Journal / Read

The Rolex Buying Guide: Models, Prices & Everything Else You Need to Know

Everything you need to know about buying a Rolex watch, from models to prices.


Team Bezel

June 23, 2022


10 min read

Let’s be honest, Rolex needs no introduction. It’s the most iconic name in luxury watches, enjoying the single most liquid resale market of any watch brand. Naturally, this means that adding one to your collection is probably the safest and most stylish bet — but the process of actually narrowing down which model and reference is right for you can definitely feel daunting if you’re just getting into the game. As your forever guide to the wild (and at times, alarmingly niche) world of watches, we’ve put together a collection of our best tips and tricks to help steer you in the right direction, and hopefully put a Rolex on your wrist.

Rolex’s History and Significance in Watchmaking

What Makes a Rolex a Rolex?

  • Iconic Status
  • Highly Accurate Automatic Movements
  • Advanced and Proprietary Materials
  • Oyster Steel
  • Precious Metals
  • Rolesor

Key Rolex Models to Know

  • Rolex Oyster Perpetual
  • Rolex Submariner
  • Rolex Explorer
  • Rolex Explorer II
  • Rolex GMT-Master and GMT-Master II
  • Rolex Daytona
  • Rolex Sea-Dweller
  • Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea
  • Rolex Milgauss
  • Rolex Yachtmaster
  • Rolex Yachtmaster II
  • Rolex Datejust
  • Rolex Day-Date
  • Rolex Sky-Dweller

Should You Buy a Modern or Vintage Rolex?

Bezel’s Rolex Picks

  • Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 Ref. 126000-0005
  • Rolex Datejust 36 Ref. 126203-0040
  • Rolex Daytona Ref. 116500LN-0001
  • Rolex Submariner Ref. 124060
  • Rolex Day-Date 40 Ref. 228235

Rolex’s History and Significance to Watchmaking 

First things first: a bit of history. All things Rolex trace back to Hans Wilsdorf, who founded the now-iconic watch brand back in 1905. Interestingly enough, the brand wasn’t founded in Switzerland, but in London, England, where Wilsdorf ran Rolex until later moving operations to Geneva. 

For the entirety of Rolex’s history, the brand has been committed to only producing the best of the best, in terms of both utility and luxury. They’ve set themselves apart time and again through iconic designs, accurate and innovative movements, and the use of ultra-high grade materials, sparing no expense in research and development. Simply put, Rolex sets the bar and standards by which most all other watches are judged. Casual!

What Makes a Rolex a Rolex?

Iconic Status

If you were born at any point over the last century, you’re more than likely familiar with Rolex. It’s the de facto “nice watch.” For the better part of 100 years, the brand has permeated every last inch of pop culture, now enjoying an unshakeable position in the upper echelon of impossibly iconic brands. 

Similarly, the watches themselves have developed an iconic status, thanks to just how hard hitting the brand’s earliest designs were from both aesthetic and technical standpoints, as well as their ability to always stay faithful to the framework set out by those original, proverbial home runs.

Such details include the now-famous “Pepsi” bezel found on the latest GMT-Master II models, which dates back to the original GMT-Master in 1954. Collectors affectionately nicknamed this variant of the pilot’s watch due to the bezel insert’s coloring resembling that of the Pepsi logo. Similar hype surrounds ceramic bezel-fitted Daytona models, given how they resemble early Rolex Daytona references fitted with acrylic bezels. All this to say, nods to the brand’s heritage are always a hit with Rolex collectors. 

Highly Accurate Automatic Movements 

If you’re looking to pick up your first Rolex watch, it’s important to consider that almost every piece produced by the brand is powered by a mechanical automatic movement. That means that the gears inside the movement are wound and powered by the rotation of your wrist. Yes, you’re basically a Marvel superhero. 

That said, keep in mind that an automatic movement needs to be in motion to continue running. Meaning, if you leave a watch like the Rolex Submariner sitting dormant in your watch box for a week, you’ll need to set the time and date again, in addition to giving it a good winding. If that sounds tedious, we’d suggest you take a look at watches with battery-powered quartz movements from other brands.

By the same token, it’s important to consider how many complexities a specific Rolex has, as that will greatly inform what ownership looks like for you. For example, setting a watch like a Rolex Explorer is a fairly simple task, it being a time-only model. At the other end of the spectrum, pieces like the Day-Date and Sky-Dweller have all sorts of additional functions, demanding more in the time-setting department. This isn’t to say you’ll need to take OOO time to set your GMT-Master II, but be prepared to take a few moments out of your day. 

