Built to plumb the depths of the world’s oceans or reach for the highest peaks of Mount Everest, Rolex watches are some of the most reliable mechanical timepieces in the world—
But they’re not infallible. Whether it’s water creeping in through a faulty gasket or internal components wearing down due to age, there are a number of factors that can cause your Submariner to weaken, fail, or just keep poor time.
Fortunately, Rolex is always working to minimize these issues, re-engineering watch components using the latest in cutting-edge technology to maximize their lifespan and deliver the best possible wristwatch. Their hard work is reflected in the fact that recommended service intervals have been raised to a whopping ten years as of 2015, with a warranty that now lasts five years after purchase.
But if you do have an issue, or if your watch does require a routine servicing, then what can you expect?
The Rolex Servicing Process
When it’s time to send in your watch for a “check-up,” it’s recommended that you only trust experienced service centers with the task. After shipping off your watch, you can expect to wait roughly 4-6 weeks before you get it back. Once you do, you can be assured that each of the following steps was taken during servicing:
- Your watch was completely disassembled and the condition of each part was inspected. If there was any unnecessary damage or wear, that component was replaced.
- The gaskets and case were checked for watertight performance
- The case and bracelet were meticulously cleaned to erase all signs of oil, corrosion or dust
- A new mainspring was installed and the movement’s performance restored to factory standards
- The case and bracelet were carefully polished to erase scratches while maintaining the watch’s original finish as closely as possible
- Your watch was reassembled and put through a battery of tests to ensure accurate timekeeping and waterproof performance
The cost can vary depending on the level of work necessary to restore your watch, but servicing will typically set you back around £350-£800 every 5-10 years, which is a relatively minimal cost to keep a world-class timepiece in pristine working order.
Some Rolex enthusiasts service their watches less frequently if they’re not as worried about accurate timekeeping, but doing so could put your watch at risk of leaking water through a faulty gasket or damaging internal components through excessive wear and tear. If you want to maximize the value of your investment then it’s imperative to service your watch according to the recommended schedule.
Which Rolex Components Typically Require Repair?
If you’re wearing your watch every day then it’s constantly in motion, working to keep the movement running reliably day and night. Like any machine, it has key parts that sustain the brunt of the wear and tear—making them more prone to failure without the right kind of care and service.
One of the key parts of the watch to look out for, the heart of an automatic watch, is the balance staff on which the balance wheel is mounted. With the constant back-and-forth motion of the balance wheel automatically winding the watch, the balance staff can wear down more quickly, making it more likely to slip or break if your watch sustains an appreciable shock.
The mainspring is one component that’s replaced with every Rolex servicing, since it’s one of the few parts in each watch that’s practically guaranteed to wear down over time, and it’s impossible to gauge the age of a mainspring on sight. Mainspring failure is likely to damage other components, so it’s crucial to ensure your mainspring is in solid working order. Rolex’s mainsprings have evolved substantially in recent years, using advanced materials to enable a longer servicing interval with more reliable service.
Other parts that often give out include the oscillating weight axel bushing and the setting lever—each of which sustains a greater amount of pressure and force than most other components inside your watch.
Generally, you won’t need to fret over the individual parts inside your watch—especially if you’re diligent about servicing within the recommended intervals—but it can be good to know what’s happening and what to expect as your watch ages over time.
What About Magnetization?
Another potential threat to your Rolex’s healthy function is the magnetic fields you run into almost every day. They’re projected by everything from speakers to X-rays, microwaves and radio waves—even though we hardly notice them.
But the miniaturized timekeeping machine on your wrist is made almost entirely out of metal; with key metal components like the balance spring (in most cases) that can pick up a magnetic charge and end up running minutes faster than it should each day.
Some Rolex watches are designed with magnetic resistance in mind; particularly the Milgauss (originally designed as a watch for scientists) and the newer versions of the Air King. With special magnetic shielding, these watches offer added protection against magnetization—but the Submariner does not.
If you think your Submariner might have picked up a magnetic charge, there are a few different ways to find out including smartphone apps or just a simple compass. If you confirm that your watch has become magnetized, you’ll need to take it to an authorized dealer or service center to have it de-magnetized and returned to proper working order.
A Little Care Goes A Long Way
For the most part, your Rolex will likely be one of the most worry-free possessions you’ll ever own. They’re built to take knocks and scratches, deep water submersion and serious abuse.
Despite some ongoing wear & tear … despite the need for the occasional servicing, Rolex watches remain some of the most reliable, toughest timepieces ever engineered. Their stellar reputation is hard-earned, and with just a little bit of care your Rolex could last well into the next generation—ready to hand down as a treasured family heirloom.