The Servicing of my Rolex GMT Master II By The Watch Buyers Group

The Servicing of my Rolex GMT Master II By The Watch Buyers Group

Apr 04

As good as our Rolex watches are, eventually they will require routine maintenance and servicing.  Not only will the interior mechanical components which comprise the movement require period cleaning, oiling, and adjustment, but the exterior metal surfaces will pick up scratches and “dings” which detract from the appearance of the watch.

When it comes to Rolex watch servicing, I’m often asked two basic questions – how often to do it, and who should perform the service?  In terms of how often, it depends on several factors, but my general guideline is this:  If the watch isn’t performing erratically from a time keeping perspective, then there’s no need to service a Rolex watch movement sooner than 5 years, and you shouldn’t go longer than 10 years between service intervals.  For myself, I’ve found that with most of my watches, after about 5 years or so, I’m ready to have the case and bracelet buffed out to remove the scratches they’ve picked up.  Keep in mind I own several watches, and normally the most any watch I wear gets worn is once a week.  Now, in terms of where to have the service work done, I rarely recommend sending a watch directly to Rolex for several reasons – Rolex tends to cost more than other options, take longer than other options, and in the case of Rolex USA, they don’t return your original parts.  That last point can be key to many Rolex owners who might one day want to sell their watch.  The value of a Rolex (particularly one that is rare and collectible) tends to be higher if all the original parts are included in the sale.  Unfortunately, Rolex USA has a strict policy of confiscating any part they replace.

After having owned my M Serial Rolex GMT Master II 16710-3186 for 6 years, I was ready to have the watch serviced.  Despite the fact that my watch is (arguably) one of the rarest modern Rolex watches made, I don’t baby the watch.  It gets worn regularly regardless of whatever activity in which I might be engaged.  Here are some “before” photos of the watch I took before I sent it off for “spa treatment:”





I decided to also check the accuracy of the movement of my 16710-3186 on my watch timer:


Even though I’ve had it for 6 years, it’s still running great at +1 per day.

I did call Rolex USA and got a quote of $500.00 to service my watch, with a six week turn around time.  However, I ended up selecting  The Watch Buyers Group in Los Angeles, CA to service my watch.  After researching them, here are the factors which lead to my decision, in no particular order:

1.  Turn around time.  Rolex quoted me six weeks.  The Watch Buyers Group (TWBG) said it would take less than two weeks, and they were true to their quote.

2.  They use Rolex replacement parts.  TWBG has a Rolex Parts Account which means they can order Rolex watch components directly from Rolex.  If you’re going to have someone other than Rolex service your watch, make certain they have a Rolex Parts Account and guarantee they only use authentic Rolex parts on your watch.  Not every watch service company has a Rolex Parts Account, and I’ve heard horror stories about some companies using non-Rolex made replacement parts on Rolex watches.

3.  They don’t keep the parts they replace.  I knew I wanted to get  a new aluminum bezel insert on my watch, but I wasn’t keen on loosing the original one.  TWBG sent the bezel insert they replaced along with my watch when they sent it back.  Huge, huge benefit!

4.  Price.  There are several different factors which contribute to the bottom line total of the watch service bill.  Here’s the final invoice I was presented with:


As you can see, their price for doing basic service of the watch was just over $100.00 less expensive than the $500.00 quoted to me by Rolex USA.  Another not insignificant factor to consider is that TWBG pays for shipping (insured)both ways when you send them a watch.  Rolex normally doesn’t pay for you to ship them the watch, which will run at least $50.00 or so via US Mail, including insurance.

Also included with the service from TWBG at no additional cost is a very nice appraisal of the value of your watch which you can use for insurance purposes.  Most authorized dealers who can do an insurance appraisal will charge you at least $50.00 to do so.


Note that the appraisal confirms that this watch has a 3186 movement – which makes it extremely rare.

