At one point or another, every watch collector has dreamt of serendipitously stumbling across a really old Rolex watch, whether in an obscure corner of the local thrift shop or in a “box of old stuff” in the attic.
Naturally, the lucky fellow would then visit a seasoned appraiser who’d go on to explain how and why their horological finding is extremely rare and potentially worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Stories like these have been told for many years, even more so in the past two decades with the rising tide of the luxury watch industry as a whole. In turn, these captivating tellings have given rise to the widespread belief that Swiss timepieces, most specifically Rolex watches, will explode in value after purchase.
The specific Rolex models that become successful “investments” are generally few and far in between. Nevertheless, by analyzing the shared characteristics between some of them, we can attempt to surmise which of today’s sleepers can become tomorrow’s superstars.
Keep scrolling to see which Rolex watches may just turn into the investment of a lifetime.
Speculative Rolex Investment Watches
- Rolex GMT-Master II “Coke” Ref. 16710
- Rolex Explorer II Ref. 16570
- Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 Ref. 116600
- Rolex GMT-Master II “Pepsi” Ref. 116719BLRO-0002
- Rolex Cellini King Midas (Vintage)
Throughout this guide, we present various Rolex timepieces along with the potential factors that may act as value catalysts for each. We’ve also included a new section where we explain why we think eBay is one of the best online marketplaces to shop for collectible Rolex watches.
Along with our list of the most collectible Rolex models, we must also include a reminder that the info on this page should not be taken as horological investment advice. We highlight the characteristics that have made past Rolex watches particularly desirable, but it is merely speculation with the purpose of educating and entertaining.
That said, let’s jump right in.
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What Makes A Rolex Watch Collectible Or A Good Investment?
Although it seems like some incomprehensible forces are in control of the Rolex watch market, the fact of the matter is that it all comes down to supply and demand. Therefore, for a watch to appreciate in value, the demand has to increase or the supply has to decrease.
There are various factors that can affect both sides of this equation and which have had a direct effect on Rolex watch prices. These same factors have also caused some Rolex models to become collectible and feasible investments. We analyze them below.
A Game Of Supply & Demand
Rolex strictly controls the supply of watches that make it to authorized dealer cases, more so than most Swiss watch manufacturers out there. In doing so, they keep their hand on the pulse of the market’s demand. They also strategically supply their hottest models ever so slightly below this “water line”, ensuring it is never fulfilled.
The ultimate limiter on supply is when a watch model is discontinued; you’ll see this in the majority of watches on our collectible Rolex list below. No new watches of the style will be produced, and therefore all of the ones available in the market are then perceived as scarce (and much more valuable).
Another value factor is the aesthetics of the specific watch. With changing trends and fads, Rolex has evolved the style of its timepieces. Previous models become artifacts frozen in time as new styles go on to replace them.
With the passing of time, these older models are forgotten about and often fall out of favor. But, when enough time passes, say 20 or 30 years, they are seemingly rediscovered and esteemed as “classics”. They once more fall into the good graces of collectors and start their climb back up the price scale.
The Pop Culture Effect
Lastly, we reflect on the influence of famous figures on watch prices. It’s no surprise that Rolex spends millions of dollars every year on brand ambassadors; you can bet that these budgets are meticulously allocated.
The perfect example of the pop culture effect in collectible Rolex watches is the Paul Newman Daytona, the most expensive Rolex watch ever sold. Similar examples of this Daytona sell for a tenth of the price of that Newman watch. However, since it was the individual watch worn by the famous actor, it commands an unbelievable premium.
There are many more intricate and obscure forces that play a part in the Rolex collectible watch market. The previously mentioned factors are only some of the characteristics that could be involved and are quite general in scope.
Where To Buy A Collectible Rolex Watch
As we update this page, it’s currently 2021. If nothing else is true, then you can bet on the fact that you can buy anything online. This is no different when it comes to investment Rolexes. However, one must be mindful of where one chooses to spend money as there may be underlying risks greater than just the value of the asset decreasing precipitously.
The number one trepidation is that you’ll be sold a dud – a counterfeit. Next is the concern that some slick salesman will sell you on a watch that has absolutely no potential of ever going up in value.
Both of these are valid concerns indeed, seeing as how counterfeit watches (especially Rolex) abound and, well, sales associates aren’t known for their integrity. By shopping for your next Rolex on eBay, we believe you mitigate both worries.
