Rolex to certify used watches as genuine for the first time

Rolex SA will begin issuing certificates of authenticity to authorized dealers selling its pre-owned watches in a move that will give the Swiss company more oversight of its products and shake up the $20 billion market for secondhand luxury timepieces.

Swiss dealer Bucherer will be the first to begin selling pre-owned Rolex watches that are certified as authentic by the company at stores across Europe, Rolex said on its website.

Other authorized Rolex dealers can begin participating in the program in the spring of 2023. Rolex said it will only certify watches that are at least three-years old in an effort to dissuade so-called flippers who sell new watches at prices above retail.

The move to authenticate its own pre-owned watches marks a significant shift for Rolex, whose timepieces dominate secondhand sales at dealers and online. The luxury pre-owned watch market is expected to grow to $35 billion by 2030, according to Deloitte.

Rolex previously had no role in authenticating or tracking its products once they had been sold to its dealer network. The program will also help to guard against fakes.

Non-authorized dealers who sell second-hand watches in person and online as well as auction houses won’t be able to take part.

Other Swiss watchmakers have already been certifying secondhand watches. Rolex watches account for the largest share of pre-owned watches sold.

Smaller rival brands including Vacheron Constantin and Zenith sell certified pre-owned watches at their own boutiques, as do independent brands such as H. Moser & Cie and MB&F. Richemont, which owns Vacheron as well as a stable of brands including Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC and A. Lange & Sohne, bought online reseller Watchfinder in 2018.

In some cases, the program will likely see authorized dealers selling certified pre-owned watches at higher prices than new ones offered at retail. Models including the Rolex Submariner, Daytona and GMT typically sell at a premium to retail prices as retail demand outstrips supply.

Rolex is the biggest Swiss watch brand producing about 1 million watches a year with annual sales of about 8 billion Swiss francs ($8.5 billion) and a market share close to 29%, according to Morgan Stanley estimates. – BLOOMBERG