Rolex watches often come with numerous variations when it comes to the dial. Some models, like the Datejust, have tens and tens of dial choices, whilst other models, like the Submariner, only come with one or two (if you compare watches with the same metal execution, full steel, two-tone, or solid gold).
The dial is one of the most central parts of any watch. It’s the face that you see the most when you look at your watch. With that said, your dial plays an important role in the look of your timepiece.
Therefore a lot of people are wondering whether or not they are able to change the dial on their Rolex watch. The answer to that question is yet. However, as with all things Rolex, it’s more complex than that.
In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about changing the dial of your Rolex watch, and the restrictions and limitations of doing so.
Rolex dials background
Rolex puts great emphasis on designing and manufacturing its dials.
Back in the day, Rolex outsourced the manufacturing of its dials to several different manufacturers specialized in watch dials. Jean Singer & Cie was one of them, which was one of the most prominent manufacturers of watch dials in Switzerland. The company made dials not only for Rolex but also for brands such as Heuer, Omega, Tudor, and Universal Genève. Today, Singer is perhaps most known for having designed the iconic ”Paul Newman” Daytona dial.
In addition to Jean Singer & Cie, Rolex also outsourced dials from other manufacturers including Beyeler, Lemerich, and Stern (Patek Philippe family).
But over the decades, Rolex has worked hard to get as much of its production in-house as possible. Back in the days, many of Rolex’s parts were outsourced - like most watch brands at the time - but over time, Rolex integrated the manufacturing of more and more of its parts in-house. This gives Rolex greater control over its full production chain, more freedom, and the ability to change and develop in a more effective way.
Why change your Rolex dial?
The are many reasons why you may want to change your Rolex dial. These include.
- To give your watch a new look. Especially if you have had the watch for a long time and want to give it a new personality
- If you don’t like the look of your current dial
- Your dial is damaged
Can you change your Rolex dial?
Change dial at a Rolex official service center
Rolex official service centers, or Rolex official retailers that have their own workshops (which the vast majority of them have) perform servicing, repairs, and dial replacements of Rolex watches. Rolex retailers and service centers need to follow Rolex’s strict rules of what is possible and what is not when it comes to dial replacements.
However, this is where it becomes complex and interesting.
If you have read online or maybe even contacted Rolex ADs yourself, you may have gotten different responses. And this is what makes the question of changing dials at a Rolex retailer so complex because there doesn’t seem to be a fixed answer.
To get a better understanding of the policies and rules regarding dial changes, we have been in contact with different Rolex ADs around Europe. But frankly, this didn’t make us much wiser…
But still, it can be good to be aware that 1. Different Rolex ADs have different policies regarding dial changes and 2. Some of the most common policies regarding dial changes.
The fact that the policies tend to vary depending on which Rolex AD you contact can only be explained by the fact that Rolex ADs either don’t follow Rolex’s rules strictly or have misunderstood the policies or follow policies that were put into place a year ago and have now changed. There is also a possibility that dial exchange 'rules' from Rolex can vary in different geographic areas, but this doesn’t make much sense. At the same time, the policies seem to vary around the world which is quite strange for a company like Rolex.
Common rules and policies for dial changes
Below are the most common ”policies” that you will hear from different Rolex ADs and service centers. And as mentioned, the information can vary depending on who you ask. Do note, however, that in some cases, your watch will need to be sent to Rolex for a dial replacement. For example, if you get a full service for your watch by Rolex HQ in Switzerland, you may ask for a dial replacement at the same time. In this case, the rules will naturally not vary, unlike when you ask for a dial exchange at a Rolex AD.
- You can only change to the exact same dial you have. Some ADs claim that it is only possible to change to the exact same dial, for example, if the dial is damaged or scratched.
- You can only change the dial after one year of having bought it.
- You can only change the dial when the warranty has expired (after five years).
- You have to pay 40% of the price of your old dial if you want to keep it when you order a new one. This seems to be a rule that is enforced more and more in recent years. This is something that has upset a lot of owners because they view it as you’re technically ”buying back” an item you already own. But Rolex motivates it with the fact that you are technically getting a ”discount” on the dial you buy if you don’t keep your old dial.
