What is the Cheapest Rolex? Your first step on the Horological Ladder
‘What is the cheapest Rolex?’ A question posed quite frequently by potential first time Rolex buyers on all our social channels. The quick answer is
1. Rolex Oyster Perpetual 26 - £3,550
2. Rolex Oyster Perpetual 31 - £3,650
3. Rolex Oyster Perpetual 34 - £3,700
4. Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 - £3,950
5. Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 - £4,150
6. Rolex Airking - £4,550
However, like buying a house, the cost of entry in the horological market has been increasing in recent years, but that first rung gives you a foothold onto a ladder upon which prices appreciate every time there is a Rolex price increase. So, at Global Watch Shop it’s time for us to answer the question in totality and provide a comprehensive view of the options available for that entry level first time Rolex purchase.
The Cheapest Rolex
To make it easier to understand what the cheapest Rolex is we must understand where costs are accrued. Starting from the base models there are generally three factors that add expense to increase the cost of a Rolex watch:
- Size: the larger the size the more raw materials are taken up in manufacturing. Naturally, a bigger watch requires more metal to create the finished product.
- Complications & Innovations: looking for a watch just to tell the time? There’s your basic watch movement. Would you like the date added? That’s an additional complication that needs to be delivered by the watch movement mechanism, which in turn adds cost due to the complexity of engineering and design. Want a chronograph function? Even more complex and costly. How about a countdown regatta timer or an annual calendar clever enough to recognise the difference between a 30 and 31-day month? You get the idea!
- Materials: Steel, Steel & Gold, full gold or platinum. And how about adding some diamonds. The cheapest Rolex are all created in 904L grade stainless steel. The addition of precious metals or gemstones will come at an additional cost. So back to basics, and from the above to keep the costs down we know we are looking for a Rolex formed in stainless steel, with a movement capable of displaying the time only in the smallest size possible. Introducing the entry level Rolex collection, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual
The Oyster Perpetual range caters for both ladies and gents, with the Oyster Perpetual 26 being the smallest, and therefore the cheapest watch that Rolex has to offer at £3,550, with the Oyster Perpetual 31 coming in at £3,650.
For gents, the cheapest possible option would be the Oyster Perpetual 34 with a retail price of £3,700, or the Oyster Perpetual 36 at £3,950, but, with trends moving towards larger watches, the Oyster Perpetual 39 may be a more suitable option at a retail price of £4,150.
The Oyster Perpetual 39 is available in a range of colours each with its own distinct personality. The red grape is the boldest with the blue following closely behind. If you’re looking for a more understated look the Rhodium dial is always a popular choice, or new for 2018 you now have a choice of Black or White dials.
The Rolex Airking
A watch produced to pay tribute to the RAF fighter pilots of the Battle of Britain, who flew into battle with a 34mm Oyster Perpetual on their wrist to aid them on their missions. Such was Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf's admiration for these daring British serviceman, in 1945 Rolex renamed the 34mm Oyster Perpetual as the Rolex Air-King and added the words Air-King to the dial.
In 2016 the Rolex Air-King was reborn, in a more modern 40mm case, with the term ‘Air-King’ moved to the 6 o’clock position. The dial is similar to that of the Rolex Explorer with large Arabic 3, 6 & 9-hour markers, but overlaid with an Arabic 5-minute numbering scale. The redesign makes this a more wearable watch due to its size and is instantly recognisable as a Rolex Pilots watch. With a retail price of £4,550, the Air-King falls nicely into the ‘entry level’ range but may present a better option than the Oyster Perpetual for those who prefer their watches to come with a bit more of a sporty design. A relative newcomer to the Rolex stable, but pitched just perfectly to be a long-term winner.
The Rolex Explorer
Although the Rolex Air-King has a sportier look than most, it doesn’t sit within under the banner of Rolex sports watches as it is outside of the Rolex ‘Professional’ series. Each Rolex watch within the Professional series was designed specifically to support a specific task and solve a problem for the owner. The Rolex Explorer is part of that professional range having been originally produced to support the climbers through the harsh conditions found in the Himalayan expeditions in the 1930’s and later to the highest peak in the world on Mount Everest in 1953.
In more recent years the Rolex Explorer has increased in size to 39mm and retains its ability to operate in the most rugged conditions with a look that retains some of the original Rolex Explorer features. In 2016 the modern Explorer was provided with a ‘facelift’ release with luminous 3, 6 & 9-hour markers as well as longer and somewhat fatter hands.
Rolex’s retail price for entry into their Professional collection is placed at £4,800 with the Rolex Explorer, a fraction higher than the Air-King, but whilst the Air-King has a modern Pilot style, the Explorer provides the owner with a Rolex Sports watch with a more traditional look and feel.
The Rolex Datejust
Whilst the 3 previously mentioned watches provide the truly entry-level opportunities to Rolex ownership, this article would not be complete without considering a couple of iconic ‘Premium’ entry-level options.
The Rolex Datejust is arguably the archetypical classic Rolex watch. Designed only with style & aesthetics in mind this watch has stood the test of time and has been in continuous production since 1945. There are a number of variables available, with differing bracelets, bezels, hour markers and dial background designs but the consistent elegant styling throughout the Datejust collection ensures that the Rolex Datejust is instantly recognised, by any that have even the slightest horological knowledge.
The base model Rolex Datejust retails at £4,900 and comes in 36mm, produced in 904L grade stainless steel with an oyster bracelet and a smooth polished bezel. Hour markers are produced in 18ct gold to prevent tarnishing and at this price point, are available as a baton, Arabic or a Roman numeral option. If you prefer the more intricate jubilee bracelet this is available for an additional cost of £50.
The Rolex Submariner (non date)
As a Rolex Datejust is known throughout the world as an iconic dress watch, arguably the Rolex Submariner presents itself as the most iconic of all sports watches. If you can stretch your budget a little way further, then since 2012, Rolex have been kind enough to produce a Submariner without the added cost of a date complication or a cyclops lens magnifier, thus enabling a less expensive cost of entry to the Submariner collection.
Could this be the most recognisable luxury Swiss watch in the world? We suggest so. Rolex value the cost of ownership of the Rolex Submariner 114060 ‘No-date’ at £5,450, and as this is not too much of a stretch from the entry level Rolex watches, the Rolex Submariner sits at the top end of our entry-level watch guide.
So, there you have it, in answer to the question ‘What is the cheapest Rolex?’ we’ve provided you with all the entry-level options ranging from a Rolex Oyster Perpetual 34 at £3,700, to a Rolex Submariner at £5,450. These watches provide an excellent first step onto the horological ladder and beyond that, the options are almost endless. If our guide has failed to address any questions you have, or you just need some specific advice in helping make you first Rolex purchase, please feel free to ask. You can contact me here via twitter or drop me an email.