The ultimate guide to vintage rolex watches for new collectors in the UK

As a novice collector, delving into the world of vintage Rolex watches can be overwhelming. Yet, the journey is worthwhile as these timeless pieces are not only attractive but also hold exceptional value. This guide is dedicated to all the new watch collectors in the UK, providing them with essential insights into the exhilarating realm of vintage Rolex watches.

Establishing the budget for your Rolex

Establishing a budget for your Rolex is a crucial step you need to consider before making the big investment. Rolex watches are renowned for their quality, precision, and elegance, but they also come at a premium price. Hence, it's imperative to have a clear budget in mind to ensure the purchase doesn't upend your overall financial planning.

When establishing a budget for your Rolex, several factors come into play:

     Determine which model you're interested in. The price range of Rolex watches can vary greatly depending on the model and its features. Whether you are looking for a classic Datejust or a sporty Submariner, the pricing spectrum is wide, and each has its unique allure and cost.

     Consider the condition of the watch. A brand-new Rolex comes with a hefty price tag, but if you're open to pre-owned watches, you might find more budget-friendly options. However, it's crucial to ensure the watch's authenticity and condition, as these factors greatly affect its value.

     The material and rarity of the Rolex model can impact the price significantly. Watches made of precious metals like gold or platinum are naturally pricier than stainless steel models. Limited edition or vintage watches might also demand higher prices due to their exclusivity.

     Account for maintenance costs in your budget. Regular servicing is necessary to keep your Rolex in prime condition and maintain its value over time.

Therefore establishing a budget for your Rolex is not a task to be taken lightly. It requires careful consideration and research. But once you have determined your budget and found the perfect watch within that range, owning a Rolex can be an investment that not only enhances your style but also holds its value over time.

Should I buy a pre-owned or new Rolex watch?

This is a question many luxury watch enthusiasts grapple with. A Rolex watch—renowned for its precision, durability, and prestige—is an investment. Whether to buy new or pre-owned largely depends on your personal preferences, budget, and the specific model you are eyeing.

Buying a new Rolex watch offers its own set of advantages. Some of these advantages may include:

     Being the first owner of a Rolex comes with an authorised dealer guaranteeing its authenticity and comes with a manufacturer’s warranty, which is a significant advantage.

     Allows you to choose the latest model or a specific design that might not be available in the pre-owned market.

On the other hand, buying a pre-owned Rolex watch can be equally rewarding:

     One of the major advantages is the price. Pre-owned Rolex watches are typically less expensive than their brand-new counterparts, making them more accessible to a wider audience.

     A vintage Rolex watches often appreciate in value over time, especially if they are well-cared for and maintained, which can make them a great investment.

     Purchase a discontinued model or limited-edition piece, which can be nearly impossible to find new.

However, when buying a pre-owned Rolex watch, it's crucial to ensure the watch's authenticity. Always purchase from a reputable dealer to avoid counterfeit watches and ensure you receive a genuine Rolex.

Why is a vintage Rolex so desirable?

Vintage Rolex watches are highly desirable for a multitude of reasons:

     They are emblematic of timeless style and elegance. The brand itself holds a remarkable reputation for its high-quality craftsmanship, precision, and durability.

     Rolex watches are known to last for generations, making them a desirable heirloom. The vintage appeal of these watches also adds to their desirability.

     Owning a pre owned Rolex is akin to owning a piece of history, as each model reflects the era it was produced in. Vintage Rolex watches are often rare or limited edition models, adding to their exclusivity and value.

     Vintage Rolex watches are seen as a sound investment. Over the years, their value has consistently appreciated, unlike many other luxury items.

This makes them not just a fashion accessory or a status symbol, but also an asset with potential return on investment.

Understanding the difference in Rolex models

Exploring the vast universe of Rolex can be daunting due to an array of renowned designs, each flaunting unique characteristics and visual appeal. To make your choice easier, we have classified the diverse Rolex collections into two main divisions: Classic and Professional.

