Buy Vintage Rolex Watch
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Buy Vintage Rolex Watch
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Within the vintage luxury watch market, Rolex watches reign supreme. Some argue that vintage Patek Philippe watches are at the very top, but the limited availability and often exorbitant price points of most models permit a much smaller group to collect them. Additionally, many vintage Rolex models rival Patek Philippe watches when it comes to both value and desirability, and a remarkably diverse range of variation exists among vintage Rolex models, making them intriguing targets for individuals to pursue and collect.
On the other hand, vintage Rolex watches offer a much larger playing field for watch enthusiasts to enjoy thanks to a wide range of price points and a bevy of different models available. Whether for the novice watch collector with a smaller budget or the seasoned collector with ample cash to spend on timepieces, there are plenty of different vintage Rolex watches to choose from, and all make excellent additions to any collection.
Authenticity is always paramount, and a Rolex watch as close as possible to its original condition (with original dial, hands, crystal, bracelet, unpolished case, etc.) will command much higher prices than one with aftermarket or later-era replacement components.
Vintage timepieces have risen in popularity and demand over the last 5--10 years with some models selling for more than a million dollars at auction houses. For example, some Paul Newman Rolex Daytona models, such as the 6239, 6240, 6263 and 6265, are now valued at over $150,000.The November 10th, 2013 Christies auction in Geneva, the Rolex Daytona "Lesson One" 50 exceptional examples of the world's most celebrated chronograph wristwatch auction, realized over $12,000,000 for 50 watches or on average of $250,000 per watch. The most expensive Rolex watch ever sold at auction was Paul Newman's own Daytona Paul Newman, purchased for $17.8 million in 2017.
With a watchmaker as prolific as Rolex, it can be hard to determine which vintage Rolex watch models are collectible. Below is a quick overview of some of the most sought-after or covetable vintage Rolex watches in the market.
In 1931, Rolex introduced the Perpetual movement, which included a winding rotor so that the movement would self-wind. Rolex's first self-winding calibers would lay the groundwork for almost-all future Rolex watches-a company now famous for its collection of durable, serviceable, and high-quality automatic movements.
Early automatic Rolex watches included protruding casebacks to accommodate the addition of the winding rotor. This distinct case shape has led the watches' collective nickname, the Rolex Bubble Back-also known as the Rolex Ovettone (Italian for "little egg"). The Rolex Bubble Back models were the first to combine the waterproof Rolex Oyster cases with the automatic Rolex Perpetual movements, therefore birthing the now famed Rolex Oyster Perpetual concept.
The Datejust has grown to become Rolex's flagship watch, not only available in an assortment of metals but also with a variety of bracelet styles, bezel finishes, and dial colors. Given the large variety, prices for vintage Datejust watches vary wildly. However, a good place to start is with either the non-quickset Datejust 16xx references from the 1960s and 1970s or the quick-set Datejust 16xxx from the 1970s and 1980s. Prices for vintage Datejust models start around the low thousands and can quickly go up from there.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Rolex made a handful of complicated models that have since become exceedingly coveted in the vintage market. Two examples are the Rolex Triple Calendar Moonphase references 8171 and 6062 with day window, a month window, a date indicator around the dial periphery, and a moon phase display. Produced from approximately between 1949 and 1952 both models were made available in steel, rose gold, and yellow gold. The main difference between 8171 and 6062 is that 8171 has a 38mm non-Oyster case while 6062 has a 36mm Oyster case. The Rolex 8171 is often referred to as the "Padellone" (Italian for "big frying pan" due to its large-for-the era size.
Some of the most complicated watches ever made by Rolex are its Triple Calendar Chronographs, which includes five references produced from the late 1940s until the early 1960s. Commonly referred to as the Dato-Compax or the "Jean-Claude Killy" (nicknamed after the champion alpine skier who was rumored to wear one), the Triple Calendar Chronograph references include ref. 4768, 4767, 5036, 6036, and 6236. The Dato Compax ref. 4768 was the only non-Oyster cased reference with a snap-on caseback and the remaining references all featured water-resistant Oyster cases with screw-down casebacks.
