Although a Rolex watch is a beautiful item to possess, it is as much an investment as it is a timepiece. Whether you opt for a brand new Rolex, or decide to purchase a secondhand option, one of the major advantages of buying the brand is that it is highly likely to appreciate in value. The challenge for a person seeking the best Rolex for investment is to find the model that’s likely to yield the largest return on investment, at the same time as being an attractive and highly functional watch. We‘ve taken a look at some of the general factors to consider when deciding on the best Rolex to buy for investment, as well as selected our top eight picks when it comes to the best Rolex model for investment.
Which Rolex holds its value best?
There are a number of different variables which can help to determine which watch is going to offer the highest Rolex resale value. Generally, exclusivity is critical to value: the fewer of a particular model that are produced, the greater the price they will command. A Rolex which has been custom built for a celebrity, for example, will have a significantly enhanced resale value compared with one that’s part of a larger batch. Usually, the closer to a release date a Rolex has been made, the more in-demand it is likely to be. Condition, age and technical specification also play a role, as well as the initial price paid. Fortunately, almost any Rolex can appreciate in value given time. Usually, the best Rolex to buy as an investment is one which has a range of innovative and exclusive features, was created as a unique watch, or as part of a small number of similar watches and which is in as near perfect condition as possible.
Rolex has a history of sponsoring great sporting events, and their partnership with the famous Daytona Road Beach Course culminated in the release of the Rolex Daytona in 1963. As official timekeepers, the watch was designed to be worn by racing drivers, with features to match.
The Daytona is a strongly build watch, waterproof, and capable of resisting the g-forces drivers experience when racing at high speed. It’s also capable of measuring speeds of up to 400 kilometres per hour, with three sub-dials within the face for measuring seconds, minutes, and hours.
Since its origins, three distinct generations of the Daytona Rolex have existed. The first came with what’s known as an ‘exotic’ variant dial, while the second series in 1988 included a self-winding movement produced out-of-house. The third and current generation of the Daytona brought that manufacture back in-house, alongside the addition of the popular tachymetric scale and elapsed time displays. While each model is slightly different, overall the Daytona continues to be a distinctive and highly recognisable model across its long lifespan.
Although there are vagaries in the market when it comes to Rolex sales (as there are with any market), usually sports watches tend to do better at auction than Rolex models with a lower technical spec. Obviously the fewer watches of a particular model which were created, the bigger the rarity value. It is little surprise that a Daytona Rolex, possibly the only one of its kind, sold for CHF 5,937,000 earlier this year. That particular example, called “The Unicorn”, is thought to be the only Rolex Daytona made of white gold, rather than the more common versions made of stainless steel or yellow gold. Other examples of Daytonas which have an impressive Rolex resale value include: “The Golden Pagoda” (resold for CHF 948,500); “The Bumblebee” (resold for CHF 516,500); and “The Oyster Sotto” (resold for CHF 1,662,500). Rarer Rolexes will already have an impressive pedigree that will be shared with potential investors prior to an auction. If you have the necessary capital to purchase a Daytona in the first instance, it is highly likely that you will end up with one of the best Rolex to buy as investment material.
The GMT Master and GMT Master II
Rolex has a history of designing watches to suit the needs of certain types of people – the Submariner for divers, the Daytona for racing drivers, and the Yacht-Master for sailors. The GMT-Master was designed with pilots and navigators in mind, in conjunction with Pan Am Airways.
One of the most famous features of the GMT-Master is its ability to display two alternate time-zones at the same time, allowing for much easier cross-continental travel. The face has also been designed to be as easy to read as possible, when working in dimly lit cockpits and cabins.
Originally launched way back in 1954, the GMT Master was developed in conjunction with Pan American airlines. It was distributed to crew on long-haul flights, enabling them to easily and quickly set their watch to a fresh time zone as they entered one. Early GMT Masters featured red and blue bakelite on the face, earning the watch the appellation “the Pepsi watch”. The GMT Master II was launched in the early 1980s. In contrast to the GMT Master, it had an added mechanical feature that enabled the hour hand to be adjusted to the new time zone without the need for minutes and seconds to be also reset.
While the original version of the GMT Master was available in pure stainless steel and designed as a hard-wearing work watch, Rolex has since vastly expanded their range to include steel, gold and precious stone-studded variations of this classic design. The launch of the 50th-anniversary edition in 2005 brought additional technical alterations to bring this distinctive design to the modern-day – such as the use of ceramic on the bezel – which has now been carried over into other present-day designs as of 2007.
