Because Rolex watches are in such high demand, most models hold their value incredibly well and some models consistently grow in value, making them a good investment.
So you want to buy a Rolex? This Replica Rolex Buying Guide includes what I learned while spending a year searching for my first Rolex watch.
Honestly, when I decided that I wanted to buy a Rolex I got pretty obsessed; meticulously researching and hunting for the perfect watch. Since Rolex has produced millions and millions of watches over the past hundred years, I had a lot to learn.
THE HISTORY OF ROLEX
Founded in 1908 by Hans Wilsdorf at the age of 24, Rolex over the past 100 years is a brand that has transcended boundaries and written its own rules. Since the company is privately held and its factory an almost impenetrable fortress, not a lot is actually known about the day to day operations of the company.
Is Rolex the Most Well-Known Brand in the World?
While much of the inner workings of Rolex are unknown, there are many things that are certain: Rolex is in a category all its own – it is arguably the most well known brand in the world and has been the go-to watchmaker for revolutionaries like Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama, characters like James Bond, Hollywood elite like Brad Pitt and Al Pacino, rappers like Tyga (dude wears 2 at a time!), Future, and Kanye West, as well as the sleazy insurance salesmen and the white-collar corporate tax attorney who lives down the street.
Somehow, it is a brand that is timeless and innovative – representing luxury, affluence, and exceptional quality. There really is no comparison – when you hold an authentic Rolex in your hand you can truly feel something special. It many respects it’s the perfect watch. You can dress it up or dress it down, it can be your daily wearer or kept in a safe for the next generation.
How Long Does it Take to Build a Rolex?
It reportedly takes a full year to build a single Rolex from start to finish and most watches contain hundreds and hundreds of small microscopic parts. Check out this insane video of a Rolex Submariner being taken apart to see what’s inside.
So many miniature pieces all working together to tell time using just the energy of your natural movement. It is truly an exceptional engineering feat that Rolex also works to constantly improve. Rolex watches were originally developed as “tool” watches for divers, pilots, yachters, scientists, and then became a fashion and status symbol starting in the 1970s.
It is the brand who’s many original models are still in existence (Explorer, Submariner, GMT, Yachtmaster, Day Date, and President) and they have continued to subtly improve over decades.
The Rolex team are always trying to improve each movement and experiment with new ideas. It’s easy to see that the people at Rolex take extreme pride in their craft – with many of the watchmakers having spent their entire careers working for the company. You can not only see this extreme attention to detail in the construction of a Rolex, but you can also feel it.
I have tried on many luxury watches in the past few years and the feel of a Rolex is beyond compare. A Rolex is a watch of unmatched quality and I hope that this Rolex buying guide helps you discover the watch perfect watch for you.
IS ROLEX REALLY THE BEST WATCH COMPANY?
This will be a forever debate amongst watch collectors. The simple answer is that there is no “best” watch company, but Rolex would easily make the “best of” list which also includes other iconic brands that go back centuries like Patek Philippe (1839) , Omega (1848), Audemars Piguet (1875), Panerai (1860), Cartier (1847), IWC: International Watch Company (1868) and a few other brands. There are a lot of companies making great watches right now and there are also a lot of companies that aren’t.
Despite a recent decline in new luxury watch sales, the vintage market is booming and brands like Rolex are crushing it. Many other brands are jumping on the bandwagon. For example, while companies like Louis Vuitton are now selling Swiss-made automatic watches that I think look pretty cool and are likely built well, they lack the watchmaking history of many other brands.
Rolex Controls Every Aspect of Manufacturing
Rolex is one of the only watchmakers in the world who actually manufacture all components “in-house,” including the metal and gold used in their watches. This means they have their own gold refinery and can manufacture alloys that can’t be copied by anyone else. And let’s not forget the heart of the watch – the movement.Rolex manufactures everything in those movements in house and then assembles them. They design, create and assemble all of their watches using both custom-built machines to do precise tasks, as well as thousands of people hours to do those things humans can do like steadily calibrate the “balance” – a part known as the mind of the watch. A simple rhythm powered by the movement of your arm and is stored in the balance of the watch and powers it even when you have it off for 50+ hours.
