Everything You Need To Know About Buying Rolex At Auction. For those in the market for a Rolex watch, it can be both exciting and stressful as you search for the perfect timepiece. Owning a Rolex watch can celebrate an important professional or personal milestone and be a cause for great joy, but making sure you are buying the best watch at auction for your taste and budget can sometimes take time.
If you ask a stranger on the street to name a watch brand, they will almost certainly say Rolex. It’s the most famous watchmaking brand in the world, the largest watchmaker on the planet, and a manufacturer that creates some of the most desirable luxury goods today.
The History of Rolex
Rolex was founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf, originally under the name Wilsdorf and Davis until the Rolex name was first used in 1915. A little more than a decade later in 1926, Wilsdorf also founded the watchmaker Tudor, which was established to offer high-quality timepieces at a more affordable price than Rolex, with Tudor remaining under the ownership of Rolex today.
Over the decades Rolex has been responsible for the popularisation of some of the most important technological steps forward in watchmaking, including one of the first waterproof and dustproof watch cases that became known as the “Oyster” case. To demonstrate the quality of these watch cases, Wilsdorf attached an Oyster case to the necklace of British swimmer Mercedes Gleitze as she attempted to swim across the English Channel. After more than ten hours of swimming the Rolex watch remained perfectly sealed.
Another important development Rolex was responsible for, and one that remains a watchmaking industry standard today, is the first mechanical movement with a 360-degree winding rotor. This innovation allowed the mechanical movement to be wound by the movement of the wearer's wrist, leading Rolex to name it the Perpetual rotor.
With this reputation for waterproofness and robust manufacturing standards, Rolex began working with a number of the world’s armed forces to provide reliable timepieces that could withstand even the harshest of conditions. In the mid-1950s while working with the US Navy, Rolex created the now-legendary Submariner diving watch. Not only was it one of the first timepieces to withstand depths of up to 100m, but it became the archetype for almost all modern diving watches thanks to its high-contrast dial, rotating bezel, and strong steel bracelet.
Rolex was also working with commercial companies to create specialised timepieces, with Pan Am Airlines approaching the Swiss watchmaker to design a watch for its pilots who needed to track multiple timezones at once. Just a year after the Submariner was born, the Rolex GMT Master made its debut as a watch with two timezones that could be read at a glance, featuring a red and blue rotating bezel that would become legendary in the watch world.
As decades passed, the name Rolex became more widely known. Thanks to the sponsorship of some of the most viewed sporting and cultural events around the world, today it is the largest watchmaker there is. It’s believed that Rolex produces more than one million watches per year and makes up approximately a quarter of all Swiss watch exports annually with many of its most popular models selling for more than their original retail price on the pre-owned market.
Because of their popularity, extremely high-quality manufacturing standards, and investment potential, Rolex watches are some of the most common timepieces sold at auction. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular collections within the Rolex catalogue, which you are most likely to be able to buy or sell at auction.
Rolex Collections You Need To Know
The Rolex Datejust is the most popular watch that Rolex manufactures thanks to its classic design and the endless range of variations it is made in. Featuring a date window at 3 o’clock that’s made easier to read via the magnifying bubble over it, the Datejust comes in many different sizes, metals and dial colours (including diamond and gem settings), with different bracelet options also available.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Mens Watch 16233
Rolex Datejust Mens Watch 16234
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust Mens Watch 126200
Rolex Datejust Mens Watch 116233G
Truly an icon within the watch world, the Rolex Submariner is immediately recognisable thanks to its robust case design, legible dial, rotating 60-minute bezel and strong bracelet. The most commonly seen Submariner is black and made from steel, but Rolex has also manufactured examples in blue and green, with some models made from yellow or white gold, and two-tone with steel.
Rolex Submariner Date Mens Watch 116610LN
Rolex Submariner Date Mens Watch 16613
Rolex Submariner Kermit Watch 16610LV
Rolex Submariner Date Watch 16613LN
Simply put, the Rolex Daytona is one of the most desirable watches in the world right now. With a history in motorsports timing and the only chronograph (stopwatch) timepiece that Rolex manufactures today, it is available in a range of different metals and is one of the few watches Rolex makes that is available on a rubber or leather strap, as well as the typical metal bracelets.