With regards to authenticity – eBay has recently introduced a cost-free authentication service that guarantees pretty much every watch over $2,000*. On the other hand, diminishing the second apprehension is going to take some work on your behalf, though this is true regardless of the retailer you purchase your watch from.
Salesmen have limited inventory to work with, so they’re going to say what it takes to convince you that the watch they have for sale is a good investment proposition. With eBay’s extensive marketplace, you have a seemingly unlimited selection to chose from. Still, only a small percentage of these are likely to appreciate over time, and picking the right one is going to take some study. Review the following list of collectible Rolexes to see what makes each a considerable investment candidate and then embark on your own search for other Rolex models that share similar characteristics.
*Visit the following link for more details on eBay’s new authenticity guarantee.
Potential Investment Rolex Models
Rolex GMT-Master II “Coke” Ref. 16710
The GMT-Master II “Coke” reference 16710 has been steadily trending upwards in price over the past couple of years.
This appreciation appears to be a direct result of the increase in demand seen for all steel Rolex sports models. This same effect is likewise encountered on other models on this page.
The larger trend notwithstanding, this GMT-Master II “Coke” boasts its own characteristics that make it increasingly desirable. First and most obvious is the fact that the model is discontinued. This makes it so that it can only be purchased on the secondhand market with a permanently capped supply.
It also possesses the older Rolex pre-Super Case profile, which is distinctly different from the modern Super Case Rolex. The timepiece wears much smaller and has an essence of “tool watch” unlike anything available in the brand’s current catalog.
Lastly, and perhaps most speculative, is the fact that there is no modern GMT-Master II in the “Coke” style. Rolex has released a modern “Pepsi” GMT-Master II and has discontinued other GMT-Master II watches like the black face 116710LN. With the sunset of the black GMT, a void is created in the lineup. Accordingly, this void is highly likely to be filled by a ceramic bezel “Coke” GMT-Master II in the near future.
When that new Coke GMT is released, a frenzy will undoubtedly ensue. And since the new model is going to be impossible to get, unfulfilled buyers will turn to the pre-owned market, as they often do, for the next closest thing: this reference 16710 GMT-Master II “Coke”.
Rolex Explorer II Ref. 16570
The Explorer II 16570 is the “older brother” of the contemporary Explorer II 226570 which was recently introduced into the modern Rolex’s catalog. Indeed, the previous and current models share similarities, but the former has a finesse in its design that is unmatched. These small but concrete differences between the two are what makes the 16570 particularly special and a potential Rolex investment watch.
For instance, the dial elements, including the applied indices and the center hands, are smaller and more elegant when compared to the modern 226570. Similarly, the bezel’s 24-hour scale is more refined whereas the numerals on the modern bezel appear to be in bold typeface.
Perhaps embodying these underlying subtleties in design the most is the contrasting GMT hand in both watches. In the 226570, it’s presented in bright orange and rather large in size. On the other hand, in the 16570, the deep red GMT hand still jumps out at you from the dial, but it is much more delicate and subdued.
Additionally, older Rolex watches are known for the patina that they develop. In the 16570, the luminous in the indices and hands, and often the dial itself, will change in color and produce some really attractive hues. Since each of these can almost be considered unique, they are many times purchased and held on to. So, not only is the total supply limited by discontinuation, but it’s decreasing as more are purchased and stored.
The New Model Effect
As with the 16710, there’s also speculation circulating of an overdue upgrade to the Explorer II line.
As of 2021, the Explorer II has already received a movement upgrade. Yet, it still seems as if Rolex has an ace up their sleeve with regards to future architectural changes, namely a material change for its bezel, whether that be ceramic (like the Daytona, Submariner, or GMT-Master) or perhaps even the brand’s first foray into titanium components.
First of all, this sounds amazing and would give the Explorer II a serious facelift. Second, it would also set off demand for all previous Explorer II models, including the previous 216570 and especially the older 16570. Alternatively, it doesn’t make so much sense that a potentially brittle Cerachrom bezel be used on an “exploring” watch, so time will tell where Rolex will go and where that will take the prices of this Explorer II 16570.
Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 Ref. 116600
The Sea-Dweller 4000 reference 116600 was introduced in 2014 as the updated version of the beloved and historic Sea-Dweller model. It boasted the contemporary Cerachrom bezel, Super Case, Maxi Dial, trademark Helium Escape Valve, and an Oyster bracelet with Glidelock clasp.
