Rolex – “hoROLogical EXcellence”. Never has a brand name denoted such truth. Yet Rolex transcends its position as the superior manufacturer of timepieces and has become the style icon worn by royalty, heads of state, elite sports competitors and celebrities.
Rolex is simply the world’s most reputable brand. Rolex transcends every other product name, in every industry, sector and walk of life. And it has been rated so by industry experts for many years.
Investing in a Rolex watch can be a shrewd purchase. The Swiss manufacturer of the very finest wristwatches enjoys a peerless position denoting sophistication, prestige and esteem.
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. Our watch experts 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.
What is the impact of Covid-19 on the Rolex investments market?
Rewind twelve months, when rumors about a virus in Wuhan were first causing ripples of concern, and economic predictions were being rewritten with startling frequency, and it seems impossible to imagine that a devastating global pandemic would result in an increase in demand for luxury watches like Rolex. Yet that is exactly what has happened, and in 2021 the question on everyone’s lips is not whether Rolex is still a good investment, but rather which Rolex to buy for investment.
An article in The Guardian in October 2020 described an 18% increase in 2019 sales for leading luxury watch retailer Watches of Switzerland. Chief executive Brian Duffy explains
“The money is there,” he explained. “Some people have accumulated money and paid down debt [during the lockdown] and still want to have the pleasure of retail therapy.”
He goes on to describe the enthusiasm for new Rolex creations like the £8,000 Bond-inspired beauty linked to the oft-delayed No Time to Die movie. It seems the cachet and glamour of Rolex is undiminished even when it’s associated marketing boosts are on hold.
This graphic from an article exploring the Morgan Stanley yearly report on the Swiss watch industry shows Rolex retains its place as a brand leader.
Will Rolex hold its value in 2021?
Where else will there be a Rolex price increase in 2021?
A great example of this is the DateJust, a classic of the Rolex brand – and what many Rolex enthusiasts consider as the symbol of Rolex styling. The DateJust has been continuously available since it’s inception, and so it exists in a number of forms, giving vast potential and appeal for collectors. This availability means lower prices, which heightens appeal in the pre-owned market, and the DateJust is a great entry point for anyone new to collecting or seeking that classic Rolex look.
Another established model that’s experiencing a new lease of life is the Oyster Perpetual. One of the oldest names in the Rolex catalogue, this beauty is often overlooked when thinking about what Rolex is the best investment, however, changes to the model in 2020 created enough buzz to steal some of the spotlight from the Submariner. New movement, bright dial colours and a new lease of life have combined to make the Oyster Perpetual one of the liveliest names of 2020/21. As ever, this renewed interest is creating a stir around discontinued models too, such as the Oyster Perpetual 39 114300 which is already seeing a strong increase in open market value and a new aspect to the question “how much is my Rolex worth?”
Whether your interest in piqued by the latest designs and technologies, or you are entranced by the magic of the classic Rolex, it seems that the impact of Covid-19 on the luxury watch market has been surprisingly positive, and proves that a well-made, well-respected timepiece is a solid investment in almost any circumstances.
What Rolex to invest in
The Rolex back catalogue is full of classic pieces – many of which simply aren’t made anymore. So what Rolex is the best investment? And which Rolex is the best? These are just some of the Rolex watches with an ageless value.
The Milgauss was developed for doctors, engineers and scientists working in electromagnetic environments. The Milgauss is the only Rolex to feature tinted crystal and its orange lightning bolt second hand is a unique feature. The Milglauss has a Faraday cage of soft iron construction. The Milgauss has evolved only slightly in size and shape since its launch in the mid-1950s and it is still used in scientific research and by healthcare professionals working with X-rays.
Rolex sports watches
Professional Rolex sports watches are among the most popular and also most historically important timepieces. Vintage sport Rolex watches have proven to be some of the models that are the best for investment purposes.
Originally built for professional athletes to monitor their performances, sports watches have become a style icon in the modern era. The most popular Rolex sports watches are the Submariner, Daytona, Sea-Dweller, GMT-Master (II), the Yacht-Master and the Sky-dweller.
To many, the Datejust is the quintessential Rolex piece. First launched in 1945, the Datejust continues to be a mainstay of the Rolex catalog. With its simple dial displaying time and date, circular Oyster case, and robust self-winding movement, the Perpetual Datejust is the luxury watch that can be worn just about all of the time in any environment.
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 a 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 kilometers 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 recognizable 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 that 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.
The value of Rolex watches
For anyone considering investing in a Rolex watch, the fundamental questions are – do Rolex watches appreciate in value, does Rolex lose value, will Rolex prices fall, will Rolex prices go down or will Rolex prices go up? And when and by how much?
