Suit Claims Jeweler Sold ‘New’ Rolexes That Had Been Used

Times Staff Writer

A discount jeweler who is engaged in a running battle with Rolex Watch USA filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing one of South Coast Plaza’s toniest jewelers of selling used watches as new.

Carl Marcus, owner of Marcus & Co. in Beverly Hills, accused Bailey Banks & Biddle of selling his wife, Rose, a $3,051 Rolex watch that had been returned by another customer.

The action, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeks more than $10 million and asks that Bailey Banks & Biddle be ordered to stop selling used watches as new. A nearly identical suit was filed Wednesday against Merksamer Jewelers in Torrance.


Merksamer Jewelers and Rolex denied any wrongdoing.

The Latest Salvo

The lawsuits are the latest salvo in a battle that began late last year after a dissatisfied customer sued Marcus, claiming that a new, gold Rolex he had sold her for $5,600 had turned out to be six or seven years old. Marcus countered that he had been duped when he bought the watch from a New York jewelry dealer, who had claimed it was new. The customer got to keep the watch and won $25,000, but the award is being appealed.

Rolex, meanwhile, bought newspaper advertisements warning consumers that Marcus was “selling used Rolex watches as new.” The ad advised customers to send their watches to Rolex for a free examination.

Four months ago, Marcus launched his own investigation of a number of official Rolex dealers that he said offer full refund policies on watches returned within 30 to 90 days.

Marcus said he sent friends, employees and sometimes his wife to Bailey Banks & Biddle and Merksamer Jewelers to buy Rolex watches. The aides recorded the serial numbers, wore the watches, then returned them for full credit, he said. After that, a second--and sometimes third--group of friends was dispatched to the same stores to buy the same watches.

‘Our Baisc Policy’

The lawsuits state that sales personnel at both jewelers said that the watches had never been sold before.

But according to Laurie Williams, office manager at Merksamer Jewelers, “our basic policy is to exchange only. . . . I can’t imagine it happening because if a watch were returned, the (second) customer would have to go through Rolex to get a new warranty.”

At Bailey Banks & Biddle, two employees referred a reporter’s calls to Dallas-based Zale Corp., which owns the Bailey Banks chain. There, Dolph Simon, general counsel, said the company “is not in the business of selling any watches unless they’re in perfect condition.”

In New York, Rolex general counsel John F. Flaherty said the company “is not aware of any situation where a retailer has sold any used watch as new. We ship factory-fresh watches to jewelers,” he added. “And to the best of my knowledge, they’re sold that way to consumers.”