Both the GMT Master and GMT Master II are one of the best Rolex for investment, not least because they are extremely functional and hardwearing watches, as well as bearing the prestigious Rolex branding. Although it’s possible to pick up a GMT Master for just a few thousand pounds, rarer models can sell for tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds. Models which feature custom engraving or similar individual touches are likely to fetch a higher price, due to their rarity.
The Rolex Sea Dweller (Ref: 16660)
The Rolex Sea Dweller was first introduced in 1967, becoming one of the first watches designed for divers which became available for civilian use. Over the years, a variety of Sea Dweller incarnations were introduced. In each case, the watch benefited from technological improvements or other enhancements.
While the Sea Dweller only became part of Rolex’s signature range in 1971, the watch was actually fully developed and ready for release in 1967. This four-year delay was rumoured to be down to obtaining the patent for the helium escape valve. Invented by US Navy diver Robert A. Barth, this valve has long been part of the charm and functionality of the Sea Dweller model, which at its launch was awarded to pioneering deep-sea explorers like Robert Palmer Bradley, the pilot of the famous Deepstar 4000.
The Ref: 16660 model was launched in 1978. Capable of continuing to work accurately to a depth of 4000 feet (1220m), this model featured an enhanced helium escape valve and a sapphire crystal. Because fewer of this model were sold than some of the other models, resale prices are enhanced due to the rarity of this timepiece. Arguably one of the best Rolex to buy for investment, prices for the Sea Dweller have been gradually rising as time has gone on. Today, a Ref: 16660 Sea Dweller is likely to command a price of between six to nine thousand pounds, depending on condition.
The Rolex Submariner
A popular choice for amateur and recreational divers, the Submariner was initially launched in 1954. A successor to The Oyster – the first Rolex that benefited from a case which was hermetically sealed – the Submariner’s major selling point is its ability to withstand compression and decompression during a dive. Although the earlier versions can’t be used for deeper dives in the same way as the Sea Dweller, by 1957 the Submariner was guaranteed to depths of 200m.
Widely recognised as a staple classic in any collection, the Submariner is part of the wider Oyster Perpetual line. In the very early days of this particular model, the Submariner didn’t come equipped with the new highly distinctive Mercedes or Cathedral hands for which it is known. Instead, more generic design elements were used, such as pencil hands, and the Submariner name was not featured on the dial. While cosmetic changes have been made over the generations, this watch continues to hold that same pedigree and value to collectors and luxury watch fans alike.
Benefiting from the enviable construction which is one of the hallmarks of a Rolex, the Submariner was popularised as James Bond’s watch of choice, appearing in films which included “Dr No” and “Live and let Die”. Rolex has a strong history with diving and waterproof watches. A specially made Rolex “DeepSea” was attached to the side of the underwater exploration vehicle Trieste during its historical exploration of the Mariana Trench. It kept perfect time on the 11,000 metre dive and the journey back to the surface.
Typical resale prices are anything from £6000 to £10000 +: much more if the watch has rarity value.
When it comes to the question, “Which Rolex holds its value best?”, the Day-Date is a firm contender. First appearing in 1956, the major difference between it and other models available at the time was a day display in addition to the date. Like other Rolex models, the Day Date is waterproof and self-winding. As time has gone on, the watch has become available in a selection of different finishes and metals. The most recent version of the Day-Date, the Day-Date 40, was released in 2013. Holding fourteen patents and showcasing arguably the best time-piece technology you will find on the planet, the Day-Date 40 certainly isn’t cheap. That said, although the initial outlay is high, it is a watch that will almost certainly appreciate noticeably as time goes by.
Often referred to as the ‘President Watch’, the Day-Date isn’t a Rolex for the wallflower. Created from precious materials such as gold, rose gold and platinum, it’s well-known as a symbol of power in society, politics, economics and more. The Day-Dates of the 70s and 80s are particularly sought-after, thanks to the unique and highly collectable Stella dial available in a range of distinctive enamel shades – orange, turquoise, pink and yellow to name but a few. With many models also including those distinctive diamond index markets, the Day-Date is the epitome of luxury in timepiece form.
