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Rolex Buying Guide

Rolex Anatomy Rolex Models Rolex Buying Guide Rolex Dealer By City
Rolex Buying Guide
Kseniya Burns


Depending on where you are in your life and in your career the style of Rolex you choose will vary, which is why in order to make a smart investment it is a good idea to define exactly what you want and the reasons why you want it. Understanding your own needs and the reason why you are investing in a Rolex will guarantee that you are ready for the emotional investment that a high end watch can carry with it.

The first Rolex that you purchase can be the last, or it can signal a lifelong dedication to the brand and a start of an amazing collection. Regardless of what your plans are, the first Rolex should retain its value well, have interpersonal meaning, and be versatile.  Versatility is especially important for an everyday wear watch because it guarantees that the wearer will feel comfortable with the timepiece regardless of the occasion.

Buying Pre-owned

Pre-owned market is a great place to get the most "bang for your buck" when buying a Rolex, find rare vintage models, and well priced, highly collectable pieces. However, the cheaper values and accessibility usually come with their own set of challenges. In order to save yourself a lot of grief and trouble, try to follow the three simple rules of buying pre-owned:

1. Find a reputable retailer:  A reputable, pre-owned Rolex retailer understands the value of great customer service, trust, and the value of an investment that you are making when purchasing a Rolex. A reputable retailer will never pressure you to buy a watch that you are not 100% sure about. Usually a credible dealer will have some sort of a "money back guarantee" as well as a warranty for your watch.

2. Always ask for reference numbers and case numbers when buying a Rolex. In the faux Rolex market, the case and reference numbers are often fake or not printed on the case at all. If the third party or a dealer refuse to give you that information it is more than likely that the purchase you are about to make is not worth your time or money.

3. Beware of the "it's too good to be true" deals. In most cases if it feels like you are getting the deal of the century, you are probably about to get ripped off. Make sure that you do your research and always talk to a professional watchmaker before committing to any third party, pre-owned Rolex purchase.

Buying Vintage

Depending on what you are going for, a vintage Rolex may or may not be the best option for you. To begin with, vintage Rolex models are (usually) more expensive than modern Rolex watches due to their limited availability. However, it is that limited availability and high collectability that also make vintage Rolex a great investment. Although the value appreciation of the piece can be slower, Rolex retains its quite well.  So, if you are looking for a piece that will definitely separate you from the crowd and has a significant vintage, rarity factor and you don't mind spending a little more depending on the model, vintage might be the way to go. However, be aware that the average size of a wrist watch has increased with time. Some men's vintage models are significantly smaller than those of modern lines. If you prefer a larger watch we would recommend a more recent model.


Just as it is important to narrow down how and why you are investing into a Rolex, it is also important to fit the watch into your lifestyle. Rolex has a diverse collection of styles and designs that will fit virtually any personality.  For the sake of simplicity we will break down these watches into three categories: sport or tool watches, dress watches, and impact or statement watches.

In our humble opinion, sport or tool watches make the best everyday wear watch because of its high versatility. A tool watch can be dressed up or down and wouldn't look out of place with a pair of jeans or shorts as well as with a nice suite.

The Rolex dress line watches are more classic, serious watches. These watches are not very casual in design and may not look all that great dressed down, however if you are spending most of your time in board rooms instead of out conquering mount Everest, these might be a better fit for you. Although Rolex dressier line watches are not as rugged they are also pretty durable and most of them are water resistant.  

When we are talking about impact or statement watches we are referring to a slightly more flashy variety. These watches are generally adorned with gemstones and are made out of precious metals. Statement watches are better suited for those who prefer a less toned down look. Rolex impact timepieces are great in occasions where the watch serves as the star accessory.

Below we will talk about some of the most popular Rolex watches that fall into the three categories mentioned above. Almost all of the Rolex models that are available today also come with diamond or precious stone decorations and in precious metal options, so regardless of the watch style that you want to choose, you can have it with slightly more dazzle than it normally comes with.

Tool Watches

Rolex Submariner is by far one of the most popular Rolex tool watches and is available in multiple metal and color options. The best part about a Submariner watch is that it hasn't changed much over the years, so you can still get the classic, vintage sport watch look and still have all of the modern day perks (like a white or yellow gold option that were previously unavailable).