Rolex Daytona Mens Watch 116500LN
Rolex Daytona Mens Watch 116523
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Mens Watch 116520
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Everose Mens Watch 116515
Rolex Oyster Perpetual
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is the entry-level timepiece from Rolex today, made exclusively in steel and without complications such as a date display or chronograph mechanism. The most popular examples within the Rolex Oyster Perpetual collection arrive with brightly coloured dials including turquoise, coral red, yellow and more, and are available in a range of different sizes up to 41mm in diameter.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Mens Watch 124300
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Watch 116000
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date Watch 15203
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Mens Watch 114300
Rolex GMT Master-II
Originally designed for transcontinental pilots and today the perfect timepiece for the frequent flyer, the Rolex GMT Master-II can simultaneously display two timezones via an additional 24-hour hand. The Rolex GMT Master-II is easy to spot thanks to its bi-colour bezel, which arrives in several different combinations that include the legendary red/blue, red/black, blue/black, fully black, and more.
Rolex GMT Master II 'Pepsi' Watch 16710
Rolex GMT Master II "Batgirl" Mens Watch
Rolex GMT-Master II Mens Watch 126715
Rolex GMT Master II Mens Watch 16710
The Rolex DayDate, also known as the “Presidential” watch, is a timepiece synonymous with success and power. It is always manufactured in precious metals, including different types of gold and platinum (some with diamond or gem settings), and as the name suggests it communicates both the day of the week and the date of the month.
Rolex Yellow Gold DayDate Watch 18238
Rolex DayDate 18ct Gold Mens Watch
Rolex Oyster Perpetual DayDate Watch 18038G
Rolex DayDate 18ct Gold Watch 218238
The Rolex Yacht-Master and the Yacht-Master II were originally designed for leisure sailors, featuring strong water resistance and an element of precious metal that distinguishes them from collections such as the Submariner. While the Yacht-Master is typically understood as a time-only sports watch with precious metal elements, the Yacht-Master II takes things up a notch with the same precious metal construction but the addition of a countdown timer complication for yacht racing.
Rolex Yacht-Master Mens Watch 16622
Rolex Yacht-Master II Mens Watch 116680
Rolex Yacht-Master Mens Watch 16623
Rolex Yacht-Master Watch 168628
The Rolex Explorer and the Explorer II are an enduring tribute to the pioneering and adventurous spirit of Rolex, made to survive conditions that range from the sweltering to the freezing. The Explorer is a robust time-only watch with solid water resistance, but once again the Explorer II takes things to another level with the ability to track a second timezone.
Rolex Explorer Mens Watch 14270
Rolex Explorer II Mens Watch 16570
Rolex Explorer I Mens Watch 114270
Rolex Explorer II Mens Watch 16570
Today, the Rolex Sky-Dweller is the most complicated timepiece that is manufactured by the legendary Swiss brand, featuring what is called an annual calendar function that communicates both the date and month, as well as a second timezone. Thanks to its complex mechanism it only needs to be reset once a year at the end of February, and will otherwise accurately tell you both the date and month all year around.
Rolex Sky-Dweller Mens Watch 326935
Rolex Sky-Dweller Mens Watch 326135
Rolex Sky-Dweller Mens Watch 326935
Rolex Sky-Dweller Mens Watch 326933
What To Look For When Buying A Rolex At Auction
For those in the market for a Rolex watch, it can be both exciting and stressful as you search for the perfect timepiece. Owning a Rolex watch can celebrate an important professional or personal milestone and be a cause for great joy, but making sure you are buying the best watch at auction for your taste and budget can sometimes take time.
Only Buy From Trusted Sources
This is a suggestion that might go without saying, but it’s very important to only purchase Rolex watches from reputable auction houses. While auction houses such as First State Auctions undertake a thorough authentication process to ensure every watch that goes under the hammer is a genuine Rolex, not all establishments do, making them much riskier to buy from.
Condition Is Important
When buying a pre-owned Rolex, sometimes the previous owner might not have taken the best care of their watch. Make sure you understand the condition of the watch you are interested in buying and use services like First State Auction’s detailed photographs and descriptions, as well as condition reports that can tell you exactly what you can expect when you wear your Rolex for the first time.
Do Box & Papers Matter?
When Rolex watches are sold for the first time they arrive with a presentation box, paperwork and warranty information relating to the timepiece. Because Rolex watches will remain in great working condition for many decades, it is common that these boxes and papers can get lost over time. While many collectors love to buy a watch with all of the original accessories and papers, a Rolex that has been separated from these elements can still be sold as 100% authentic and desirable.
Take Your Time
While all Rolex watches are made to a very high standard, it’s important to purchase a watch once you’ve done plenty of research on the different models to make sure you’re buying the best one for you. There’s nothing worse than buyer’s remorse, so make sure you take the time to understand what it is you want, and what such a watch might cost.