The 12 Best Rolex Watches 2019: An In-Depth Guide

Rolex men's watches first appeared in London in 1905, and the brand name Rolex came to be in 1908.

Since then, the brand name Rolex has become synonymous with luxury watches.

Ever since the Oyster—the first waterproof and dustproof wristwatch—appeared in 1926, Rolex has led the horology world with clever innovations, classic styling, and richly appointed timepieces.

With their long history of style and innovation, a Rolex watch for men is a symbol of status, style, and confidence.

Each year Rolex often makes subtle, incremental improvements to its iconic designs. However, there are only a handful of assembled components that comprise any Rolex model.

Rolex watch

Rolex makes sophisticated movements, produces five case alloys, and offers five kinds of bracelets, two types of clasps, several bezels, and dial varieties.

From these components, Rolex creates its entire line of iconic, luxury watches.

Rolex has unique terminology for various aspects of its watches.

  • Oyster - the name given to the original Rolex waterproof and dustproof watch created by founder Hans Wilsdorf
  • Perpetual - the branding for Rolex automatic watches
  • Cyclops - the magnifying lens that enlarges the date

Rolex has developed some of its alloys and other materials for use in its watch cases.

  • Oystersteel - a corrosion-resistant, highly polished stainless-steel alloy
  • Everose Gold 18k - a rose gold alloy using copper and silver
  • Yellow Gold 18k - a proprietary gold alloy
  • White Gold 18k - a radiant white gold
  • Platinum 950 - a robust and shiny platinum alloy using ruthenium
  • Rolesor - combines Oystersteel and gold for two-tone styles
  • Cerchrom - a proprietary, scratch-proof, UV-resistant bezel ceramic used on Rolex sport watches
  • Chromalight - Rolex’s proprietary watch face lume

Rolex watches use standardized movements for different models.

  • 3255 - the newest movement, introduced by Rolex in 2015, and the basis for models going forward
  • 3135 - launched in 1988 and little changed since, 3135 is the foundation of most recent Rolex movements, and introduced the midnight instant date change. It is also the basis of many variants:
    • 3155 - day-date
    • 3130 - no date
    • 3131 - no date, includes an anti-magnetic shield
    • 3132 - no date, contains a Paraflex anti-shock system
    • 2235 - smaller with the date
    • 2230 - smaller without the date
  • 3186 - the Rolex 24-hour GMT movement
  • 9001 - supports two time zones and an annual calendar
  • 4130 - a no-date chronograph movement

Here is a round-up of the best Rolex watches.

Men have more options in the Rolex lineup, but some of these models are also popular with women.

Rolex Submariner

Rolex Submariner

The Rolex Submariner is the standard in diving watches.

Introduced in 1953, the Submariner Rolex was the first dive watch capable of withstanding pressures up to 100 meters (330 feet) in depth.

The Submariner comes equipped with a waterproof winding crown called the Triplock that includes a triple waterproof system.

The standard double expansion bracelet for the Submariner also includes the Rolex Glidelock clasp, designed for a secure and comfortable fit over thick diving suits.

  • Case size: 40mm
  • Water resistance: 300 meters or 1,000 feet
  • Movement: 3135 (date models) or 3130 (no-date)
  • Bezel type: unidirectional rotating 60-minute dive bezel with Ceracrom insert
  • Bracelet type: Oyster bracelet with Oysterlock clasp and Glidelock extension

Rolex Explorer II

Rolex Explorer II

The Rolex Explorer II watch has a storied history.

Introduced in 1953, the original Rolex Explorer accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on the first ascent of Mt. Everest.

The Explorer II came about in 1971 and featured a date display and an orange 24-hour hand with a fixed bezel and 24-hour markers.

The additional 24-hour hand allows the wearer to track the hour in another time zone or distinguish day from night where that is otherwise impossible, such as the polar regions or inside a cave.

  • Case size: 42mm, Oystersteel
  • Water resistance: 100 meters or 330 feet
  • Movement: 3187
  • Additional movement features: a 24-hour GMT function and Paraflex anti-shock system
  • Bezel type: fixed 24-hour bezel
  • Bracelet type: Oyster bracelet with Oysterlock clasp

Rolex GMT-Master II

Rolex GMT Master II

The original GMT-Master was introduced in 1955 and developed to aid professionals traveling around the world track time in two different time zones.

The GMT-Master II came about in 1982, adding a new movement and the ability to set the hour hand independent from the minute or 24-hour hand.