The answer to the question “do Rolex watches increase in value?” is an unequivocal “yes”. Rolex watches tend to hold their value very well and since the 1950s, the price of a Rolex watch has consistently risen in real terms.
Indeed, Rolex watches have never been in such demand. The renewed interest in the luxury timepiece market – and potential for investment – continues to drive up Rolex prices and resale values.
Recognizing the ever-increasing demand for its timepieces, Rolex has increased sale prices considerably in recent years. The five percent Rolex price increase in 2018 was followed by a seven percent rise in 2019.
An increase in retail prices certainly won’t harm the value of the Rolex you’re wearing right now or the one you may be considering investing in. Buying a Rolex has long proven to be a smart investment with prices steadily rising for sought-after models and in many cases really quite sharply.
Will Rolex prices go down, when, why, and by how much?
The saying “what goes up must come down” applies to most things in life. But rarely to Rolex.
A Rolex watch holds its value over time more consistently than other brands. Rolex is the ultimate in exclusivity. Rolex is prohibitively expensive for many which only serves to enhance the desirability and value of the brand.
To maximize your investment, it is essential to protect your Rolex watch from unnecessary wear and tear and from damage. And some Rolex watches stand a greater chance of increasing in value than others.
Protect your investment – maintain a flawless Rolex
When buying a Rolex for investment, it is essential that the piece is kept in excellent condition.
Rolex watches are made of premium hard-wearing materials. The materials that make a Rolex, like Oystersteel, 18 ct gold, crystal, and platinum 950 are designed to last.
But the condition of a pre-owned watch is a key factor in its value. An unused watch will likely sell for more than a used watch.
Visible wear and tear will take some value off the piece though sometimes a little aging can only add to its appeal, especially if there is a story behind it.
The battle scars of the timepiece worn by a military commander long ago, the wartime pilot, or the 1950s racing driver tell the tale of how Rolex has been at the forefront of human endeavor since the watchmaker was first established in the Edwardian era.
A Rolex with a little wear has patina, character, and demonstrates that the watch was used just as it was intended. A few minor scratches on a pre-owned Rolex hint at a story that only the watch can tell.
The glass on a luxury watch is the area most likely to become damaged. Can Rolex glass scratch? Well, yes, of course, it can. Rolex faces are protected by a sapphire crystal glass which is extremely hard-wearing but can shatter under extreme stress. Expert restorers can erase minor scratches or replace the glass. Of course, Rolex watches are built for performance as well as manufactured for style and they most often outlast the arm on which they have been worn.
Rolex gold, platinum, precious stones, and 904L stainless steel do not scratch with day-to-day use. All Rolex wristwatches, with the exception of the Cellini line, are water-resistant to at least 100 meters or 300 feet.
The ceramic bezels used in Rolex lines are impervious to scratches and do not fade in sunlight. Rolex bracelets are designed to keep the watch securely on your wrist and handle the purpose for which they were made.
And of course, Rolex watches are designed to be worn and to be enjoyed. Nothing says prestige like a Rolex watch adorning one’s wrist.
When and how often to service Rolex watches
Servicing is the best way to maintain the appearance and functionality of a Rolex watch. Rolex recommends that watches be serviced at least every 10 years. But the frequency should be increased depending on the model, its age and its real-life usage.
Most Rolex models – especially modern-day models – can be restored back to factory finish by an authorized, trained, and experienced Rolex watchmaker.
During a routine Rolex service, parts including the bezel, crystal, crown, crown tube, and case back are removed, examined, cleaned, and repaired as necessary. Any deep dings or scratches on the watch will most likely be left, but true craftsmen will remove the daily wear surface scratches during regularly scheduled services.
Some Rolex wearers want to keep their scratches of course in order to recount their tales to future generations. Rolex and any approved watchmaker will honor a no-polishing / no-finish restoration at the owner’s request.
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 is 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 that 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.
Are Rolex watches a good investment?
It is important to do your research before you invest in a Rolex. Like any investment, there may be a risk. Markets move. But less so for Rolex than almost any other brand on the planet – particularly in the world of horology.
An expert jeweller or luxury timepiece specialist is the best place to view, learn about and buy Rolex watches.
Rolex watches are investments. The value of many Rolex watches has significantly increased over time. Buying the right Rolex watch can prove to be a wise investment – you will wear, enjoy and ultimately sell it for more than it was bought for.
One simply can’t deny – or indeed put a price on – the absolute sense of confidence, reliability, and dignity that the brand name Rolex communicates. For that reason alone, this most prestigious of timepiece brands will endure for centuries to come.
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.