A Rolex is a Work of Art
They truly are works of art. Even though Rolex watches started as tools, in the 1970s they started making all gold models and using precious stones so that all those new drug king pins could have something to wear! Well not really, but kind of – by the 1970’s Rolex’s were becoming known as a luxury brand and all gold versions of the Rolex Submariner and Rolex GMT debuted, as did diamond and ruby dials and bezels.
IS A ROLEX A GOOD INVESTMENT?
Because Rolex watches are in such high demand, most models hold their value incredibly well and some models consistently grow in value. While it is, of course, difficult to predict the future, based on past and current demand, the interest in Rolex is likely going to continue to grow over time. Interest in Rolexes (based on Google searches) has grown steadily over the past 5 years and show no hint of slowing down.
While I wouldn’t count on retiring from your Rolex collection, there are clearly some people who have made a substantial return on their vintage Rolexes and some watches have recently skyrocketed in price. The value of your Rolex Submariner will likely appreciate up to 5% per year (which yes is better than the stock market is currently doing), but I don’t recommend rolling over your 401k into Submariners! Check out this 1960 GMT that recently appeared on Antiques Roadshow.
WHY BUY A ROLEX?
This is a complicated and personal question. First, there are many reasons people pay $5,000+ for a Rolex watch, but most people who buy Rolexes are celebrating an occasion, just have a ton of money, or they are truly looking for an iconic timeless well-made watch. For me, it was becoming a partner at my consulting firm.
I worked super hard for over 5 years to become a named partner at my firm so I wanted to mark the occasion by buying a Rolex that I could wear everyday to remember the achievement. It is a common custom in Japan for people to celebrate big occasions like graduation, marriage, or birth with the gift of a watch. It is to help you remember how you felt upon receiving it – I bet very few people forget when they got their first Rolex.
How to Get The Best Deal on a Rolex
For me, this was a purchase that was both planned and impulsive. I told myself I would buy a Rolex when I became a partner and I knew it was likely going to happen in the next 6 months. First came the planning: I took some time to study the models, the features, the movements, and the history of each Rolex. I then started checking Chrono 24 almost daily.
Bestbuycheap.ru is a database where top watch sellers around the world list their best watches for sale. Search for anything and I bet at least one person is selling it somewhere and likely many others. It is the true global Rolex marketplace. Some prices are ridiculous, but there are deals too. It is a credible website and you can read reviews of sellers, as well as conduct the transaction directly on the website.
I also set up Bestbuycheap.ru alerts to notify me when Rolex models like mid 1980’s transitional Rolex Submariner 1680 and 16800 models. A piece of advice: you have to be very careful on eBay, but there are deals to be had from reputable watch dealers – just check to make sure the sellers have a physical store somewhere and that they have been open for at least 5+ years.
Then came the impulse: When I found the right watch I acted immediately – good deals on Rolex watches go fast. So many models are unique and sought after that you have to move quickly. Finding the right watch takes both planning and the ability to click or buy the Rolex you fall in love with immediately. For me it was a 1984 Submariner 1680. This is what I recommend you do – start looking for a Rolex ideally 6-12 months before you intend to buy a watch. Set up alerts on Chrono24 and ebay. Also check websites like HQMilton – one of my favorite watch websites and store based on San Francisco. Just start digging and you will find a watch you love. Then buy it. Whether its to celebrate a special moment or simply love at first sight, however you buy your Rolex it will bring you joy. But be careful it might even become an obsession.
WHAT COLOR ROLEX SHOULD YOU PURCHASE?
Before even selecting the model of Rolex you want, or deciding if you want to buy one new or vintage – I think it is important to first decide the color of the watch that you want – since this will really inform your choices moving forward. There are essentially three primary Rolex watch case colors:
By far the most popular Rolex color and since the mid-1980’s Rolex have been using their own 904L grade of stainless steel – which is more durable, resistant to scratches, and is much shinier than other stainless steel. It is pretty easy to tell the difference – it really does shine.
The stainless steel Rolex is the classic color and is perfect to both dress up and dress down – you can never go wrong with a stainless steel Rolex. They are also easy to fly under the radar and to the unknowing eye can blend in as just a standard sport watch. This makes them ideal to wear in both business and personal settings. A stainless steel Rolex is the watch the all other sport watches around the world have been modeled after – the stainless steel look is timeless.