The Yacht-Master Rolex is primarily, as the name suggests, intended for use by mariners. Benefiting from having the only chronograph which operates with a mechanical memory, the Yacht-Master incorporates some of Rolex’s finest technology. Waterproof and extremely robust, the Yacht-Master was specifically designed for use during regattas and other sailing competitions. Originally launched in 1992, the aim of the watch is to provide an exceptional tool for sailors. Both the Yacht-Master II and the Yacht-Master 40 are likely to appreciate as time goes on. The current price for a Yacht-Master II is anywhere between £10,000 and £25,000, depending on the metals used in it.
At the time of launch, the Yacht-Master was rumoured to be the next evolution of the incredibly popular Submariner model. But whether these rumours weren’t strictly true, or the watch was just too different, is a secret lost to time. The modern Yacht-Master has a highly distinctive appearance and continues to be a distinctive model in the range thanks to the flexibility of its design. As the only current Oyster Professional model to be available in three different sizes, a tailored experience is clearly a major focus with this elegant and luxurious timepiece.
The Yacht-Master is a consistent favourite among Rolex lovers because of its striking design, its reliability, and its usability. The face has been designed to be easily read, even in strong storms and adverse weather conditions, making it an excellent choice for an “everyday Rolex”.
The Air King
As the name suggests, the Air King was developed along with the GMT Master as a watch for flyers. First released in 1945, it was widely used by air force pilots and other aviators. It is the last of the “Air” series to remain in production. Other “Air” models included the “Air Tiger” and the “Air Giant”. Available in a range of different metals and designs, price is largely dictated by how rare the watch might be and the type of materials used to make it.
The characteristic shape and style of the Air-King are what sets it apart from other Rolexes. While still maintaining those classic 1950s-style sensibilities, the Air-King’s middle case is created from corrosion-resistant and solid Oystersteel. This, combined with a hermetically screwed-down case, plus waterproofing features, makes the Air-King just as practical as it is distinctive. While this model has experienced internal updates and changes.
The rarest Air King watch is the highly prized “double red dial” version. Prices vary enormously, but commonly found Air Kings are like to fetch somewhere around £5000 to £10000.
It is hard to decide on the best Rolex model for investment, but the Rolex Explorer is clearly a contender. Designed as a watch for explorers, adventurers and those working in tough environments, the Explorer and Exlorer II are rugged watches that are built to last! Features include luminous hands and numbers, allowing night viewing, as well as a stunning construction from Rolex’s 904L steel – a steel specifically designed and manufactured for Rolex watches.
First launched in 1953, during the height of explorations and mountaineering, the Explorer is an adventurer’s watch with a difference. Designed to be instantly legible even in pitch black environments, the Explorer, and its sibling the Explorer II, have become fast favourites thanks to their hardiness and famous following – both on and off-screen. Don Draper from Mad Men often sported the Explorer II, while James Bond was described as wearing an ‘Oyster Perpetual’ in the novels that was very close in description to the popular Explorer timepiece.
With prices for a used model starting at around £3000, this is one of Rolex’s more modest watches, but one which also has a good chance of appreciating over time.
If you are considering purchasing a Rolex as an investment, it’s important to do research on the various options within each model, in order to be clear what the guide price is and what the potential is for appreciation. Clearly, past performance can’t be an indicator of future price, but it may be helpful to find out how the watch has performed at previous auctions before deciding whether to purchase it for yourself.
Although Rolex watches can make excellent investments, this is by no means always the case. Remember to check the condition of the watch, its rarity and its authenticity before paying up for it. Fake Rolexes are common, so make sure you have some assurance of the watch’s authenticity before parting with your hard-earned cash to buy it. It’s also important to buy a watch that you like, even if it’s not the most expensive. That way, you will be happy to hang on to it and cherish it until such time as the market is appropriate for sale. If you want the combination of a top-quality timepiece that is also likely to make you a return on your investment over time, a Rolex could be the perfect solution either for buying.
Top 10 Most Expensive Rolexes Ever Sold at Auction as of 2020
If you’re looking for a watch that perfectly matches your style, stands the test of time and provides that extra touch of classic appeal, then you’ve likely considered the Rolex. One of the world’s premier watchmaker brands, there’s a reason that these luxury time-pieces carry such a hefty price tag. The ultimate in indulgence, a Rolex isn’t just a purchase; it’s an investment.
However, when it comes to the best Rolexes in the world, it’s not the average piece you can pick up in a store. To go big, you need to go to auction. Especially when it comes to those one-of-a-kind models or unique examples of precisely what Rolex can do. Read on to discover ten of the world’s best Rolexes, and how much they sold for at auction.