Advanced and Proprietary Materials 

No one considers the materials used to produce their watches quite like Rolex does. They go the extra mile to develop unique alloys exclusive to their watches. But just as Rolex has put great thought into different watch materials, you should too, since it’s going to greatly affect your ownership experience.

Oyster Steel

Materials-wise, the most accessible way into the world of Rolex is also the most advanced and hardwearing: stainless steel. Rolex uses a proprietary alloy known as Oystersteel, a 904L stainless steel renowned for its resistance to corrosion and long-haul durability. This means you won’t have to worry much about upkeep, or deep scratches from casual knocks here and there while wearing a steel Oyster Perpetual. An added bonus: It’s also relatively affordable in comparison to gold and platinum watches from Rolex. 

Precious Metals

If a bit of glam is what you’re after, Rolex of course has you covered there, too, with a variety options including yellow gold, white gold, “Everose” rose gold, and platinum. As mentioned, these pieces command higher prices than counterparts in stainless steel, but nonetheless, we can’t deny that the Daytona feels great in yellow gold. Just remember that precious metals like gold and platinum are far less durable than stainless steel, so you’ll want to be a bit more careful (read: avoiding flailing your arms at all costs.)


Can’t decide? Ah yes, you’d like one with everything. Not a problem! Rolex produces several models in two-tone, or as they call it, “Rolesor.” Combining precious metals with Oyster Steel is a great bet for a versatility focused approach to watches, thanks to the durability of stainless steel paired with the exclusive style and warmth of precious metals. Case in point: the iconic status of the two-tone Rolex Datejust. We all know someone who wears one of those, and for good reason.

Key Rolex Models to Know 

Rolex Oyster Perpetual

Shop Rolex Oyster Perpetual 

  • Dates: 1931-Present
  • Price range: $2,800-$25,000
  • Highlights:
  • The first self-winding watch with a freely moving “perpetual” rotor
  • Rolex has produced the OP in a wide variety of different case sizes
  • Known for its innovative case design, allowing the watch to be submerged underwater for extended periods of time 
  • Set the framework for all Rolex models to follow 
  • Produced in a wide variety of configurations

Rolex Submariner

Shop Rolex Submariner

  • Dates: 1953-Present
  • Price range: $8,300-$1,000,000+
  • Highlights:
  • The first diver’s watch waterproof to a depth of 100 meters or 330 feet
  • Have been issued for military use and relied upon by commercial divers for decades
  • Notably features a rotating bezel to track dive times
  • Famously worn by James Bond in Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963). Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), Live and Let Die (1973), and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) 
  • Produced in a wide variety of configurations, with and without a date complication 
  • Likely the most iconic sports watch of all time 

Rolex Explorer

Shop Rolex Explorer

  • Dates: 1953-Present
  • Price range: $5,000-$250,000+
  • Highlights:
  • Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay summited Mount Everest wearing Rolex watches in 1953, later informing the design of the Rolex Explorer
  • Have notably been worn by climbers and explorers
  • Still produced in its original 36 mm form factor

Rolex Explorer II

Shop Rolex Explorer II 

  • Dates: 1971-Present
  • Price range: $6,900-$50,000+
  • Highlights:
  • Designed for spelunkers exploring caves, unable to tell the difference between day and night using light alone 
  • Features similar functionality to the GMT Master models, with a fixed bezel in place of a rotating bezel 
  • Produced by Rolex with white and black dials, the Explorer II has always been fitted with a GMT hand in a vibrant shade of orange or red 

Rolex GMT-Master and GMT-Master II

Shop Rolex GMT Master II 

  • Dates: 1954-Present
  • Price range: $10,000-$250,000+
  • Highlights:
  • Rolex developed the GMT Master in cooperation with Pan Am, designing the watch specifically for pilots traveling great distances
  • Allows for two time zones to be tracked simultaneously using an additional “GMT” hand
  • The original red and blue GMT Master, and later GMT Master II rotating bezel inserts of the same scheme are referred to as “Pepsi” bezels by Rolex collectors  
  • Produced in a wide variety of configurations

Rolex Daytona

Shop Rolex Daytona

  • Dates: 1963-Present
  • Price range: $15,000-$700,000+
  • Highlights: 
  • Designed and marketed by Rolex for motor racing  
  • Rolex initially intended to call the watch “Le Mans,” but ultimately decided on Daytona 
  • Paul Newman wore a now eponymous exotic dial Rolex Daytona that sold for $17.8 million at auction  
  • Produced in a wide variety of different configurations

