Sending Your Rolex For Factory Service: Instructions & Testimonial

Sending Your Rolex For Factory Service: Instructions & Testimonial

Nov 06

Sending Your Rolex For Factory Service:
Instructions & Testimonial

By: John B. Holbrook, II
September 22nd, 2005

As good as Rolex watches are, occasionally they will need to go back to Rolex for service. In the case of my F Series 16600 Sea-Dweller, it simply needed a timing regulation performed – it ran 8-10 seconds fast for the entire year I’ve owned it. And over that 1 yr. period, my Sea-Dweller has picked up more than a few scratches in the bracelet – I’ve always heard that Rolex makes every watch sent to them “look like new” so I was looking forward to seeing if they’d polish my watch if I sent it in for warranty regulation work on the movement. So I decided I would send in my Rolex for factory warranty work, and document the process for posterity.

My first step was to call Rolex USA in New York, NY. The NYC Rolex Service Center is the closet to where I am in Ohio, so I chose that one. I looked up the phone number on and I asked for after sales support. I explained that my watch was running outside of chronometer specifications (no more than +6 seconds per day), and that I wished to send the watch in for warranty service. Regardless if you are having warranty work done, or want to have your out of warranty watch serviced by Rolex, I recommend you call first before sending them your watch. The representative agreed I should send the watch, and here are the specific instructions I was given and told to strictly follow:

1. Prepare a letter explaining the problem or the service desired – include the return shipping address and contact information.
2. Photocopy the warranty paperwork included with the watch (important to show the date of purchase and name on the warranty if you intend to get any service work covered free of charge under the warranty).
3. Carefully pack the watch in an ordinary cardboard box.
4. Mail the watch via Registered Mail to:

665 5th Ave.
New York, NY 10022

5. I was told to give a declared value of my watch as $4700.00.
6. The shipping box must be sealed via tamper-proof brown paper tape.

She said most service work is turned around in between six and eight weeks time.

Wow. I hung up the phone and thought, “this is going to be a pain in the butt, and I’m going to be without my watch for 2 months!.” Actually, the shipping part wasn’t that bad at all – it just seemed scary because I had never tried it before. Here’s a copy of the letter I sent to Rolex USA and put in the box with my watch:

Please find enclosed in this package one F series 16600 Sea-Dweller, and photo copy of my warranty, packaged and included as instructed by after sales service at Rolex USA in NYC. I would kindly request that a timing regulation be performed on the watch – it typically runs 10 fast per day or more. I would like to see the watch continue to run fast, but a much tighter tolerance. Closer to +2 would be fantastic, or more accurate if possible. Additionally, I would ask that the bracelet be polished to remove some scratches which have appeared over the last year. When the warranty work is complete, please return the watch to me at the following address:

I included my address, e-mail address, and mobile phone number, and put the letter in the box, along with a photo copy of my warranty.

I went down to the post office on my lunch hour, and explained that I wished to send my watch via registered mail, and that it needed to be sealed via something called “brown paper tape.” I was pleasantly surprised that the friendly Postal Worker I dealt with actually sealed the box for me. As it turns out, it’s part of the Registered Mail process – they use the tape to seal every seam on the box. They then stamp “Registered mail” all along the edges of the tape – the idea is that no one could possible open the box, remove the contents, and reseal it. I also learned that a Registered Mail package of this type is not sent with the same flow of mail as other types of post. It’s under special lock and key right up to arriving to the point of destination. Here’s a picture I snapped with my camera phone of the box as he was stamping it – you can see the brown paper tape, and if you look closely you can see the red stamps all over the box at the edges of the tape:

I selected an option which would have a card mailed to me with the signature of the person who signed for my watch at Rolex USA once it was delivered. I felt much better having been given a good education in the Registered Mail process – it seemed very secure. Of course, I was bracing myself for the total price of all this extra service, which turned out to be not so bad – $19.40.

So now the hard part begins- waiting for my beloved Sea-Dweller to return to me. I wear this watch for a few hours nearly every day. I’m hoping it will be all polished up, scratches removed, and running with exceptional accuracy when it gets returned sometime around the first or second week of November (thinking optimistically 6 weeks). So be sure and come back then to read Part II of this article, once I’ve received the watch back, and I share my thoughts on the quality of the work which was performed on my watch, and my thoughts on the process.

October 3, 2005

Scarcely more than a week has gone by (10 days to be exact) and a small brown package has shown up at my office from Rolex. Obviously this happened a great deal quicker than the 4-6 weeks I was quoted, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve never heard of Rolex servicing a watch so quickly. Here’s what was in the box I received from Rolex USA in New York:

The Invoice:

The package had been sent back Registered Mail, just like I sent it out. The invoice indicates that Rolex performed the regulation, and bracelet touch up – both were done free of charge, and I wasn’t even invoiced for the return shipping. So far so good – The Rolex warranty has exceeded my expectations. Technically, the bracelet touch up could have been charged because I scratch it up during a skateboarding accident with my son (don’t ask…).