1. James Bond’s 1973 Rolex Submariner
When it comes to expensive taste in watches, there are few men with taste as good as James Bond. While the character himself may be fictional, this 1973 Submariner was tailor-made for one movie particular – the eight film in the series, 1973’s Live and Let Die starring Roger Moore. In comparison to the usual Rolex, Bond’s included some additional career-specific features, including a sharp bezel to cut rope. Though the magnetic field is not a feature on the real watch, it still served to provide plenty of entertainment to movie-goers.
Designed in pure silver with gold accent pieces for added effect, this watch is as classic as they come and perfectly matches to 70s Rolex aesthetic, adding that integral final part to any tuxedo look you might choose. Sold in 2015 for $365,000, this piece of movie history is sure to be just as enjoyable for its new owners as it was for Bond fans, especially considering its unique history and famous past owner.
Known as a ref. 5513 Submariner, this customised model offers the glamour of the superspy world with all the luxury of a Rolex model. In addition to the distinctive bezel, the end link also contains a tiny hole, allowing for practical effects with wire and further adding to the timepiece’s charm. But for those looking for a real-life piece of Bond’s wardrobe, the movement-free inside may be a disappointment. While signed internally by Moore himself, only a weight is featured – meaning this Submariner is unable to tell the time at all.
2. Steve McQueen 1967 Rolex Submariner
Another Submariner on the list, proving just how popular this specific model of Rolex is to the right and famous. One of Hollywood’s brightest stars, Steve McQueen’s 1967 Submariner was chosen to match his aesthetic and style and was no stranger to his many fashion editorials and premiere appearances. Clean, classic and always in style; just like McQueen himself.
Featuring a more muted colour palette that worked perfectly for one of Hollywood’s most in-demand actors, McQueen’s Rolex is as reliable as it is appealing to look at. With a navy bezel, black face and white accents, all on a silver base, there’s little not to love about this simplistic design. It says it all. Selling at auction for $234,000, its high price was entirely based on its past owner and his ongoing legacy as one of Hollywood’s greats.
This ref. 5513 Submariner has plenty going for it without the added celebrity angle, but as part of McQueen’s wider estate – and the bidding frenzy that began – it wasn’t any real surprise that this particular Submariner fetched such an exceptional price. During his career, McQueen also gifted an older version of this watch to his stuntman, which is the only Submariner in history featuring his name engraved directly onto the back. For collectors, obtaining both is the holy grail of timepieces. And for good reason, too.
3. Dr Rajendra Prasad’s Rolex Oyster Perpetual in Gold
Unique in appearance and with an impressive history that will appeal to any collector, this gold Rolex dates back to 1950, where it was gifted to India’s first president, Dr Rajendra Prasad, on the first day of his constitution. The design of the watch was personalised for the man himself, including an 18k pink gold map of India, in addition to an engraving of the date he became president. Following his death, the watch was lost or stolen before reappearing at auction in 2011, 47 years later.
While by today’s standards this particular Rolex is quite different from its modern-day equivalents, it’s the rich and important history behind this timepiece that makes it so valuable. Created to mark the first-ever Republic Day in India’s history, two versions of this unique watch were commissioned. One for the President, and one for the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. While little is known about the second watch, the sale of Dr Prasad’s watch has been barred by the Indian government thanks to its worth and significance.
A true example of the robust nature of the Rolex, this decades-old time-piece continues to be just a striking as the day it was created, thanks to its vibrant gold finish and distinct design elements. With such a unique piece of history, it’s no surprise that the watch went for a staggering $440,000 at auction, continuing its legacy as one of the most valuable Rolexes in history. However, to this day it seems the family of Dr Prasad are still hoping to reclaim the lost time-piece, despite its increasing worth.
4. Paul Newman Ferrari Red Rolex Daytona
If you’ve even considered collecting or familiarising yourself with the world of Rolexes, then you’re likely already heard of Paul Newman’s penchant for some of the most prolific Rolexes in the world. Known for a wide range of different personas, from his work as an actor to a film director, and even his time as a race car driver, Paul Newman’s history is part of what makes this Ferrari Red Rolex so appealing. The watch was a gift to the star directly from Rolex, with only eight of these limited Rolexes still existing today.
