“Men who guide the destinies of the world wear Rolex watches.” –Rolex advertisement c. 1957
The world of horology is a complicated and passionate one, but for many people, the standard bearer of a wristwatch is still a Rolex. If you wanted to walk into a certified retailer today and pick yourself up an “entry-level” Rollie, which is currently their 36mm Oyster Perpetual in stainless steel, it would set you back about $5,500 all said and done. But for that same amount of money, or even less, you can get some incredible vintage Rolexes on eBay. Here’re seven of our favorites.
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The two-tone, champagne-dialed Datejust with jubilee bracelet is about as classic and versatile of a watch as you can get. You can wear it with jeans, you can wear it with a suit, you can wear it to your wedding. It’s a tasteful and immediately recognizable Rolex design, and the addition of the turn-o-graph bezel, which earns it the Thunderbird designation, gives it a sporty and collectible touch.
While Rolex makes a number of sports watches, it doesn’t make many with a white dial. The best known is the Daytona, and a stainless white-dialed Daytona holds a wait list that’s measured in years. A great alternative is the handsome Explorer II, a versatile watch that’s just the right size. This one comes with full box and papers, a must for some collectors, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that price starting to appreciate soon.
Fading pepsi bezel, matte dial, great patina on the hands and hour markers. This GMT checks all the boxes when it comes to one of our all-time favorite Rolex models. At this price there’s no way you’re gonna lose money, so why in the world would you buy new when you could have this classic instead?
The 18k gold Rolex Day Date President may be the most iconic Rolex of them all, which puts it well in the running for most iconic watch ever. A $5,500 budget won’t get you one with the “presidential” bracelet that gave it its nickname, but it will still get you the same timeless, historic watch on a more subtle brown leather strap.
Vintage Rolexes are all about patina, and the creamy fade on the hands, dial, and pearl of the classic black-faced stainless Sub makes us develop a little cream ourselves if you get our drift. This one’s even still got the original green sticker on the back!
The Oysterquartz is a polarizing breed. On one hand, many true watch aficionados don’t care for them, since, as the name suggests, they’re quartz. On the other hand, they’re crazy inexpensive, they’re kinda cool looking in a retro '70s-'80s way, they’re just quirky enough that the market for them may one day rise and, hey, Tupac owned one!
What’s that you say? You want a solid 14k gold Rolex from the 1960s with a solid gold jubilee bracelet and all the original paperwork and you want to pay less than a new stainless steel Rolex that’s infinitely less cool would run you? Well kiddo, today’s your lucky day.