of the high polish portion of the caseback.
- Study the under side of the lug where "750" hallmark is located. There is a slight about of highpolish dipping into the brush finish of the underside of the lug. If you're spending $27,000 on a Rolex Daytona in yellow gold, would you be open to spending $28,500 and having an unpolished watch? Consider this when navigating the grey market. Many dealers do not disclose this information.
My Rolex is polished/unpolished. Now what?
If you have an unpolished watch do not have it polished. I
- When purchasing a Rolex watch on the pre-owned market, remember that the cheapest price is most likely the worst condition watch. If you spend more money to have a nicer example, not only will your watch set the future market since it's of the highest condition but you'll also experience much less wear therefore retain higher value.
- Understand scratches and surface wear is normal for used watches, however the amount of use should be something you are aware of instead of thinking you're saving money when you're just receiving a lesser condition watch.
If you have a polished watch you should feel better about having it refinished, however, who you choose to refinish your watch makes all the difference.
- Purchasing the cheapest & lowest quality will leave with an even more used watch that dealers will not see as desirable. If you purchase the cheapest available watch you also have a list of issues & problems you must be privy to before buying. One of two issues can be several thousand dollars if not more in potential loss.
- Not all polishing is bad, there are highly trained jewelers who respect the original finishes done by Rolex. They can bring a watch back to it's former glory by doing a precise job in refinishing a watch. High polish tends to hide that it has been polished must more than the brush finish. There are times when a newer model can be refinished in the correct way and retain a very high condition rating. The newer models take a better polish due to being more robust and having solid end links / links.
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