Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Exploring Rolex World Service: Journey Into a Movement

...Perpetual Excellence...

Exploring Rolex World Service

Journey Into a Rolex Movement

We are just a little bit over two months away from the new 2024 collection release (69 days! But who's counting?). And while we wait for new Rolex models to be announced, and maybe dream about which one to purchase next, let's take a quick look at Rolex after-sale service and what we can do to maintain the watches we have.

One of the things that attracted me to the brand is the idea that my watches can be maintained in "perpetual excellence," a philosophy instilled by founder Hans Wilsdorf. I plan to keep my Rolex as a family heirloom and wanted to make sure my descendants will be able to enjoy the watch, something that is less of a guarantee with newer watch brands whose future is less certain.

Rolex is well known for its network of service centers around the world. But few know that in 2018 the brand also inaugurated the Rolex Training Center in Geneva where watchmakers are trained to Rolex standards and new technologies, a Rolex University of sorts.

The Rolex program – the official Rolex Watchmaking Training – lasts no fewer than 18 months. Once this is complete the watchmaker is able to carry out full servicing on Oyster movements.

During a service each component is carefully examined to determine whether it still meets Rolex requirements – if this is not the case, it is replaced with a new part from the manufacture in Bienne, where Rolex movements are produced. 

Here the watchmaker removes the winding stem to extract the movement from the case.

Rare view inside the new movement 3235.

The watchmaker places the movement's component into a basket for an ultrasonic cleaning.

After movement is reassembled, the time keeping adjustment is made with a micro-stella key.

After remounting the dial, the hands are manually fit in.

A chronometric machine at work. Each watch is tested over a cycle of 24 hours in conditions simulating those of our wrists.

Rolex's Restoration Atelier

The brand said it continues to manufacture parts for at least 35 years following the discontinuation of a reference. At the end of this period, if parts are no longer available, they can be recreated by the Restoration Atelier by master watchmakers in Geneva who are specially trained in collectors’ timepieces. I feel those who work at the Restoration Atelier are kind of the Navy SEALs of Rolex watchmaking.

Restoration requiring high expertise is done at the Atelier. Here a hinge is resoldered on the blade of a clasp.

I asked Rolex for more details about the Restoration Atelier. They kindly responded that a client will be advised at the autorized dealer (or from the Rolex Service Center) if the client's timepiece needs to be referred to a master watchmaker at the Atelier. Usually these are historical and exceptional timepieces whose references have played a part in the brand's history, Rolex told me. Rolex said their master watchmakers can recreate older components using techniques of the period. This is pretty amazing.

Preserving a maximum of the original aesthetics: Here the watchmaker refinishes the chamfering of the train wheel bridge to restore its shine.

Each restoration service is done in keeping with watchmaking traditions and craftsmanship: here the watchmaker checks the chronograph counters of a vintage Daytona.

If you're eager to get a new Rolex but your old one needs a service, give the Rolex Service Center a try. When the watch is returned to you, it will feel like you've received a new watch.