Whether someone has dropped a hint that a Rolex might be coming your way this Father’s Day, of if you’re simply shopping for yourself, there’s much to consider when selecting the right watch. Unlike other brands that often only have one really iconic piece in their repertoire, Rolex is anything but shy on selection. Different case sizes, materials, eras, complications, and overall aesthetics provide almost too many options to choose from. Assuming you’ve so far narrowed the field down to pre-owned and not vintage, we’ve decided to break down some of the pros and cons of some of our favorite models from the brand to give you a bit of insight as you approach that big decision. At the end of the day, personal preference is destined to triumph when it comes to what feels right on the wrist, but if you’re presently undecided about which Rolex is right for you, this guide should at least start steering you in the right direction.
Rolex Submariner 116610 Ceramic Bezel
Rolex Submariner 16610
Being the classic to end all classics, the Rolex Submariner is the most logical jumping-off point for this list. Not only is it a true classic in terms of design and pedigree, but it’s also a proper tool watch that was engineered from day one to take as much of a beating as you can throw at it. Given its longstanding history, there is no shortage of different models and references to choose from, however the Submariner 16610 came to mind for this list as it strikes the right balance between modern functionality and slight vintage charm. It is the last reference from Rolex to feature an aluminum bezel insert—known to slowly fade with age and give the Sub a unique aesthetic characteristic—alongside the modern convenience of being fitted with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal rather than the acrylic crystals fitted to vintage models like the Submariner 5513. It is also powered by the Rolex caliber 3135, which still powers modern submariner models to this day. Finally, it also lands in a bit of a sweet spot price-wise as it is currently more affordable than both its vintage predecessors and its more modern siblings that sport a redesigned case and Cerachrom ceramic bezels.
The Rolex Datejust II makes a perfect Father’s Day gift
Unlike the Submariner, the Rolex Datejust is a significantly dressier alternative that equally highlights the masterful engineering and finishing of all things Rolex. With case sizes ranging from a compact 34mm up to a much more contemporary 41mm, there is a Datejust model out there to suit all wrist sized. What’s more, the model range is by far the broadest in the brand’s collection, providing an array of models to choose from in steel, gold, or two-tone configuration, with baton, roman numeral, or even diamond-set indices. Because the collection is so broad, it would be unfair to narrow the Datejust down to a single reference, though at a personal preference level the smooth-bezel Datejust 41 116300 has a fair bit of appeal on account of its slightly less flashy aesthetic when compared to its fluted bezel siblings. On the other hand, there’s a fair level of appeal to rocking a piece that speaks more to the Datejust’s roots—case and point, the yellow gold Datejust 116238 with a fluted bezel and champagne dial. If the goal is to acquire what one could safely call a “statement watch”, the Rolex catalog doesn’t make much more of a bold statement than that (unless you start looking at some of the over-the-top gem-set Daytonas out there).
For a more adventurous Father’s Day, Rolex Explorer II ref. 216570
Rolex Explorer II
For our third selection, we’re in a sense dancing the line between the rugged tool watch and the slightly more dressy option with the Explorer ii 216570. To be fair, the Explorer ii is still more on the tool/utility side of things, however its thinner case profile and flatter fixed bezel make it a fair bit more versatile if you’re looking to tuck under a shirt cuff. The Explorer II was a serious departure for Rolex when it first launched in 1971, created with explorers, adventurers, and specifically spelunkers in mind. A heavy application of luminous material on its indices and hands, and a 24h indication using an oversized hand are key elements of its design that still carry forward to present day (though a past reference scaled down the 24h hand size for a brief period). Aside from said big orange hand, the Explorer ii is arguably one of the more understated Rolexes on the market as well, as its case and bracelet feature a brushed finish throughout rather than the high polish seen on countless other models. Occasionally referred to as the Rolex for the non-Rolex guy, this is a fantastic choice for someone in the market for a truly versatile daily-wear watch that will last a lifetime.
The Rolex Daytona 116500LN is an ideal choice for Father’s Day (if you can find one)
Given its permanent position at the top of the Rolex pyramid, and the jaw-dropping results that continue to surface from the vintage watch market, the Rolex Daytona is an absolute no-brainer when it comes to potential watches from the brand that deserve a spot on your radar this Father’s Day. We all remember the significant fanfare that came along with the first ceramic-bezel Daytona—the reference 116500—and though the factory waitlist is supposedly shorter than it once was, these models remain a proper pain to track down. As appealing as the ceramic bezel is, we still have a soft spot for the steel-cased Daytona 116520, which sports an engraved steel bezel. The proportions of the modern Daytona have remained largely unchanged since the model migrated to a self-winding caliber in 1988. A 40mm case, screw-down pushers, and pronounced crown guards, paired with a simple 3-register chronograph dial layout ensure the Daytona remains instantly identifiable by any self-respecting watch enthusiast. Similarly to the Explorer ii, the Daytona is designed to go from day to night, and from boardroom to beach with ease, and given their performance on the secondary market of late, they’re one of the smartest investments in the watch world right now.