Mike from Switzerland asked us if we could advise him on where he should have his vintage, 1981, Rolex ‘Rootbeer’ GMT Master 16753 serviced. At Rolex or one of their official service centers, or would a local watchmaker be a better idea?
Subject: You asked us
I would like to contribute a question to ‘You asked us.’ I recently purchased a 1981 Rolex GMT ‘Root Beer’ reference 16753.
The watch tells time but needs service as the crown is not secure. My question is regarding the hands and dial. I don’t believe they need to be replaced and I’m afraid if I send the watch to Rolex for service, that is exactly what they’ll do. What are your thoughts on this watch, should I go for full factory service and update the hands and dial along with a good overhaul, or find a local watchmaker who can take a delicate approach?
I’m happy to send pictures if this question is selected. Thank you for your consideration. Love the website.
Best regards, Mike
We understand the concern. Nowadays, while some vintage watches became extremely valuable, originality is often more praised than the technical condition of a watch.
How would it be possible to decide what to do in this situation, what are the important points to consider? A few questions are key to answer first.
There might be even additional questions to answer. For instance on the costs for a general overhaul, at both Rolex and at a local watchmaker, and the duration. But let’s first try to get answers to the above.
Important for the decision where and how to service the watch is the purpose of it. From the pictures, Mike sent us it’s clear that the watch can’t be used like it is at the moment. As well, Mike told us that the watch is in need of service anyhow, it can’t be used in its current condition.
Well.. the parts might be original but seeing the condition that isn’t of much importance anymore. It’s clear that the overall condition of at least the dial and hands is terrible. There’s corrosion on all hands, and varnish is blistering off the dial. In my opinion, the hands and dial have passed their point of no return.
And seeing the condition of the hands and dial, I’m really afraid for the condition of the movement. Especially because Mark told us that the crown doesn’t screw in anymore, I’m afraid that moisture has entered the watch and probably harmed the movement as well.
It’s clear that a Rolex GMT-Master with original dial and hands has a higher value than one equipped with (even original) service parts. I’m afraid however that that doesn’t count for this watch anymore. The condition of the dial and hands is such that in my opinion, it will get a higher value with original service Rolex exchange parts.
So much is clear that this watch is in need of several parts to get it back in acceptable condition. It’s known that Rolex doesn’t supply original service parts easily, and certainly not to any local watchmaker. I’m afraid that a local watchmaker would have problems to acquire all original exchange parts needed to repair the watch. And I don’t mean only new hands and dial, however, I expect that movement parts will be needed to service the watch as well. Plus of course a new crown and tube, which reportedly does not wind in anymore.
So our conclusion, I discussed this with the other Fratello Watches members as well, is that it would be wise to have this watch serviced by Rolex. Even while Mark indicates ‘I don’t believe that the hands and dial have to be replaced’ we think they should. In our opinion, they look pretty much perished.
This prevents questions about prices and duration as well. I’m sure it won’t be cheap and it will take months before Rolex will have the watch repaired.
Take it to Rolex, while they still have original service parts for this model available. It’s like taking good care of a car. Parts which are worn out have to be replaced. The condition of the dial and the hands are not on par with how a Rolex should look.
Gerard has been in the watch industry for over two decades now. He owned a watch shop in The Hague, The Netherlands, and besides that he has journalistic and photographic activities in the field of watches. Collecting watches since he... read more