Rolex started in the early 1900s at the hands of a chap called Hans Wilsdorf, who was the tender age of 24 at the time. Rolex has become a brand that has elevated itself above all boundaries.
As a private company who’s manufacturing plant is more secure than the Crown Jewels, there’s not actually alot to say about daily life inside the company!
Which Rolex model should I buy?
The internet will offer encyclopedic volumes of opinion on what the best model is. Luckily, we’re here to offer you the light version. There are, of course, many versions. We’re catering to purist Rolex fans here and that can only mean a choice between three classic models, the Submariner, the GMT or the Sea Dweller.
The Submariner (from $7,000 upward)
The Submariner is an automatic watch that will never need a battery and therefore recharging. It gets its power from the natural movement of your arm and wrist. Of all Rolex models, this is considered to be the workhorse.
It’s quite thickset with a 40mm case, but not so heavy that you’ll be weighed down.
The first version of the Submariner came out in 1953. The majority of Rolex fans will tell you this is the most instantly-recognisable of all Rolex watches. Amusingly, it is the most commonly counterfeited.
It was developed for divers, which you’ll notice from it’s incredibly 300m water-resistance. It offers a unidirectional bezel which allows you to instantly work out how much time (oxygen) you have left so you know when to start your ascent.
Newer versions of the Submariner are a nod, design-wise, to the vintage version from the 1950s. The overall look is something that can easily be worn with jeans as it could a three-piece suit. It’s the most classic design Rolex offers.
If you’re into doing your due diligence, look up the 5512 and 5513. These versions were made between 1958 and 1978, and 1962 and 1989. They are stainless steel and although this was before the introduction of the date window, the look is undeniably suave. The 5512 tends to be slightly cheaper than its sibling and this is due to the limited number of 5513s released.
The 16800 ($8,900) was on the market between 77 and 87. Another stainless steel classic, but where Rolex started to shift away from using matte dials with hand-painted markings and more toward using white gold markers and glossy dials.
This version is a bridge linking the old and new.
The 16808($19,950) from 1981 to 1990 is an 18 karat gold Rolex. You can’t beat the value of this particular model. You get that gorgeous vintage look with modern elements from the black (or blue) dial. Prices begin around $14k and can tip over $25k.
The 116610LN ($9,950) is the current version of the Submariner. It has wide lugs and offers a different feel to its predecessors. You can get this version from around $8.5k.
Weighing in as the second most purchased Rolex model, the GMT came out in 1954. It was the result of a partnership with Pan Air; developed for pilots who needed to tell the time across time zones.
The 50s saw an increase of long-haul flights. The GMT in the title literally means Greenwich Mean Time. The GMT has an additional hand and a bezel for tracking more than one timezone across the world.
The design doesn’t stray far from the Submariner, but there are some subtle differences. The 24 hour bezel, for one.
The GMT Master II that came out in the 90s is the version you still get today. Much like the Submariner, the GMT is water-resistant, although lesser so.
Both the Master and Master II have either a two-tone or solid bezel. The Pepsi ($17,936) is a great example of a striking Rolex version.
A GMT is another traditional Rolex look that offers the same style, with a little more colour.
The 16750 was available between 1981 and 1988. This particular style was similar to the Submariner by way of being a transitional watch at a time where Rolex were producing some unique developments.
Before 1986, this version had the signature matte dial but this was swapped for the glossy dial later. There was an addition of a quickset feature that meant the date could be changed easily. If you’re interested in the history, see if you can find a “coffee” or “root beer” bezel which is a golden brown; they’re very unique pieces.
The 16760 was around between 1983 and 1988 and was a stainless steel offering. It’s the pioneering GMT Master II. It was lovingly referred to as the “Fat Lady” after its curvy look and thick case. It came with a red and blac bezel and an uncommonly big crown guard.
Both versions here are technically dive watches, similar to the Submariner. This was initially developed in the 60s with the intention of mimicking the much-loved design aspects of the Submariner. The Sea Dweller is something of a big brother; it’s larger and more durable in terms of offering a better water-resistance.
The case on the Sea Dweller is thicker, so it does offer more weight on the wrist. One outstanding feature that separates the two is the helium escape value which means the watch can go to over 1,200m, which is significantly more than the Submariner.
The Sea Dweller was put out to pasture in 2008 and in stepped the Deep Sea. An even larger offering, if you can believe it. It can withstand 3x the depth. That’s right, over 3,600m.
These versions have grown in popularity over the past 5-6 years. This is likely thanks to the internet and the accessibility to purchase them online.
Should I buy a Rolex?
If you have the money to buy a Rolex then there isn’t a single reason not to. Rolex is one of the best, most loved, most trusted brands in the world and has stood the test of time for over 100 years. The name Rolex is inherently linked with the luxury market.
It won’t lose value, the materials will not wane over time and the time-keeping will remain accurate. Heads always have and will always turn when they see a Rolex on your wrist.
If you’re enjoying learning about the luxury watch market, check out the kinds of watches stockbrokers and investors wear; the price tags are insane! Equally, you must have thought about James Bond during this article. Head here to see the watches 007 has worn over the years.