The Packaging

Here’s what was inside the brown paper tapped box I received:

My Sea-Dweller was very well and safely protected inside the cardboard Rolex Service box. I giggled at the “Important Reminder” – explicit instructions on how to unwind the crown, wind the watch, and securely screw it back down. C’mon folks…if you own a Rolex and really need these instructions, please proceed directly to your nearest authorized dealer to turn in your Rolex….and your driver’s license while your at it. The box wasn’t anything special, but at least they included an additional old style polishing cloth, which I was really quite happy about. Now I have a polishing cloth for my work desk drawer!

How was the quality of work Rolex USA performed?

Again, I had heard that Rolex can make a watch that comes in for service look brand new again. I can now testify to the truth of this statement. While I really wish I had taken some “before” photos of the watch bracelet, with the deep, driveway gravel scratches it picked up the day I took a nasty spill skateboarding with my son, unfortunately I didn’t. But as you can see by these after photos, there’s not even a hint of damage left on the bracelet.

This is the side of the bracelet which had scratches….on the link nearest to the clasp. Here’s a photo of the clasp, which of course traditionally picks up more scratches than any other part of the watch:

The watch literally looked as good as the day I got it. So I really couldn’t be more pleased with the touch up work they did on my Sea-Dweller’s Oyster bracelet.

How is the accuracy of the watch after Rolex performed regulation?

In my letter to Rolex, I had requested they bring the watch down from +10 to no more than +2 seconds per day. In reality, it’s not always quite so cut and dry with a mechanical watch. Based on my first 24 hours of observation, the watch appears to be now loosing time – about -2 seconds per day. Honestly? I prefer a watch to run a little fast vs. running slow. In practical terms however, -2 is well within COSC standards and a great improvement over +10 per day. I plan on keeping close tabs on the accuracy over the next days and weeks. As long as the watch as running with a stable rate, and within COSC parameters, Rolex has done their job. Still I’d have been happier if they could have done as I requested, but I perhaps I have asked too much.

November 5th Update

After a week, I decided to call Rolex USA back and let them know the watch was running slow. More than anything, I was curious as to what they’d say. Keep in mind when you call Rolex USA in NY, you’re dealing with the New York culture and mentality, so be prepared for the stereotypical NY “attitude.” I was connected to a Service Center Manager, and she was displeased that the watch was now running slow. She offered to pay for the shipping costs, if I’d send it back and let them have a look at it again. This time they did MUCH more extensive testing, adjustment, testing, fine tuning, and testing…about three weeks worth. FedEx just knocked at my door about 30 minutes ago and dropped off the watch, along with a reimbursement check. I set the time to the atomic clock, and I’ll be observing the accuracy of the next couple of days.

November 6th Update

OK, I’ve observed the timing over the last 24 hours, and my Sea-Dweller is now running at about +2 per day! That’s about perfect as far as I’m concerned – exactly the level of performance I requested in my original note. According to the Service Manager, the Rolex technician finally discovered a slight misalignment of the mainspring, which he attributed to the problems we were seeing in the timing rate. The problem was corrected, and after a couple of other regulation adjustments, she seems to be optimally regulated at this point.

Overall, I feel overwhelmingly positive about the Rolex service experience – it was exceptionally fast, they did a fantastic job on the bracelet, and greatly improved the accuracy of my Sea-Dweller. It’s great to have this legendary time piece back on my wrist! If I require Rolex service again, I might consider using the Beverly Hills or Dallas service centers next time to avoid a personal pet peeve of the stereotypical New York resident attitude, but overall a very good service experience.

You can discuss this article in the Rolex Forum of my online luxury watch discussion forum community WATCH TALK FORUMS.

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  1. ROD LEE

    John: Thanks for the article.
    If your Rolex is gaining or losing only a few seconds a day, try placing it in different positions at night. You may be able to find a position that compensates for the gain or loss during the day. (My dad was a Rolex watchmaker and gave me that tip)

    • jbhii

      Hi Rod – yep, what you describe is a well-known technique. I happen to sleep with my watch on, and when I’m not wearing them, my watches stay in a watch winder, so this particular technique doesn’t help me. 🙂

  2. Dag Findsen Norway 2415

    Hello , I have a Rolex Oyster model 1925-26, with gold case(8 corners), the first water proof. Where can I find a firm who can restor- brush up the clock. It runs well, but the crown(winder adjuster, is not to be screwed in, it is worn. A new glass is also needed. Thanks, Dag Findsen

    • John B. Holbrook, II

      Check out the advertisers here that specialize in service!

  3. Diane KA

    Thank you very much for this informative post! Your detailed experience plus my call to the Rolex NYC service center has given me enough assurances to send my $10k+ watch via USPS registered mail today. I really hope 10 years later, Rolex NYC’s service continues to be impeccable. Fingers crossed that my experience is a good one! I’ll try and give you an update when I can.

  4. Scott Holbrooks

    Great write up. My Mid-1990s Explorer II needs a tune up. I bought it new and only wear it a couple times a year, but it needs a tune up.


  1. Time between service - [...] done. If you want to send it to Rolex, this article will give you some helpful information: Sending…

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