Unfortunately, while in production it seems that the model was not doing as well as the other dive offerings. Namely the Submariner and the oversized professional diver, the Deepsea Sea-Dweller. Consequently, the watch was only offered until 2017, when the 43mm Sea-Dweller 126600 was introduced.
The new release marked a clear deviation in style for the Sea-Dweller line moving forward. The model was now characterized by a 43mm case and a cyclops magnifier. Moreover, it officially proclaimed the 116600 as the shortest production Sea-Dweller in history.
The above factors and the perceived exclusivity that they bring have translated directly into the prices seen for the 116600. A model that originally retailed for around $10,500 is now listed for upwards of $13,000 online, an increase in value of over 25%.
For those who purchased one of these before they were discontinued, their Rolex has already turned into an investment. For the rest of us, we’re left to wonder if it’s too late to get in. A 25% ROI is considered exceptional in the context of the US stock market; it also poses a bright future for the 116600, though it’s hard to tell if the model will continue on its meteoric rise.
Rolex GMT-Master II “Pepsi” Ref. 116719BLRO-0002
This GMT-Master II 116719 BLRO is the first precious metal watch on our list of potential Rolex investment models. This seems rather contradictory considering that commodities such as gold are generally considered traditional and “safe” investments. Truth be told, in the watch world, the gold and platinum models often take the biggest depreciation hits as soon as they are purchased from a dealer.
The case is different with this white gold “Pepsi” GMT. Released at Baselworld 2018, it possessed all of the same features of the preceding white gold GMT-Master II except for the dial, which had been changed from black to a deep dark blue. This blue dial was subsequently changed at Baselworld 2019 for a brighter blue color in the 126719BLRO, marking the end of the dark blue dial (0002) variant.
All in all, this GMT-Master II 116719 BLRO was available for less than one year. In fact, word on the street is that Rolex only fulfilled orders for a couple of months before they ceased delivering it altogether.
Although the change from black to a dark blue dial may seem trivial, it is these kinds of small nuances that make for the most collectible Rolex watches; its extremely limited supply is also a huge factor.
The repercussions are already evident. A 116719BLRO-0002, which originally retailed for around $35,000, at the time of writing is listed for sale on online platforms for upwards of $50,000. This entails a $15,000 increase, more than 42%, in just a few years.
Rolex Cellini King Midas (Vintage)
There are hundreds of vintage Rolex models and hardly any of these have been good investments. It’s true that they may be worth more today than what they originally sold for upon release but the increase in price over the decades hardly ever outpaces inflation or the baseline 7% returns widely attributed to the US stock market. Yet, this final candidate possesses many characteristics that position it as a great investment candidate.
First of all, it’s part of the Cellini model line which Rolex doesn’t produce too many of. Second is its pentagon case shape, which is unlike any Rolex watch you’ve ever seen before.
Introduced in the 1960s, the King Midas is crafted from solid blocks of gold, either 18K white or yellow gold. It possesses an equally quadratic full gold bracelet, though this can be switched out for a more formal leather strap to dress it up.
Perhaps most importantly, the Rolex King Midas was designed by none other than Gerald Genta. The same genius mind behind the AP Royal Oak, the Patek Nautilus, and the IWC Ingenieur, Genta is likely the most renowned watch designer in history. And, as if all of these weren’t enough, there are more than a couple of pictures of Elvis Presley (the King himself) wearing one of these Rolex models.
At the time of writing, a yellow gold King Midas on a strap can be had for around $6,500 on eBay, though it’s the only one of its kind available on the platform. Without a doubt a future icon and one which has yet to catch the eye of the public.
Final Thoughts & Up Next
We hope this page has helped you garner an understanding of what has made previous Rolex models so coveted, and which of those same characteristics may affect currently available watches.
For the time being, the future looks bright. The rising tide still appears to be growing and dragging many boats (watches) with it. No one really knows how long it will go or if the gravy train will ever stop.
If you’d like to check out more of our watch guides, especially around Rolex, make sure to check out some of the most popular pages linked below. And remember to drop us a comment below to let us know what you thought of our page:
- Rolex Brand Page: How They Became the Greatest Watch Brand In History
- Rolex On A Budget – What Are The Cheapest Rolex Models?
- You Know The Paul Newman Daytona, But What Other Rolex Watches Reach Outrageous Prices?
- Check Out All Of Bespoke Unit’s Luxury Wristwatch Reviews (Rolex, Longines, Tudor, & More!)
- Bespoke Unit Watch Homepage