The brand with the crown is one we all know when it comes to the world of watchmaking. Be it for adorning the wrists of global superstars, dominating the swiss watch market or producing the watches some aspire to own. Rolex began as a company in 1905 in London and since becoming the first wristwatch to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision, they haven’t looked back and now produce an estimated 1 million watches per year.
The word affordable comes down to value, and value is something that changes person to person. Of course, spending thousands of pounds on something that can be bought for a fiver is obscene. When studied closer however, the craftsmanship and technology that goes into making a Rolex is on the highest of echelons that one would expect from the leading fashion houses or scientific laboratories. For example; Rolex have produced their own steel named Oystersteel as the current steel on the market wasn’t durable enough, the comparison to Oystersteel is that of the metal used in the chemical or aeronautical industries.
The value that Rolex creates is done through clever advertising, top quality watchmaking and restrictive supply whilst still keeping the demand ridiculously high. This is another discussion for another article however. The point of this article isn’t to say everyone should be buying these watches, more if you are in the position to be able to spend some money on a watch, a Rolex isn’t that far out of reach.
So how to get these sector leading products by spending the smallest amount you ask? Well firstly we can discuss condition. It goes without saying that if the watch is in less that ideal condition it will be less expensive, but there are further things to consider. A watch without box and papers such as Xupes Reference W007674 will be roughly £400 cheaper than one with box and papers. Fear not, this watch will still have been through our watchmakers checks, will have been checked on a stolen watch register list as well as being presented in a Xupes presentation box. There is also the potential for the price of a watch to decrease in price if it has had some of its original parts replaced by newer service parts, this is particularly prevalent in older vintage watches.
The next sector to discuss is that of age. We all know that vintage watches command a premium due to scarcity and the current fashion for vintage, as well as proving to be an investment option. An example of a vintage Rolex is this Explorer 1655 W007886 and this can command a price higher than its modern counterpart for the reasons explained previous. Whilst new watches have an air of the unreachable because of the long waiting lists. The trick is to find the sweet spot, the point where watches haven’t become vintage but also aren’t the most recent releases. In terms of Rolex, I believe an option to be the Submariner 16610. There have been two further introductions to the Submariner range since the release of the 16610 (116610 and 126610). Whilst It can be argued these are superior watches, due to the additions of a ceramic bezel, movement upgrades and sizing changes, this is strictly for the argument of being as cost effective as possible.
Hype is all about what is next, it is about being at the forefront of releases, having that thing that everyone wants (or at least what they tell you they want). Whilst hype is a relatively new phenomenon, Rolex were at it from the early stages. Consider the advertising of the past where they literally told you, “If you were racing here tomorrow you’d wear a Rolex”. This can be seen throughout the Rolex advertising in the 1960’s. It’s the same now, just more covert. Sponsoring athletes, music stars and influencers to wear the product builds hype. Rolex as a brand has done this better than most. The waiting list for a new steel GMT-Master II is a good few years. This is for a sports Rolex model in steel. This is hype.
The example of the Daytona 116508 and its meteoric rise in price immediately after John Mayer mentioned it as a sleeper watch on Hodinkee’s talking watches springs to mind when discussing hype. A watch that was still available in dealer windows, as the attention was taken by the release of the ceramic bezel Daytona, suddenly bounced up in price and became difficult to find. This jump in price was all down to a music star saying he thinks it will be a good buy on possibly the most well know watch reviewing channel of them all; Hodinkee.
To avoid hype, pick models that aren’t Rolex’s main advertising choices, look at things such as the Explorer, or the Sea Dweller if you are looking for something sporty. If you are looking for something more dressy, Rolex Cellini range is readily available in precious metals on the secondary market for less than what you would pay for a 2020 steel Submariner!
The watch world is affected by fashion as much as anything else. Look at the resurgence of vintage watches, this leading in turn to watch houses designing smaller dial choices again. Remember the early 2000’s, the time when it was fashionable to have the largest watch possible on your wrist? Im talking about you Jacob and Co. with your five-time zone monstrosity. My point is that watch fashion changes over time, so look into buying what you like, and if its not seen as desirable at the time this is excellent as the chances are it will be cheaper.
The Rolex Air King is a great example of this. At 34mm in diameter and with a feel of delicateness, it is a far cry from the hefty sports models that are in demand today. The Air King is a long-standing member of the Rolex range and the overall size is deceiving thanks to the engine turned bezel making it appear larger. This alongside the solid movement and world-famous Oyster bracelet makes the Air King a valuable proposition for those looking for a Rolex, without the Rolex price tag. We have a beautiful example with a full set available at Xupes here; W007600.
A fair amount of a Rolex’s value is in the bracelet. The amount of time, research and development and money that goes into a Rolex bracelet and clasp is quite amazing, as is the outcome to be fair. However, if looking to get that dream watch with a saving, it could be wise to look at a Rolex on a leather strap. For example, the yellow gold Daytona on a yellow gold bracelet will cost you approximately eight to nine thousand pounds more than one available on a Rolex brown leather alligator with a solid gold deployant clasp. This one is available in just that specification here; W007848.
My final suggestion for trying to get a more affordable Rolex is; don’t get a Rolex at all. There is another brand who share some of the world famous models, such as submariner. That brand is Tudor. Lets take two models from the submariner range, one 1964 Tudor 7928 and one 1965 Rolex 5513.
Now these watches look similar, at a quick glance some may say identical but as always, it’s the nuances that make the difference in the watch world. The 5513 is a highly sought-after model due to its rarity, this watch was made to be worn and worn it was, leaving many 5513’s past repair. This later generation gilt dial with open chapter ring is a real vintage investment piece and is available at Xupes under the reference COM2279.
If you aren’t looking to spend twenty-two thousand pounds on a watch but still would like a 1960’s example of a watch that is near Rolex then let’s take a look at the Tudor Submariner 7928, its under Xupes reference COM2246. This watch has the look of the Rolex, the same model name and even has a Rolex signed, crown, caseback and bracelet! So why is it over nine thousand pounds cheaper? Its down to desirability and collectability. The Rolex name packs more of a punch when it comes to this and because of that can command a higher price in today’s market. What’s to say Tudor won’t make a resurgence and one day their vintage models will be competing with that of Rolex, they are certainly going about it the right way with some of their exceptional latest releases.
In conclusion, whilst Rolex can justify their price in today’s market because of their quality, marketing ability and restriction of their own distribution it doesn’t mean you have to justify spending Rolex top prices to get one on your wrist. The best way to be able to do this, is buying pre-owned.
Buying pre-owned, unless you are one of the many few able to buy direct from the brand or Authorised Dealer, is the best way to get a highly desired timepiece. This still applies when it comes to Rolex, as most of the models increase after being bought then level off and then decrease in price. This of course can lead to an increase once again in time when the watches become rarer due to them dropping out of circulation. It’s a case of buying at the right time and therefore maximising the worth of your purchase.