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How to buy your first Rolex

November 12, 2020

A Rolex is an iconic timepiece, worn by many and a symbol of success. Buying a Rolex should be an occasion, but buying your first Rolex should be even more so. As it's your very first, you want it to be just right, something to remember for the rest of your life. We want you to have the best experience possible too, so we've compiled a list of all the things you need to take into consideration before you buy your very first Rolex.

 Could it be this one? Pictured: Day-Date 40 'President' ref.228235

Not every Rolex will increase in value

This is the most important fact to remember about Rolex watches. If you've already started researching them, then you'll know the amount of hype that these watches create, and you'll probably understand the effects of said hype. Certain models within the Rolex catalogue have incredibly high demand, a demand which outweighs the number of watches Rolex produces. A basic understanding of economics will be able to tell you that this means the price of the watches most in demand will skyrocket, which is indeed the case.

Pictured: The Deepsea Sea-Dweller 116660 'James Cameron' has a long waiting-list, and pre-owned prices are normally at least £2k higher than the RRP.

Pre-owned Rolex watches which are highly sought after include the Submariner in all its variants, the Sea-Dweller and Deepsea, the GMT Master II line and the ceramic Cosmograph Daytona 116500LN. These watches all have grey market prices that are higher than their RRP, with some approaching double their retail price. But the market price is usually different depending on which variation of a watch you have. A great example is the 116500LN Daytona in steel. The version with the white dial is valued at over £2k more than the black dial, despite being the same watch in every other aspect.


Pictured: Before it was replaced, the 116618LB Submariner's average pre-owned market value was over £2k lower than its retail price.

Solid gold watches don't always increase in value, either. Two examples of this include the Submariner 116618LB, which is a Submariner date in solid 18k yellow gold (and often called a bluesy). Just before it was replaced by the 41mm 126618LB, it retailed for £28,650, but Chrono24's average price for it pre-owned is £26,200. The 228238 Day-Date 40 has an average grey market price of £28,400, but it retails for £29,300.

Of course, if you're buying new, then you won't need to worry about paying a higher price on the grey market, but you could be in for a long time waiting on the dealer's list.

Pictured: The 2019 GMT Master II 'Batgirl' ref.126710BLNR

Know your tastes

This feeds off nicely from the previous point, and it's very relevant. If you'd gone into an authorised dealer 5-10 years ago, you could have easily sampled the entire collection in an afternoon and decided on your favourite. Now, though, that's not possible. You'll be fortunate to find a professional Rolex model in an authorised dealer that hasn't been spoken for. If you've never experienced a timepiece and you're looking to buy it, then you absolutely must try to find one to wear. You may know someone who owns the watch you're after who may let you wear their watch for a bit. You may have a grey market dealer that has a pre-owned one in stock, if you do be sure to get acquainted with them (and if you're in Cardiff or the surrounding area, please do pop in and ask our team as many questions as you can, they'd be happy to help you).

Pictured: This DateJust ref.126300 shows just how well the Jubilee bracelet can work on a classical watch as well as the sporty Batgirl above.

Are you looking for a watch that's particularly sporty? Or maybe you want something a little more classical, something that would pair nicely with a blazer. Rolex splits its current models into two classifications: Classic watches (DateJust, Day-Date, Cellini, Sky-Dweller, Lady DateJust, Pearlmaster & Oyster Perpetual) and Professional watches (Cosmograph Daytona, Submariner, Sea-Dweller, GMT Master II, Explorer, Yachtmaster, Air-King & Milgauss). The Classic watches line represents a range of timeless icons that are designed to be elegant watches that retain the robust qualities that Rolex is known for. Meanwhile, the Professional range consists of specialised watches that have been designed for a specific purpose.

Most Rolex watches are surprisingly flexible in this aspect. You'll be amazed at how many different levels of attire a Submariner or GMT Master II are fit for, even though they seem to be quite chunky and sporty. Gone are the days of microscopic dress watches on leather straps, matching your watch and your clothing has never been easier!

We'd strongly advise you not to buy a watch that you haven't been able to try on first, a disappointment when buying your very first Rolex could be catastrophic.

Pictured: The Yachtmaster II ref.116680 has a design that's quite polarising among fans and a complicated-to-use regatta countdown function.

Do your homework

If you're looking to buy a new Rolex, regardless of whether or not you've owned one before, you'll need to be prepared to sit down and research it thoroughly. Watching reviews from others on YouTube is the natural way to get started, and it can be beneficial to hear other people's opinions on a watch. They might have noticed some aspects of the watch that you hadn't. Be prepared to listen to negative feedback, however. You must weigh out your options when you're looking to buy.

Pictured: The 126331 'Wimbledon' DateJust is a model collectors love thanks in-part to its two-tone case and bracelet.

With that being said, don't stress yourself over the tiniest of details. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of comparing two watches and breaking them down to details which, on the surface, seem completely irrelevant. Sure, a two-tone watch will scratch more easily than stainless steel, but if you prefer the appearance of two-tone, then the answer seems clear!

Pictured: The old Submariner 16610 is a popular model for fakers to replicate.

We also advise you to make yourself the expert on the watch you're after to help avoid purchasing a fake unknowingly. While all high-value goods are a target for fraudsters, Rolex watches are a classic. If you're after something particularly popular like the Submariner, then we'd suggest you buy from a reputable source such as a grey market dealer that can legitimately authenticate a Rolex for you. There's always a risk that you could be buying a so-called "super fake", but that's just all the more reason to go to a trusted source.

Pictured: This purple diamond dial Day-Date ref.18238 shows there's lots to love about old watches!

New or pre-owned?

Who doesn't love the idea of waltzing into the local Rolex dealer and handing over a large amount of cash in return for a sparkly new watch? Most of us would love to be able to do this, but that doesn't mean we should discount buying second hand altogether. If you're after a particular vintage, such as a birth year watch, your only option is to go pre-owned and search the markets. But, if you want to buy a specific watch, then you may be better off looking pre-owned. As mentioned above, if you're after a watch that incorporates gold, you'll typically find it cheaper on the pre-owned market.

That said, if the watch is going to be a present, such as a graduation gift, you might want to steer clear of pre-owned. Unless the recipient of the said gift has made some indications that they're after a Rolex that isn't made any more, we'd advise you to either buy them a new one or give them a lump sum of money and let them decide what watch they'd like to buy.

Pictured: The Cosmograph Daytona ref.116500LN is an attractive watch that retails for £10,500. Expect to pay an average of £21,000 for a pre-owned one!

Can I afford to buy a Rolex?

This is a completely personal question, but it's worth taking into consideration. It's crucial to remember that a Rolex is a luxury good. Even though we understand that for particular watch fans, it may seem like an essential, it's actually far from it. You should never put yourself in a position of financial risk for the sake of buying a Rolex. Most legitimate Rolex dealers will be able to offer you a finance plan which breaks down the costs of the watch into monthly payments. All of our watches can be purchased in this manner, making it easier to pay for the watch you want.

Browse our range of genuine, pre-owned Rolex watches to find your dream piece.