The two-tone ceramic bezel allows the wearer to differentiate day from night for the selected time zone.

  • Case size: 40mm
  • Water resistance: 100 meters or 330 feet
  • Movement: 3186
  • Additional movement features: 24-hour hand and date complication
  • Bezel type: bidirectional rotating 24-hour bezel for tracking multiple time zones
  • Bracelet type: Oyster or Jubilee

Rolex Datejust

Rolex Datejust

The Rolex Datejust, introduced in 1945 to mark the 40th anniversary of the company’s founding, was the first self-winding wrist chronometer to display the date in a separate window on the dial.

Datejust gets its name from the way the movement changed the date “just” before midnight.

The Datejust is one of the more customizable Rolex watches available.

  • Case size: available in 28mm, 31mm, 34mm, 36mm, and 41mm in various metals
  • Water resistance: 100 meters or 330 feet
  • Movement: 2236 (28mm and 31mm models), 3135 (34mm model), or 3235 (36mm and 41mm models)
  • Additional movement features: date complication
  • Dial: selections vary widely [R]
  • Bezel Type: options vary from smooth stainless steel to classic fluted style to diamond-encrusted
  • Bracelet Type: various bracelets available

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

rolex cosmograph daytona

The Cosmograph Daytona, introduced in 1963 and conceived as a tool for professional motorsport racing drivers, is a high-demand Rolex wrist chronograph.

Its unique features include measuring elapsed time and average speeds.

The Daytona pays tribute to the racetrack in Florida, where American motorsport celebrates its roots.

  • Case size: 40mm. Available in Oystersteel and precious metals
  • Water resistance: 100 meters or 330 feet
  • Movement: 4130
  • Additional movement features: 3 sub-dials show running seconds, 30-minute, and 12-hour totals
  • Bezel type: fixed bezel with a tachometer scale
  • Bracelet type: Oyster or Oysterflex with Oysterlock clasp

Rolex Day-Date

Rolex Day Date

The Day-Date launched in 1956 as the first waterproof, self-winding wristwatch displaying both the day and date on the dial.

Rolex only offers the Day-Date in 950 platinum or 18k gold.

The Day-Date is also known as the “presidents’ watch,” or the President, given its popularity among world leaders over the years.

Spelling out the day of the week was a horological first of its kind.

  • Case size: 36mm and 40mm. Available only in 18k gold and 950 platinum
  • Water resistance: 100 meters or 330 feet
  • Movement: 3155 (36mm) or 3255 (40mm)
  • Additional movement features: day and date complications
  • Bezel type: smooth, fluted, or bejeweled bezels
  • Bracelet type: various bracelets available

Rolex Milgauss

Rolex Milgauss

Rolex originally developed the Milgauss to serve the scientific community working in particle physics at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

CERN is home to the Large Hadron Collider.

The Milgauss can withstand a magnetic field of 50 to 100 gauss because of its movement shielding composed of ferromagnetic alloys.

The iconic orange lightning-bolt shaped second hand indicates the watch’s resistance to electromagnetic fields.

  • Case size: 40mm, Oystersteel
  • Water resistance: 100 meters or 330 feet
  • Movement: 3131, no-date
  • Additional movement features: anti-magnetic shield
  • Bezel type: Fixed stainless steel
  • Bracelet type: Oyster bracelet with Oysterlock clasp

Rolex Sky-Dweller

Rolex Sky Dweller

The Sky-Dweller is the next evolutionary step of the GMT-Master II.

It sports a second time-zone display on the inset dial ring.

The Ring Command bezel allows the wearer to select and adjust the date, local time, or reference time, then perform adjustments using the winding crown.

  • Case size: 42mm, available in Oystersteel with gold bezel or all gold
  • Water resistance: 100m or 330 feet
  • Movement: 9001
  • Additional movement features: second time zone with GMT disc and an annual calendar
  • Bezel type: Fluted gold
  • Bracelet type: Oyster or leather bracelet with Oysterlock clasp

Rolex Cellini

Rolex Cellini

The Cellini collection—inspired by the Italian Renaissance artist Benvenuto Cellini—is available in four models: Moonphase, Dual Time, Time, and Date.

Moonphase includes an inset inner disc with a lunar calendar and an actual slice of meteorite representing the full moon.

It also displays the date around the circumference of the dial using an additional hand with a crescent-moon shaped tip.

