Where do Rolex go to cool off

Rolex owners rarely think about repairing watches. We imagine the tune-ups, if needed, happening somewhere that looks like a combination of the tree where the Keebler elves bake cookies and the ammo lab where Q bakes new gadgets for 007. Over the years, I had heard the whispers of a “looking at the spa” the watchmaking equivalent of knowing the burger off the menu at Raoul’s. But that was the stuff of myth, like El Dorado.

Then, on a recent gray day, I found myself driving in Lancaster County, PA, where rolling farmland seems to be ripped off Andrew Wyeth. As I turned to Lititz, which bills itself as “America’s coolest little town,” an anonymous 40,000 square foot installation appeared.

It had the vibe of a Silicon Valley tech campus, except it was made up of two postmodern stone barns and a grain silo, all three joined by the great architect Michael Graves, the late ‘New York City’. Five ”. The only clue that there might be a royal ransom watch inside was my GPS reading: “Rolex Watch USA”.

I had arrived in part of Switzerland in the Susquehanna River Valley, the legendary watch hospital where Rolexes from all over the country come to be rehabilitated and prepared for the next generation. Every day, dozens of them are worked, stretched, pushed and tweaked, with more care than at a training camp at Canyon Ranch (although here the average stay is less than three weeks), because some of them watches need a timeout.

“We once received a watch after a woman was so angry with her husband that she dropped her Rolex in the trash,” one of the establishment officials told me during a rare tour exclusively dedicated to CGV. When the watch arrived here, the incoming order form read, “Customer says she slipped off her wrist and fell under the car while backing up. “

The crown jewel of Rolex service centers can be found in Lititz, PA.

Courtesy of Rolex

Only genuine, unmodified Rolexes can enter one of the elite service centers, which can be found all over the country, but that place is Valhalla. Ten years after the start of a Rolex’s life, it may begin to show that it needs a refresh, losing a second or two every day. Sometimes customers wait for their watch to literally stop; others send theirs in for more regular maintenance, like people changing the oil in their cars.

The last time I had sent my Rolex in for repair was in the 1990s, and as I walked around the technicians, people were asking to see my Submariner from the late 60s and then reacting like I was doing it. gave them a delay. ’80s Chet Baker on my wrist. Everyone was too polite to say about this faded icon, “Damn, you should really watch this.” Everyone would say, “Do you still wear this in the ocean?” “

There are around 125 people revitalizing the watches here; specialist technicians, who generally spend three months here in a training program followed by nine months working closely with a supervisor; and watchmakers, who receive around two years of training, many of which is time at the head office. Rolex in Switzerland. (In 2001, Rolex opened a Technicum at the Lititz site to train the next generation of watchmakers.)

But no matter who does it, the job requires both great dexterity and a special temperament. The OCD side of my personality was jealous of a professional life in which each day was spent intensely focused on a canvas that is no larger than a postage stamp.

Some of the most detailed and delicate work takes place at stations where the movement is dismantled and refurbished. In short, movement is truly the lifeblood of a watch. The rotors, levers, and jewelry are so small that the technicians here use 25X magnifying loupes and work with tweezers. When a watch comes into service, the main spring (the heart of a watch) is always replaced. If any of the gears have dull teeth, they are replaced as well. Once the key parts are replaced, the movement is cleaned, lubricated and reassembled. A watchmaker in the quality control station will examine and test the movement, like a professor with a red pencil; he can dismiss him if he does not pass the rally.

Every once in a while a celebrity watch goes by Lititz, and a manager told me that management sometimes tries to match the part to the technician who will appreciate it the most, so a golfer can work on the watch. ‘Arnold Palmer, an alpine skier on Lindsey Vonn’s, or a Billy Joel fan on the singer’s two-tone Rolex Datejust. I couldn’t help but imagine a watchmaker humming “Uptown Girl”.

watch hospital for rolex
Don’t try this at home – it’s best to leave the waterproofing of your Rolex to the experts at the brand’s service centers across the country.

Courtesy of Rolex

The operating room of this sanatorium is the case service. This is where the crowns, bracelets and cases are refurbished, in a sort of magnified bodywork, immaculate enough for you to eat sushi on the counter. On the day of my visit, a particularly stoned Yacht Master was undergoing plastic surgery. To remedy the years of misadventures at sea, a technician in a green coat and safety glasses worked the case against a felt-covered wheel covered with cutting paste. As the case rolled from side to side, the notches gradually grinded away.

Once the scars have disappeared, it is on another wheel covered with sheets of microfibers which restore the dial to its original shine. And on a third wheel for a final polish. But not all customers want its dial to be restored. When a climber’s Explorer came in for repair, a manager realized that the watch belonged to a well-known climber who had climbed Mount Everest. So he called the climber to ask if he wanted to leave the box as it was – after all, that had been a witness to history.

“I also like the scars on my case,” I shouted over the din of the sanders. Again, my request is met with a look that says, “You really need to take better care of this thing.”

Once the finish is complete, the watch heads for a sort of decompression chamber equipped with high-tech gadgets that test its operation under water and under pressure.

The day I was there, a Sea Dweller, a watch waterproof to a depth of 4,000 feet, was placed in the chime inside a machine that looks like Tony’s rice cooker. Stark. Once erased, the watch undergoes another round of quality control, then it is reunited with its strap and packaged for return to its owner.

As I get back in the car to drive home, I feel a little guilty that I brought my watch to see all of the different treatments available, but I didn’t let it be pampered. How many other relationships in my life have gone without a hitch for over 20 years? The look I get from this inanimate object is reminiscent of the look I get from our 11 year old daughter whenever one of her friends receives a puppy.

“Soon,” I find myself whispering to no one in particular as I turn on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. “I promise.”

This story appears in the Summer 2021 issue of City Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW

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Floyd N. Morlan