- It is not possible to keep your old dial. Another common policy that ADs enforce is that you will under no circumstances be able to keep your own dial.
- Your old dial has to be destroyed if you buy a new one. Some ADs have said that they need to destroy your old dial if you buy a new one and send proof to Rolex. Some have said that they need to send the old dial back to Rolex for them to destroy. This may be true for some very special and rare dials, but otherwise, it sounds a bit far-fetched.
- It is not possible to change to dials that Rolex regards as premium. This is actually a rule that seems to be true for most ADs around the world and not just a policy at one single AD. For example, if you own a Daytona 116508 with a black dial, it is not possible to change it for the highly coveted and sought-after green dial. The premium dials are almost exclusively changed on an exchange basis only. Meaning, if you have a green dial 116508, it is possible to get a new one if your dial is scratched or damaged. However, they will keep your old dial.
- Your watch needs to be serviced for a watch dial. A rule that some ADs have is that in order to change your dial, you need to
- You cannot change to a dial that isn’t correct for your model. This is a rule that is universal and that is applied by essentially all ADs and service centers. For example, you cannot change to a dial that is only available for a gold watch when you have a steel watch.
- The dial you buy needs to be mounted in your watch. This is another rule that is implemented by almost every store. Meaning, you cannot buy watch dials separately.
- Some ADs are very liberal. Some ADs are actually very liberal when it comes to changing dials. They can help you order basically any dial that is available for order and will help you change it how often you want. But as Rolex is getting stricter with dial exchanges, this is getting rarer and rarer.
As you can see, there is a lot of mixed information and policies. And for the sake of simplicity, you could think that it would be much easier if all Rolex ADs and service centers simply followed the same policies. Some countries, in general, seem to be more liberal with the rules regarding dial exchanges.
Regardless, it’s safe to say that Rolex has gotten much stricter with dials and other separate parts over the years. The reason for this is of course to limit the supply and availability of Rolex watch parts on the market to prevent modifications, genuine parts in otherwise fake watches, and so on.
Which dials can be ordered?
Rolex ADs can order a large number of different dials from Rolex. The general ”rule” that Rolex has is that they are going to manufacture watch parts for all its watches for 50 years after they were discontinued. To a large extent, this is true, but there are some exceptions when it comes to dials. For example, Rolex’s coral dials which are highly sought-after are made from real coral, which is of course a sensitive topic today as corals are under threat and need to be protected.
Some Rolex dials are only available to buy and exchange directly by Rolex, meaning your watch needs to be sent to Rolex in Geneva for the dial change. This is indicated on the MyRolexNetwork website (which is exclusively for ADs) as ”Exchange HQ”.
Also, it’s important to note that ordering dials from Rolex is a bit similar to ordering watches. The AD requests dials from Rolex, but it’s not always that they will receive them. For basic and common dials, it’s generally not an issue but for special dials, ordering a dial can take months - if the order is approved.
The Rolex AD uses the MyRolexNetwork website to see which dials are in production, which are available to order, and which are currently not in production. The availability to order varies, so it is impossible to say which exact dials are in production at a given time without login.
Buying and changing your Rolex dial from the secondhand market
Buying and changing your Rolex dial on the secondhand market is a completely different story. This is a free market so with the help of a regular watchmaker that is not affiliated with Rolex (or if you have the expertise yourself), you can simply buy a Rolex dial, for example on eBay, Chrono24, etc, and then have installed yourself. This way, you won’t have to pay attention to any of the rules and policies that Rolex has set up.
However, due to the strict rules regarding Rolex dials, it has resulted in making spare Rolex dials on the secondhand market rather expensive and also difficult to get a hold of. Especially if you’re looking for a unique and rare dial.
On the flip side, you can change to whichever dial you like and how frequently you like. Just buy a Rolex dial and take your watch to an independent watchmaker and they will help you install it. Just keep in mind that if you change the dial on your watch to an aftermarket dial or a dial that is not meant for your model, it will void your warranty, assuming your watch is still covered.