Combing calendar indications and a chronograph complication, the Rolex Killy watch dials include a date indicator border, a day window, a month window, and three subdials. What's more, the Dato-Compax models were antimagnetic watches, complete with "Antimagnetique" text on the dial.
In 1953, Rolex released the Explorer watch in honor of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's historic ascent to the top of Mount Everest earlier that year. While a few vintage Oyster Perpetual models (references 6098, 6298, and 6150) are often referred to as "Pre-Explorer" watches, it is generally accepted that Rolex 6350 is the first official Explorer reference. The vintage Explorer 6350 featured a steel 36mm Oyster case, a steel Oyster bracelet, and a black time-only dial featuring Arabic numerals at 3, 6, and 9. While Rolex has updated the Explorer over the years, the overall style of the watch has remained largely unchanged.
Rolex subsequently replaced the Explorer 6350 with the Explorer 6610 in the mid-1950s and then the Explorer 1016 around 1963. Rolex made the Explorer 1016 well into the 1980s, making it the longest-running vintage Explorer references. There's also the curious Rolex ref. 5500 "Explorer" that is actually a 34mm Air-King case fitted with an Explorer dial, produced from the late 1950s for about a decade.
It was in 1953 that the now-iconic Rolex Submariner dive watch made its debut. The first reference, the stainless steel Submariner ref. 6204, included a 37mm Oyster case waterproof to 100 meters, a black rotating bezel marked to 60 minutes to track immersion times, and a black time-only dial with plenty of luminescence for legality underwater.
Over the following decade, Rolex released a slew of Submariner references, tweaking details like crown size, dial style, bezel markings, and water depth ratings. Some of these vintage Submariner references are often grouped into the "Small Crown" Submariners (6205, 6536, 6536/1, 5508) with 6mm winding crowns and depth ratings of 100m, "Big Crown" Submariners (6200, 6538, 5510) with 8mm winding crowns and depth ratings of 200m. Then came the batch of Submariners with 40mm Oyster cases and new crown-guards protecting the 7mm winding crowns. These vintage Submariners with crown guards include the references 5512 (initially not COSC certified then COSC-certified), 5513 (not COSC-certified), and 5514 (special issue COMEX versions with helium escape valves).
In 1967, Rolex released the first Submariner Date model in the form of the reference 1680, complete with a date window at 3 o'clock and a Cyclops lens protruding from the crystal above it. The earliest versions of the Sub 1680 feature red "Submariner" text on the dial, which led to the watch's "Red Submariner" nickname. The Submariner 1680 "Great White" with white text on the dial replaced the Red Sub in 1976. The very first yellow gold Sub, the Submariner Date 1680/8, was added to the catalog in 1969 initially with a black dial and bezel later joined by a blue dial/bezel option a few years later.
Due to all the variants and references made, prices for vintage Submariner watches vary dramatically making it just about impossible to define a range. However, early versions in original condition don't come cheap and can easily cost five to six digits.
The first version was the GMT-Master 6542, which included a 38mm steel case topped with a blue and red bezel in Bakelite filled with luminous radium numerals. This blue and red combo became an icon of the collection and is often referred to as the "Pepsi" bezel. However, Bakelite proved to be too fragile for the job and Rolex quickly switched it out with an aluminum bezel insert but retained the same blue and red colorway. A vintage GMT-Master 6542 with the original Bakelite bezel is a highly valuable reference.
The 1675 was replaced with the 16750 in 1981, doubling the GMT-Master's water resistance rating to 100m. Again, there are other metals to choose from including the steel 16750, the gold 16758, and the two-tone 16753. Produced until the late 1980s, the 16750 is considered the last vintage GMT reference before Rolex replaced old-school details like acrylic with sapphire and tritium with Luminova.
The very first GMT-Master II made its entrance in 1983 as the reference 16760. The main difference between the GMT-Master II and the original GMT-Master I is that its 12-hour and 24-hour hands can be set independently from each other, therefore the watch can now indicate three time zones. Affectionately nicknamed the "Fat Lady" (or "Sophia Loren") thanks to its thicker case, the GMT-Master II 16760 introduced the red and black bezel colorway, aka the "Coke" bezel. Only produced for about five years (exclusively in steel) prices for the vintage 16760 starts in the low five digits. 59ce067264