When a yellow gold Rolex, isn’t yellow gold and why you shouldn’t take something at face value.

Ladies 18ct Rolex

It is often said that the most important tool a valuer will ever own is their eyes. But like any tool, unless you have the experience and knowledge to interpret the data your instruments are reporting correctly, then you are flying blind. And taking something at face value, especially for a valuer can be a recipe for disaster.

Let’s take this ladies ‘yellow’ gold Rolex as an example. It was purchased second hand several years ago as an 18 carat yellow gold model; it has also been valued by a hobbyist ‘valuer’ as 18 carat yellow gold. And given that you can see a ‘yellow’ watch in front of you, you could understand how the conclusion was reached. But what if I told you that this watch isn’t yellow gold at all, but actually rose gold? Yes, this is an 18 carat rose gold Datejust. And before anyone shouts photoshop, I assure you, you see this watch precisely as I did when it arrived on my desk.

How do I know this watch rose gold when it looks yellow, and how did it change colour? Well, I’d love to say that I know because of some mystic gift, but it is nothing more than due diligence, being well versed in dealing with Rolex and having access to a Rolex approved workshop. You see the reference number for this watch is 179175, which is the reference for rose gold, if it were a yellow gold watch, the reference would be 179178.

The bracelet and shoulder codes were also those for rose and not yellow gold. And since everything on the watch other than the colour was as it should be, it wasn’t a fake with just the wrong numbers. I did have a theory about the colouring, but I needed to get inside the watch to confirm it.

And as soon as the case back was removed and a pink case interior greeted me, my theory was confirmed. The cause of the colour change was down to the environment that the watch had been exposed too. One key fact I haven’t mentioned is the age of the watch. This model is an early 2000’s piece, so the rose gold used predates Rolex’s very impressive Everose by several years and would be a typical mix of 18ct gold and copper. And over a prolonged period, exposure to specific environments, particularly ones high in chlorine will cause copper to lose its colouration. The resulting reduction in the copper colouration’s strength causes the natural yellow of the gold to become more prominent, which gives the watch a ‘yellow’ gold look. Thankfully, in most cases, this is just a cosmetic issue and refurbishment of the case and bracelet will often return the watch to is original ‘rose’ colour. This sort of discolouration is predominantly seen in older watches, as Rolex has so far been able to eliminate it, thanks to their Everose gold.

So, if this is only seen in older watches and if it can be rectified with little issue, where is the problem?  The problems relate to knowing what you are selling, buying and ultimately insuring. From a retail perspective, a rose gold watch will often cost more than the yellow gold version. So if you’re selling, then chances are you’re underselling it and loosing out. If you’re buying, like my client, you purchased it because you wanted a yellow and not a rose gold watch.
But critically, how would this affect your insurance cover if you had to make a claim? Would you even still be covered? In essence, you would be claiming for a yellow gold watch that you never really owned. These are interesting questions.

It can be appealing to choose a less expensive option, but Rolex should be dealt with by someone experienced to do so like any luxury product. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at buying, getting your watch serviced or valued, cutting a few corners to save a little might seem like a good idea. But it is often a false economy and can have greater unforeseen financial consequences further down the line.

The motto of this story is never to take anything at face value.

Gareth Brown FGA, DGA, GIA-Pearls, CPAA, AJP, FJVA

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