Classic models

1. Rolex Datejust

The Rolex Datejust, a timeless classic that exudes sophistication and elegance. This iconic timepiece, with its signature date window and magnifying Cyclops eye, is the epitome of Rolex's precision and reliability, marrying form and function in one sleek design.

Launched in 1945 on the occasion of Rolex's 40th anniversary, the Datejust was the first automatic, waterproof wristwatch to display the date in a window at 3 o’clock on the dial — hence its name. It was a groundbreaking innovation at the time that forever changed the face of watchmaking.

The Datejust, with its moniker rooted in this unique feature, quickly became a symbol of Rolex’s pioneering spirit and innovative prowess. Crafted with meticulous attention to detail, the Rolex Datejust is more than just a watch; it's an investment in style and longevity.

This masterpiece is available in a variety of materials including gold, steel, and Rolesor - a combination of gold and steel exclusive to Rolex- providing a diverse selection to cater to individual tastes. From the classic simplicity of the silver dial to the bold sophistication of the black or blue, each model is a testament to Rolex's commitment to excellence.

One of the standout features of the Rolex Datejust is the oyster case. A symbol of robustness and waterproofness, this distinctive case ensures that the high-precision movement is securely protected. The Twinlock and Triplock winding crowns further enhance its waterproof nature, making it a reliable companion for those who live life on the go.

The Rolex Datejust also boasts an automatic, self-winding movement – yet another testament to the brand's innovative spirit. The caliber ensures high-performance and precision timing, living up to Rolex's reputation as a leader in horological engineering.

Over the years, the Rolex Datejust has been worn by many influential figures, from world leaders to Hollywood stars. Its timeless design transcends trends, making it just as relevant today as it was more than seven decades ago. It’s not just a watch; it’s a statement, an emblem of success and refinement.

2. Rolex Oyster Perpetual

This iconic timepiece, a flagship model of the renowned Rolex brand, carries a rich heritage and a compelling story that seamlessly blends tradition with modernity. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual, with its compelling lineage and history, is an epitome of the brand's relentless pursuit of perfection.

The name 'Oyster Perpetual' is as intriguing as it is symbolic:

     'Oyster' signifies the watch's water-resistant properties, thanks to the patented system of screwing down the bezel, case back, and winding crown against the middle case.

     'Perpetual,' on the other hand, refers to the self-winding mechanism that guarantees continuous operation.

Resilience and reliability are at the core of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual.

It defies the constraints of time, elements, and environment. Be it under the glaring heat of the desert sun, in the freezing conditions at high altitudes or beneath the crushing pressure of deep-sea depths, this classic Rolex watch stands unflinching, undeterred. But what truly sets the Rolex Oyster Perpetual apart is its understated elegance. The clean lines, simple dial design, and uncluttered aesthetic make it an ideal watch for any occasion.

It has an innate versatility that makes it just as suitable for formal black-tie events as it is for casual Sunday brunches. The Oyster Perpetual is available in a variety of sizes and colours to cater to diverse tastes and preferences. Whether one prefers a minimalist look with a cool steel finish or a more glamorous appeal with a touch of gold, there's an Oyster Perpetual to match every style.

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is not merely a time-keeping device; it's a piece of wearable art that reflects one's taste and status. Owning one is not just about having a luxury watch on your wrist, but also about experiencing the meticulous attention to detail, precision-engineered performance and the sheer joy of owning an enduring masterpiece. It's about being part of an elite club that appreciates timeless beauty, impeccable quality, and unwavering reliability.

3. Rolex Sky-Dweller

The Rolex Sky-Dweller is more than just a timepiece; it's a statement of sophistication, precision and undeniable luxury. Introduced in 2012, this exquisite piece quickly took its rightful place within the prestigious Rolex family. The Sky-Dweller is not only the embodiment of Rolex's commitment to excellence, but it also represents a significant leap forward in watchmaking technology.

What sets the Rolex Sky-Dweller apart is its unique combination of design and functionality. Aesthetically, it is a masterpiece that exudes elegance and distinction. The watch features a 42mm case, making it one of the larger models in the Rolex collection. But it isn't just its size that commands attention; the Sky-Dweller boasts an attractive dual time zone display that is both eye-catching and highly practical for frequent travellers.

