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Box and Papers – should you consider buying a watch without them?

When looking to buy a used Rolex, one of the first questions to arise is about the presence of box and papers, but what exactly are these? Are these of importance? Should you consider buying a watch without these included? First, let’s have a further look at what ‘box and papers’ actually are before jumping into some questions on the matter.


Rolex Lady Datejust 69174 full set box and papers
Rolex Lady Datejust 69174 'Full set'


This implies the watch will come with its original issue box. Depending on the manufacturer and era of the watch, most boxes were supplied as two parts – the presentation box itself, often referred to as the inner box, and a sleeve for the box, often referred to as the outer box.



Papers, most commonly, are the watch’s originally issued warranty document. Depending on the manufacturer, this usually comes in the form of a single sheet, punched with the watches serial number including the date and place of sale and quite often, the name and address of the original purchaser. This sheet also contains information regarding the warranty terms. In modern watches, these details are now printed on a card, which can contain a chip and is scanned by the authorized dealer at the time of sale where the buyers details are held.


Full set:

A full set usually implies that the watch will come supplied with box and papers, as well as any other booklets, tags and accessories which would have been supplied in its original sale when new.


Do papers mean the watch is authentic?


No. Many buyers see these components as being a good ground for proving authenticity, and while the notion seems reasonable at first, the originally issued warranty paper does not account for the authenticity and correctness of the watch at the present time, not forgetting how easily some of this documentation can be forged. We recommend buying from a reputable dealer as best for checking authenticity of the timepiece you are looking to buy.  


Is the inclusion of box and papers important when buying a used watch?


It’s a big question and there are several things to consider. Box and papers certainly have an impact on price and the desirability for many buyers. There’s no doubt that for lesser experienced buyers, the presence of box and papers can inspire confidence in a purchase, but as mentioned previously, they are not a secure ground for authenticity. They could provide some provenance of the watch’s origin, and they may suggest the watch has had a careful owner. Many buyers, especially collectors, do like to have complete sets of the watches they buy, and there’s no denying that it can be nice to have all the accessories and documentation from the watches original issue. They can make the watch easier to sell if you chose to do this in future. We tend to believe that the condition of the watch prevails and that a trusted dealer is the best representation of the watch’s authenticity.  So, we would have to say no, but yes…. they could be important to you!

tudor black bay 36 full set box and papers and accessories
Tudor Black Bay 36 'Full Set'

Why do so many watches have either box or papers or both missing?


Along a watch’s life, many lose their box, papers or both. Quite often, things like house moves are the likely cause of losing these pieces. However, many original buyers chose to retain their original warranty papers as these often display their name and address which many do not want to have attached to the watch if they come to sell it.


In vintage pieces, the inclusion of such is quite rare, as back when these watches would have been originally sold, the 1 year warranty paper offered by the manufacturer was just that, and had no real worth beyond the 1 year period - the presence of box and papers and adding extra value and desirability wasn’t really a thing of consideration – most discarded the warranty paper when the term had expired. Certainly in the present day, most buyers of new watches are aware of the emphasis the community has placed on having a full set if they come to sell, so most are much more cautious of keeping these safe.


Is buying a watch with box and papers a better investment?


A watch with box and papers can be easier to sell and worth more when it comes the time. It is worth noting that although the watch may yield a greater price, the watch most likely cost more to buy in the first place with the inclusion of box and papers, so it's hard to say from a purely investment standpoint. We think you can pick up a much better deal on a great condition watch only if you intend to buy, wear and enjoy the watch. Let’s take the Rolex Datejust reference 16234 for example, which commands around £1000 more for a full set over a watch only, or something like the Rolex Daytona reference 116500 yielding anywhere from £3-5000 more for a full set.


What about service papers?


We think service papers are a better representation of the watch’s authenticity and correctness if they have been recently issued compared with the original punched warranty paper. Taking Rolex for example, this documentation in the form of a warranty card issued by Rolex upon servicing the timepiece, something they will refuse to do if the watch is not genuine, and also guarantees the well running and health of the watch providing a warranty for such. The nice thing is, these are easily obtainable each and every time you send your watch for a service!

Rolex service papers oyster perpetual date 15200 box and papers
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date 15200 with box, Rolex Service Papers & accessories

Can you obtain replacement warranty papers for a watch if they have been lost?

No. Rolex, and all other manufacturers will not re-issue these papers under any circumstance. After all, they are the watch’s warranty certificate when it was new and duplicates cannot be risked.


As watch enthusiasts, we love nothing more than a full set with all the accessories at first issue present, but condition of the watch and purchasing from a reputable dealer is first and foremost for us.

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