2024's guide to the most affordable Rolex watches. Discover the top 12 cheapest Rolex models for sophisticated yet budget-friendly choices.
In the rarified world of the Rolex, “inexpensive” is certainly a relative term. When your brand name has been synonymous with precision craftsmanship, fine materials, and pure luxury for well over a century, your customers generally expect to pay generously for your products. However, precious few people who wear Rolex wristwatches feel as though they received something of little value.
While no Rolex can be described as “cheap” in any sense of the word, it is perfectly reasonable to seek out the cheapest Rolex on the vintage and pre-owned market today. Because expert valuations of different Rolex models of different release years can vacillate considerably, attaching a specific price tag to any specific model can be a bit tricky. But this hasn’t stopped the experts at Bezel from determining the 12 least expensive Rolex watches you can buy in 2024.
Taking overall value into consideration, Bezel’s 2024 list of the most affordable Rolex watches is as follows:
Read on for a brief overview of each Rolex watch listed above.
The Rolex Air-King has come a long way, evolving to embrace a variety of design elements, movement features, and dial colors since its introduction during World War II. However, most of these watches stress the clean and simple style of the original Rolex Air-King with its distinctive and prominent minute scale for easy aviation time readings.
Steel Rolex Air-King models, such as the iconic, feature cases of much-lauded Oystersteel. Specially developed by Rolex, Oystersteel falls into the elite 904L category of steel alloy. 904L steel meets the stringent standards of the high-tech, aerospace, and chemical sectors. Extremely resilient and impervious to corrosion, Oystersteel is also exceptionally beautiful when properly finished and polished.
Introduced in 1945 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Rolex, the Datejust revolutionized the industry with its feature complication: a movement that drives the accurate change of a date display automatically at midnight. Other distinctive elements of the Rolex Datejust include the Cyclops magnifying lens that makes the date display more legible.
In addition to these iconic features, the Rolex Datejust Ref. 126234-0014 has Rolex’s signature fluted bezel, which began as a functional waterproofing measure but endures as an aesthetic mark of distinction. In this case, the bezel is composed of pure white gold. The striking silver dial on this watch has a sunray finish that shimmers with delicate light reflections thanks to Rolex’s unique combination of masterful brushing techniques and physical vapor deposition/electroplating.
After introducing its revolutionary waterproof Oyster case in 1926 and patenting its revolutionary Perpetual self-winding rotor in 1931, Rolex brought the two together for its highly sought-after Rolex Oyster Perpetual line in 1933. The result was a highly durable, hermetically sealed watch that never requires manual winding as long as it is regularly worn.
The key design element of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 has to be its brilliant dial of bright blue. Covered by a polished stainless steel Twinlock crown and a scratch-resistant dome of sapphire crystal, this dial is augmented by a finish that incorporates tiny engravings, which refract and diffuse light.
As a result of this refraction and diffusion, the dial produces a subtle, pleasing glow that shifts with the movement of the wearer’s wrist. The Chromalight display of the Oyster Perpetual 36 Ref. 126000-0003 boosts legibility with long-lasting blue luminescence and polished hands that include hour and minute hands with luminescence-filled tips.
The elegantly simple design of the Rolex Explorer stresses easy legibility and durable construction. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Rolex watchmakers responsible for this line drew their inspiration from Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's successful expedition to the summit of Mount Everest. Its release coincided and commemorated their historic 1953 ascent. Establishing the classic definition of the line over the years, the initial Rolex Explorer model featured a stainless steel case and a black dial with signature 3, 6, and 9 numeric indices.
Considered a return to form for the Rolex Explorer, the release of the Ref. 124270-0001 model in 2021 was notable in many ways. First and foremost, watch aficionados welcomed the reemergence of the Explorer’s original 36 mm case size after producing the model in an oversized 39 mm case for more than a decade. With 19 mm lugs and bracelet endlinks rather than the 20 mm lugs and bracelet endlinks of all other Explorer iterations, the Ref. 124270-0001 gives the watch a tapered profile that is unique in the line. Furthermore, this watch features Rolex’s patented Chronergy escapement and a blue Parachrom hairspring, making it the most efficient Explorer to date,
Debuting in 1957, the Rolex Milgauss bears a name that makes a portmanteau of the French word for a thousand (“mille”) and a measurement unit of magnetic flux density (“glauss”). This name pays testament to this watch’s extraordinary ability to withstand high magnetic fields. Rolex created the Milgauss to meet the needs of scientists, engineers, and other professionals who work in laboratories, power plants, and other extraordinary industrial environments.
