The most important tool a Rolex valuer will ever own is their eyes. Like any tool, unless you have the experience and knowledge to interpret the data your eyes are reporting, you’re flying blind. Taking a pre-owned Rolex at face value can be a recipe for disaster. To wit: a ladies’ gold Rolex recently crossed my desk for an insurance valuation . . .
She purchased the gold Rolex second-hand several years ago. A “hobbyist” valued it as an 18 carat yellow gold model. Given that you can see a “yellow” watch above, you could understand how the conclusion was reached.
But what if I told you that this pre-owned Rolex isn’t yellow gold at all, but actually rose gold? Yes, this is, in fact, an 18 carat rose gold Rolex Datejust. Before anyone shouts photoshop, I assure you, you see this watch precisely as I did. So how do I know this watch is actually rose gold when it clearly looks yellow, and how did it change colour?
I’d love to say that I knew because of some mystic gift, but it’s nothing more than due diligence, being well versed in dealing with Rolex and having access to a Rolex approved workshop.
The reference number for this watch is 179175, which is the reference for rose gold. If it were a yellow gold watch, the reference would be 179178. The bracelet and shoulder codes were also those for rose and not yellow gold. And since everything on the watch other than the colour was as it should be, it wasn’t a fake Rolex with the wrong numbers engraved.
I did have a theory as to the change in colour. To confirm it, I needed to get inside the watch. And as soon as the caseback was removed and a pink case interior greeted me, my theory was confirmed. Environmental factors caused the colour change.
One key fact I haven’t mentioned: the age of the watch. This model is an early 2000’s piece; rose gold used predates Rolex’s very impressive Everose by several years and would therefore be a typical mix of 18 karat gold and copper.
Over a prolonged period, exposure to specific environments, particularly ones high in chlorine will cause copper to lose its colouration. The resulting reduction in the strength of the copper colouration causes the natural yellow of the gold to become more prominent, which therefore gives the watch a “yellow” gold look.
Thankfully, in most cases, this is just a cosmetic issue and refurbishment of the case and bracelet will often return the watch to is original “rose” colour. This sort of discolouration is predominantly seen in older watches, as Rolex has so far been able to eliminate it, thanks to their Everose gold.
So, if this is only seen in older watches, if it can be rectified with little issue, where is the problem? The problems relate to knowing what you are selling, buying and ultimately insuring.
From a retail perspective, a rose gold watch will often cost more than the yellow gold version. So if you’re selling, the chances are you’re underselling it and losing out. If you’re buying, like my client, you purchased it because you wanted a yellow not a rose gold watch.
Critically, especially in the UK market, this could affect your insurance cover if you had to make a claim. Would you still be covered? In essence, you would be claiming for a yellow gold watch that you never really owned.
It can be appealing to choose a less expensive option. But like any luxury product, Rolex should be examined by someone experienced to do so. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at buying, getting your watch serviced or valued. Cutting a few corners to save a little might seem like a good idea. But it’s often a false economy and can have unforeseen financial consequences further down the line.
Obviously, I say this as a professional valuer. So if you want to take my advice with a grain of salt, there’s an important lesson to learn: never take anything at face value. Especially a pre-owned Rolex.