Rolex is the most recognizable and most coveted watch brand in the world, with prices that can be prohibitive to some. However, we found five popular Rolex watch models that are available, either new at authorized retailers or on the secondary market, that offer accessible (for Rolex, that is) prices for collectors looking to spend under $10k.*
1. Rolex Oyster Perpetual
Rolex calls it the quintessential Oyster, and the purest expression of the Oyster concept. It’s hard to argue with that, and this watch provides an excellent entry point into the world of Rolex.
The Oyster Perpetual offers its owner many of the advances Rolex is known for, including some of the best technical developments. The 36-mm or 41-mm 904L stainless steel case is water-resistant to 100 meters, or 330 feet. The center section of the case is milled from a solid block of steel. The crown uses the patented Twinlock system to keep the elements at bay, and the sapphire crystal is virtually scratchproof.
Both sizes of the model are powered by the Rolex manufacture self-winding caliber 3230. This movement bears the official Swiss chronometer certification, and, like all Rolex movements, it is known for both precision and reliability while featuring a solid 70-hour power reserve. The precision is made possible by a free-sprung balance, prized by collectors and found in the finest movements. The patented blue Parachrom hairspring offers excellent protection against shocks, magnetic fields and temperature variations. The Oyster Perpetual begins in price at $5,600 retail.
2. Rolex Explorer
The Rolex Explorer (for a review, click here) is a true icon, not only for Rolex, but within the larger world of rugged, precision-made timepieces. It famously accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay when they became the first to reach the summit of Mt. Everest in May, 1953. That achievement is one of many, but it is emblematic of the adventurous spirit that guides both Rolex in its quest for perfection, and those who consider their Explorer an essential part of their success.
Relaunched in 2010, the Explorer remains faithful to the heritage that extends back to 1953. Blue Chromalight hour markers and hands ensure excellent visibility in all conditions. In 2021, Rolex introduced the latest update to the collection, showcasing a new 36-mm version available in steel or two-tone — which, style-wise, is much the same as the previously introduced 39-mm, complete with an Oyster case, Twinlock crown, and signature Explorer dial.
Inside, the Caliber 3230 self-winding movement is as robust as it is precise, capable of a 70-hour power reserve. Of course, the movement is an officially certified chronometer. The free-sprung balance is precision-fitted between two Paraflex shock absorbers, developed and patented by Rolex. The blue Parachrom hairspring assures high-precision timekeeping. The bracelet is fitted with the patented Oysterlock clasp, and with the Easylink comfort system, which allows the user to extend the bracelet by 5 mm. The Rolex Explorer is priced from $6,450 at retail.
3. Rolex Datejust II
The Rolex Datejust is the quintessential “goes everywhere, does everything” timepiece. When men say they want a watch they can wear with jeans as well as a suit, this is the go-to recommendation. The Datejust defines versatility.
The Datejust also represents another time-honored and timeless Rolex design. Though it has been updated since its creation in 1945, it remains an instantly recognizable talisman of taste and refinement. In 2009, the brand launched the Datejust II, which while discontinued in 2016 with the launch of the Datejust 41, nonetheless still represents some of the more affordable options in modern Rolex collecting on the secondary market. With its 41-mm diameter, the incarnation satisfies the desire for a timepiece that makes a bold statement on the wrist.
The Datejust II is the only watch among our selections to offer one of Rolex’s most widely-recognizable technical enhancements: the Cyclops lens above the date. Invented by Rolex in 1953, the lens magnifies the date 2.5 times, making it much easier to read. The date display itself offers both quick correction via the crown, and instantaneous changing.
The 904L stainless steel Oyster case is available with another instantly identifiable Rolex hallmark: the fluted bezel. When the Oyster debuted in 1926, the fluting was functional – it allowed the crown to be gripped so it could be screwed down onto the case to guarantee a watertight seal. The self-winding Caliber 3136 movement bears the “Chronometer” designation, awarded by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC). It features the Microstella variable-inertia balance, Paraflex shock absorbers, and Parachrom balance spring with Breguet overcoil for improved timekeeping precision. The Rolex Datejust II starts at an MSRP of $9,100.
4. Rolex Submariner
The Rolex Submariner is instantly recognized anywhere on the planet. It exemplifies precision under pressure, and it exudes a sense of adventure. Created in 1953, it was the first watch waterproof to a depth of 100 meters, or 330 feet.
We have selected the so-called non-date model for our survey, reference 124060, as it represents the entry point into Submariner world. Many think it also represents the Submariner in its purest form. The original models did not feature a date, and this timepiece is, after all, a tool for divers, who rarely need to know the date when under the sea. With no date, the watch offers an uninterrupted time display – a requirement for adventurers of all types. Rolex calls it the dive watch archetype. That pretty much sums it up.
Today, the 904L stainless steel Oyster case offers water resistance to 300 meters, or 1,000 feet. The blue Chromalight display, protected by a sapphire crystal, assures excellent visibility. The patented Triplock crown is reserved for Rolex timepieces built to visit great depths. The rotatable 60-minute bezel with scratch-proof Cerachrom ceramic insert allows divers to time their dives. The bezel’s triangular zero marker glows Chromalight blue. Divers also appreciate the Oyster bracelet fitted with the Glidelock system for fine adjustment of the bracelet length.
Precision timekeeping is especially important under water, and the Submariner’s self-winding Caliber 3230 movement inspires confidence with its COSC-certified chronometer rating. The heart of the movement features a blue Parachrom hairspring and high-performance Paraflex shock absorbers that together offer excellent stability when exposed to shocks, vibrations, magnetic fields, and temperature changes. The resilience of the working movement comes in a addition to a notable 70-hour power reserve. The Rolex Submariner reference 124060 begins in price at $8,100 at retail.
5. Rolex Milgauss
The Rolex Milgauss was created in 1956 for engineers and technicians who are exposed to strong magnetic fields in their work. These fields can affect the performance in mechanical watches. Rolex solved the problem by developing and patenting a magnetic shield for the movement that allowed the watch to withstand fields up to 1,000 ( “mille” in French) gauss – the unit of measure for field strength. The Milgauss became popular among scientists working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva.
In 2007, Rolex launched a new generation Milgauss that incorporates all of Rolex’s technological expertise. The new model’s orange seconds hand shaped like a lightning bolt is inspired by the original.
Today we encounter powerful magnets every day, from refrigerator doors and tablet computer cases to and handbag and briefcase clasps, we are surrounded by magnets. Magnetic fields are also present in a range of industries, including telecommunications, medical technology, aerospace and electrotechnical.
Rolex uses several innovations to keep these fields at bay. The first line of defense is the magnetic shield inside the case. Made of ferromagnetic alloys, it surrounds and protects the movement. This invention was patented by Rolex in 1956 and has since been further improved. The second line of defense involves some of the movement’s key components, made from innovative nonmagnetic materials. The escape wheel is fashioned from an antimagnetic nickel-phosphorous alloy using a complex process called UV-LiGA or ultra-violet lithography that Rolex has master in-house. The oscillator uses the patented blue Parachrom balance spring.
Of course the movement is protected from more than just magnetic fields. The 904L stainless steel Oyster case and the Twinlock crown seal out the elements, offering water resistance to 100 meters or 330 feet. The Rolex manufacture Caliber 3131 movement is a certified Swiss chronometer. To ensure that the Milgauss remains comfortable on the wrist, the Oyster bracelet is fitted with the patented Easylink system, which allows the owner to extend the bracelet by up to 5 mm. The Rolex Milgauss is priced at retail from $8,300.
This article was originally published in 2014 with periodic updates; prices are subject to change.
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