List vs. Ask: Comparing Steel Rolex Prices at Retail to Prices on the Secondary Market

It is no secret that many watches within Rolex’s steel range can be difficult to come by at retail prices. With wait lists stretching for weeks to months to even years, depending on the dealer and the model reference, many collectors are now turning to watch resellers and the grey market to cut their wait time significantly.

Naturally, working through these channels in search of in-demand timepieces comes both at premium and with increased risk. Price hikes of 20, 30, 50, even 100 percent are common for many models, and the presence of, shall we say, less-than-authentic watches continues to sow distrust within the online market especially.

Buying a watch online is hard enough, so we wrote a guide earlier this year to help you navigate that terrain. Today we will be comparing the lowest list price of in-production steel Rolexes to their current lowest asking prices on Chrono24 — a popular watch reselling platform — and WatchBox, a reputable, resell-focused dealer — to give you a sense of the common going prices of popular models. We organized the list in order from the lowest to the highest percentage change in price from retail to resell.

Rolex Datejust (-4.2% to +19.88% and Above)

Kicking off our list is the widely beloved Rolex Datejust. Datejusts these days encompass a large swath of reference numbers, styles, colors, and sizes, so we focused on four: the Datejust 36 with a domed bezel (Ref. 126200), the 36 with a fluted bezel (Ref. 126234), the 41 with a domed bezel (Ref. 126300), and the 41 with a fluted bezel (Ref. 126334).

The Datejust 36 with domed bezel was the closest-to-retail steel Rolex we could find, with the lowest asking price standing at $6,754 on Chrono24, down 4.2% from the retail price of $7,050; WatchBox at the time of writing was sold out of this reference.

Up next was the Datejust 41 with fluted bezel, which was marked by a Chrono24 seller at $9,499 and by WatchBox at $10,450, down 1.56% and up 8.29%, respectively, from the $9,650 retail price.

The Datejust 36 with fluted bezel was marked by Chrono24 at $8,714 and WatchBox at $9,950, up 4.99% and 19.88% from the list price of $8,300.

Finally, we looked at the Datejust 41 with domed bezel, which was listed by Chrono24 at $8,370 and by WatchBox at $8,750, up 9.41% and 14.38% from the retail listing of $7,650.

Rolex Air-King - front

Rolex Air-King (+13.34% and Up)

The second model we looked at was the Rolex Air-King Ref. 116900. The modern Air-King is usually a love-it-or-don’t model within the Rolex catalog, but at the end of the day it is still a production member of the most in-demand luxury brand in the world, and its price mark-ups reflect that.

As of this writing, the Air-King can be found on Chrono24 for $7,375 and on WatchBox for $8,250, the first up 13.34% and the second 27.91% from the retail listing of $6,450.

Rolex Explorer I

Rolex Explorer (+13.74% and Above)

Like the Milgauss and Air-King, the Rolex Explorer is a time-only classic presented by the Rolex brand. The modern production reference is 214270, and it is currently listed by Rolex at $6,550.

Despite the entry-level pricing (at least in terms of a Rolex), the Explorer’s historical link to mountain scaling and adventure draws it a slightly higher premium in terms of percentage gained, at least in comparison to the Air-King. Currently, Chrono24 lists the watch at $7,495 — a gain of 14.43% — and WatchBox lists it at $7,450, a gain of 13.74%.

Rolex Milgauss - blue dial

Rolex Milgauss (+13.86% and Up)

Next up on our list is the cult-classic Rolex Milgauss Ref. 116400GV. The Milgauss has often been considered a sleeper hit, offering fans of the brand a slightly more affordable option within the brand’s lineup, though one still possessing plenty of intrigue.

Rolex currently lists the Milgauss at $8,300, though the least expensive models we were able to find were marked at $9,475 by Chrono24 and $9,450 by WatchBox, up 14.16% and 13.86%, respectively.

Rolex Sea-Dweller 2017

Rolex Sea-Dweller (+19.6% and Above)

The red-lined Sea-Dweller was one of the most talked-about Rolex models following its introduction in 2017. The reasons for that were many: solid specs, a vintage elements recalling the red-lined divers of the past, and classic looks all provided the essential credentials for the now widely praised model.

The current production model of the Sea-Dweller, Reference 126600, is listed by Rolex at  $11,700. However, if you don’t want to sit on a wait list for one, you can find an example through Chrono24 for $13,993 and another via WatchBox for $14,450, price increases of 19.6% and 23.5%, respectively.

Rolex Explorer II

Rolex Explorer II (+19.75% and Above)

The GMT-equipped Rolex Explorer II Ref. 216570 tends to drive an even higher percentage premium than the original Explorer. This is an interesting development, especially considering the Explorer II has long been positioned as one of the most accessible steel models within the Rolex range.

While currently priced at $8,350 by Rolex, the dual-time-zone, adventure-focused watch is frequently found at 20% premiums and above, with a model found via Chrono24 for $9,999 (+19.75%) and another via WatchBox for $10,450 (+25.15%).

