While there isn’t a magic formula to determine how a Rolex will hold or increase in value over the years, we’ve been in the business long enough to have a good grasp on the market. There are always certain pre-owned Rolex models that do better than others, but also certain references within a model that have unique qualities that will set it apart.
So today, we wanted to give you some insider insight, a look at the vintage and pre-owned Rolex models we think you can get for a great value today and are going to hold great value tomorrow. To your surprise, not all of them are rare vintage references. In fact, some are going to be much newer than you’d think, while still proving to be a great investment. Curious yet? Take a look.
What are the top 5 pre-owned Rolex watches to buy as Investments in 2020?
Rolex Daytona ref. 116520
The Rolex Daytona can be a polarizing watch – people either love it or hate it. But if you’re a serious Rolex collector, having a Daytona in your watch box automatically puts you in another category. While the latest stainless steel and ceramic Daytona gets the majority of the attention these days, the reference 116520 is another great stainless steel example of Rolex’s iconic chronograph, and one that is significantly more available (and affordable) than its ceramic bezel counterpart.
However, what makes the Daytona 116520 a great investment for 2020 is the fact that, while is now discontinued and only available on the pre-owned market, it is still a relatively new Daytona reference. This means that you get all of Rolex’s latest and greatest technologies like the in-house Cal. 4130 movement, and it also means that you can still buy it for a really great price – especially compared to vintage Rolex Daytona references. The ref. 116520 is one of the few Daytona models that have not yet experienced a massive surge in price, meaning that it still has great potential to see a significant increase in value over the years. Now is the time to snag this watch.
Rolex Submariner ref. 16800
If you don’t already own a Rolex Submariner, 2020 is the year to add one to your collection. And if we had to choose, it’d be the often-overlooked but tremendously important ref. 16800. The Submariner 16800 is considered a transitional model among the various pre-owned Rolex watches available on the secondary market, as it was produced between the ref. 1680 and the ref. 16610. Like other transitional Rolex references, the Submariner 16800 possesses a number of vintage traits, yet it was also the first model to introduce a number of important and defining features that now define Rolex’s contemporary Submariner collection.
The ref. 16800 was the first Submariner to have a 300m (1000 ft) water resistance rating and also the first to feature a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. Internally, it was also upgraded and received the high-beat Cal. 3035 that also featured a quickset date feature. On many examples of the Rolex Submariner 16800, you also get a matte dial with incredible creamy lume that has aged wonderfully, which gives this timepiece even more character. Honestly, this is the kind of watch you buy now while prices are still reasonable, and all your friends wish they had done the same in ten years time.
Rolex Day-Date II ref. 218238
Introduced in 2008 and swiftly discontinued in 2015, the life of the Rolex Day-Date II was bold and brief, yet it remains one of the best Rolex President models to collect. Featuring the iconic lines and functionality of the classic and beloved Day-Date collection, the Day-Date II gave collectors the larger case they craved with a case diameter of 41mm, which created a striking contrast to the 36mm sizing of the traditional men’s model. The ref. 218238 is an exceptional Rolex model, outfitted entirely in 18k yellow gold for a distinct look that was beloved by the rich, famous, and influential individuals who were lucky who could get their hands on one.
The Day-Date – better known by its ‘Rolex President’ nickname – is always a great pre-owned Rolex model to collect because of its iconic heritage and precious metal construction. However, 2020 is the year to snag one of these important and beautiful models before the rest of the collecting world realizes how special it is, and catches on to this underrated solid gold Rolex model. The Day-Date II is larger than the current-production Day-Date 40 by 1mm, making it the largest Rolex President ever produced. Additionally, given its rather short production period, there are a finite number of examples in existence, making it a model with plenty of investment potential.
Rolex Explorer ref. 14270
First released in 1989, the Explorer 14270 is the model that replaced the classic ref. 1016, and it sits along the border between modern and vintage Rolex watches. Although pre-owned Rolex prices (particularly for vintage references) have steadily been on the rise for the last several years, you can still snag this important model for a great deal. Additionally, given how important the Explorer collection is to Rolex’s history, holding the title of being the brand’s very first sports watch, we think that it will hold great value over the years.
What sets the reference 14270 apart from the previous generation are a few important upgrades, like a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and a gloss black dial topped with applied, 18k white gold indices. The sleek bezel and hour markers elevate this watch, making it a unique yet classic Explorer reference that looks just as good at the office as it does on a mountain trek. It’s a versatile piece you’ll love wearing (and watching appreciate in value) over the years.
Rolex Datejust 36 ref. 116238
You can argue the Datejust is the ultimate, classic Rolex watch. However, the ref. 116238, outfitted entirely in 18k yellow gold and fitted with a matching champagne dial, is anything but typical. This contemporary reference has an exquisite, coveted aesthetic that sets it apart in the eyes of collectors, and its solid gold construction calls back to the inaugural Rolex Datejust reference from 1945.
So why buy now? Well, in addition to offering a timeless and iconic design, the Rolex Datejust 116238 is also a newer reference, meaning that it is perfectly suited for everyday wear and use. However, the ref. 116238 also offers a lot of investment potential yet remains underrated among the various pre-owned Rolex models, simply because Rolex has stopped offering solid gold Datejust watches in men’s sizes. Today, the only full-gold Datejust models are Lady-Datejust and Datejust 31 watches, meaning that if you want a classicly styled, solid gold Rolex watch in a traditional men’s size, you will have to look to either the Day-Date or Sky-Dweller – both of which are significantly more expensive than the ref. 116238 Datejust.