Prominently featured in Newman’s 1969 movie ‘Winning’, this specific colourway and make of Rolex is considered amongst the rarest in the world. Experts believe that only 8-22 examples now remain, of which most won’t be in the same pristine, collector’s condition as Newman’s model. With studded jewels, a robust design and unmistakable appearance, it’s no surprise that this watch made a name for itself outside of movies as well as on-screen.
Instantly recognisable for their vibrant red face, set against black elements and finalised with a beautiful silver exterior, the Ferrari Red Rolex is impressive enough alone with its fascinating history. However, with Paul Newman’s name attached to this time-piece, this unique piece of the past sold for an astonishing $267,203 at auction.
5. Eric Clapton’s 1971 Rolex Daytona
Known as one of the world’s greatest musical artists, the name ‘Eric Clapton’ is sure to add value to any time-piece. Known for his affinity for luxury wristwear – including several Rolexes – it’s no surprise that the musician was able to take his pick. This ‘Oyster Albino’ Daytona is one of a minimal run of four, further adding to its value and making the piece highly coveted by collectors worldwide.
Clapton is a well-known collector of luxury items, from Ferraris to vintage watches, and his ref. 6263 Daytona is no exception to that rule. The ‘Albino’ name of this watch comes from the use of silver chronograph functions as opposed to the more typical black with white print, creating an all-around paler, but no less impressive, appearance. Clapton purchased the watch only a few years before its later sale, which makes it even more impressive that his name is associated with a watch that wasn’t created for him.
With a silver appearance and black accents, this watch is as slick as is it attractive, with a distinct 1970s feel to it. Created from stainless steel, Eric Clapton’s 1971 Rolex Daytona is worth far more than the sum of its parts. Though the time-piece has changed hands multiple times over the years, its most recent price at auction was a very impressive $1.4 million back in 2015. As one of the most expensive watches in history, there are very few collectors who wouldn’t want to get their hands on this unique design.
6. Bao Dai Rolex
A completely unique, and utterly fascinating Rolex, the Bao Dai Rolex in unlike anything else. Previously owned by the last emperor of Vietnam, and known for its visually striking appearance, this Rolex has a fascinating history, and was initially sold at auction in 2002 for a far lower price than you’d expect for such a luxury item; $235,000.
Defined as a ref. 6062 Rolex, this fascinating timepiece is coveted not only because of its history but because of its unique features. Very few Rolexes have included that moon-phase and triple calendar references, further adding to the rarity of this specific piece. It may surprise collectors to know that the watch wasn’t created for the Vietnam Emporer, but was instead featured at Baselworld fair then purchased at a later date as the most valuable – and exclusive – timepiece the brand had to offer.
With a striking black dial, diamond indexes and a yellow gold finish, including a moon phase and calendar, it soon turned out that over $250,000 for this Rolex was an excellent deal; with collectors the world over soon gaining interest in the truly one-of-a-kind watch. In 2017, the watch sold for twenty times its original auction value, at an astounding $5.1 million, proving that a profit can certainly be made when it comes to collection the world’s most famous watches.
7. Paul Newman’s Personalised Rolex Daytona
When it comes to Rolexes, Paul Newman’s name is a regular occurrence. In comparison to his Ferrari Red Rolex, however, this unique time-piece tops the charts by a large margin. One of the most sought-after Rolexes on the planet, this beautiful watch was originally a gift from Newman to his wife, Joanne. Personalised with ‘drive carefully me’ and purchased originally in New York, this rare time-piece is a popular favourite not just for its design, but for its unique history too.
The Daytona is a well-loved favourite for many collectors and celebrities, and this particular piece is no exception. In 1984, the famous watch was gifted by Newman to the boyfriend of his daughter. It was then worn every day all the way through to the early ’90s, without him ever knowing the value and significance behind the timepiece. With the watch then breaking auction records in under 12 minutes, it would have been a very pleasant surprise to discover.
With a more contemporary leather strap and a combination of creams, browns and silvers, this Rolex could be considered understated in comparison to some of the other watches on this list. However, the ultra-rare design, combined with the engraved message, resulted in a mind-blowing auction price of $17.8 million for this fascinating historical piece.
8. The 1971 ‘Unicorn’ Rolex Daytona
When it comes to the types of Rolex available, the Daytona seems to always come out on top. From Paul Newman’s priceless models to the beautiful and luxurious Unicorn, these watches always seem to fetch an excellent price. Named for its almost mythical design and impressive construction, the Unicorn originates in the 1970s and is one of the rarest variations of the Daytona on offer.
