This review of The Rolex Report, was originally published in Bruce Shawkey's regular Wristwatch column in the October, 2003, Bulletin of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, Inc., and reprinted with permission.
Please Note: The original review was editied (for length) by the NAWCC for the Bulletin. However, we have elected to reprint it here in its entirety, as written by Bruce Shawkey, and reprinted in the December, 2003, issue of International Wristwatch Magazine.
The Rolex Report: An Unauthorized Reference Book for the Rolex Enthusiast
by John E. Brozek
InfoQuest Publishing, Inc.,
St. Petersburg, FL
Review by Bruce Shawkey (WI)
Back in February of this year, I reviewed two books on Rolex, both published by the Schiffer Company. Shortly after I submitted that review to the BULLETIN, another Rolex book came my way, titled The Rolex Report, revised and expanded 4th edition, by John E. Brozek. I was skeptical. In my earlier review, I had stated that the two books combined would cover just about anything you would ever care to know about Rolex. I was wrong.
John Brozek's information-packed book (based on 10 years of experience by the author) looks at the world of Rolex from yet another angle. While the two Schiffer books (The Best of Time by James M. Dowling and Jeffrey P. Hess, and Vintage Rolex Sports Models by Martin Skeet and Nick Urul) look at Rolex primarily from a historical standpoint, this book really dissects the more modern Rolex models from a consumer-buying standpoint. Don't get me wrong. There is much the buyer/collector can learn from the Dowling/Hess and the Skeet/Urul books. But this 288-page book by Mr. Brozek really gets down to the nitty-gritty. He writes in great detail about the various modern Rolex models and their differences and similarities. He tells how to disassemble most models, and how to operate the functions of the more complicated models, like the GMT Master and the Cosmograph.
And perhaps most importantly, he spends an enormous amount of effort (over 100 pages) telling readers how to avoid buying "doctored" and outright counterfeit Rolex watches. (Doctored watches, or what Brozek refers to as "converted" Rolexes, are cheaper models that have had generic parts added to make them appear to be more expensive models.) Brozek has many side-by-side, enlarged photos showing the "real thing" alongside the counterfeits.
The problem of fake and converted Rolexes has reached epidemic proportions, especially since the explosive increase in Internet trading. Brozek addresses these problems in a section titled, "Rolex or Replica? Don't get e-screwed!" EBay, and the Internet in general, has turned into a thieves' den of counterfeit watches, and Rolex models lead the pack. Don't get me wrong; there are many legitimate and knowledgeable sellers of genuine Rolex watches on the Internet. There are also a few who are unwittingly selling converted pieces. However, the vast majority of those who are selling converted and counterfeit pieces know perfectly well what they are doing. Phrases such as "sold as is" and "no return privilege" should be dead giveaways. These sellers continue to get away with murder, and eBay and Rolex itself can only do so much.
The problem, as Brozek points out, is that the replicas are getting so incredibly good, it's almost impossible to distinguish them from the real thing without opening them and looking at the movements. In a kind of twisted paradox, the very finest counterfeit Rolex watches have evolved into fine watches in their own right-with finely finished cases and automatic mechanical movements with second hands that sweep (the older, cheaper fakes had quartz movements where the second hand beat in precise, one-second increments). But they are fakes nevertheless. And you will learn how to distinguish even the best fakes from the real thing, not only through examining the movement but the case and bracelet parts as well.
The author spends about 30 pages presenting a short history of time devices (leading up to the wristwatch) and of Rolex. This is a nice touch, not only for the beginner but also for the more experienced Rolex fancier who wants to look up a certain time period in Rolex history and find it fast. The Dowling/Hess book presents the history of Rolex more by model, so the time references jump forward and backward a lot, and there is some repetition. Nothing wrong with that. But in Brozek's book, you get a concise history of the company in chronological order.
The next section breaks down the most popular types of Rolex watches and gives a brief summation of each, including such vital facts as year of introduction, first model (i.e., reference number), and first caliber movement used in the watch. Again, a nice, concise reference for those who, for example, don't know the subtle differences between a Turn-O-Graph and a Submariner.
Next is approximately 43 pages of price information. This information was taken from the 2002 Rolex price lists and reveals wholesale and retail prices. It is not to be taken as the "perfect" tool for buying and selling Rolexes, because prices on some models change on an almost weekly basis. It will, however, give you a relative sense of pricing, i.e., how much more a two-tone Datejust should cost you (percentage wise) over an all stainless steel one, and so forth.
