If you need further proof of just how coveted vintage luxury watches (like Rolex) are to collectors and enthusiasts, look no further than the recent record-breaking $13 million sale for a mere fifty vintage pre-owned Rolex watches. Christie’s Auction House hosted and brokered the deal, dubbed Rolex Daytona Lesson One, and the huge sums involved effectively underscores the outsized demand for vintage luxury timepieces in the collector’s market.
It also casts light on why fraud on the vintage luxury market is on the rise, and continues to be a problem. Counterfeiters and unscrupulous dealers will sometimes advertise a vintage Rolex as “100% authentic” but in fact the watch may have had parts like the bezel or dial replaced. Those parts may or may not be actual Rolex replacements, but in the end it doesn’t matter. These doctored watches, called “Frankenwatches” by watch industry insiders, are considered inauthentic and become greatly devalued in the eyes of exacting and discerning collectors.
One such recent, highly publicized case of fraud by way of the Frankenwatch involved pop star Jon Mayer. Mayer, an avid vintage watch enthusiast, was sold several vintage Rolex watches by his L.A based dealer that turned out to be Frankenwatches. How did Mayer find out he had been defrauded? He went to straight to the source, Rolex, who examined the watches and deemed them altered. After being unable to reach a resolution with his formerly trusted dealer, Mayer is now involved in legal litigation to recoup his over $600,000 investment.
It’s not exactly clear what about the watches made Mayer suspicious, as it’s exceedingly difficult to tell if a vintage watch is indeed a factory original. However, Rolex, meticulous in everything they do, keeps very detailed records that collectors can refer back to to vet their timepieces to ensure that what they have is indeed the real deal. It stands as just one more example of how Rolex is obsessively protective over its brand, and will go to great lengths to expose fakes and get them out of circulation.
Moral of the story? If Rolex needs a part replaced, contact Rolex immediately for a replacement. Pass on the temptation of a too good to be true deal or you could end up with a Frankenwatch yourself.
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