How to buy a pre-owned Rolex without getting ripped off

There is no shortage of demand for a pre-owned Rolex right now. Everyone is looking for bargains. And nobody wants to get ripped off.

If you think that’s a difficult line to walk we hope you’ll finish this article as a confident, competent online luxury watch buyer.

Yes, there are scammers out there.

The currently hot market in pre-owned luxury watches makes it an obvious target for their schemes.

Lots of money is chasing a scarce supply of luxury goods that offer the promise of big growth.

Perfect for shady operators.

But it is safe to shop online for pre-owned Rolexes as long as you take a few simple precautions.

The simple things

You should treat buying a pre-owned watch as you would any other transaction.

You wouldn’t buy a phone, car or computer in the pub or from a website to which you can’t attach a bricks-and-mortar address.

So you shouldn’t buy a Rolex in those circumstances either.

Don’t let the idea that you may discover a hidden gem override your usual practices.

If a deal looks too good to be true then it probably is.

Rolexes are studied minutely. The rarest models are usually accounted for. If someone seems to have a historic rarity they apparently don't know the value of, you should be prepared to investigate the item closely. 

A model like this Daytona is unlikely to be sold outside established channels.

You should know where the items you’re buying are being sent from.

You should be able to check addresses, industry association memberships and the like easily and transparently.

Scammers don’t need to do the things that a genuine business does: good quality websites, proper contact details, a range of products, a range of recognised payment methods… these are all good signs.

The pre-owned luxury watch market is very exciting right now. But a cool head is needed to make good buying decisions.

How to spot fake Rolexes

We’re a collectibles company. Sadly that means we know all about fakes.

Stamps, coins, autographs…

All scarce. And all desirable and valuable because they’re scarce. So they’re prey to forgery.

Rolexes too.

And some of them are very good.

And some “Rolex experts” will get fooled by them.

What makes a Rolex (or any luxury watch) so special is physical. But it’s more than that.

Machines and 3D printers could make the parts that go into a Rolex extremely quickly. It is the time and care that goes into hand-making and hand-assembling parts that adds much of the value to a Rolex.

Common mistakes that the fakers make:


The detailing here should be perfect and that’s hard to do. Look for clear, crisp text and badging.


Rolexes don’t tick. Their perfectly tapered, thin and straight second hands should sweep round the dial.

The quality of hands is also tough for fakers to match.


The little lens that sits over the date is called a cyclops. It magnifies 2.5-times. It’s an easy place to cut corners if you’re churning out duds so check it yourself.


Serial numbers can be faked of course, but Rolex value the integrity of this system. That means they put effort into engraving the serial well. Any serial numbers that look lightly etched are a giveaway.


A real Rolex bracelet will fit snug to the case. Fakes can’t always manage this. The real thing is also branded with the company’s crown logo in the steel.


Checking the weight is a great start when you assess a watch. Real Rolexes are heavy because they’re full of heavy steel parts. The movement will rattle heavily against the case if you’re allowed to shake it.


They’re heavy and they’re high-quality and they last.

Rolexes resist damage. Visible dents and dinks will reduce the value of anything you buy, of course, but it’s unusual for Rolexes to sustain such damage.

These are watches that can go hundreds of metres underwater and into atomic chambers. They don’t mark easily.

Show me your papers

If you go to any reputable Rolex site you’ll see very quickly how important documentation is.

This is your best protection against getting ripped off.

Rolexes are always boxed when new.

That box is itself high quality, usually in leather or wood with padding to keep the watch safe.

It may be tagged with the watch reference number.

Rolexes should also have a warranty card. That will confirm all the important details of the watch: its reference number, its unique serial number, and the date it was bought. The authorised dealer who sold the watch will have stamped the card.

A certificate of authenticity will contain the same information, possibly backed up with a hologram sticker.

Like cars, Rolexes should be regularly serviced, and service history is just as important. This should be signed by a service centre and list the dates of any work done on the watch and any replacement parts.

The original instruction booklet will confirm the reference number, and tell you everything you need to know to run and look after your watch.

Any or all of these documents, plus receipts for the original and any subsequent resales, will add heft to your watch and protect its value.

Without these papers you should seek independent verification that the watch is authentic before buying.


The service history we’ve mentioned above is vital, and it will protect from watches that are no longer the machines they once were.

If Rolexes need repairs they should be repaired with the proper parts by authorised technicians.

Hiding substantial faults and their repairs is a way to add value to a watch that has ceased to hold on to its original identity.

Online or in-person

Much of what we’re asking you to do before you buy a watch is difficult to do online.

You can’t shake a photograph of a watch. Or turn it over to make sure the lighting and angle isn’t hiding a scratch on the case.

This is why you must buy from dealers or sellers that you trust.

There are legal protections, but that depends on the jurisdiction you – and the seller – are in, and your ability to access those protections.

Look for additional guarantees, like our own 28-day no-questions-asked money back guarantee and our own certificated lifetime, money-back authenticity guarantee.

You want how much?

It’s hard to know you’re getting a “fair” price in a dynamic market like the secondary watch market.

The internet does allow you to shop around though.

You should be aware that sellers want to get as much as they can for their watches.

Pay what you believe a watch is worth, but set yourself budgets before you shop if that’s an issue for you.

You may also find flexibility on listed prices. If you think a watch isn’t worth its price tag then drop an email making an offer. It may well be successful.

Where did you get that watch?

We’ve mentioned receipts as a good way to guarantee that your watch is authentic.

They also help protect you from buying stolen goods.

Resale value is why Rolexes – and super-luxe brands like them – are so popular with thieves.

No-one’s tearing these watches to pieces for their parts; it’s as singular, unique items that they have value.

Be aware of this. Some of the biggest auction houses in the world have sold stolen goods. It can happen. Use your common sense and some caution when you shop and ask to see evidence of ownership if you have any doubts.

Buying stolen watches can leave you out of pocket and potentially in your own legal trouble.

You shouldn’t be scared of buying Rolex watches.

Yes, there are scammers out there. But, as in every area of life, the bad actors are the minority.

We firmly believe that armed with a little common sense and some good advice – see above! – everyone can shop safely online and enjoy the thrill of owning a Rolex.

If you’d like to buy or sell your luxury watch then contact us now to discuss your plans.  

Paul Fraser Collectibles has an unrivalled reputation in the collectibles world.

We’re bringing the same qualities to the secondary and collectible watch market.

We'll help you find the watches you want. From the best, most trusted sources. And we'll use our network of industry contacts and collectors to get you the best price when you want to sell. 

Come and try us on +44 (0)1534 639 998 

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