Rolex Sea-Dweller

Shop Rolex Sea-Dweller

  • Dates: 1967-Present
  • Price range: $10,000-$250,000+
  • Highlights:
  • Essentially a more capable Submariner
  • Designed for commercial divers, saturation divers, and explorers 
  • Features a helium escape valve incorporated into its case, allowing helium particles to escape, preventing the crystal from popping off in a decompression chamber 

Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea

Shop Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsesa

  • Dates: 2008-Present
  • Price range: $8,800-$20,000
  • Highlights:
  • Introduced as a further capable, more overbuilt take on the Submariner-inspired Sea-Dweller 
  • Wearable, albeit the bulkiest proportions seen on any Rolex watch 
  • The “D-Blue” dial variant is inspired by James Cameron’s 39,000 foot descent to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Bathyscaphe Trieste, which Rolex created an experimental “Deep Sea Challenge” watch for  

Rolex Milgauss

Shop Rolex Milgauss

  • Dates: 1956-Present
  • Price range: $8,000-$250,000+
  • Highlights:
  • Rolex designed the original Milgauss watches for scientific professionals exposed to strong magnetic fields while working at CERN
  • The Milgauss movement is surrounded by a soft iron faraday cage, preventing magnetic fields from impacting the accuracy of the movement 
  • Has featured a seconds hand shaped like a lightning bolt since its introduction 

Rolex Yachtmaster

Shop Rolex Yachtmaster

  • Dates: 1992-Present
  • Price range: $5,000-$200,000+
  • Highlights:
  • First introduced exclusively in yellow gold as a more luxurious alternative to Submariner Date models 
  • Produced in both men’s and women’s versions
  • Rolex combined stainless steel and platinum, yielding what they call “Rolesium,” to produce the 1999 Yachtmaster  
  • The very first Rolex to be fitted with the brand’s Oysterflex bracelet 

Rolex Yachtmaster II

Shop Rolex Yachtmaster II

  • Dates: 2007-Present
  • Price range: $16,000–$70,000
  • Highlights:
  • Designed for professional sailing, the Yachtmaster II features a “Regatta Timer” with mechanical memory 
  • One of the largest Rolex watches, measuring 44 mm across 
  • Produced in a variety of different configurations
  • Arguably the most unique complicated watch from Rolex to date 

Rolex Datejust

Shop Rolex Datejust

  • Dates: 1945-Present
  • Price range: $3,000-$100,000+
  • Highlights: 
  • The first self-winding watch to feature a date window that would change over automatically at the stroke of midnight 
  • Introduced in celebration of the brand’s 40th anniversary in 1945 
  • Produced in a wide variety of different configurations 
  • Regarded as a staple of the Rolex catalog 

Rolex Day-Date

Shop Rolex Day-Date

  • Dates: 1956-Present
  • Price range: $9,000-$300,000+
  • Highlights: 
  • Notably worn by American presidents throughout history, and therefore nicknamed the “President” 
  • The first watch to feature both the date of the month and the day of the week on its dial, in full unabbreviated form 
  • Rolex exclusively produces the Day-Date in precious metals including yellow gold, Everose rose gold, white gold, and platinum 
  • Produced in a wide variety of different configurations

Rolex Sky-Dweller

Shop Rolex Sky-Dweller

  • Dates: 2012-Present
  • Price range: $22,000-$100,000+
  • Highlights:
  • The brand’s first annual calendar, indicating the date and month while mechanically correcting itself to adjust for 30 and 31 day months 
  • Incorporates a second time zone function, making it suited for regular travelers 
  • Rolex’s most complicated movement to date

Should You Buy a Modern or Vintage Rolex?

As always, there’s no right answer when it comes to whether you want a new or vintage Rolex. It all comes down to what you want. If you want the absolute latest and greatest, then the logical answer is clearly to go with a new, modern Rolex. New Rolex watches are built to last and are just about guaranteed to look essentially the same for generations, while also offering the absolute cutting edge of mechanical movement technology. There are also several very affordable Rolex models on the pre-owned market if you're just getting into collecting and want something on the cheaper end.

If you’re after something that’s a little less advanced, albeit with a little bit more personality and unique patina – something that’s already gotten those dreaded first scratches many moons ago – a neo-vintage or vintage Rolex is likely the move. Make no mistake, these Rolex watches were still built to ridiculously high standards, all of which still hold up to this day, the key difference here is the capacity for materials to show age and character. 

Bezel’s Rolex Picks

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 Ref. 126000-0005

Rolex Datejust 36 Ref. 126203-0040

Rolex Daytona Ref. 116500LN-0001

Rolex Submariner Ref. 124060

Rolex Day-Date 40 Ref. 228235


Start browsing watches now

Bezel is available to download on the App Store now. Please reach out to our concierge team if there is anything we can help you with!

Get the app