Yet, what truly distinguishes the Sky-Dweller is its advanced mechanical movements. This model was the first to feature Rolex’s innovative annual calendar system, cleverly named Saros after the Greek term for the 18 year cycle between sun, earth, and moon which inspired it. This system automatically differentiates between 30-day and 31-day months, requiring manual adjustments only once a year, in February. It's an impressive feat of engineering that provides unrivalled accuracy and reliability.

Another standout feature is the Ring Command bezel. This interactive interface between the movement and the bezel allows the wearer to easily set the time, date, and reference time on the watch. This user-friendly design showcases Rolex's commitment to enhance not only the aesthetic appeal but also the practicality of their timepieces.

The Rolex Sky-Dweller is available in a variety of materials and colours, offering something for every taste. Whether you prefer traditional yellow gold or contemporary white gold with a sophisticated black dial, there's a Sky-Dweller that perfectly suits your style.

4. Rolex Day-Date

The Rolex Day-Date is more than just a timepiece; it's a symbol of prestige, luxury, and unrivalled craftsmanship. Introduced in 1956, it was the first wristwatch to display the date and day of the week spelt out in full in a window on the dial. This innovation alone set the Rolex Day-Date apart, establishing it as the ultimate watch of prestige.

The Rolex Day-Date is not just renowned for its groundbreaking functionality but also for its elegant design. The watch is exclusively made from 18 ct gold or 950 platinum, and its precious materials, flawless design, and superior technology make it a favourite among world leaders, celebrities, and those who appreciate the finer things in life.

The Rolex Day-Date represents the pinnacle of the professional watch collection by Rolex. It's a watch that doesn't just tell time; it tells the world that you've arrived. The remarkable thing about the Rolex Day-Date is its versatility:

     It can be worn at a state dinner or casually on a golf course.

     It's a watch that fits perfectly on your wrist whether you're shaking hands with dignitaries or hitting a perfect drive down the fairway.

The Rolex Day-Date is not just a timepiece; it's an experience, a lifestyle choice, a statement. The Rolex Day-Date is crafted with meticulous attention to detail. The day of the week is displayed with great precision in an arc-shaped window at 12 o’clock. The date display itself is made possible by a self-winding mechanical movement entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex – yet another testament to its superior craftsmanship.

Professional models

1. Rolex Submariner

The Rolex Submariner is more than just a timepiece; it's a symbol of prestige, luxury, and unrivalled craftsmanship. Introduced in 1953, it was the first wristwatch designed for diving and is renowned for its resistance to water and corrosion.

The Rolex Submariner is not merely an accessory, it's a statement. It tells the world that you value quality, longevity, and a classic aesthetic that will never go out of style. The Rolex Submariner is not just about looks, though.

     It boasts impressive functionality. Designed specifically for underwater exploration, the Rolex Submariner can withstand depths of up to 300 metres - a testament to the brand's commitment to durable, high-performing products.

     It’s distinctive dial. Typically finished in black, it features large luminescent hour markers for visibility in dark underwater environments. The rotatable Cerachrom bezel is another unique feature. It allows divers to monitor their immersion time.

     It’s timeless design. With its sleek lines and classic colour scheme, it complements any outfit, from a casual ensemble to formal attire. It doesn't scream for attention; instead, it subtly communicates taste and sophistication.

Despite numerous enhancements over the years, the core character of the Rolex Submariner remains unchanged. It still resonates with the spirit of the original 1953 model: rugged yet refined, practical yet luxurious. This enduring appeal explains why it's as popular with celebrities and CEOs as it is with divers and explorers.

2. Rolex GMT-Master II

The Rolex GMT-Master II is not just a timepiece, it’s a statement. This iconic watch holds a special place in the hearts of horologists and aficionados alike, with its perfect blend of functionality, style, and sheer prestige.

Introduced in 1954, the Rolex GMT-Master II was originally designed to meet the needs of international pilots. However, it quickly transcended its aviation roots to become a symbol of luxury and success, worn by some of the most influential people around the world.

