Review: 3 Affordable Rolex
If you’re into your watches, chances are there’s a Rolex itch you’ve just got to scratch. Ten years ago, that would’ve been fine, with a Submariner setting you back around £2,500. But with today’s prices, that same Submariner now starts at over double that, and Rolex ownership is becoming more and more of a pipe dream—or so it seems, because all is not lost, not yet. Here are three ways to get into Rolex ownership without breaking the bank.
Rolex Oysterquartz DateJust 17014
It’s ironic, a watch powered by the technology that could well have destroyed the brand it dwells within—and the industry as a whole—but by now it’s been long enough to let bygones be bygones and take a different view.
The Rolex Oysterquartz is, after all, heading towards vintage status at this point, on the very brink of collectible, but even so, it’s still held back by that amalgamation of silicon and oxygen that, when combined, form a word that leaves a bad taste in most watch enthusiasts’ mouths: quartz.
For the collector looking to strike a bargain and buy a Rolex for a sensible amount, however, quartz is music to the ears. This mistrust of this—let’s face it, pretty outdated by now—technology is understandable, but Rolex didn’t just throw a cheap plastic circuit board in the back of the Oysterquartz; the brand really went to town on the calibre 5035, decorating it to a higher standard than its contemporary mechanical engines.
It may only be 36mm in diameter, but the integrated bracelet—very in at the time—and severe angles give it a prominence that feels very modern. It is and will continue to be one of the most eccentric Rolex designs ever, and that alone is worthy of interest. When you can purchase one for less than £3,500, though, it becomes even more interesting still.
Rolex Explorer II 16570
The most popular Rolex is and always will be anything that fulfils the following criteria: stainless steel, sports, 40mm diameter. Popularity comes at a price, however, with Submariners fetching in excess of £6,000, GMT-Masters £7,000—even the previously derided Milgauss is hard to find for less than £5,000.
It seems that Rolex stainless-steel-sports-watch-at-40mm ownership is one for the ‘if only I was a bit older’ pile, alongside buying property and getting a skilled job without any qualifications, but there’s still hope in the shape of the Explorer II 16570. For some reason, in the white dial variant at least, it’s always been the most unloved of the Rolex stainless-steel-sports-watch-at-40mm family—perhaps because of the fixed brushed bezel, or the skinny Twinlock crown, or the unusual black markers and hands, who knows.
In any case, it’s now one of the most affordable stainless-steel-sports-at-40mm Rolex watches around, and with whatever the reason for its ostracism seemingly lost within the pages of time, offers a very appealing prospect at £4,000. Seriously, there’s no other reason for the severe price differential between it and its siblings than that. Perhaps when Rolex watches were more affordable, people were more particular with their tastes—but now everything else has skyrocketed, whatever gripes people had with it seem insignificant by comparison.
After all, let’s not forget: this watch is the follow-up to the hideously unsuccessful Explorer II 1655, which now fetches over £15,000.
Rolex Air-King 14000M
The two previous examples offer sizeable savings for someone looking to sit a Rolex on their wrist, but nothing like this. We’ve got stainless steel, we’ve got sports … for less than £3,000. What’s the catch, you ask, and of course there is one—but it may not be a catch for long. First, I’ll tell you what the catch is, and then I’ll tell you why.
So, here it is: this watch is 34mm in diameter. Despite the big fuss about wristwatches being much smaller than pocket watches at the turn of the 19th century, by the 1950s, the average wristwatch size for men was somewhere between 32 and 34mm. With wristwatches being the size they are now, 40mm being somewhere towards the lower end, 34mm seems positively minute, but with the big watch trend dying down and the vintage trend building up, we’re seeing more and more of a turn towards sub-36mm watches.
Remember when nobody would wear an Explorer I because it was too small? Now, some of the biggest news from this year’s Baselworld is the release of a 36mm DateJust. These older watches are only a few millimetres smaller than that, and once on the wrist, start to feel more than adequately sized. In fact, it’s refreshing to wear a watch that doesn’t catch or dig in.
It’s all a matter of what you’re used to. When it comes to getting accustomed to things, a vintage stainless steel Rolex for less than £3,000 shouldn’t be too hard.
Rolex prices may seem to be rising faster than a SpaceX Falcon 9, but there’s still a chance to grab a hold before they disappear from sight completely. Sure, the choices may not be what you’d go for if money was no object, but that doesn’t mean these watches can’t be fantastic ownership experiences in their own right. If you’ve got the budget, now’s the time to get on board.
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