Plenty of watch enthusiasts would also love to make money from buying and selling watches. The number one brand to make money with is without a doubt Rolex. Although their watches have gone up in price significantly over the last three to four years, recently we’ve seen a drop in the prices of some Rolex models. While most people expect this to be a logical correction in prices because of the hype surrounding the brand, others believe that they will come down even more. Either way, Rolex models still sell for over their list prices, so they are still hot investment property.
Which generation of Rolex watches might be a good investment?
While there are no guarantees, we have come up with a list of five Rolex models that could potentially go up in price over time. And by “time” we mean a longer period. There really are no quick wins when it comes to getting a serious return on your investment. Especially with the current market, speculating will probably take time before you get a return. No guarantees are given. So let’s find out what we think could potentially be good Rolex investments. They all happen to be neo-vintage, five-digit references that have not gone up in price like newer models or true vintage pieces. It’s also why they are still relatively affordable. On top of that, they are the classics of the future, making them even more interesting as long-term investments.
1. Rolex Explorer II Ref. 16570
In one of the previous articles about Rolex investments, I talked about the Rolex Explorer II ref. 216570. This time I picked the Rolex Explorer II ref. 16570. It was introduced in 1989 as the follow-up to the ref. 16550 when the Explorer II still featured a 40-mm case size, and came with some significant updates compared to its predecessor. First off, the Rolex ref. 16570 is powered by the famous caliber 3185, a key update in terms of technology. For the last run of models, Rolex updated the movement to the caliber 3186, a new movement with some minor upgrades.
Rolex produced the Explorer II ref. 16570 for a total of 22 years before it was replaced by the completely new and bigger ref. 216570 in 2011. The watch is available with a black dial or a white “polar” dial. For the white dial version, Rolex replaced the white gold outlines around the hour markers with black, creating a great contrast. Rolex also updated the lume on the ref. 16570 over the years from tritium, to LumiNova, to Super-LumiNova. Prices for the ref. 16570 start at roughly $7,000 to $7,500 without the original box and papers. If you want a full set, expect to pay between $8,000 and $11,000 depending on the condition. Considering prices for the newer Explorer II models, that’s a very good deal.
2. Rolex Submariner Ref. 14060
Next up is another icon, the Rolex Submariner. The different generations and versions of the world’s most famous diving watch have also gone up in price quite drastically. In a previous article, I wrote about how the Submariner ref. 16610 with a date display was a great option. For this list, I would like to talk about the Rolex Submariner ref. 14060 that was available at the same time and comes without a date display. If you would like to get your hands on a reasonably affordable Rolex Submariner, both of these references are great options and represent the absolute best of what Rolex has to offer: iconic design, bulletproof movement, and excellent craftsmanship. These watches can essentially last you a lifetime, even though they hail back to the 1980s.
The Rolex Submariner ref. 14060 was in production from 1990 until 2010, during which time Rolex made a string of small updates to it. One of the most significant was the change from tritium lume to LumiNova, and quickly after that to Super-LumiNova in the late 90s. A second big update came in the form of the movement. Rolex replaced the caliber 3000 with the more modern caliber 3130. This new version is also known as the Rolex Submariner ref. 14060M. The older ref. 14060 models start at roughly $9,000 and can reach up to $14,000. The newer ref. 104060M starts at roughly $9,500 and can demand up to $15,000 in great condition with the official box and papers. Overall, this Submariner ref. 14060 will probably become a much-respected and sought-after classic over time.
3. Rolex Sea-Dweller Ref. 16600
I talked about the Rolex Sea-Dweller ref. 16600 in a previous article in this series. It still is one of the nicest watches you can buy that is somewhat affordable and likely to appreciate over time. That’s why I want to mention it again. The biggest difference between the Submariner and the Sea-Dweller is the increased water resistance of the Sea-Dweller, resulting in a thicker case. Additionally, the Sea-Dweller comes with a helium escape valve on the left side of the case to make diving at great depths possible. This particular Sea-Dweller does not have the famous Cyclops date magnifier.
If you would like to enjoy the 40-mm size and experience what it was that made the Sea-Dweller such a great watch, go for the Rolex Sea-Dweller ref. 16600. This watch was produced from 1989 until 2009. While the earlier models definitely have a slightly more vintage vibe, the later models are still very much modern watches in terms of technology and appearance. As with the models above, Rolex also changed the lume on the different Sea-Dweller versions from tritium, to LumiNova, to Super-LumiNova. Go for tritium if you want that vintage touch for your Sea-Dweller. The best thing is that these start at roughly $9,000 and go up to $14,000 depending on their condition and whether they come with their original box and papers. As the Sea-Dweller ref. 16600 was such a significant release, it will undoubtedly increase in price over time.
4. Rolex GMT-Master Ref. 16750
When choosing a five-digit Rolex GMT-Master, there are multiple ways to go. The first choice is to decide between a GMT-Master or GMT-Master II, as both were available at the same time as five-digit references. While the Rolex GMT-Master II is the more modern watch, it doesn’t have the same charm as the good old GMT-Master. If you really want that vintage Pan Am charm, go for the Rolex GMT-Master ref. 16750. It features a nice, slim profile that makes the GMT-Master such a joy to wear. The ref. 16750 is the follow-up to the legendary and increasingly more expensive ref. 1675.
The Rolex GMT-Master ref. 16750 was introduced in 1979. Compared to its predecessor, it came with an updated caliber 3075 with a higher frequency for greater accuracy and reliability. On top of that, the movement features a quickset date function that allows you to set the date easily. Lastly, the water resistance increased from 50 meters to 100 meters (10 bar, 328 feet). While the ref. 16750 has definitely increased in popularity and price, I believe that it will go up in value over time. A big reason for this is that it was only produced for eight years, a very short period in Rolex terms. Finding one today will set you back anywhere from roughly $12,000 to $20,000 depending on the condition. If you can find one in the lower half of that range, it will eventually go up in value.
5. Rolex Day-Date Ref. 18238
The last Rolex on this list is the brilliant Rolex Day-Date ref. 18238. Did you ever think you would be able to buy a solid gold Rolex for less than $20,000? Keep an eye out for one of the ref. 18238 versions out there. Granted, these have gone up in price over time, but they are still relatively affordable compared to a modern Day-Date or some of the steel models. On top of that, you get the brilliant vintage look of what can only be described as royalty among Rolex watches.
The 36-mm Rolex Day-Date ref. 18238 was first introduced in 1988 and was a great step up from the previous generation. The biggest reason was the new caliber 3155 with its double quickset feature that allows you to change the day and the date easily. The 18238 is the Day-Date in yellow gold on a President bracelet. It’s the only way to go with a Day-Date, if you ask me. The watch comes with a variety of dial options, the best of which in my opinion is the gold and black. But take a look for yourself. You can buy a Rolex Day-Date for anywhere between roughly $17,000 and $24,000 depending on its condition. Make sure you get one with a good bracelet. It will not only make it worth more in the long run, but also makes it a greater joy to wear (yes, people, wear your watches!)
That concludes our list of five Rolex models that could be a great investment. With that said, happy hunting!