The design of the Rolex GMT-Master II is highly distinctive and has remained relatively unchanged over the years, a testament to Rolex's commitment to timeless elegance. The watch features a bi-directional rotating bezel with a 24-hour graduated two-colour Cerachrom insert in ceramic - a unique feature that allows the wearer to read the time in two different time zones simultaneously.

The watch is also equipped with an automatic in-house movement that provides top-notch precision and reliability. The Rolex GMT-Master II is not just about its aesthetics or functionality. It’s about the legacy it carries. Each model is meticulously crafted in Switzerland using centuries-old techniques combined with state-of-the-art technology. The result is a timepiece that exudes sophistication and charm while being robust enough to withstand the rigours of daily wear.

But perhaps what truly sets the Rolex GMT-Master II apart from other luxury watches is its innate ability to evoke emotions and tell stories. It’s not just a watch; it’s an heirloom passed down through generations, a partner in every adventure, and a silent witness to life's most precious moments. Owning a Rolex GMT-Master II signifies not just affluence, but also an appreciation for unparalleled craftsmanship, a love for timeless design, and a desire for enduring quality.

3. Rolex Daytona

The Rolex Daytona is a mechanical, self-winding chronograph. It was first introduced in 1963 and was designed to meet the demands of professional racing drivers. With its highly reliable chronograph and bezel with tachymetric scale, it allows drivers to perfectly measure average speeds up to 400 kilometres or miles per hour. It's an icon forever joined in name and function to the high‐performance world of motor sport.

Over the years, the Rolex Daytona has evolved without losing any of its unique qualities. Its aesthetics and functions transcend changes in fashion, not only meeting but surpassing the expectations of watchmaking standards.

Rolex uses 904L stainless steel for its steel watch cases which is mainly used in the high technology, aerospace and chemical industries, where maximum resistance to corrosion is essential. The Daytona's dial is a true work of art, designed and manufactured in-house, largely by hand to ensure perfection.

The Rolex Daytona is not just another luxury watch; it's a piece of history. Its timeless design and unparalleled functionality make it a favourite among watch aficionados around the world. Whether on the wrist of an acclaimed race car driver or an executive in a boardroom, the Rolex Daytona commands respect and admiration.

4. Rolex Explorer

The Rolex Explorer is not just a watch; it's a statement, a testament of indomitable courage and relentless pursuit of perfection. This iconic timepiece is synonymous with exploration and adventure, embodying the spirit of those who dare to venture into the unknown. The Rolex Explorer was born out of a historic event that forever etched its name in the annals of human achievement.

In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first men to conquer Mount Everest, the world's highest peak. And guess what they had on their wrists? Yes, you guessed right - a Rolex watch. This sparked the creation of the Rolex Explorer, specially designed for extreme conditions.

The Rolex Explorer boasts of an exceptional robustness, thanks to a 904L stainless steel superalloy case and bracelet, ensuring it can withstand the harshest conditions. Its highly legible dial, characterised by its distinctive 3, 6, and 9 numerals is illuminated by Chromalight display with long-lasting luminescence, ensuring readability even in the darkest corners of our planet.

What makes the Rolex Explorer truly special is that it's not just designed for explorers or adventurers. It's built for anyone who appreciates exceptional craftsmanship, precision and timeless design. It's for those who value the blend of functionality and style.

Whether you're navigating through a bustling city or charting an unexplored path in a remote location, the Rolex Explorer is more than capable of keeping up with you.

Finding a trusted Rolex seller

Finding a trusted Rolex seller can be likened to embarking on a thrilling treasure hunt. You yearn to unravel the mystique of the Rolex timepieces, but you also want to ensure that your investment is genuine and worth every cent. It's not just about purchasing a timepiece; it's about buying a piece of history, an emblem of prestige and an artefact of exquisite craftsmanship.

When it comes to finding a trusted Rolex seller, there are several key factors to keep in mind:

     Do thorough research. Knowledge, they say, is power, and in this case, it can save you from falling into the trap of counterfeit sellers. Learn about the different models, their specific features, and average pricing. This will not only help you identify your preferred watch but also equip you with the necessary information to avoid overpriced deals or fake products.