Of course, all these advantages for using The Watch Buyers Group really don’t mean much if they can’t do service work that’s comparable to Rolex.  When my watch was sent back to me, I was shocked when I open the shipping box and examined the watch.  Despite the considerable scratches that were on both the bracelet and case, my watch now literally looked as good as the first day I bought it:




I also double checked the accuracy of the movement on my watch timer.  Keep in mind the movement had been completely disassembled, cleaned, lubricated, and reassembled, then re-adjusted for accuracy.  TWBG had adjusted the accuracy of my watch as well as when it was sent to them:


I could not have been happier with my service experience with The Watch Buyers Group and highly recommend you consider them for your own Rolex watch service needs.  My 16710-3186 GMT Master II is back to looking and running like a brand new watch:


Please note that the Author and this site are in no way affiliated with or related to The Rolex Watch Company Limited. All trademarked names, brands, models and designs mentioned herein are the sole property of The Rolex Watch Company Limited, or their respective copyright/trademark holder.

*All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.

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  1. HBK75

    Hi John,

    Looks like that they have done a very good job servicing the GMT2. It looks like a brand new piece from the store.

    Is this 16710 the same one on this review you have written previously?


  2. HBK75

    Hi John,

    I am thinking of getting my D series 16710 service by RSC. Wondering whether can they touch up the side of my case which was uneven after touching up with cape cod cloth. It does shows abit of uneven when going against the lighting on certain angles.

  3. I was reading through some of your posts on this website and I conceive this internet site is very instructive! Keep on posting.

    • John B. Holbrook, II

      Check out some of the service companies that advertise here on LuxuryTyme!

      • Paul Landreville

        John, are you still happy with The Watch Buyers Group for Rolex repair? I believe the main spring in my Rolex GMT Master II is broken. It only runs for 3 – 5 seconds now. Manual winding does nothing. It’s approximately 3 years old. I’m very disappointed in this.

        Thoughts or comments.

        • John B. Holbrook, II

          Yes – they do very good work.

        • Dimi

          If your watch is 3 years old it is still under original manufacturer warranty. I suggest you let Rolex change that spring for free.

  4. Thomas O'Brien

    Can the links in a Rolex bracelet be “tightened up”?

  5. Don

    Great info. They did a superb job!

  6. Don Dolman

    I just had my Stainless Steel Rolex Oyster watch serviced that I had purchased in 8/1973. Got it back it looks better than the day I purchased it! Looks awesome, runs great and can’t tell you how happy I am I had “The Watch Buyers Group” service the watch. The watch has significant sentimental value to me, I am extremely pleased! Thank you!

  7. John Devaney

    Excellent read on your watch service. Really well written. But then I should not have been surprised once I saw your name. That review you did on the omega seamaster 2531.80.00 was the best ever. How are you getting on with it. I also bought one. Your review taught me so much about it. I still love this watch. Many thanks regards John.

    • John B. Holbrook, II

      Thanks for the kind words – I no longer have a 2531.80.00 in my collection – sorry. 🙂

  8. John H. (Geneva)

    Hi John,

    Excellent article and photos; they did a brilliant job!

    I was lucky to find that rare “transition” GMT Master II model in the summer of 2007 – there were just two left in stock at the time in Geneva (at two different jewelers) and they were disappearing very quickly! Probably because many people did not like the new “modern” models. To me, it looked like Rolex could not be bothered completely redesigning the bracelet and widening slightly to match the new chunkier and wider case. The original models looked more elegant in my opinion.

    Last year, I took my GMT Master II in for a service at Rolex’s world HQ in Geneva. There is a friendly and very knowledgeable watchmaker at the reception that will check out your Rolex and answer most questions. He tested the watch and confirmed it needed a service (as its oscillation amplitude was well out of spec). He also confirmed that it was a relatively rare transition model with the 3186 caliber. However, he would not reveal the reasons for the subtle changes in the dial (sans-serif font). He mentioned that it is this rare face/dial above all that makes that model collectible as the movement is not that ‘critical’ (or visible) since Rolex may supply 3186 components to service the older GMT Master II.

    With the service, I asked for no case or bracelet polish and asked them to replace the original black bezel with the blue/red one. They told me that they would not return the old one to me (and that 3rd party service centers were under the same obligation). I do not understand the motives for their strict policy. One thing I noticed after the service was that the bezel would only rotate in one direction (like a diver’s watch). Rolex must have changed or added a ratchet mechanism. (I did use the watch frequently in the sea, so a part might have got worn due to sand abrasion).

    Overall I was very happy with the service but I will definitely look into a reputable 3rd party service center too the next time.

  9. debbie

    Wished I read this before going to jewelers to have service my Rolex.. they must have sent it to Rolex $644 dollars later..

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