Collectors angered as brands turn watch servicing into profit center


Swiss watchmakers are tightening controls on who can repair and service watches, driving independent service companies out of business and limiting choice for consumers, a discussion with British watch expert James Dowling at Dubai Watch Week revealed.

Mr Dowling, considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on Rolex and co-author of The Best of Time — Rolex Wristwatches, said that the transparency brought to the market by ecommerce sites such as Chrono24 means brands can no longer dictate what people should pay for their watches.

“The market is setting the prices of watches today,” he described.


Watches with too much supply and too little demand are selling at discounts on the secondary market, while those where demand outstrips supply are listed above recommended retail prices.

However, while freedom and transparency is increasing in the sale of watches, it is being eroded in the after sales market, according to Mr Dowling.

“The thing that irritates me most right now is the way brands are tying service into a profit centre. Brands are pulling parts accounts from independent service centers and that is irritating customers that want choice,” he stated.

A major secondary market watch platform executive, speaking to WatchPro on the sidelines of Dubai Watch Week, said that small family businesses have been driven to the wall when parts accounts are pulled by major manufacturers.

This is a human tragedy for the business owners and is also driving up the price of servicing a watch. “Where we used to pay $250 to have a watch serviced at an independent authorized service centre, now it is $850,” WatchPro was told. “It is also taking far longer to get watches serviced directly with the brands, so the customer is losing out on time and money,” he added.

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  1. Thank you for this article publicizing the issue of restricted parts availability for independent service centers.

    As an independent watchmaker, I have experienced this policy first-hand, and it is devastating to us and our customers. Rolex is the primary culprit in this trend, since they are systematically eliminating parts accounts for long-time independent service centers. I know from first-hand experience that despite Rolex’s annual worldwide production of more than three quarters of a million watches, the US Rolex service centers are only capable of servicing approximately 25,000 watches. This is an issue that needs further investigation and publicity, and is very similar to the right-to-repair issue raised in the independent automotive repair industry.

    Please continue to pursue this subject, since it is a prime example of some Swiss brands’ misguided and destructive customer service policies.


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