     Look for authorised dealers. Rolex has a strict policy regarding the distribution of its watches and only sells them through official retailers. These retailers are carefully selected based on their ability to meet Rolex's high standards of service and expertise. Online platforms can also be a viable option for finding a trusted Rolex seller. However, it comes with its own set of challenges, including the risk of fake products or fraudulent activities.

Buying tips for new collectors

As a new collector, it's crucial to make informed decisions when buying vintage Rolex watches. Here are a few tips:

  1. Know your budget: Vintage Rolex watches can range from affordable to incredibly expensive. It's important to set a budget before you start your collection.
  2. Buy from reputable dealers: Always buy from reputable Rolex dealers. This will ensure that the watch is authentic and in good condition.
  3. Do your research: Learn about the different Rolex models and their history. This knowledge will help you make informed decisions when buying a watch.
  4. Condition is crucial: The condition of a vintage Rolex watch significantly affects its value. A watch in excellent condition will always be worth more than a similar model in poor condition.
  5. Patience pays off: Collecting vintage Rolex watches can be a lengthy process. It's essential to be patient and wait for the right watch to come along.

Rolex watch sizing

When it comes to the prestige and elegance of luxury watches, there's no brand that does it better than Rolex. But just as important as the brand itself is the crucial aspect of Rolex watch sizing. It's an often overlooked element, but it holds significant weight in enhancing the overall appeal and comfort of these timepieces.

Rolex watch sizing is not just about wrist size, but also about personal style and comfort. Rolex offers a range of sizes, from the dainty 26mm Lady-Datejust to the sizable 44mm Deepsea, ensuring there's a perfect fit for every wrist. Each size has been meticulously designed to maintain the balance and symmetry of the watch, without compromising on its iconic style.

What materials are used in a Rolex wristwatch?

Rolex, a Swiss luxury watch manufacturer, is renowned for its meticulous craftsmanship and use of high-quality materials. So, what materials are used in a Rolex watch? The heart of the watch, the movement, is crafted from 904L stainless steel, a corrosion-resistant alloy that is highly polished for a superior finish.

The outer casing is often made from 18-carat gold, which Rolex produces in its own foundry to ensure perfection. Their in-house foundry meticulously produces three types of gold: yellow, white, and Everose (Rolex's exclusive pink gold alloy). All these materials are crafted with exceptional skill and precision to create the beautiful, iconic designs Rolex is famous for.

In addition to gold, Rolex also uses 950 platinum, a rare and precious metal that offers exceptional brightness and robustness. For the watch's crystal, synthetic sapphire is used due to its scratch-resistant properties. Rolex also uses a variety of precious gemstones such as diamonds, emeralds, and rubies in their timepieces for decorative purposes.

The brand's commitment to quality extends to the bracelets which are made from the same 904L stainless steel, 18-carat gold or 950 platinum as the cases. The dials are often made from mother-of-pearl or meteorite, adding a unique touch to each wristwatch. The result is a timepiece that is not only beautiful but also extremely durable and reliable.

How can I tell if a Rolex watch is genuine?

Unearthing the authenticity of a Rolex watch can seem like a daunting task. However, there are several key aspects to consider when you're trying to determine if your Rolex is genuine:


Genuine Rolex watches have a perfectly made, tiny crown logo at the 12 o'clock position.


When an offer seems too good to be true, it's likely not authentic. Rolex timepieces are premium commodities and genuine ones will never come at a 'bargain' price.


Rolex watches are crafted with precision and their weight reflects this. They are generally heavier than knock-offs due to the quality of materials used.


The term 'provenance' is indicative of a timepiece's complete chain of ownership. The more comprehensive it is, the higher its value.

Genuine paperwork, including sales invoices, guarantees and service records can aid in substantiating this track record. Inherently, a recently produced watch will have fewer historical details to verify compared to an older one that may possess extensive documentation.

