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Rolex Sport Watches: The Ultimate Guide

December 17, 2019

BY Paul Altieri


Rolex’s collection of sports watches is incredibly varied and includes a tool watch to suit almost any profession or lifestyle.  Each model brings its own characteristics to the brand’s catalog. In this video guide, we will give a quick overview of each different collection of Rolex sports watches, which includes the Submariner, Explorer/Explorer II, GMT-Master/GMT-Master II, Daytona, Yacht-Master/Yacht-Master II, Sea-Dweller/Deepsea, Milgauss, and Air-King.

Rolex Explorer & Explorer II

Rolex Sport Watches Ultimate Guide Polar Explorer II 216750 White Dial explorer watch

Rolex introduced the Explorer in 1953 to celebrate Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s successful climb to the peak of Mount Everest. The Explorer was marketed as an adventurer’s tool watch and is characterized by a three-hand dial, a case that is waterproof up to 100 meters, and a self-winding movement. A few decades later, in 1971, the Explorer II was released and featured a slightly different design with a fixed 24-hour bezel and a dedicated 24-hour hand on the dial. The Explorer II was developed for keeping time while in dark environments and is spelunker’s tool watch at heart.

Both models are manufactured solely from stainless steel. The current generations of both the Explorer and Explorer II utilize improved Oystersteel (904L stainless steel) and are powered by self-winding Perpetual movements fitted with Rolex’s Paraflex shock absorbers.


Rolex Submariner

Ultimate Guide Rolex Sport Watches No-Date Submariner 114060 Ceramic dive watch

One of the most recognizable sports watches in the Rolex catalog is the Submariner diver’s watch. Developed in 1953, the Submariner was one of the first dive watches ever created and was the first timepiece produced by Rolex to offer water-resistance up to 100 meters. The Submariner paved the way for the dive watch market as we know it today, and virtually all modern dive watches were in some way influenced by the Rolex Submariner. Since coming to market, the collection has grown to include both date and no-date variations, along with several metal options, such as stainless steel, two-tone steel and gold, 18k yellow gold, and white gold.

The Submariner is waterproof up to 300m (1,000 feet) and utilizes a unidirectional rotating elapsed time bezel. Recent years have seen a handful of important upgrades to the line, such as the addition of a Cerachrom ceramic bezel insert, a larger “Maxi” display on the dial, and a case with thicker lugs and larger crown guards.


Rolex GMT-Master & GMT-Master II

Rolex Sport Watches Ultimate Guide GMT-Master II 126710 BLRO Ceramic Pepsi Bezel travel watch

The GMT-Master was first introduced in 1955. The first model featured a 24-hour hand on the dial and a bi-directional bezel to help professional pilots read two time zones at once.  A few decades after making its debut, the collection evolved, and the GMT-Master II was released, bringing with it a redesigned movement with an independent 24-hour hand as well as the ability to read three time zones simultaneously. The modern collection famously offers bi-color Cerachrom ceramic bezel inserts, either a five-link Jubilee or a three-link Oyster bracelet, and the option of stainless steel, two-tone steel and gold, rose gold, or white gold. The latest generation of Rolex GMT-Master II watches is powered by the Cal. 3285 movement, featuring Rolex’s proprietary Chronergy escapement and an increased 70-hour power reserve.

Rolex Daytona

Complete Guide Rolex Sport Watches Ceramic Daytona 116500 LN drivers watch

The Daytona has been a fixture among the world of motorsports since the early 1960s and was developed as a means to track race times. While it was introduced in 1963, Rolex had already been producing chronograph watches for several years before the Daytona’s official debut. The Rolex Daytona is equipped with a chronograph movement is available in a wide range of metal finishes and dial colors. The current generation features an in-house movement with a vertical clutch and a tachymeter bezel crafted from either solid gold or Rolex’s proprietary Cerachrom ceramic material.

Rolex Yacht-Master & Yacht-Master II

Rolex Sport Watches Complete Guide Yacht-Master II 116680 sailors watch

Rolex initially developed the Yacht-Master collection as an elevated edition of the brand’s classic sports watch. The lugs are more dramatically shaped, and the bezel is always presented in either precious metal or ceramic. The first edition was introduced in 1992 and included a three-hand dial and a bi-directional 60-minute bezel. First introduced in 2007, the Yacht-Master II is a recent addition to the Rolex catalog and includes a Ring-Command bezel and a movement with highly complex functions. Both editions were initially manufactured in only solid 18k yellow gold but eventually expanded to include a wide variety of different metal options. Today, both models include water-resistance up to 100 meters and feature bezels constructed from either Rolex’ proprietary Cerachrom ceramic material or solid 18k gold or 950 platinum.


Rolex Sea-Dweller and Deepsea

Best Guide Rolex Sport Watches Deepsea Sea-Dweller 126660 D-Blue Dial divers watch

Rolex’s collection of deep-sea saturation diving watches takes the design of the Submariner one step further by including an innovative Helium Escape Valve. This feature allows trapped helium molecules to purge during decompression while keeping the structure of the watch intact. The Rolex Sea-Dweller was introduced in 1967, with the current model offering waterproofness up to 1,220 meters and available in either all-steel or two-tone steel and gold finishes. The Deepsea Sea-Dweller was introduced in 2008 and includes a different case design that is rated waterproof up to 3,900 meters and is only available in stainless steel. The latest generations of both watches are fitted with scratch-resistant sapphire crystals and Cerachrom ceramic bezel inserts.


Rolex Milgauss

Rolex Sport Watches Best Ultimate Guide Milgauss 116400 GV Z-Blue Dial scientist watch

The Rolex Milgauss caters to scientists who work in proximity to strong magnetic fields. While the Oyster case on the Submariner and Sea-Dweller focus on offering substantial waterproofness, the Milgauss is designed with a soft iron Faraday cage and paramagnetic components to protect the movement from magnetic forces up to 1,000 gauss. The model was first introduced in 1956 and has only ever been offered in stainless steel. The current variation was launched in 2007 after the line was briefly discontinued and includes a bright orange lightning bolt seconds hand and a green-tinted “Glace Verte” Sapphire crystal.


Rolex Air-King

Best Ultimate Guide Rolex Sport Watches Air-King 116900 pilot watch

Equal parts dress watch and tool watch, the original Rolex Air-King included a self-winding Perpetual movement, a modest case size, and simple time-only functionality. The collection was developed in the 1940s to honor the pilots of the British Royal Air Force, who chose to wear their personally-purchased Oyster Perpetual watches over their standard military-issued timepieces. It later made its formal debut in the 1950s as an affordable, entry-level offering with a durable and versatile 34mm Oyster case. The Air-King collection has since transformed rather dramatically to feature a larger 40mm antimagnetic case and movement borrowed from the Milgauss and a sportier dial adorned with bright yellow and green accents.



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