The last section, of about 16 pages, is a case reference number index and is absolutely invaluable. It is simply a listing of known case reference numbers (the little number stamped on most Rolex watches on the edge of the case between the lugs at the 12:00 position) and the type of Rolex watch that number corresponds to. It's great for telling whether a given specimen has been converted, or if various case parts from different models have been put together to make what I call a "Franken-watch" (with apologies to Mary Shelley and her fictional masterpiece Frankenstein).
The book ends with a glossary of terminology and an index. At $39.99 you've already got yourself a huge bargain. But there's more. Brozek maintains a website (EDITED for eBay) as a companion reference to the book. No user IDs or passwords required. No fees. On the website, you'll find stuff for sale, but you'll also find additional information about Rolex watches and-get this-corrections to the most current edition.
Brozek has gone to extraordinary lengths to get the most accurate and unbiased information about Rolex "out there" for the buying public. He self-published the book in order to produce it at a price most people could afford. He also wanted to maintain graphic control over his book-he is quite a graphic artist in his own right, and the book shows it-and he was able to maintain control of the editorial content. Brozek is obviously passionate about Rolex; it shows in his writing. But he also presents a balanced story: the good and the not-so-good. He includes material that "traditional" publishers might edit out for fear of incurring the "wrath of Rolex," and believe me, they have plenty of wrath to go around!
The book has earned high praise from many serious Rolex collectors; the book's forward piece was written by none other than Jeffrey Hess himself who, together with Mr. James Dowling, wrote the book (literally) on Rolex.
But as far as praise goes (beyond my own, obviously), consider this: When the fourth edition first came out, Brozek started selling the book on eBay. Rolex got wind of it, and their brigade of lawyers got together and sent their usual threatening fax to eBay crying copyright and trademark infringement, and so forth, and threatening to take legal action against eBay if they did not "pull the plug" on this guy.
EBay, in its typical feckless fashion of assuming "guilty until proven innocent" immediately shut down all of Brozek's book auctions and his eBay store (InfoQuest Publishing).
A veritable mountain of e-mails, letters, and faxes ensued among Brozek, eBay, and Rolex. You know what happened? After Rolex actually saw and read the book, they rescinded their "cease and desist" order against eBay, and Brozek is happily selling his book again on eBay. Now it is a virtual certainty that Rolex will never, ever come out and endorse The Rolex Report. I'm sure they're not happy that readers are seeing the wholesale cost of all their current models (on average, the watches are marked up 40 to 42%, by the way). But Rolex could find nothing inaccurate in Brozek's book and essentially removed all the roadblocks they so freely place in the way of people who are trying to sell Rolex watches and related material. That's about as close to an "endorsement" from Rolex as anyone will ever get. It appears someone at Rolex had the good sense to see that Brozek is trying to educate people about how to buy a real Rolex and avoid the fakes, which ultimately benefits the company.
The fourth edition is a vast improvement in print quality over the previous three editions, which were done in quick-print copy fashion. It is professionally printed on heavy paper, and the quality of the photographs is much better. But, alas, the photos are still in black and white only, and this is really my only criticism. That is a shortcoming Brozek will address in the upcoming 5th edition. According to the author, there will be color photos, and lots of them.
Now I know what you're thinking: Why don't I wait until the next edition comes out? Don't do it. For starters, it's not due out until mid 2004, and that's just an estimate. If you're even contemplating buying a modern Rolex from a source other than an authorized Rolex dealer, I am telling you this: Run, don't walk, to Brozek's website (mentioned earlier) or to (EDITED for eBay) which also carries the book. Based on my conversation with Mr. Brozek, there are probably 500 copies left as of this month.
I just can't say enough good things about this book. You will pull it from your bookshelf again and again. At $39.95, you won't really care when it becomes dog-eared and cracked, which it will from the constant use you will give it, believe me.
Before this latest edition of this book, it was generally agreed that the “Knights of the Round Table” on Rolex consisted of Roy Ehrhardt, James Dowling, Jeffrey Hess, Tom Engle, the Demesy Brothers (Joe and Rory), Burley Bullock, and Ken Specht, and maybe a few others that I may be forgetting (Forgive me; you know who you are). If you had a question on Rolex and couldn’t get the answer from one of these guys (or their books) you weren’t going to get it. Well, folks, you had better move the chairs a little closer together around the table and make room. There’s a new “Knight” in town, and his name is John Brozek.
To view the actual review scanned from the October, 2003, NAWCC Bulletin, click the following links:
Scanned Review PAGE 1
Scanned Review PAGE 2
(For best viewing, click the "arrow box" at the bottom right corner of the scan to "maximize" the image size.)