The ref. 6265 Rolex Daytona is manually wound, adding to its vintage charm, and is one of several Daytona Rolexes to top the charts in terms of value – though in this case, it’s down to its unique nature rather than its famous past. Up until its sale, the timepiece was owned by famous watch collector John Goldberger as part of his wider collection. In a particularly selfless move, it was sold to benefit charity Children in Action, further adding to the value surrounding this particular piece.
Created in an elegant 18k white gold, and utilising quality metal instead of acrylic in its design, the Unicorn is unique and one-of-a-kind, making it highly sought-after for its attractive appearance and style. As you’d expect for such an incredible time-piece, the Unicorn fetches an excellent price at auction, with its latest sale in 2018 costing $5.9 million. It’s marginally more expensive than the Bao Dai Rolex, making it the second most expensive Rolex ever to be auctioned.
9. Paul Newman 1969 Cosmograph Daytona
Paul Newman’s excellent taste in watches doesn’t end with his personalised watch for his beloved wife. The Cosmograph Daytona is yet another example of excellence in design from Newman’s extensive time-piece collection. Created in 1969, this legendary time-piece included screw-down pushers as well as an Art Deco style design, making it a piece that’s more highly coveted than practically any other watch in existence.
The Cosmograph itself holds a unique and interesting history – much like the Submariner or Yacht-Master, this particular model was built to make it to the moon. The space chronograph model, as it were. But once those plans fell awry, the Cosmograph became a part of the wider, and wildly popular, Daytona range. This unique history, plus the added benefit of a little celebrity sparkle, was exactly what was needed to raise the value and profile of this unique watch.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the elegant time-piece is still in like-new condition fifty years after its creation, further adding to its value. Thanks to the robust and functional design, this Rolex will still function like new for its new owner, should they choose to wear it rather than store it away. As with Newman’s other watches, the Cosmograph Daytona auctions off for an outstanding amount at auction, selling in 2017 for $3.7 million.
10. 1942 Rolex Antimagnetique
The oldest Rolex on this list, the Rolex Antimagnetique has origins back in 1942, making the time-piece now over 77 years old. Finely-crafted to gift to racing drivers, the popularity of Rolexes increased from this time due to their rarity and attractive style. With 12 watches in total, each with a wide diameter of 44mm, they are the largest Rolexes ever produced.
While a stark difference to what we consider Rolexes to be today, the Antimagnetique was very much on-trend for the time. Created from stainless steel, these watches were never actually released to the general public – only increasing their worth and making them more coveted collector’s items. With several of the watches now making their way from within families as heirlooms to auction rooms around the world, it’s likely that these unique chronographs will continue to spark bidding wars for as long as they’re still in one piece.
With several different variants of the famous wristwatch available, these watches are increasingly sought-after by collectors. In 2016, one of the 12 sold at auction for an incredible $2.4 million, doubling its previous sale only a couple of years prior. At this rate, the Antimagnetique range will only continue to skyrocket in value as they become rarer and more challenging to maintain.
If you’re a fan of Rolexes, or if you love the feel of a valuable watch on your wrist, then auctions might be the way to go. With more and more sought-after Rolexes being found at auction every year, there’s never been a better time to pick up that variant you’ve been coveting, or that design you’ve fallen in love with.
The history of Rolex watches…
In the world of high-end watches, there are many worthy brands to choose from. Watch collectors and lovers will wax lyrical about their favourite makers – but ultimately there is one which has done something incredible.
One brand has made the leap from being revered in watch-circles, to being globally known as a style, design, and mechanical marvel. Over the course of a century, that brand has continually grown in popularity through innovation, while retaining their classical elegant appearance.
That brand is, of course, Rolex, and this is their journey.
What is Rolex?
It is the biggest single watch brand famous throughout the world. In 1905, Hand Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis laid the foundation of this brand that is now in the heart of every watch lover. Initially, the duo was the importer of Hermann Aegler’s Swiss movement. Later on, Wilsdorf started his own business with his partner, and they became the most successful watch brand in the world. The most iconic Rolex pieces are the Submariner, Daytona, GMT-Master, and Lady Datejust. The most surprising fact is that Rolex manufactures 2,000 watches just in a day.
From humble beginnings
Rolex is now a multi-billion dollar company, making multiple hundreds of thousands of watches a year which are sold and revered in every corner of the world. But an icon is never born an icon, it’s the result of hard work and humble beginnings – Rolex is no different.