The most popular Submariner style is the classic black and stainless steel. It is a watch that goes equally well with a suit and tie as well as with a pair of jeans. The major drawback of this watch lien is that the Submariner is one of the most popular Rolex tool watches which makes it extremely common among Rolex fans.

The immense popularity and a solid design of a Submariner lead to the development of a few other models that were based on the Submariner platform. Rolex GMT and Rolex GMT Master II, for example, are reminiscent of a Submariner but come with an extra function that allows the wearer to set an extra time zone. The GMTs are great for those that are constantly on the go and have to keep track of multiple time zones.

The Sea Dweller line is a more professional diver watch that Rolex offers. The Sea Dweller was developed directly from the Submariner and offers a better depth resistance and comes with additional perks like a Helium Release Valve. It is a larger watch that would fit a bigger wrist  and would look phenomenal dressed up or down regardless of how often you go diving.

Rolex Explorer and Explorer II is a popular choice for a starter Rolex. Generally priced lower than a Submariner or a GMT, the Explorer offers a classic sport watch look without the sticker shock.

However, if you want the look of a tool, watch with the decadence of a statement piece, we would recommend a Rolex Yachtmaster or Yachtmaster II. The watches in this line are generally more expensive because of the precious metal and gemstone options that almost all of the Yachtmaster watches come with. These watches look almost identical to the Submariner but have a definitive dazzling flayer. Although the Yachtmaster looks like a sport watch, it is not rated for diving but it is waterproof to 100m.

Another one of the dressier and extremely popular Rolex sport watches is a Rolex Daytona. A Daytona is slightly smaller than other tool or sportwatch models and has a distinctive three sub-dial look.  Wearing a Daytona watch will definitely put you in a whole new bracket of Rolex fans. With a slightly larger price tag a Daytona watch is definitely one of the Rolex timepieces that looks better dressed up than dressed down, but transitions well to a more casual (although not extremely casual)  look.

Dress Watches

A great entry level Rolex dress watch is an Air King. This watch is a great example of a more casual dress watch, its smaller size of 34mm make it a great fit for smaller wrists. Modern expectations for a men's watch are usually 40 mm and above. With that in mind, the Air King is a popular choice among women because of its compact size.

If Rolex Submariner is the king among sport and tool watches, than the Datejust is the king among dress watches. The Datejust is an extremely popular watch and comes in a variety of metals and with a wide range of dial colors and markers. Over the decades,  the size and the design of the Datejust changed slightly yet the iconic fluted bezel remained the same. The watch is now larger, 41mm as compared to the previous 36mm. Rolex Datejust is the kind of watch that fits well with a suit and tie as well as with a more dressed down look.

Rolex Day-Date is another great example of a watch that adds a touch of high-end sophistication to an incredibly durable, well engineered movement.  The Day-Date, also known as  the "President",  is similar to a Datejust (in fact, the Day-Date was developed on a Datejust platform) except for an additional window on the dial depicting the day of the week at 12 o'clock position. Rolex Day-Date day wheel comes in 26 different languages and with a variety of precious metal choices. This line of Rolex watches can be more expensive due to the absence of a stainless steel option.

Although almost any Rolex watch can be turned into a dress watch with proper attire, the true and probably only dress watches that Rolex has is the Cellini line. These watches are not water resistant, come on a leather strap, with very minimalist precious metal bezel designs and are best suited to be worn with suit and tie or formal attire. A Rolex Cellini is captivating in its extravagant simplicity and fits seamlessly into the high-end atmosphere of a black tie event.


Rolex has a variety of lines to choose from and every one of them its advantages and its drawbacks. It is important to take into consideration whether you are looking for an everyday watch, a collectable, or a special occasion piece. Are you looking for value appreciation over time or just a watch that retains its value through the years? Thinking about these factors might help you make a better decision and feel more confident with your purchase.