Rolex released the Ref. 116400GV, along with the standard to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Milgauss line in 2007. On the Ref. 116400GV-0001 Rolex accentuated the playful styling of the original Milgauss lightning bolt hand-fitted model with an extra application of color thanks to its green tinted crystal (“Glace Verte”). This crystal casts overtones of Rolex’s signature brand color over the Milgauss’ classic black dial.
The Rolex Explorer has been the watch of choice for mountaineers and other adventurers since the debut of the line in 1953. In 1971, Rolex reinvented the Explorer line with the Rolex Explorer II, which catered to the specific demands of cave explorers (“spelunkers”) who could benefit from a highly illuminated 24-hour scale dial display. Beyond its dial modifications, the Rolex Explorer II is substantially larger than the original Rolex Explorer, with a case size of 42 mm rather than 36 mm. It also has a fixed 24-hour bezel and includes an additional orange dial hand with a prominent arrow that points to the 24-hour scale. Due to its luminous white dial, this model of the Rolex Explorer II is often called the "Polar" Explorer II.
The question has been asked many different times by many different people: Why are Rolex watches so expensive? Well, the short answer, according to Bezel, is “making a good watch isn’t cheap.” Every Rolex is crafted by exceptional watchmakers with an “attention to detail and an eye for perfection” with the highest quality materials to promote extreme durability and water-resistant capabilities. For all of these reasons and more, “Rolex designs timeless and iconic watches built to last a lifetime.
This gives many different Rolex models tremendous value despite their often rather hefty price tags. In fact, even the Rolex Explorer II, with a price range of $10,000 to $12,000, is relatively affordable in light of its uniquely large 42 mm case, multi-time zone functionality, and distinctive white dial.
Although the Rolex Datejust 41 doesn’t necessarily innovate the Datejust line with any substantial movement or profile changes, it boasts a range of features that have been recognized as iconic elements of the luxury Rolex experience. Of course, like all Datejust watches, it has the standard date window with its Cyclops magnifying lens near the 3 o'clock position of the dial. It also has multi-time zone capabilities thanks to its Twinlock crown, but the most striking aspect of the Rolex Datejust 41 has to be its bright Azzurro blue dial.
The first watch designed for water resistance at 100 meters beneath the surface, the Rolex Submariner was a sensation upon its release in 1953. Since then, it has maintained a reputation as the most beloved luxury dive watch line in the history of underwater exploration. With its iconic black dial and its clean, minimalist aesthetic, the Rolex Submariner Ref. 14060 embodies much of the classic style of the original Submariner, but this 1990 model features a significantly larger case size of 40 mm, offering improved legibility and reflecting modern consumer preferences.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual line borrows the “Oyster” part of its name from Rolex’s hermetically sealed Oyster case and the “Perpetual” part of its name Rolex Oyster Perpetual from Rolex’s self-winding Perpetual rotor. Elegantly simple, most Oyster Perpetual watches concentrate on hourly timekeeping without additional movements for the date or day of the week.
One of the more affordable Oyster Perpetual models, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41 has a striking, classic design. The distinctive blue dial on this watch also clearly sets it apart.
From its scratch-resistant Sapphire crystal dome to the finely printed section fraction track on its perimeter, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41 Ref. 124300-0005 shares nearly all functional and design details with its sister watch, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41 Ref. 124300-0003. However, the 0005 model trades the vibrant blue dial of the 0003 for an equally vibrant green.
For most people, even a highly affordable Rolex is a significant investment. For this reason and others, first-time buyers and seasoned collectors must take great care to choose wisely among the vast selection of pre-owned and new Rolex models. For many people, the Rolex Datejust 36 is a great place to start. Although it is the least expensive watch on this list, it boasts most of the high-end features that have made the Rolex Datejust line legendary.
Whether you are looking for a Rolex or another luxury timepiece brand, our highly knowledgeable concierges can help you find the pre-owned watch you want within your budgetary restrictions. Bezel’s in-house authentication policies and processes guarantee that the items we sell are fully genuine and contain all advertised features. And every watch within Bezel’s extensive and painstakingly curated collection is fully protected by a comprehensive Buyer Protection Policy.
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