The average prices of Rolex watches have been going up and up since the 1950s.
Rolex is a globally recognised brand and a signifier of both exclusivity and reliability.
Its watches aren’t the most expensive luxury you can buy, but the Rolex name has resonance. It means something wherever you go. That sort of brand recognition and reputation keeps driving prices up.
Do Rolex watches hold their value? They do a lot more than that. You’re not simply buying a Rolex, you’re investing in it for the future.
Are Rolex Watches a Good Investment?
As the world’s most famous luxury watch brand, Rolex produces timepieces that have instant desirability.
This desirability drives market demand. Rolex watches are symbols of prestige. They confer credibility on the wearer, and have an air of gravitas that puts them on a unique footing in the world of luxury brands.
Consequently, buying a Rolex watch is pretty much a guaranteed good investment.
Another major factor in this is the continuity of quality and performance that Rolex timepieces offer.
Modifications or updates that Rolex makes to its watch designs are carefully considered and incremental. This isn’t about radical change but constant, controlled progress and development.
If you buy a Rolex Submariner in the 21st century, for example, you know you’re getting the same precision-engineered performance that someone would have experienced in the 1950s.
Rolex watches aren’t about celebrating the relentless march of technology and incorporating the latest innovations. Rather, they’re about updating the same values of quality and craft that they have always represented.
Do Rolex Watches Retain their Value?
When you put a Rolex on your wrist, fresh out of the box, it doesn’t depreciate in value because you’re wearing it.
The value of Rolex watches tends to hold over time. Not only this, but some models will appreciate in value significantly.
At an auction in Wiltshire in 2018, a Rolex Submariner 5513 was sold for £80,000. The seller originally bought it for £69.
Not all watches are equal, however, and this includes Rolex timepieces.
Some will gain in value more than others, depending on their rarity and collectability. But you’re unlikely to hear of Rolex watches losing their value.
Some models are instantly recognisable, such as the Datejust, and modern classics like the Sky-Dweller, as well as the long-standing Day-Date.
Then you’ve got the Rolex sports watches, many of which have made the headlines over the years due to the value they can command.
Do All Rolex Watches Increase in Value?
Rolex watches can retain their value, but will they all increase in value too? This does depend on the model of the watch.
Some watches will appreciate in value more than others.
Rolex sports watches, for example, are designed to perform especially well over time. This makes them more desirable.
These models include:
- GMT Master II
Even some current versions of these watches are hard to come by, which drives up their value.
Often, collectors will look for specific models that have distinctive colours, from which the watches get their nicknames:
- The GMT Master became known as the Pepsi watch because of its red and blue bezel
- The GMT Master II has a black and blue bezel, with a nickname of Batman or Bruiser
- The bold green design of the Submariner 11610LV has given it the famous Hulk name.
Scarcity is the major factor that drives up the value of Rolex watches. The rarer the watch, the greater its chances of becoming a long-term investment piece.
The most expensive Rolex watches ever sold have all been rare models.
- The last emperor of Vietnam, Bao Dai, commissioned a Rolex watch in 1954. This unique Rolex in yellow gold was sold at auction for $5 million.
- The only known example of a Daytona in white gold, known as the Unicorn, sold for $5.9 million
- A watch owned by the actor Paul Newman, his personal Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, sold at auction for an unprecedented $17.8 million.
How do You Identify the Value of a Rolex Watch?
Extremely rare Rolex timepieces are, naturally, in short supply. But there are still coveted models out there that collectors can source and buy.
To identify the value of a Rolex watch you need to ask yourself:
- Is it rare?
- Is it vintage or collectable?
- Is it one of the more popular models?
- Is it made from an in-demand metal?
These factors can all contribute to the value of a Rolex watch.
The most direct route to making a good investment is to opt for a vintage Rolex.
The value of these watches tends to increase over time due to the scarcity principle. Because they’re no longer in production, there’s a limited number of them in circulation.