Everyday Watch

If an everyday watch is what you seek, we recommend a durable tool or sportwatch models. Rolex tool watches are readily available, can take a pretty severe beating without much damage, and usually have a modest price tag. In addition, a Submariner or a GMT will pair nicely with any wardrobe and retain their value well. However, that value retention is just that-- a retention. Unless you are investing in a vintage Submariner or a COMEX Sea Dweller, your watch is not likely to experience a dramatic price increase over time.  

Investment (Value)

However if you are looking to make an investment, we would recommend that you explore the world of vintage Rolex, look into modern Rolex models that do not boast popularity, or consider a limited edition pieces like a green bezel Submariner.

There are hundreds of pages written on the subject of vintage Rolex and there is no we can cover all of the important intricacies of vintage Rolex collecting. A few things that we do want to mention are as follows:

  • A vintage Rolex is generally a good purchase for a more seasoned Rolex aficionado. That being said, we don't want to discourage anyone from investing into a vintage Daytona, but if you are buying your very first Rolex, you should probably look towards more modern lines first to get a feel for what your style is in the wonderful world of Rolex.

  • Although vintage watches can be the equivalent of a holy grail, expect to pay a significant premium for coveted models.  

  • Yes, the watch will increase in value over time, but you will be limited in the times that you can wear your piece as condition is everything with vintage watches.

Traditionally, watches that are not very popular during their initial release end up being taken of the market fairly quickly. That creates a rarity factor and overtime the value of the watch increases. If you choose to go the route of investing in a not so popular model be prepared to hold on to your watch for a couple of decades because that is when you will end up getting a return on your investment. Again, just like in the case of vintage watches, condition is everything. So, plan on keeping the timepiece in the winding box more often than on your wrist.

Special Occasion Watch

Special occasions call for special watches. The statement pieces that we discussed earlier in this guide make a great special occasion watch. A Rolex Cellini or a vintage Day-Date might fit better with a tux than they would with a suit, but at the end of the day it is up to you where and how you wear your Rolex.


Finding a reputable dealer is just as important as finding the right watch. A Rolex is an investment whether you are spending eight thousand dollars or eighty thousand. A reputable dealer understands the intricate process that goes into purchasing  a Rolex and will never apply unnecessary pressure or attempt to rush their customer. A reputable dealer is certified, insured, polite, and knowledgeable in the field of watchmaking. If you ever feel uncomfortable while attempting to decide which Rolex is right for you, you are probably at the wrong place.

A dealer with a great reputation understands that their customer is just as valuable as their own time and will guide you through the process of purchasing a watch and should be able to answer all of your questions. Usually, dealers offer a grace period during which a customer is allowed to bring the watch back with a full refund. At Ermitage Jewelers we understand the importance of your investment and offer a 10 day money back guarantee and a one year limited warranty with a purchase of any one of our Rolex watches.


If you found a Rolex online or in a pawn shop or are purchasing from a non licensed third party, beware of faux watches. With modern counterfeit technology being at its peak and ever-growing, some faux Rolex watches are indistinguishable from the genuine pieces by an untrained eye. We  highly recommend that you get a professional watchmaker to inspect any watch that you are planning on purchasing.


As mentioned previously, a condition of the watch matters. Just like you wouldn't pay a premium for a Ferrari with a blown engine, you shouldn't pay top dollar for a Rolex with a dying movement. If you are purchasing a watch from a third party, always have a watchmaker inspect the watch prior to purchasing, ask for service records and all the paperwork. It will also help you determine the age of your Rolex and the anticipated value appreciation over time.


There is no need to play Russian roulette with fate. Protect your investment from the unexpected and have your watch insured. Paying a few dollars here and there in order to protect your Rolex from loss, theft, or damage seems obvious and yet so many forego this step.

Although you may never replace the emotional investment that you made into your watch in case of a loss, having an insurance policy protecting your watch will at least enable you to purchase a suitable replacement.

We hope that this guide demystified at least some of the aspects of purchasing a Rolex and enabled you to make a quick and educated decision. In addition to this article, we offer a number of other supplemental materials that will allow you to decode your watch and learn more about the wonderful world of high end, luxury watches and Rolex in particular. Visit our Education page and learn more about the rich history of Rolex models, explore the world of Rolex complications, as well as learn invaluable information about the world of horology.

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