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Restored Vintage Rolexes Are More Common Than You Think

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It’s disheartening, but true. Some high-end watch dealers, specifically Rolex dealers, have utilized laser-welding technology in order to bring their beat-up sports watchesback to factory-fresh condition. This begs the question, how many of today’s “mint,” “unpolished,” and “untouched” watches have been enhanced through laser-welding? Furthermore, why don’t these dealers, who employ laser-welding, disclose this new form of case restoration to their clients?

Notice how thick the bevels are. Rolex NEVER produced a case this sharp.

Notice how thick the bevels are. Rolex NEVER produced a case this sharp.

Most collectors, these days, are discerning when it comes to watch-buying. Bracelets with minimal stretch, clean dials, original bevels, and sSharp lugs are just a handful of the attributes that make watches all the more attractive to serious collectors. Yet isn’t sharpening a watch’s lugs, or widening the bevels, and not telling the buyer an unethical move on the dealer’s part? Certainly. And this is precisely what some dealers have been doing lately. I am highly-opposed to laser-welding and the alteration of watch cases; however, many dealers are not. These dealers then proceed to misrepresent their watches as “mint” or, occasionally, “new old stock.”

So how does laser-welding work?

First, the case is placed in a mold conformed to the watch’s original, factory-specified dimensions. Next , liquid metal is added to the case. Finally, after the metal has cooled and the case has increased in heft, the newly-formed case is removed from the mold and filed down (using a laser) until all beveled edges (a.k.a. chamfers) are razor-sharp.

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