Hans Wildorf founded Wilsdorf and Davis, the company which would later become Rolex S.A with his brother-in-law, Alfred Davis, in 1905. Despite Rolex being renowned in Swiss watch-making, Wilsdorf himself was German-born and the shop was established in London, England.
The company’s long connection with Switzerland first began through Wilsdorf and Davis importing Swiss watch movements from Hermann Aegler. These movements would be implanted into cases made locally, and the resulting watch could be sold to local jewellers – many of whom were able to customise them by engraving their own names within the dial.
Wilsdorf had a vision that encompassed much more than making a little profit – he wanted to transform the wristwatch itself. At the time, wristwatches were little more than mostly re-purposed pocket watches. They were bulky, tempramental, and unreliable.
It was Wilsdorf’s goal to make a wristwatch that was everything the current wristwatches weren’t. He wanted to offer customers something truly reliable, an accurate timepiece that could be comfortably worn. This is why he began importing the superior quality Swiss movements.
The birth of an icon
1908 would be the birth of the word “Rolex”, the year the name was trademarked. But, what’s in a name? Well, in the case of Rolex, quite a lot – it was a name that was hard thought and had to satisfy several strict criteria.
Wilsdorf had a view of a global watch brand, and so he wanted his watch to be very easy to pronounce in any language. The name Rolex itself is famously attributed to his belief that it was onomatopoeic – he thought it was similar to the sound of a watch being wound. The name also had to be short, so as to easily fit on the face of a compact wristwatch.
La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland would become the sight of a new office from which Wilsdorf and Davis would sell their new brand of “Rolex” watches. The company would not become known as Rolex until later years.
Wilsdorf had a passion for making accurate timepieces, and the company quickly became known for the accuracy of their movements and the reliability of their watches. Rolex became the first watchmaker to earn chronometer wristwatch certification, in 1910.
A “Class A Precision Certificate” was awarded to a Rolex watch in 1914 by the Kew Observatory. This was notable because a regular wristwatch was being awarded a precision certification usually reserved for marine chronometers – which are of course held to a higher standard of accuracy.
Following this, the company name would begin to change. Firstly to Rolex Watch Co. Ltd in 1919, and then Montres Rolex S.A. a year later – this would later be shortened to Rolex S.A. The move to Geneva came in 1919 when a combination of heavy import costs for the precious metals used in the watch cases, and post-war luxury import levies forced Wilsdorf out of England.
The Hans Wilsdorf Foundation currently runs the company, and has done so since 1960 when Hans Wilsdorf died. The foundation itself was established after his wife’s death in 1944, and in which Wilsdorf would entrust his Rolex shares.
Notable wearers and sponsorships
Rolex has become a global icon of watch-making not only through their exquisite quality and accurate time-keeping, but as a result of their popularity with a large number of celebrities and cultural icons. Rolex have also been known to sponsor a large number of high profile sporting events.
Famous wearers of their watches include Hollywood A-list celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, and Robert Downey Jnr. They were also popular with cultural icons such as Steve McQueen and Paul Newman – Newman’s specially designed Daytona became the most expensive watch ever sold in 2017, when it made $17.75 million at auction.
Rolex also found favour with many other historical icons. Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, and the Dalai Llama have all been photographed wearing, or expressed their appreciation for, Rolex watches. Marilyn Monroe gifted a Rolex Day-Date to John. F. Kennedy before her famous “Happy Birthday, Mr President” performance.
Rolex Oysters were worn by Tenzing Norgay, along with other Hut Expedition members, when they famously ascended Mount Everest in 1953. Rolex is also an official timekeeper in multiple tennis tournaments, such as Wimbledon, the Grand Slams, as well as the US, French and Australian Open.
Rolex serves as the official timekeeper for multiple golf events, including the Open Championship, U.S Open, as well as the European and PGA tour. As exhibited with their famous Daytona model, Rolex serves as title sponsor for the 24 Hours of Daytona, and since 2013 has been the official timekeeper of FIA Formula 1.
All of this storied history, cultural importance, and time-keeping excellence has led to Rolex still being at the top of many people’s list when they consider a truly premium watch. An impressive feat for a company established well over a century ago – however, Rolex appears to be going from strength to strength.
Rolex still makes its home in Geneva, from which they operate a multi-billion dollar company selling high-class watches to customers the world over. Rolex are famously guarded about certain statistics regarding their business, but it has been estimated they currently make in excess of 800,000 watches a year.
