Recently, we spoke with the Rolex boutique in Beverly Hills, and they confirmed that Rolex has about 2,000 SKUs even though there are only a few product families to choose from. That effectively means that there are tons of available Rolex watches to choose from. And that doesn't even include Rolex's rather intense catalog of vintage and no-longer-produced models.
Many people know they want a Rolex watch but aren't sure what model to get. Some people simply want the name on their wrist and are looking for the least expensive model. Other people have a closer connection with a specific model's history, or simply feel that one particular Rolex fits their lifestyle best. Even then, with all the options available, it can be difficult to decide what your first Rolex watch should be. So let's take a brief look at what Rolex watches are available, and how to satisfy the various reasons you may have to buy one.
What Are You Looking For?
As we discussed in Part 1 of the Guide To Buying Your First Rolex, different people want Rolex watches for different reasons and at different times in their lives. Understanding what your needs are will certainly help in determining what your first Rolex watch should be.
The Rolex you buy might be your first and last Rolex, or the start of a collection. You'll want the first model to have some meaning, residual value, as well as a versatile style. Most Rolex watches are designed to fit with many outfits, but that isn't the case for all of them. Also, those with a specific interest in value retention have special considerations to make.
People who just want the Rolex name on their wrist probably have the hardest time. These people are going to be looking at thousands of available watches all over the world hunting for the best watch, at the best price, in the best condition. Today, the Rolex Air King models are the entry level pieces and the least expensive, with a price of about $5,000. These are basic models and are considerably smaller than most of the other popular models from the brand. We will discuss more of that below.
Pre-owned or used Rolex watches can be a good deal, but again, require a fair amount of time to locate, verify, and purchase. There are used Rolex watch dealers out there, or you can use a range of online resources to purchase Rolex watches from existing owners. The problem is that these resources are mostly geared toward knowledgeable enthusiasts who know what they are looking for. Novices new to Rolex are going to find these resources more challenging, so we recommend going to a reputable pre-owned Rolex dealer. Alternatively, you can, of course, visit a new Rolex dealer for the most simple, but of course, pricey experience.
Vintage Rolex watches exist in bounty, but can be marked by extremely high prices depending on their rarity. Also note that compared to today's average men's wrist watch size, vintage Rolex models tend to be quite small. In fact, today's average Rolex is of "moderate" size compared to other watches (though that fact is changing, as Rolex steadily releases larger watches). Having said that, owning a good quality vintage sport or dress Rolex model can be very rewarding in both style and "cool" factor. Having a vintage Rolex Submariner, for example, is not only often less expensive than a brand new model, but is certainly more hip. They also aren't so small as to appear like ladies watches much of the time.
When looking for a Rolex to fit your lifestyle, things get easier. For men, we will identify three types of lifestyles or characters that Rolex watches will fit into nicely. First, there are what we call "everyday casual sport watches." This represents most of the men's collection and are just that; sport watches that can be dressed up or down and are suitable for everyday wear. We will discuss the models we recommend in this range below. Next are office or formal watches. Rolex has a couple of product families that will serve you very well in a suit and tie. These watches are not inherently sporty, but are durable enough. From a style perspective, they are attractive, timeless, and mature... but not really suitable for jeans or shorts much of the time. Having a dedicated "suit and tie" Rolex will make it better for an office environment, but it will lack the versatility of a sport model.
Last, are the more "showy" Rolex watches. These are the more "blingy" versions with diamond decoration and/or fully made from precious metals such as 18k yellow, rose, or white gold... or platinum. These models exist in the other Rolex watch families, but are factory decorated by Rolex to be much more of a status symbol than a handsome everyday timepiece. Often times, people who come into a lot of money, land a huge business deal, or simply want to show off wealth prefer a model such as this. Consumers should be careful when buying pre-owned in this category, because many of them are aftermarket creations (such as diamond setting) versus those fully made by Rolex. Trust us that Rolex offers more than a generous selection of "factory" bling versions of their products. The options are staggering, with countless variations and levels of diamond decor mixed with different types of precious metal cases... more »