Dual Time features a simultaneous display of the local time and time elsewhere, complete with an AM/PM indicator.

Time is simply a timepiece with a second hand, and the Date includes an inset dial pointing to the current date.

  • Case size: 39mm, available in precious metals (including the rose gold Everose)
  • Water resistance: 50 meters or 165 feet
  • Movement: 3132 (time-only), 3165 (date), 3180 (dual-time), 3195 (moon phase)
  • Additional movement features: date, dual-time, and moon phase
  • Bezel type: various (fluted or with precious stones)
  • Bracelet type: leather bracelet in black or brown with a traditional buckle

Rolex Yacht-Master II

Rolex Yacht Master 2

The Rolex Yacht-Master II is the nautical watch for sailing and yachting enthusiasts.

It features a countdown timer as well as the standard chronograph.

The timer is programmed using the functional bezel to set the number of minutes (up to 10) for the countdown.

Rolex watches have an association with yachting dating back to the 1950s and to the global navigators who sailed the world in the 1960s.

  • Case size: 44mm, available in various precious metals
  • Water resistance: 100 meters or 330 feet
  • Movement: 4161, Regatta chronograph
  • Additional movement features: a countdown timer
  • Bezel type: rotating bezel programs the timer, available in Ceracrom or precious metals
  • Bracelet type: Oyster bracelet with Oysterlock clasp or the Oysterflex bracelet

Rolex Air-King

Rolex Air King

Debuting during the mid-1940s as homage to British RAF pilots of World War II, the newest Rolex Air-King has a distinct, highly readable black watch face with prominent hourly 3, 6, 9, Arabic numerals, and a minute scale for navigational time notation.

  • Case size: 40mm, available in Oystersteel
  • Water resistance: 100 meters or 330 feet
  • Movement: 3131, no-date
  • Additional movement features: anti-magnetic shielding
  • Bezel type: fixed stainless steel
  • Bracelet type: Oyster bracelet with Oysterlock clasp

Rolex Oyster Perpetual

Rolex Oyster Perpetual

The original Oyster launched in 1926 is the direct ancestor of the Oyster Perpetual, the original Rolex for men.

Classic styling, multiple watch face colors, and various sizes are the standard for this stunning original with all of the modern updates.

  • Case size: available in Oystersteel in 26mm, 31mm, 34mm, 36mm, and 39mm
  • Water resistance: 100 meters or 330 feet
  • Movement: time-only - 2231 (26mm and 31mm models), 3130 (34mm and 36mm models), 3132 (39mm model)
  • Bezel type: fixed steel
  • Bracelet Type: Oyster bracelet with Oysterlock clasp

What is the Best Rolex?

Some argue that the Rolex Day-Date President’s model in 18k gold is the best Rolex to buy for its classic style, elegance, and minimal but beautifully presented day and date presentations.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

The following are some of our readers’ frequently asked questions about Rolex watches.

What's the Best Place to Buy a Rolex?

Horology enthusiasts interested in buying a Rolex new with a warranty can purchase one from an authorized Rolex retailer such as Amazon. There are also numerous other sources for pre-owned Rolex watches (including Amazon), but fake copies are everywhere, so make sure you trust the source.

Which Rolex Holds its Value the Best?

The Rolex Submariner is considered a safe bet for investing in a Rolex watch. First produced in the 1950s, they are proven to increase the most in value. However, there have been many iterations of the Submariner since their inception. Typically, vintage Rolex Submariners within specific reference number ranges increase a lot in value.

The Rolex Submariner is also considered the most popular timepiece in the Rolex lineup. However, some may argue the Explorer and Explorer II with their rugged styling, the Cosmograph Daytona, or the GMT-Master II are the most popular in the Rolex line.

Which is the Cheapest Rolex?

The least expensive in the Rolex product line is the Oyster Perpetual—the newest incarnation of the original 1926 classic. This timepiece is the original waterproof and dustproof sealed watch with self-winding (perpetual) movement. It’s the most basic, time-only chronograph Rolex offers.

What is the Best Rolex Watch to Invest In?

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona “Panda” edition is probably the best investment for a luxury watch enthusiast. These classic timepieces are challenging to find and in high demand. The Paul Newman-owned 1968 Daytona still retains the record for fetching the highest price at auction for a luxury wristwatch at $17.8 million. While you probably can’t expect to get that kind of return on your investment, the Daytona Panda edition is still a highly sought-after chronograph.

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