Cover The serviced Rolex watch is ready to be returned to its owner but not before the watchmaker fully winds the movement via the winding crown

Ever wondered what happens to your watch when it is sent to the Rolex World Service workshop for service and maintenance?

It's a well-known fact that Rolex's success is based on the foresight of its founder Hans Wilsdorf. He believed that every Rolex timepiece ought to be reliable and durable and spent his lifetime perpetuating that guiding principle and pushing the limits of the Oyster case, which protects the movement—even up till today.

But little do people know that Wilfsdorf, as part of his business plan, also established a network of dedicated after-sales service workshops in the countries where Rolex was available in. This initiative further assured consumers that their watches would receive the best servicing standards at any point in time, thus maintaining their high levels of precision, accuracy and reliability. Operated and managed by Rolex World Service, the brand's after sales service department, the workshops are staffed with watchmakers, who have been trained extensively by the brand, in order to ensure service consistency and quality. 

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Each timepiece, after it has been maintained and certified by a Rolex workshop, will enjoy a two-year international service guarantee that covers its components and labour. Also, Rolex ensures that the availability of parts and labour for every watch is guaranteed for at least 35 years even after its withdrawal from the brand's stable of timepieces. Should the watch be purchased more than 35 years ago, servicing of the piece will be handed over to its Restoration Atelier (see below), a special department that handles rare and historic Rolex pieces. 

What happens when a watch is sent to the Rolex World Service workshop? Once the watch has been received, assessed and the customer has approved the service estimate, The watchmaker will then separate the bracelet from the case and remove the movement, still fitted with its dial and hands. From here on, the movement, case and bracelet will take on separate servicing paths.

The movement is completely dismantled with each component undergoing scrutiny to determine if it still meets Rolex's standards. If it doesn't, a new component manufactured in-house by Rolex will be replaced. All the other components are thoroughly cleaned in an ultrasonic bath to remove impurities before being dried. The movement is then assembled with all parts lubricated, and adjusted to achieve the required working precision. Only then, will the watchmaker refit the dial and hands. 

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Depending on its original finish, the bracelet is entirely re-polished or satin-finished
Above Depending on its original finish, the bracelet is entirely re-polished or satin-finished

As for the case, it is also disassembled, with each part individually re-polished or satin-finished by hand to restore its lustre or remove marks and scratches. The seals are replaced before the crystal, bezel and middle case are assembled back. Like the case, the bracelet is polished or satin-finished before being thoroughly cleaned.

When the various components are polished and cleaned, the watchmaker will put the movement back into the case before proceeding to measure its accuracy and adjusting it to meet the chronometric performance levels required. The watch goes through a series of tests, to check factors such as precision, pressure and waterproofness before the bracelet is refitted. For its final control check, the watch's rate and functions are examined, and its aesthetics verified to ensure an impeccable finish. Now, it's ready to be collected by its owner.  

Old but Gold

When rare and historic Rolex watches are sent to the Restoration Atelier in Geneva, they are worked on by master watchmakers, who have undergone rigorous training to restore such horological rarities. The restoration works are a combination of in-depth historical research with traditional methods and state-of-the-art techniques complemented by a set of stringent requirements by Rolex. The restored watch is returned to its owner in a special presentation box, accompanied by a personalised booklet. Here, we see some of the work that takes place in the atelier.

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