Rolex Oyster Perpetual (+20.18% and Up)

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual was one of the most-discussed watch releases in 2020, with the brand unveiling an array of new colors and sizes for its entry-level collection. Entry-level or not, the new models are commanding quite a high premium, with the 36-mm Ref. 126000 and 41-mm Ref. 124300 leading that growth in value.

Currently, Rolex lists the 36-mm Oyster Perpetual at $5,600, though it can be found immediately via Chrono24 for $6,730 (+20.18%). Likely as a result of its limited availability, the model is currently unavailable on WatchBox.

The 41-mm Oyster Perpetual is marked by the brand at $5,900, though is available immediately via Chrono24 for $7,513 (+27.34%). Similar to the 36-mm version, the 41-mm option is also unavailable at this time via WatchBox.

Rolex Submariner (+57.37% to +134.9% and Above)

So far, the models we covered have found themselves around 20% and below in terms of premium increases from their market price, but here is where the prices begin to really rise. Starting with the Rolex Submariner, we begin to see massive premiums on modern Rolex watches. This is particularly interesting since the latest steel Submariner references, the non-date Ref. 124060 and date-equipped Ref. 126610LN, were both unveiled only this year, alongside the aforementioned 2020 Oyster Perpetuals.

As of this writing, the Rolex Submariner Ref. 124060 (non-date) carries a price of $8,100, though it can only be acquired immediately in the secondary market. The lowest priced available model from Chrono24 is marked at $12,995 (+60.43%) and the one on WatchBox, for $12,950 (+59.88%).

As for the Date models, the black-dial edition is listed by Rolex at $9,150 and by Chrono24 at $14,399 (+57.37%), with no availability currently via WatchBox. And the incredibly popular green-bezel Date version, while listed by Rolex at $9,550, can be found for a stunning $18,950 via WatchBox (+98.43%) and via Chrono24 with an even more astonishing increase of +134.9% at $22,433.

Rolex GMT-Master II "Batman"

Rolex GMT Master-II (+64.89% to +91.59% and Up)

The 2018-released “Pepsi” Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126710BLRO and 2019-released black and blue “Batman” ref. 126710BLNR tend to drive even higher percentage premiums in the secondary market than the Submariners. Some chalk this up to the iconic design of the watches, the practicality of the models for a growing segment of luxury travelers, or the prestige that collectors often associate with the references — though it is almost certain the rise in value can be attributed to all three as well as other reasons.

Rolex GMT-Master II "Batman" & "Pepsi" watches - flat

Currently, Rolex prices the GMT Master-II “Batman” at $9,700, though it can be found via Chrono24 for $15,994 (+64.89%) and via WatchBox for $18,150 (+87.11%). The red-and-blue “Pepsi” version of the model lists for the same $9,700, though it retails in the secondary market at a considerable premium, with Chrono24’s lowest priced model costing $18,584 (+91.59%, almost double Rolex’s list ptice!); WatchBox is currently sold out of this reference.

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona - Cerachrom - soldier

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona (+101.1% and Above)

The final model on our list is none other than the iconic Cosmograph Daytona, one of the most in-demand Rolex watches since its contemporary debut in 2016 with the Reference 116500LN. Recalling the famed vintage variation “Paul Newman” Daytonas which so often drive massive premiums at auction, the modern-production Daytona has swiftly become a contemporary classic in the four years since its initial release.  

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona - Cerachrom - side

The 116500LN reference encompasses both the black-dial and white-dial variations of the watch. Both are popular in their own right and neither commands a more significant premium over the other. Currently, Rolex prices the reference at $13,150, though demand for these models is high. The lowest priced model we could find for immediate purchase was via Chrono24, marked at $26,445, a percentage increase of 101.1%, and no model currently for sale via WatchBox.

Would you pay a premium to get your watch faster or take your chances on the wait list? And would you like to see more of these types of articles, for Rolex and other brands? Let us know in the comments below.

No Responses to “List vs. Ask: Comparing Steel Rolex Prices at Retail to Prices on the Secondary Market”

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  1. Nice article, but I am curious what the actual selling prices vs retail asking on these sites? With over 600 submariners (Green) on Chrono24 in January you would think asking price and selling might be different?

  2. Darius Foo

    In my humble opinion, it probably comes down to the type of collector/buyer you are.

    In one camp there are the Rolex fanboys who will buy anything produced by the crown and if they already have a profile built with an AD over the last few years, it becomes easier to gain access to such “unobtainium” pieces and so buying from the secondary market doesn’t make sense. However if one has not built a profile and is new to watch collecting, then access is limited – making the secondary market likely your more viable option to get the sought after models in the short-term.

    Another group are collectors who like a variety of watches (brands-wise) and this group likely will have an easier time as they will be collecting other timepieces from other brands and it makes building that rapport/profile with their ADs easier – thereby gaining access at some point down the road to the sought after pieces. For this group it makes sense just to be patient and collect other watches first and build the access towards the Rolex models that you want.

