The Rolex brand has long connoted a sense of luxury and artisanal craftsmanship, and for good reason. Rolex watches are made with the finest materials and the utmost precision. However, the meticulous care that goes into every model should not immediately disqualify the brand to collectors on a budget. We’ve put together 7 Rolex models that can star in your watch collection without breaking the bank, plus a few tips for choosing more affordable iterations of popular models.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual
A collector who prefers their timepieces to look minimalist and uncluttered but still significant would appreciate the Rolex Oyster Perpetual. This unobtrusive model features sharp, square hands and markers housed inside a sleek Oyster case. One shouldn’t be fooled by the simple design, however: inside that case lives an incredibly precise and powerful movement that keeps this watch accurate to -2/+2 seconds per day. This financially accessible watch is perfect for the collector who is just starting to dip their toes into the world of horology. It runs for about $2,500 on TrueFacet Marketplace and about $4,850 at retail price.
The Rolex Datejust comes in so many iterations—featuring a variety of dials and bezels to suit every collector’s personal style—but its air of sophistication never wavers between designs. New collectors often assume that the Datejust lands on the pricier end of the spectrum because of that stateliness that it exhibits, but in actuality, this watch’s regal and understated look is quite accessible. This would make an excellent starter dress watch for a new collection. It runs for about $2,000 on TrueFacet Marketplace and about $6,000 at retail price.
For a collector who seeks a timepiece that will accompany them through their adventures through the great outdoors, the Rolex Explorer would make the perfect entry-level Rolex. This model evokes traditional Rolex design, with lumes in the hour markers, arrowhead hands, and a rotating bezel for a second time zone, all of which are present in one form or another on classic Rolexes like the GMT-Master and the Sea-Dweller. It runs for about $4,000 on TrueFacet Marketplace and about $8,200 at retail price.
Even the most seasoned watch collectors will never turn their noses up at a Rolex Submariner. This model has one of the most recognizable designs in Rolex’s entire compendium of watches. With its Cerachrom rotating bezel, luminescent markers and hands, and signature casing, the Submariner is one of the classic models that make an excellent investment. That said, new collectors will find that their dollar goes far when it comes to this watch, which would truly become a cornerstone piece in their burgeoning collection. It runs for about $6,000 on TrueFacet Marketplace and between $7,000 and $30,000 at retail price.
Science enthusiasts would especially love the Rolex Milgauss‘s tribute to the field of engineering. Built for scientists who are exposed to strong magnetic fields on a day-to-day basis, this unique timepiece features a soft-iron inner case and anti-magnetic parts to quell the effects of the field on its timekeeping ability. New collectors will love this watch’s surprisingly low price point and fascinating history. It runs for about $6,000 on TrueFacet Marketplace and between $8,000 and $9,000 at retail price.
The retro design on the Rolex AirKing makes this affordable model singular in its 1950s-inspired aesthetic. The AirKing was made to pay tribute to pilots, and as such, it is equipped with a strong stainless steel case and bracelet, anti-magnetic parts, and a very readable dial. Not only is this model visually timeless, but it’s also incredibly functional—the perfectly pragmatic addition to a growing watch collection. It runs for about $3,300 on TrueFacet Marketplace and about $6,200 at retail price.
Choosing the More Affordable Model
Here are a few quick tips for selecting the cheapest option between versions of the same model.
1. Choose stainless steel over yellow or white gold or silver.
First of all, stainless steel is not nearly as precious a metal as gold or silver. When a whole watch, bracelet and all, is made of those precious metals, its price skyrockets. Opt for a classic stainless steel case for a timepiece that will not only be more affordable, but it will also be much sturdier and scratch-resistant than a gold or silver watch.
2. Pick a plain dial.
Rolexes often come with mother-of-pearl dials or with diamond markers. These details hike up the price of what could be a very affordable timepiece because of their expensive material and because of the scarcity of authentic models made with those adjustments. Stick to metal dials and markers for a simple look that won’t break the bank.
3. Stay away from rare or limited edition pieces.
This one should be obvious, but new collectors simply aren’t always informed about which models are limited edition or special. And when it comes to Rolex, even pieces that seem to be damaged can cost a veritable fortune! Check out this post for more information about picking out special Rolexes and identifying cost-inflating “damage” on vintage Rolexes.