If such information isn't readily available, some traders may supply evidence demonstrating that there haven't been any insurance compensations or registered losses linked to the watch.


Rolex watches have a unique serial and model number located between the lugs on the side of the case.

A genuine Rolex wristwatch possesses a continuous, automatic (self-winding) motion and its operation should be seamless with faint ticking sounds heard several times in a single second. A loud ticking noise occurring once every second indicates that the watch is not authentic.


Determining the authenticity of any design feature can be a challenging task. The most effective way to do this is by comparing it with an original example.

Spotting disparities becomes significantly simpler than discerning if an impeccable imitation differs from the real object. Although not always feasible, possessing a bona fide sample serves as an excellent benchmark for evaluating your prospective new acquisition.

The packaging and its associated documentation can frequently offer further insights into the legitimacy of a Rolex timepiece:

     Assess the colour

     Material quality

     Underneath surfaces of the cushions, folds and inlays for superior finishing

An imitation box might merely be a counterfeit; however, it could also hint that the wristwatch is not a genuine Rolex product.

No single step taken in isolation will assure you that the timepiece you're investing in is legitimate; however, checking off more boxes increases your confidence about its genuineness. If there's even slight uncertainty, it's recommended to seek advice from a trusted expert before parting with your money.

What is the difference between a Rolex with a fluted bezel and a smooth bezel?

The difference between a fluted bezel and a smooth bezel on a Rolex may not immediately catch your eye, but it's an important distinction for watch aficionados:

     A fluted bezel, with its intricate and distinctive ridges, is a signature aesthetic of Rolex and offers an elegant appeal, capturing light to create a mesmerising shine.

     A smooth bezel presents a sleeker, more streamlined look that is modern and understated. Both offer their unique charm, with the choice reflecting personal taste.

Maintenance of Vintage Rolex Watches

Proper maintenance is crucial to preserving the value of your vintage Rolex watch. Here are a few tips to keep your watch in top condition:

  1. Regular servicing: Rolex recommends servicing your watch every 5 to 10 years. This will ensure its accuracy and longevity.
  2. Avoid water damage: While many vintage Rolex watches are water-resistant, it's still best to avoid exposing them to water. Always ensure the crown is fully screwed down before any contact with water.
  3. Handle with care: Avoid dropping or banging your watch as this can cause significant damage.

Are old Rolex watches worth more than new ones?

When it comes to Rolex watches, both older and newer models can carry significant value. The worth of a Rolex watch is not only determined by its age but also by its rarity, condition, and the demand in the market.

Certain vintage Rolex models have appreciated significantly over time due to their scarcity and historical significance. These pre-owned Rolex watches are highly sought after by collectors and can fetch prices far above their original retail price.

On the other hand, some newer Rolex models are also highly valuable due to their innovative features, superior technology, and modern design. However, it's important to note that not all old Rolex watches will necessarily be worth more than new ones.

The condition of the watch plays a crucial role in determining its value. A vintage Rolex in poor condition may not be as valuable as a newer model in pristine condition.

What are the key factors to consider when buying a Rolex watch?

When you're on the hunt for a luxury timepiece, certain key factors to consider when buying a Rolex come into play:

  1. Determine your budget as Rolex watches come with a hefty price tag.
  2. Choose a model that suits your style and personality - be it classic, sporty, or bold. Check the size and weight of the watch to ensure it's comfortable on your wrist.
  3. Authenticity is another crucial factor; make sure your Rolex has a proper serial number and comes with official documentation to avoid fakes.
  4. Consider the resale value, as some Rolex watches can hold or even increase in value over time.


Starting a vintage Rolex watch collection can be an exciting and rewarding journey. By understanding the history and value of different Rolex models, you can make informed decisions and build a collection that brings you pride and joy. Remember, collecting vintage Rolex watches is not just about the potential monetary gain – it's also about the enjoyment and satisfaction of owning a piece of horological history.

Whether you're a seasoned collector or a newcomer to the world of vintage Rolex watches, the thrill of discovering that perfect timepiece never fades. So, start your collection today and immerse yourself in the fascinating world of vintage Rolex watches.