Guide To Buying Your First Rolex Part 2:
What To Buy

Guide To Buying Your First Rolex Part 2:What To Buy

Rolex Submariner Watch Steel-41

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 want 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.

Rolex watch ads-6

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 located, 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 given their rarity. Also note that compared to today's average men's wrist watch size, vintage Rolex models tends 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.

Rolex Datejust and Day-Date II watches-12

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 status symbols 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 »

48 comments
srhardy
srhardy

rolex v's omega - no contest, rolex for superb quality & an omega for everything else, looks, inovation, style!


now if rolex made omegas, well none of us could afford them so less stop dreaming

WickedScholar
WickedScholar

I think it's kind of silly to say that a 34mm watch should only be worn by women or children. They fit a man just fine during the 60's, 70's and 80's and they fit just fine now. A lot of watches are getting ridiculously gigantic these days - they look stupid. When will it end?

GreenEyes30
GreenEyes30

Green information, Ariel.  I am in the process of buying of Women's Presidential 26 mm; I had a stainless steel/18K that a home health care visitor 'borrowed' while caring for a family member.   You are correct in typically buying a Rolex is a celebration of something.  I am currently looking at what seems to be bazillions of  online sites for a 'previously owned' 18K yellow gold model...but with all of the caveats and 'site reviews' it is a scary marketplace. Any additional advice would be greatly appreciated!  Thanks again. 

timepieceparlor
timepieceparlor

True indeed, Rolex has had a hard time shedding the "old man" image. I even read one article that said "There's something about a Rolex that reeks of desperation." In my mind they are such versatile timepieces that it's difficult to nail down an accurate demographic, especially nowadays.

LTVN68
LTVN68

In 1983, I was a young Vietnam Vet, married with my first child. I had moved to Alaska to fly for a friend at Sportsman's Flying Service. The GI Bill had allowed me to obtain my single engine, land and sea, commercial license and I had brought my Cessna 180 on floats to Alaska. During the winter, I began building houses and upon the sale of one, I took $1,000 in cash to a jeweler in Anchorage and walked out with a brand new Rolex Submariner. That watch has flown thousands of miles, been Dall Sheep hunting in the Wrangells, moose hunting below Tazlina Glacier, wolf watching on the Upper Toklat River in Denali NP, hiked hundreds of miles in the wilderness, caught lots of salmon in the Wood River/Tikchik and skied endless miles. It has been on my wrist to pound thousands of nails. Today it is with me here in Hawaii....actually at this writing it's on it's way to Rolex Dallas for its second rebuild in 31 years. It has had big chips on the edge of the crystal and will now need to have a scratched bezel replaced for the second time. It has the original bracelet but is just now wearing through one of the rolled steel tubes at the end of the clasp. 31 years of friction.

I have nothing but repect for this "tool" watch that has stood up to everything thrown at it. Say what you will, I am thankful to those who made it and blessed to have owned it. My daughter says she would not recognize me if I was not wearing it.

Thank you Rolex.

ua2
ua2

1980's Air-King Date ref 5700 would be my suggestion as a first rolex for those with thinner wrists. Was mainly sold in the UK and Canada.

ua2
ua2

To be honest, I don't like Rolexes at all but I've grown to respect them a lot due to the simple fact that they have kept smaller sized watches (34mm Oyster Perpetual Date, Air-King, 35 MM Yacht-Master). I also find their cellini line particularly attractive and under exposed/reported on. The Prince, Danaos, Cestello, and Classic models are excellent in their truly classic styling and heritage.

JackT54
JackT54

While I take no issue with the Datejust II, in and of itself, I disagree with your recommendation that men should not consider a dress watch of less than 40mm in case size. At or larger than 40mm is comparable to sport watch size, and the point of a dress watch, in my opinion, is to convey an elegance, a slimness, one that will fit under the sleeve of a dress shirt, allowing the cuff to slide up and down naturally. The DJII has a case height that may prevent many dress shirts this freedom of movement, resulting in the the forced look of a cuff wedged behind the watch. With the fluted white gold bezel, a Datejust pops just a bit, and the jubilee bracelet completes, to me, the essentials for a proper dress watch. Oh, and yes, I own such a Datejust!

Will_F
Will_F

And this post is different from a paid Rolex advertisement how? I love Rolexes, own several, but I read Ablogtowatch for knowledge and reviews of watches. Not for the online version of watch ads.

CG
CG

Never ever considered a Rolex until the re issue of the Milgauss, Rolex always had the "Old Man" attribute to me, cause you always saw old guys in Corvettes and Cadillacs wearing them especially those tawdry looking bling gold and steel bracelet monstrosities. The Milgauss is the ONLY Rolex I would ever buy and I did. I still carry the "old guy" bias even though I'm an old guy now! HA! No thrills from Omega or others offering the nirvana of corporate "social & environmental responsibility". Since Rolex just signed an F1 deal I would expect an exclusively themed F1 watch and NOT a reworked Daytona, would be nice but probably won't happen. I like themed purpose driven watches, F1, MotoGp, Silverstone, Monaco etc etc.... But the critical points of view and suggestions have forceful merit... I would consider another Rolex after reading parts 1&2, if the right design and function combo came along. BTW if you want a German performance car buy a 911, used is good! I wish Rolex good luck, hope they are close to realizing that their demographic is changing.

vmarks
vmarks

I was surprised by the DateJust II recommendation - it's too large and the proportions look wrong, especially when compared with the classic DateJust. 


There's nothing wrong with the original DateJust size. If you want the bigger watch, Submariner, Milgauss GV or Explorer II with the large orange GMT hand are all better choices.

