Guide to buying your first Rolex - Part One

When Is The Right Time To Buy A Rolex?

Around the time this article was written, we on aBlogtoWatch were wrapping up a viewer poll on this exact question. Visitors to aBlogtoWatch were asked, in their opinion, what the best time to buy a Rolex watch was. Four possible response choices were given and the results were remarkably well-distributed. About 21% said that it was best to buy one as soon as they could afford it. About 24% said the best time to get a Rolex was after sampling watches from many other brands. About 25% said it was Rolex time as soon as you’ve achieved a certain level of success. The rest weren’t interested in Rolex watches at all.

The poll results indicated that 70% of aBlogtoWatch readers felt it was a good idea to buy a Rolex at some point. Clearly, you need to afford one first. As of now, the entry level price for the most basic new Rolex watch is about $5,000, with most pieces people want priced in the $8,000 – $12,000 range. Of course, vintage or pre-owned examples can be less or actually more money.

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Guide to buying your first Rolex - Part One

Assuming the money is in the bank, you need to feel emotionally ready. Sound silly? Well, given that people associate so many types of sentimental feelings with Rolex watches, it is actually something to consider. Let me tell you what I personally feel. Like I said earlier, Rolex watches are a monolith. The brand is like a rock-solid force that was here before I was born, and will be here after I have left. Rolex also does not really add or subtract models with any speed or regularity. In fact, the watch models Rolex sells today, will in some highly recognizable form, be available long into the future. Rolex evolves their product collection versus changing it. That means it is as good a time to buy a new Submariner now, as it will be in 5, 10, or even 20 years. The Submariner will still be around – and it is that type of reassurance that the brand has worked so hard to foster.

Having said that, I’d love a Rolex right now, but perhaps it would be a foolhardy decision. I am among those people who believe that the time to buy one is right after you’ve sampled a lot of watches, and when the right level of life success calls for it. I am just one person, however. What we’ve done for you is collect the thoughts of our most respected fellow watch experts and writers to weigh in on this issue. Read their thoughts below and check out part 2 of the “Guide To Buying Your First Rolex” on what watch to buy.

Rolex Submariner On Wrist

What The Experts Say

You know what we have to say on the topic of when to get your first Rolex watch, and below you’ll see what other important voices think as well. It is important for you to feel that your new, pre-owned, or vintage watch comes at the right time. Our colleagues and fellow experts offer their advice on the matter of your first Rolex watch below:

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Ben Clymer of

I think that a vintage Rolex in particular is an excellent watch for beginning collectors for a few reasons. In fact, I would say that if one is comfortable with the brand positioning of Rolex, it is arguably the finest “first nice watch” someone can own. The reason that I would suggest vintage early in the collecting career is A) they can be had for little money, comparatively speaking, B) you get a superb, historic, and truly in-house watch from a bluechip brand, and C) it was the 1950s-70s when Rolex was really in its hey-day.

In fact, I would argue that Rolex is the most important watch brand of the 20th century – their list of technical firsts is a mile long, and watches such as the 1970s Datejust (ref 1603), which very much like the modern Datejust today, can be purchased in good, original condition for $2500 (+/- depending on condition, etc.). The modern equivalent, which is very much the same watch, retails for double the price and the aging commonly found on the dial and hands give the vintage pieces a nice, elegant glow. The Datejust (or Oyster Perpetual, or Air King, etc.) is a superb everyday watch that is universally appreciated and universally acceptable – whether with a t-shirt and jeans or a suit. The cases, bracelets, and movements are of exceptional build quality and I don’t think there is a better buy for that kind of money.

I think a modern Rolex is a slightly different story, and the real benefit to buying new is if you want a true sport watch that can handle anything you throw at it. Sure, an old Submariner or GMT can be serviced to be completely water-proof, but they still have plastic crystals and 40 year old parts (here and there). A modern Rolex is built like a tank, and while they may not have some of the charm of some vintage pieces, they are truly exceptionally well-made watches. Though, I think they lack some of the charm of the early tritium and radium dials.

Michael Clerizo from the Wall Street Journal

I like the way the Japanese gift watches based around an occasion such as a graduation, a significant birthday, a first job or an important promotion. I think that approach should apply even if you’re buying for yourself. A mechanical watch is not like buying a lamp or a computer, it is something very special, so you should link purchasing one to a meaningful event in your life. Both the event and the watch will hold more meaning that way.

As mechanical watches require some care, you need a sense of responsibility to own one. We all mature at different ages but many people (males and females) have the sense of responsibility by sixteen or by eighteen.

