Founded in Switzerland in 1908 by Hans Wilsdorf, Rolex has become one of the best-known watch brands today and as such their vintage items are highly collectable and sought-after.
The Rolex is an important watch in history for a number of reasons: It was the first watch in the world to receive a Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision Award, a commendation which today is shared by all of the top watch brands such as Breitling, Cartier and Patek Philippe. Following this success, the Rolex was then awarded a “Class A” precision certificate by Kew Observatory in London. As a result, an antique Rolex can be very valuable.
Rolex also made the first ever waterproof watch in 1926, The Oyster, which is a popular choice for collectors today. The watchmakers at Rolex were also responsible for creating the first watch where you could see the date which could be changed automatically using the dial. The first men up mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay, were both wearing Oyster models when they reached the summit in 1953.
These watchmaking milestones have made Rolex the go-to brand for watch collectors today. A Rolex – or Rollie as collectors call them – has also become a currency in its own right and their vintage watches are a reliably safe bet for those looking to make a return on their investment.
Key pieces include The GMT Master, Rolex Submariner, Perpetual Sea-Dweller the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona and the Rolex Air-King 5500.
The Submariner is known as the flagship model among vintage collectors. This was the first watch ever made which could withstand sea depths of up to 100m as well as featuring a rotatable bezel which meant that divers were able to read their own immersion time under water for the first time.
The GMT Master was made for pilots and was the first watch which showed two time zones on one single watch face. The Sea-Dweller was born out of a demand for professional divers that needed to reach even greater depths and tolerate intense levels of water pressure.
How much does a Rolex cost?
A vintage Rolex is a worthy investment. Whether it is for a first-time watch buyer looking to save some money, or a serious collector on the lookout for an exquisite rare find, vintage Rolex watches cater for all budgets and purposes.
You can find used Rolex watches such as a Rolex Air King or a manual wind Rolex Precision for in the region of £1-2,000 which could suit first time buyers and collectors alike.
Sales at auction have reached price points at the other end of the spectrum. A vintage Rolex Submariner 6538 which featured on the James Bond films Dr. No, Goldfinger, From Russia with Love and Thunderball sold at auction for more than $60,000 after attracting more than 700 bids.