Most Gold Rolex watches are 18kt gold, but the color of the gold (which is determined based on the percentage of other minerals used when refining it) has varied pretty substantially over the year. Some gold Rolex watches are more yellow or more or less bright than others. I recommend that before you buy a gold Rolex you first see it in person – since a lot of the photos from online stores are brightened and the gold may be duller in person.
With that being said – a vast majority of the gold Rolexes that I have seen are super bright and vibrant. 18kt gold “Rollies” are the favored style of rappers and ballers around the world. In my opinion, very few people could actually pull off wearing a gold Rolex at work unless they are an entertainer, gambler, or drug dealer. Gold Rolexes come in yellow gold, white gold, or rose gold.
It is important to note that some Rolexes are solid gold and others are hollow depending on the year and model. While there is no tried and true rule, most but not all gold Rolexes made after the year 2000 are made of solid gold. Most vintage models before 2000 are hollow.
How Much is the Gold Worth in a Rolex?
A lot of people ask how much the gold in a Rolex is actually worth and based the current price of gold at $1,200 per ounce most gold Rolexes are made of less than an ounce of gold and contain about $1,000 worth of gold. This is far from the starting price of $10,000 for a used Rolex President, $15,000 for a used Gold Rolex Submariner, or $25,000 for a Rolex Yachtmaster.
Then finally there is the two-tone Rolex, which is typically a predominantly stainless steel Rolex with gold accents (on the band and on the dial. I personally don’t like the two-tone models, but they definitely are popular particularly amongst older Rolex buyers. All of the Rolex owners I personally know over the age of 40 wear two-tone watches. They are also the go-to model for bankers, business executives, and anyone who wants to show just a little bit of gold.
VINTAGE ROLEX VS. NEW ROLEX
Now that you hopefully have decided what color Rolex watch you want you should start thinking about whether you want to buy a new or a vintage Rolex watch. This is truly a personal decision and some people just like buying and knowing that the Rolex they bought was new and no one else has worn it.
New Rolexes can only be purchased at an authorized Rolex dealer – you cannot buy a new Rolex at any reseller or third party store (so naturally be cautious if someone is offering you one). Most new Rolexes range in price between $5,000 – $30,000 depending on the model, metal, and features.
What to Look for in a Vintage Rolex
The world of vintage Rolexes is truly infinite and there is nothing quite like the uniqueness of a vintage Rolex. An old school vintage Rolex truly tells a story and most (but not all) watches age beautifully due to the materials that were used over the years.
For example, many old Rolex Submariners pre-1990 have dials that have a creamy patina on the hour markers that are prized by collectors. It is also worth noting that many vintage Rolex watches that have rare imperfections, like dials that have faded in the sun to a “tropical” brown color, are also prized by collectors.
Navigating the world of vintage Rolexes can be incredibly perplexing – especially when you realize that just a simple extra line of text on the dial or the fact that the text is written in red instead of white can make a watch command prices that are sometimes as much as $30,000+ extra.
The rarest detail typically makes the watch more coveted and thus more expensive. Some Rolex collectors are super intense. Not all vintage Rolexes are super expensive, but they aren’t cheap.
You will never find a quality used Rolex for under $2,500 and the starting prices for used Rolex Submariners are in the $5,000+ range. Most Rolexes hold their value extremely well and most also appreciate in value over time. This can’t be said for most watch brands.
Rolex Production Dates & Serial Numbers
The final vintage trend that is worth noting is the popularity of birth year Rolexes – buying a Rolex that was made the year that you were born. This is what I did and I was actually able to track (based on the best information available) that the Rolex I bought was likely made in the exact month in the exact year that I was born.
To be honest I got a little bit obsessed with tracking Rolex serial numbers (the data available is not great and Rolex have never released official serial numbers by date) to determine a more precise date when the watches I was looking at were made. The best Rolex serial number resources I found mostly aligned with the serial number distributions shown in the chart below (aggregated from many sources).
If you want to search for your serial number there are some good tools available – but the accuracy varies. Check out the Rolex Serial Number Finder at https://www.eucheapjerseys.com/.
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