Authenticating Rare Details

A couple posts ago I discussed how idiotic collectors can be, but especially Rolex collectors. 

Rolex is, in a nutshell, a tool watch company.  

They're not a company that makes truly "haute horlogerie" watches. 

In fact, their most complicated watch is an annual calendar launched in 2012. A complication all other luxury brands have exceeded for decades.  

As such, rarity at Rolex comes in a purely esthetic form: rare dials, rare bracelets, rare crown guards, rare lines of print on the dial, etc.  

Some of these esthetic rarities are completely legit. Take for example the exotic dials found in some vintage Daytonas.  

And because a watch dial is the most distinctive part of a watch, it genuinely deserves the attention it gets.  

But as mentioned in that earlier post that discussed the Rolex "underline", it's absolute nonsense to pay $100,000 for a watch normally worth $6,500-$10,000 just because of an underline on it's dial. 

An underline that has no technical significance whatsoever, is barely noticeable, and that is easily forged.

And then I saw one of these underlines for sale at auction.

Starting bid $80,000.  

And that got me thinking: how do I know this was an underline by Rolex and not one added later? 

The watch was clearly genuine, it was old, of course, and I went with the assumption all it's parts were original to the watch (benefit of the doubt for arguments sake). 

But there was nothing that could authenticate whether or not this was an early model watch that came with an underline, or just an early model watch with the underline added in the later decades.  

Part of the problem is Rolex does not provide any reliable way to authenticate these dials. In fact, Rolex won't even say why some dials had the underline and others not (and why would they: an underline can't mean anything of substance and if Rolex confirms that, *poof* go the values). 

So, I asked the seller. 

And the reply was completely useless and certainly not reassuring.  

He basically said I should take his word for it because he's an upstanding citizen with a great track record/history.  

Not enough if I was to drop $80k extra on a watch. 

So what's left? 

If such a dial appears at a prestigious auction house one assumes it is what it is. But then that indirectly sabotages all the watches that don't go through prestigious auctions houses that might be legit, like *possibly* this one I came across for $80k. 

It's still not enough to risk all that extra money, especially for something as silly as a friggin underline.

This just adds to the nonsensical collector's world of vintage Rolex watches, which gives collecting high-end watches such a bad name (to some), and another reason to stay away!

Instead, buy a non-underline Submariner and go spend your extra $80k-$100k on a vintage Porsche or Ferrari instead.

UPDATE Nov 2016: It has been brought to our attention that another Submariner with an Explorer dial is soon to be auctioned off and this time the estimate is closer to $200,000!

Crazy!