Purchasing a Rolex is, at its heart, purchasing a fine-quality timepiece. But, it’s about more than that. When you buy a Rolex, you buy something truly special. If you choose your model well, you have an investment-grade watch that will always be desirable.
How are Rolexes evaluated?
If you currently own a Rolex, or you simply want to know the process needed to correctly and completely evaluate a Rolex to understand its value, then using a professional evaluation service is your ideal choice. With trained expertise, a professional will be able to accurately confirm the type, make and specific model of your Rolex, in addition to completing a full valuation process.
These steps are typically included as part of an evaluation:
Box and papers
While some Rolexes will not come with their original box and papers, it’s a great advantage if you do have access to these items. An evaluator can use the paperwork provided in order to check the specifications of your watch, as well as to authenticate it. A Rolex box itself is worth between £150-300, so this can slightly increase the value of your Rolex if you’re able to provide it for evaluation with the original box intact.
Serial number and model
All Rolexes include a model and serial number upon their construction, usually located between the lugs of the case between 12 and 6 o’clock. In order to identify this, the evaluator will be required to remove the bracelet from the body of the watch. It’s generally not recommended you do this yourself, as you may cause damage to the timepiece in the process. This serial number provides information on the exact model of your Rolex, which can be used to identify its current value.
A thorough inspection of the physical condition of your Rolex is an important part of the process. This includes identifying corrosion, scratches and other damage. Dedications and engravings may lower the value of a Rolex also, especially for less unique pieces that are more widely available. The buckle, strap and face of your Rolex will be carefully identified for any and all damage, which is then fully recorded as part of the process.
Alongside external checks, your evaluator will also check if your Rolex is in full working order internally. The ability to smoothly change time, as well as for the watch to keep time in general, can make a big difference if you’re planning on selling your Rolex. Internal evaluations also allow for the checking of replacement parts such as bezels and dials, which may have been repaired or changed over the years.
Rolex is, and always will be, synonymous with excellence.
Interesting facts about Rolex
Rolex uses the ‘clockmaker’s four’ on their roman numeral watches
A specific phenomenon that’s only known to watch and clockmakers, on timepieces that include Roman numerals on their dials, Rolex uses IIII instead of IV. While there is no readily available reason for this, the distinction has become so well-known that it’s a Rolex signature at this point.
The Oyster was the world’s first waterproof watch
Thanks to a specifically-designed case, where the crown, back and bezel are screwed on in a particular and patented way, Rolex was able to produce a fully waterproof watch back in 1926. While the first watch was only waterproof to 100m, the depths their models can endure has only improved since.
Rolex uses different stainless steel to other watchmakers
While the most common stainless steel used for watches is known as 316L, Rolex uses specific steel known as 904L. This steel is more expensive and more difficult to utilise in the manufacturing process, which makes sense for one of the world’s premier luxury brands. If you compare Rolex stainless steel to a stainless steel watch from another brand, the difference is unmistakable.
Rolex creates its own gold in-house
As one of the only watchmakers in the world to produce their own gold, Rolex can have bars in their foundry of Everose gold that is worth millions of pounds at any one time – meaning they have a need for an exceptionally high standard of security on their premises.
Day-Date Rolexes are translated into 26 languages
For models that include a day wheel as part of their design, Rolex produces 26 distinct languages – including English, Hebrew, Japanese, Greek, Chinese, Spanish and Turkish, among many others.
Rolex led innovations in automatic date and day changes
Both the Rolex Datejust and the Rolex Day-Date, in 1945 and 1956 respectively, were ahead of the game when it came to the automatic changeover of dates and days on their dials.
If you are looking to sell your watch in the LA or Beverly Hills area, then we will buy your watch from you today! For more specific information on each of over 43 brands of fine watches we buy or loan against please visit some of the pages of the individual brands: Harry Winston, Hublot, IWC, Jaeger Le Coultre, Omega, Piaget, Roger Dubuis, Nardin, A Lange & Sohne, Preziuso, AudemarsPiguet, Bamford, Blancpain, Breguet, Breitling, Bvlgari, Cartier, Franck Muller, Panerai, Patek Philippe, Richard Mille, Rolex, or Vacheron Constantin to name just a few of the many brands we buy or loan against. Alternatively, if you are looking to pawn your watch with us please visit our loans on fine watches page.