Robert-Jan Broer from

Rolex still has an “image” that it is a watch to commemorate something special. Your first job, your first child, your graduation, your wedding, and so on. I feel, that if you are buying a Rolex to celebrate something, you should always try to go for a brand new Rolex instead of a pre-owned one. If you aren’t buying a Rolex to celebrate a joyful event, but just want to buy that first good watch that will last a lifetime, you might as well take pre-owned Rolex watches into consideration. A pre-owned model will certainly save you a few bucks, unless it is a sports model that is much sought-after (f.i. Submariner, Sea-Dweller, GMT-Master). Chances are quite good that the price of a pre-owned vintage Rolex equals a new Rolex watch or is even more expensive.

Jake Ehrlich from

I believe the best time for someone to purchase their first Rolex is whenever they fall in love with one, and decide they have to have it and can’t live without it. It’s that simple. This happened to me 30 years ago, when I was 16 years old. There was a Rolex Authorized Dealer (AD) in Mill Valley, California, I somehow wandered into when I was 16. At the time, Rolex had recently introduced the first Submariner with a synthetic sapphire crystal, which gave it a really modern look. I fell madly in love with that watch and used to go visit it at least once a month.

I became friendly with the jeweler, who must have thought I was nuts, because I would drop by just to try on the watch and stare at it like it was Sophia Loren. I remember thinking to myself, there was something magical about the Submariner. I was stunned by its super-timelessness and purposeful looking design. I remember thinking there was something very James-Bond-like about it, and I thought, if I could just get one, it would somehow make me invulnerable – like wearing a bracelet with magic powers. At the time, I did not realize that every James Bond actor had worn the Rolex Submariner as their default sport watch, but for some reason, when I would look at it on my wrist, the James Bond theme music track would start playing in my head! You know. the dun-na-na-na, na-nunna, dun-na-nunn-na…

One day, when I was still 16, I went to go visit the Submariner again, and the jeweler said “Hi Jake! Coming to visit your best friend again?” to which I said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Why don’t you just buy the watch, so you don’t have to come in here and stare at it on your wrist?” I remember asking the AD every imaginable question about the Submariner, and I remember being frustrated that I could not just buy it since the watch retailed for just over $1000 at the time, which was a lot of money, particularly for a 16-year-old.

I thanked the AD, and he said “See you soon!” to which I responded, “Yes, you will. I will be back before you close the store this evening to pickup the watch.” He smiled and had this kind of confused look on his face. Somehow, I came up with the $1000, and showed up several minutes before the AD closed and bought the Rolex Submariner. The AD sized it for my wrist, and I could not stop staring at the watch. I remember I went home and laid in bed for hours staring at the timeless beauty of the design, and when I turned the lights off, I would get way under the covers and completely cover myself in blankets so no ambient light was visible, and I would just stare at the beautiful lumed dial, and I would stare at the second hand as it moved ever so precisely around the dial in big circles. So my answer is, you should buy what you want or in my case had to buy, whenever you can afford it.

Paul Altieri from

A good time to buy your first Rolex watch is when you have enough discretionary income to where you can afford the model you want. Our average Rolex buyer is 40 to 45 years old, but we have recently experienced a 15% increase in younger buyers in their mid to late twenties. But they all share the same love and appreciation for what it means to own and wear one. And while some are celebrating a momentous occasion like a college graduation, the vast majority are just buying the watch for themselves because they want it!

For those looking to find the best deals: buy soon after a major holiday like Christmas or Fathers Day where it is sometimes possible to find a small percentage discount. But don’t expect to find bargain basement close-outs. Not on a Rolex.

Advantage of buying pre-owned? A pre-owned Rolex watch, unlike a new one, will not depreciate in value soon after it is purchased. While buying new is akin to buying a new car: they will both depreciate in value substantially after they are purchased. By buying a pre-owned watch you have essentially eliminated this retail markup devaluation making it possible to someday sell your Rolex for more than you paid.

Frank Geelen from

Buying a first Rolex is something monumental, and it makes sense to do this for a memorable occasion. This can be either a celebration (high school diploma, university graduation, promotion at work, wedding) or something for remembrance (using an inheritance, for instance).

James Stacey from aBlogtoWatch

7/10 Rolex buyers are buying exclusively for the name and do so whenever they have the cash to afford an 8K+ watch (as Paul said). If you consider yourself a watch nerd type, you may be buying a Rolex (and a specific model at that) for a variety of reasons. Rolex has a sport watch tied to the history of many manly pursuits (Sub = diving, daytona = racing, explorer/II = exploration, GMT Master = pilots, gold date just = dictator/mafioso/cocaine cowboys).

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

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