The big day is finally here! With saving and discipline, not to mention plenty of hard work, you’re finally ready to purchase your dream watch. And you knew right from the start: It was always going to be a Rolex. After all, these timepieces aren’t just known for their design and perfect craftsmanship but also for their market performance. But is that really the case? You’ll find the answer with these three entry-level models for under $8,500. Spoiler alert: The most famous Rolex of all time is on the list.
The Oyster Perpetual 39: An Entry Level Timepiece for Every Occasion
The Oyster Perpetual is probably the watch most people think of when it comes to entry-level Rolexes. That, however, doesn’t mean that it takes a back seat to the other models in the Rolex family. Even though the Swiss watchmaker clearly positions the Oyster Perpetual as an entry-level watch, its manufacturing is as outstanding as that of any other Rolex. It boasts all of Rolex’s most important attributes, such as a timeless design and 100 meters (328 feet) of water resistance. Those who are just getting into watches will only have to do without a few fine touches with the Oyster Perpetual. For instance, the bracelet clasp’s relatively simple design does not have the quick-adjust feature Rolex offers with its Easylink system. You will, however, find a very nice selection of dials for every taste. A beautiful choice for everyday wear is the Rolex Oyster Perpetual (ref. 114300). Its blue or black dial is a fine complement to any outfit and occasion.
The Discontinued Rolex Perpetual: Are price increases on the horizon for this entry-level watch?
If you want a watch with a more head-turning appearance, be sure to have a look at the version with a rhodium dial (ref. 114300) and light blue accents on the indices. You also may enjoy the model with a red grape dial (ref. 114300) and its characteristic wine-colored glow. The latter is no longer in production, making it all the more surprising that you can still find it for just under $7,500 on Chrono24, as prices for discontinued Rolexes often tend to soar shortly after discontinuation.
The Oyster Perpetual 36: The Perfect Entry-Level Watch for Small Wrists
Even if a 39-mm watch is a good fit for just about everyone, the Oyster Perpetual 36 (ref. 116000) is a great alternative for smaller wrists. This more delicate Rolex also comes in several striking dial colors. Some of the most interesting options include blue and silver dials with Arabic numerals at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock that take their inspiration from the iconic Rolex Explorer.
The Rolex Explorer: The Conquerer Among Entry-Level Watches
The Rolex Explorer is perhaps best described as humble, modest, and reserved. Even if these qualities make this model a little less famous than other Rolex sports watches, the Explorer has a legacy that is just as storied and impressive. Like the Submariner, the Explorer has been around since 1953. While the diving watch was conquering the seas, the Explorer was out discovering caves and mountains. You could say it’s the watch you want on your wrist the next time you’re setting off on an expedition or any other personal adventure. Even for the less adventurous, the Rolex Explorer has plenty to offer as an entry-level watch. If you’re a fan of understatement, looking for a modest, everyday watch, or simply not yet sure of what the right first luxury watch for you is, the Explorer is a classic sports timepiece that is sure to meet even the highest expectations.
Sporty and Stylistically Confident: The Strengths of the Rolex Explorer
The Explorer’s design exudes stylistic confidence. Since its release in 1953, it’s only seen slight changes and modernizations. Its 39-mm diameter and thickness of 11.5 mm make it a great fit on just about every wrist. The Arabic numerals at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock and large triangle at 12 o’clock provide wonderful symmetry to its timeless matte black dial.
One advantage the Explorer has over the Oyster Perpetual is its clasp. An Oysterlock safety folding clasp with a 5-mm Easylink comfort extension holds the satin-brushed bracelet firmly in place. The Explorer is a robust, all-around everyday watch. It also has 100 meters (328 feet) of water resistance. No matter if your occasion calls for a suit and tie or a polo shirt and jeans, the Rolex Explorer is always sure to impress.
The Rolex Datejust: An Icon Among Entry-Level Watches
With its classic size, the Rolex Datejust is not only one of the most important, well-known, and iconic watches of all time but also perhaps the most recognizable timepiece in the brand’s entire catalog. It combines elegance and sportiness like no other entry-level watch. The Datejust lets you do it all. Enjoy it on your wrist for a day of fun at the lake with friends, and keep it on for later that evening when out for some fine dining with your significant other. You could say the Datejust is a downright chameleon in how it looks great with any outfit, whether it’s athletic gear, an elegant suit, or swimwear. Its 100 meters (328 feet) of water resistance means you’ll be ready to go in any situation throughout the day. The Datejust is the perfect daily companion and offers just the right amount of “bling.” It’s also a bit of a star in its own right: The Datejust has adorned many celebrities’ wrists and appeared in countless films. Everyone is going to know it’s a Rolex the moment they lay eyes on it.
Three other things have made the Datejust famous in addition to its good looks. This first is its fluted white or yellow gold bezel, a timeless design detail that makes it immediately recognizable as a Rolex. The second is its date window. The Datejust was the first watch to display the date in a window. The real kicker for its time was how you could watch the date jump to the next day “just” before midnight – hence the Datejust name. Finally, the most well-known feature of the Datejust has to be its Cyclops lens. First appearing in 1953 on the Datejust, it became so popular and adored in the ensuing years that it didn’t take long for Rolex to use it on all of its timepieces featuring a date display. It has truly become one of the Swiss watchmaker’s signature features.
Another thing that makes the Datejust so interesting is the variety of models on offer. Whether it’s the watch’s style, color, or dials, there are so many options to choose from. This goes for the bracelet, as well. Be sure to check out the two-tone version if you’d like your first Rolex to feature some eye-catching color. No other Rolex gives those new to watch collecting such a wide, diverse selection on a budget of $8,500.
The classic ref. 1601 from the 1960s was produced until the early 1980s. Technically identical, the ref. 1603 features a unique fluted stainless steel bezel, setting it apart from the ref. 1601’s white or yellow gold bezel. You can find this model for around $5,200 on Chrono24.
If you’ve got a little more to spend, the ref. 16234 with sapphire crystal introduced in 1988 might be an option for you. A budget of around $8,300 will even get you one of the six-digit references introduced at the turn of the century. The Datejust ref. 116234 or 116200 are models delivering the modern Rolex look and feel that enthusiasts everywhere know and love.
No matter which model you choose, the Rolex Datejust has delivered the same iconic, timeless design for decades. The Datejust’s different references guarantee you’ll always have a watch on your wrist with its own personal touch and charm.
Rolex 101: Market Performance for Watches Under $8,500
With a budget of under $8,500 – or under $6,000 for the Datejust – you’ll get an iconic everyday timepiece from the Swiss watchmaker with the coronet logo. So how do these three watches perform on the market?
When looking at the Oyster Perpetual 39’s (ref. 114300) market performance over the past three years, you’ll see that this watch has experienced a gradual, continual appreciation in value, regardless of dial color. Throughout 2020, it had an average price of around $5,900 – until its discontinuation in September 2020, that is. We can see a clear increase in value from this point onward. For example, the rhodium-dial edition currently demands a price of about $7,700.
The average purchase price for a Rolex Explorer (ref. 214270) in excellent condition was slightly over $8,300 just before the announcement of the redesigned Explorers at Watches and Wonders 2021. A strong price increase was noticeable even in the months leading up to this. Although it remains to be seen exactly how high prices will climb due to the new releases commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Explorer II, we anticipate marked increases in value.
The Datejust 36 has seen steady upward price performance despite increased production numbers. The ref. 1601 currently demands an average price of roughly $5,200, while the ref. 16234 sells for around $6,200. The 116234, the newest of the three, has the highest average purchase prices at nearly $8,100.