The dark years of watchmaking seem far away. Many will remember that precise historical moment, when mechanical watches lost their appeal and the watch industry was brought to its knees, with the arrival from Japan of much more precise and less expensive quartz movements. Timepieces’ lovers experience today an opposite drama: the growing desire for these fascinating time machines, available in limited quantities, in some cases very limited.

Specifically, it is not hard to see the disappointment of the now ‘potential’ Rolex customers who for some years have had to come to terms with an increasingly small delivery of the crowned watches at the dealers, especially professional steel watches, with the inevitable consequence of an exponential increase in prices at second-hand watch vendors, the so-called Resellers.

This policy on a global scale implemented by the Geneva-based fashion house, was started at first with the introduction of the new Daytona Cosmograph reference 116500LN, to then involve almost all the sports models of the crowned house by the GMT-MASTER II – now unavailable – up to the SUBMARINER (unthinkable until a few years ago).

A strategically perfect move for Rolex, which first of all increased – without needing it – the perceived value of the brand and its timepieces. Secondly, it has made a great gift to former Rolex owners and customers: during these 10 years, the price of ‘vintage’ and contemporary timepiece has skyrocketed, also due to other factors, see the growth of the Chinese market and of the other BRICS countries that have driven the watch market. This has strengthened the equation Rolex = Investment.
Because of these elements, having a modern Rolex, of current or recent production, has become a sort of privilege. For this reason, I do not think I exaggerate by saying that we are facing with a “Rolex fever”.

Which models, among those currently in production, should be bought for a long-term investment?

If they had to ask me for advice, I would recommend my interlocutor to go against the tide. Today everyone request the same references, difficult to find except at a price doubled compared to the sales price. Therefore, unless you can buy a Daytona 116500LN at list price, or a GMT – Master 126710BLRO or BLNR, I would say to direct your attention to models that are less requested and easier to find at the moment.

The Rolex Sea-Dweller 126600, introduced for the 50th anniversary, is one of the references to focus on. Nowadays it is decidedly under estimated and not very demanded with respect to others, therefore easily available. Furthermore it must be considered that this is a celebratory edition – with lots of red writing – and that will probably not remain in production for long. Two elements to be reckoned with.

The Rolex Milgauss 116400GV Blue Z Dial . In production since 2007, it is a watch with a strong personality: the blue dial with orange spheres and indexes, the green sapphire glass, all these make it a highly recognizable model. Precisely because of this configuration outside the box of the Rolex fashion house, it is a reference that raises conflicting opinions. In terms of investment, I wouldn’t miss it. Underestimated and “easily” available from dealers. A bet that could pay off in the future.

What references among those out of production?

Given that most ‘vintage’ or discontinued Rolexes have already achieved mind-boggling figures, or easily above 10k – just think of the Daytona ‘Zenith’ 16520 – there are some models that are still on the launch pad.

Worthy heir of the Explorer 1016, the Rolex Explorer 14270 is the first Explorer reference to mount the sapphire glass, as well as being equipped with the Rolex Caliber 3000 movement. If you are lucky enough to find it complete with kit and perhaps with a nice tritium-tacked dial, you are still in time to buy it at an exaggerated amount – between 5k and 6k – and destined to rise.

Estimate of the market value (€) of the Rolex 14270 from June 2009 to September 2019
(source Chrono24)

The same goes for the Submariner 14060, also the first among the undated Submariners to mount the sapphire glass and heir of the legendary 5513. Purchase it possibly complete with kit and tritium dial, therefore produced before 1999. For a year now his value is steadily increasing, ergo: carpe diem!

Estimate of the market value (€) of the Rolex 14060 from June 2009 to September 2019
(source Chrono24)

Attention to economic cycles

Obviously, what has been said is destined to change depending on the progress of the global economy. No one can predict whether, in the case of an economic shock or a negative economic situation, vintage prices will collapse and by what. The story so far has taught us that even in times of lean, Rolex watches, not all of them, have maintained their value or in any case it has never gone below the purchase price.

For these reasons, it is not certain that Rolex’s policy on the distribution of watches currently in production may change in the face of particular events that lead to a decrease in demand.