Panagiotis
Panagiotis

I started out the same way as Ariel, feeling that Rolex was too mainstread to warrant my attention. BUT as i got into "watching" more and more i cannot fault a brand for being the best at what they do (not necessarily the best product--but the best value).

And how can something be overpriced if people pay full price (or more) for it? And it retains its value over time. That's just good old fashioned VFM. By the way i don't own a rolex but i wouldn't say no to a milgaus or a snow white explorer--because they are not mainstream and because i still want to enjoy the company of fellow watch lovers :)

I do hate the image of the majority of Rolex owners but would i say no to a good product because most people can't see past the crown? No because i don't care what people think and people in the know know better than to dismiss a quality product.

So yeah, count me in and a Rolex will happily find a place in my collection among less mainstream siblings ;)

Gee Z
Gee Z

Interesting to watch the 'heated' discussion here, but I think one thing has not been aknowledged here: one of the traits of Rolex is their tremendous reliabilty under all circumstances - I love my Patek, Lange, Jaeger and IWC, but when I know its getting rough, I put on my Rolex.

Ryan B
Ryan B

Since we're talking about Rolex's this thread would not be complete unless somebody said the name Sean Connery.

DG Cayse
DG Cayse

The masculine image projected by the Rolex brand, i.e., exploreres, deep-sea divers, sporting persons is undoubtably intentionsal. It exemplifies discipline, perserverance and a ongoing quest for excellence.

I can see how these traits might be found, shall we say, offensive to some. Especially in todays culture of de-emphasizing the masculine qualities.

nateb123
nateb123

Rolex: The BMW 3 Series of watches.

qudths
qudths

really?  it's THAT nauseating to some of you guys that rolex has paid money to highlight some of their watches to a blog (that you read for free) on how to buy their own brand's first watch?  if you don't like it, don't read it!  i didn't find it all that biased, and i don't even HAVE a rolex.  geez, who are the entited snobs here?

deltaslim
deltaslim

Please pardon my spelling of honorary above. When Ulysses31, RyanB and MarkCarson write, I read. I  second their emotions.

Ulysses31
Ulysses31

First question; what is that weird QR-code type thing on the left side of the case of some of these watches?  Second question - where is the "Sponsored post" bit at the top of the article?  You might as well have claimed that Rolex watch engineers have vanilla-scented farts.  This is clearly designed to drum up more business for Rolex, and while i'm not angry about it (Rolex is such a dull brand it evokes no strong emotions of any kind) I think this is a little unfair to the other major brands, unless you intend to create a buyer's guide for them too.  Looking forward to "How to buy an Omega/Chopard/JLC/Longines/Ebel/Panerai/..."   

I hope to someday be as wealthy as those guys who choose fine watches like they do hors d'ouevres. 

Ryan B
Ryan B

The mere fact this whole subject has a 2nd part to it makes me nauseous.  We're on 2 days now just talking about the nuts and bolts of purchasing a Rolex.... PURCHASING!

It is an insult to the rest of the worlds watch manufacturers who are just as worthy to deserve a whole days worth of discussion about buying one of their time pieces and the personal signifigance behind it. But this will probably be the only post of its kind that we see, the rest will be generalized as they've been in the past i.e. mechanical, quartz, diver or dress, whatever.

Although tomorrow's post (Part 3: Choosing the right ascot to wear when purchasing your Rolex) should be mildly interesting. I shall wait to read it by the fireplace when the servants have turned in for the evening. Once finished reading, I will look at myself in the mirror for hours and be amazed at what it's like to be me and the way my Rolex let's everybody around me know that I'm kind of a big deal.

arthurdavis
arthurdavis

@Ryan B You let your servants sleep, man your quite the generous fellow. I personally have mine beaten before they hit the hay (literally, Beds we don't need no stinking beds) Yes I have somebody else do the dirty work since I’m so far up the food chain. I get the taskmaster to wear my Rolex to charge up the power reserve since he's giving the whip a workout anyway.

Gee Z
Gee Z

I love the 'old' Explorer in 36mm the best - the real estate on the black dial is balanced, the overall dimensions are balanced and its super-confortable to wear.

deltaslim
deltaslim

When I was a kid 50 years ago I listened to WWV (USA) and CHU (Canada) and got into accurate time keeping. I researched horological history and technology. I learned about escapements,springs, positions, temperature, railroads and much more.I learned about chronometers and that Rolex makes them. Note that the Air King is not COSC rated. I like the 36 mm Explorer.I recommend that any buyer to go to a major library and study. You will learn more about mechanical watches, what Richard Dawkins termed "honoray living things",than the vast majority of Rolex owners and most dealers. Check the Time Zone course. And remember the first rule for union construction apprentices :SHOW UP ON TIME!

SuperStrapper
SuperStrapper

Is there a rootbeer daytona? I'd rather someone just say here than go look it up for myself, I don't care THAT much, I'm just curious.

pmignone
pmignone

Would love Rolex to release their Deep Sea Challenge Watch that James Cameron used on his dive last year :-) If not I'd settle for a Rolex Deep Sea.

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

2000 SKUs? Holy crap that is a lot. But then again if you make a million watches a year, that averages out to 500 per style which does not seem quite as insane.

For a lot of first time Rolex buyers, they want other people to know they are wearing a Rolex (I know, I know, the craziness of that was covered in Part 1), so a Submariner or Datejust makes sense as they are what non-WIS people recognize as a Rolex.

Personally, I'm more inclined towards an Explorer or GMT Master.

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