Older watches can be subject to damage or loss too, which increases the scarcity and therefore the value of some models.
In contrast, more popular models currently in production will be more widely in circulation and therefore won’t be worth as much.
They will, however, retain their value.
It’s also worth noting that Rolex has discontinued certain models that aren’t that old, such as the Submariner Hulk, which immediately drives up its value as a collectable timepiece.
Another factor is the material that goes into a model of watch. For instance, gold Rolex watches are more expensive at the outset, but gold tends to maintain its value and so can be a factor in how the watch increases in overall value.
What Are Older Rolex Watches Worth?
A lot of the appeal of Rolex watches lies in their exclusivity. But at the same time, this is the most recognised watch brand in the world.
Many brand new Rolex watches aren’t the most expensive luxury timepieces on the market.
Much of the brand’s mystique and pull comes from the simplicity of its Swiss movements combined with the headline-grabbing rarity of certain models.
Consequently, the older the watch, the more likely it is to be less commonly available.
More people than ever before now own a Rolex, but they don’t all own vintage pieces.
Older Rolex watches haven’t simply kept pace with inflation but have far exceeded it in terms of value.
How Do You Tell the Age of a Rolex Watch?
Rolex watches all have serial numbers that indicate specific production dates:
- These serial numbers are located between the lugs on the 6 o’clock side of the watch case, behind the bracelet
- From 2005, Rolex also engraved the serial number on the inside flange, or rehaut, between the dial and the crystal
- From 2008, serial numbers on new Rolex watches only appeared on the rehaut, rather than also being engraved on the side of the watch case.
Therefore, the first broad indicator of a watch’s date is where the serial number appears on the piece.
Along with a serial number, each watch has a model number. This is a four or six-digit number, engraved between the lugs above 12 o’clock.
The model number indicates the model type, bezel and the material that the watch has been manufactured from.
If you understand what the model number indicates for a specific watch, you can determine the model, bezel and material. These are all factors that contribute to its value and are clues towards its age.
On many watches, there is also a code on the clasp of the bracelet. This indicates the year of manufacture. If the bracelet is a replacement bracelet for the watch, its code will have an additional letter S stamped on it.
You can carry out further detective work by looking at the three-digit country code for the watch, on the upper left-hand side of the guaranty certificate. This is another age indicator since most watches manufactured after 1980 won’t have a country code.
Watches issued in the USA don’t have a country code on the certificate, but older papers have red letters stamped on them.
If in any doubt, always check first. The best way to ensure the age of the watch is what you’re paying for is to use a trusted dealer in the first place.
Which Rolex Watches Increase in Value?
This is the million-dollar question. It’s been answered literally with the sales at auction of certain rare Rolex models (see earlier).
But if you’re looking to invest in a Rolex, then you’ll want to know whether you’re buying a piece that will retain its value or increase it.
It also depends on what you’re prepared to spend on your investment.
Highly collectable watches include Rolex Submariner, GMT Master II and Daytona models.
Alternatively, you could still opt for a more popular and readily available model which will retain its value but might not skyrocket in quite the same way.
Why Do Rolex Watches Appreciate in Value?
There’s no magic formula that determines how or why a watch appreciates in value.
But there is a powerful aura surrounding the Rolex brand which lends it that extra element of authenticity and desirability.
Rolex watches appreciate in value because the Rolex brand is a global signifier of quality and exclusivity.
Even if you purchase a contemporary Rolex that’s a popular model, it’s still a Rolex. That already adds value to your purchase.
What you must then consider is how the Rolex brand continues to evolve. It has time-honoured models but it’s willing to modify them carefully and bring out new versions that supersede the older ones.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Those older models don’t become obsolete. Instead, they increase in value.
What does this mean for you, the prospective buyer?
It means that, in effect, you become an investor automatically by opting to buy a Rolex. You’re not going to lose money on it, and if you make a careful choice, you could stand to gain considerably?
How to Find Your Perfect Rolex Timepiece
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