Editorial credit: pio3 / Shutterstock.com

Rolex watches have always been considered one of the most iconic Swiss watches, and demand for the latest models has often outstripped supply in retail outlets worldwide. Whether this shortage is artificially created to drive up prices or whether there is a significantly higher demand for Rolex watches is debatable. But does it make older Rolexes more valuable?   

Older Rolexes have shown substantial increases in value in recent years. In many instances, the older models are worth more than the current version, and while certain watches are more freely available, others are becoming rarer as time passes, which drives the price up even faster.

When we speak of older Rolexes, there is a distinction between pre-owned watches, which may be only a year or two old, and vintage Rolexes. The term “vintage” is not specifically defined but can apply to any watch before the 1980s. The prices paid for some vintage Rolexes at auctions are absolutely stratospheric, but even more common models have proved to be excellent investments.

Assessing The Value Of Older Rolexes

Very few people buy a Rolex because they need a wristwatch. They are bought by collectors, investors, and those who love the whole image surrounding the brand and can afford to indulge themselves in the luxury of owning one.

What Affects The Value Of An Older Rolex? 

Not all Rolexes are equal in terms of their investment value, and several factors must be considered. Very often, one needs the advice of an expert before determining value.

The Authenticity Of The Watch Is A Vital Factor

There are probably more fake Rolexes on the market than real ones, some of them really excellent copies, but that’s not what you need to look out for. Even the genuine older Rolex needs to be certified 100% original to be fully valued by a knowledgeable buyer.

 Even if parts have been replaced by genuine Rolex ones, they may differ slightly and diminish the watch’s value. New hands, crystals, and bezels may be replaced when the watch is serviced,  and while it may enhance the watch’s appearance, it does the opposite to value.

All Rolexes have a serial number engraved on the side of the casing between the two lugs at the 6 o’clock end. The bracelet must be removed to see the number, but it’s easy to do that and worthwhile as the number can be used to ascertain the date of manufacture.

In addition to the serial number on every Rolex, a reference number can be found between the lugs on the opposite end of the case at 12 o’clock. This number will identify the exact model of Rolex you’re looking at.

Some Older Models Are More Common And Less Valuable

Not every Rolex is worth more pre-owned than new. The company produces one million plus watches a year, which makes it one of the largest watch manufacturers in the world, and while some models are only made in small quantities, the less expensive ranges are more freely available.

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is the least expensive Rolex, with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $7581 for the 36mm men’s watch. Used or pre-owned modern versions of this model can be found at around $6000.

A model which has been discontinued will become steadily rarer and therefore increase in value more than currently available pre-owned watches. For example, the stainless-steel Rolex Daytona 116500LN that came out in 2016 has an MSRP of $12,400, but prices of pre-owned versions are now almost double that figure.

One can expect the value of a pre-owned watch to depreciate in the first year or two, but thereafter the depreciation will be a lot slower, and you will probably see the value begin to increase as the watch becomes more and more collectible.

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The Value Of A Vintage Rolex Can Run Into Millions

Every vintage watch has a history, and often the one-time owner is one of the most attractive features of the watch. Famous owners of Rolex watches include Hollywood stars, iconic musicians, statesmen, and international sporting legends.

The Condition Of The Watch Will Affect Value

Interestingly, it’s not necessarily true that the vintage watch in an immaculate as-new condition will be more valuable than those with signs of wear. For many buyers of a vintage Rolex, the patina on the face and bezel, the fading of the hand luminosity, and the wear on the casing all add to the watch’s character. While it may not make the watch more valuable, it makes it unique and has its own appeal.

The Rarity Of A Vintage Rolex Is A Factor

With many of the older models, Rolex produced a variety of watches in small quantities. Each variation featured a different combination of case material, face and bezel colors, crown design, and other features. Some examples of these rare and incredibly valuable vintage Rolexes:

  • Rolex Cosmograph Daytona “Paul Newman” ref. 6239, actually owned by Paul Newman and gifted to him by his wife Joanne Woodward, was sold in 2017 for $17,752,500 – the most expensive Rolex ever.
  • Rolex Oyster Cosmograph Ref. 6265 “The Unicorn”:  manufactured in 1970 and uniquely cased in white gold rather than steel or yellow gold, and with a white gold bracelet fetched $6.29 million in 2018
  • Rolex Ref. 6062 “Bao Dai”: one of Rolex’s most valuable models, this particular watch dates back to 1952 and is one of only three with its specific features. It belonged originally to the last emperor of Vietnam and was sold in 2017 for $5.37 million.
  • Rolex Oyster Perpetual Ref. 6062 Stelline: One of only three Rolex models to incorporate a lunar calendar and produced for only three years from 1950 to 1953, this rare vintage watch was sold in 2019 for $2.05 million. 

While these examples of vintage Rolex watches are extreme, their rarity and value prove that there is almost no limit to the price someone will pay for a masterpiece of horology.


It is difficult to generalize, but statistics have shown that the demand for older Rolexes has grown substantially while the supply of discontinued models has diminished. While the more recent models in the Rolex range may be slightly less valuable for a few years, the basic law of supply and demand will invariably mean that older Rolexes will continue to become more valuable over time.  


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