    The last group in my opinion are those who probably are just looking for specific models as they won’t go beyond say a 3-5 timepiece collection or they are buying say a gift for a love one. Buying and flipping multiple watches – assuming they are buying from ADs – to gain access to the sought after pieces is going to be a long process and may not be the right method to get the watches in the short-term period, for such folks the secondary market is really the only way to just buy quickly.

  3. Anyone who pays over retail for any watch has more money than sense and I have sold many above, way above, retail. It’s just a watch made in an industrial factory. What did PT Barnum say, “ a fool is born every minute” and American Ben Franklin said “ a fool and his money are easily parted “

  4. Richard Kalina

    Keep these articles coming. I read ALL of them. Thanks for making us smarter so we can make better decisions.

  5. Tyrone Wylie

    There is no waiting list,it depends on how good of a customer an friend you are with your AD.

  6. Luke Rendleman

    Incredibly interesting article. Why was the Sky Dweller left off the list?

    Another interesting angle for you to consider on the Rolex article: If you owned all of these watches, how much could you sell them for to Watchbox and Chrono24? How big a slice of the pie do these retailers take??

    Could you do a similar article on Patek’s, AP’s, Lange’s, Vacheron’s etc.?

  7. Marek Chmiel

    Nice article, pretty accurate take on the market. Only advice to buyers who are not in a mad rush is wait until February and March. The bills come due around then and a surge in selling occurs. There will be some bargains around if you can move quickly.

  8. Christopher Dean

    Interesting article but nothing new or surprising here. It’s easy to buy on the grey market but to me less so to sell. I would love to see more written about how to sell your Rolex or any other luxury watch to that matter. For example how much less percentage wise do you get for your watch sold to one of the big secondary market retailers than it’s grey market retail value. Also how to sell your watch privately on Chrono24 or other ways. If there was an easier way to sell your watch perhaps without a massive hit I am sure that the many people who are sitting on luxury watches would sell. Many of us are very lucky to own difficult to buy Rolex’s etc but there perceived value would be better understood if they had an idea what they would achieve if they were to sell.

  9. Anders Schreiber

    I woukd like to reaf more articles from you about vintage Rolex sport watches.
    I would also like to read articles of the watch brands Tudor, Oris and Grand Seiko which brands has a positive future I belive.
    I will also thank you so very much sending me your daily mail which gives me energy in this strange Corona situation we have. Merry X-mas and a hopfully better year 2021 than rhis year.

  10. Burnell T McKissick

    Would like to see a similar article on other brands: Breitling, Rado, IWC, etc.

  11. William Crowell

    I’ve purchased many watches from
    BOBS WATCHES. Very reasonable
    And honest.

  12. William Hudson

    So lucky. Purchased my Datejust 41 for $7900 in the spring of this year. I’ve already made nearly $1000 and it’s climbing! God bless America!!

  13. Robert Epsen

    Yes, this is an extremely interesting and helpful article. More of this type of article would be very welcome.

  14. Great article! I would have a tough time paying a premium for a sports watch. I will, however, keep my eyes peeled though I’m more a dress watch guy. Rolex made a great 10.5 Hunter Chronometer. That’s more my style.

  15. Gerry Dimatos

    I am a Rolex collector and have been for 22 years. I own 7 of them. It has never been harder to obtain a new Rolex than it is now. The brand is purely a victim of it’s own success. I am a VIP at the Hour Glass in Melbourne and have been well looked after by Bebe and her staff. The key here is to form a relationship with the dealer and be patient. My Sales Associate Alex has been excellent over the years. The Hour Glass is very strict as to who they sell to and if they work out you are a flipper they simply won’t sell to you. You just have to be patient and the product is worth the wait… If you can’t wait go and see what Grand Seiko has to offer. I have seven of those as well and are every bit as good without the marketing and brand awareness,
    From Gerry Dimatos in Melbourne.

  16. Abel Hwong

    The market premium for Oyster Perpetual 36 and 41 mm is way higher than the 20% and 27% quoted. The yellow and red dial has a premium of 65% and the Tiffany Blue 85%!

  17. Barry Cohen

    Excellent article just last year I was forced to sell my vintage 1979 GMT ,( originally with the Pepsi bezel).and a Jubilee bracelet my personal preference for $6,600 on eBay this dutel

  18. Ron Howard

    Your article points out just how screwy things have become as the broken crown continues with its manufactured scarcity marketing scheme. Unfortunately, it give its ADs power to distribute what is available to a narrow class of those it chooses, thereby increasing the scarcity, while the broken crown turns its back on what I would consider a highly unethical practice. I blame the ADs more for this than the broken crown, and therefore will not patronize them, especially my local AD named Geary’s, who flaunts their perceived power position.

    • Josh Barnard

      Gearys won’t sell Ron Howard a Rolex? By the way, I read your comment in Ron Howard’s voice.

  19. Milhouse329

    No I wouldn’t pay a premium and if everyone else was as sensible to do that and not be Instagram obsessed then Rolex would get the watches made and the grey market greedy dealers would be put under pressure. But look at society and it’s no wonder the watch situation is as it is.

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