The mechanical watch is one of few items a man can confidently decorate himself with. It’s jewellery with a masculine edge (functionality), and, if done right, an expression of his exquisite taste. At the top of the pile, strapped to the wrists of presidents, screen icons and generally excellent humans ever since wristwatches first became cool, is Rolex. Very few Rolex watches, from over a century of production, will ever drop in value, almost all, in fact, will rise as steadily as gold bullion, but many too will fall into the lucrative collector’s market.
Of course, navigating the sea of pre-owned Rolex watches on the internet is like launching a paddle board into the North Atlantic. Sooner or later it simmers down to two choices: do the research (the equivalent of trying to paddle to America) or putting your faith in someone that looks like they know what they’re talking about. We hooked up with Xupes, one of the biggest online UK retailers of pre-owned mechanical watches, who provided us with a list of Rolex watches they think will soon enter the collector’s radar.
The Submariner is the original dive watch, made as suitable for the confines of the boardroom as it is for recreational scuba diving. The reference 5513 ran from 1966 to 1984. It has no date, which many find more appealing, and it also appeared on James Bond’s wrist in Live and Let Die. It comes in a plethora of different updates in fonts, text position and special editions, of which some can go for up to £50,000, depending on rarity. Many are now ageing nicely and prices are on the up. Expect to pay at least £7,000 for a good version.
The Sea-Dweller is Rolex’s more serious dive watch, originally intended for deep-water exploration. The reference 16660, or ‘triple six’, introduced in 1978, was the first to contain modern Rolex parts such as the sapphire crystal, larger helium valve and legendary 3135 calibre movement. These are starting to become popular, not least for being the only Rolex watch with no ‘Cyclops’ lens over the date, and many now have patina on the hour markers and dials that have turned matte black. While these are the most sought-after, the others will likely soon take on the same effects. Expect to pay in the region of £8,000-14,000 for a good example.
The yellow gold Day-Date, the so-named “President’s watch” (you can read more about that here), is the original luxury Rolex. While a current 36 mm version fresh out of the factory will cost £16,250, you can pick up a vintage piece, such as the reference 18238, for around £7,000. These can look great today on a modern leather strap and they will always be cherished. What’s more, they are literally worth their weight in gold!
The Daytona chronograph is the most popular sports chronograph ever made. The early Daytonas are the epitome of the vintage-chic look that’s so popular amongst 21st-century mechanical watch wearers and they command the highest prices at auction. Unlike the vintage pieces on this list, the reference 116520 is a modern Daytona. It’s the last reference, the one before the ceramic bezel, and its price has been continuously climbing since the ceramic-bezelled version threw the Rolex scene into a frenzy. This one is sure to creep up in value over the years.