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ROLEX BLOG

Stainless Steel Rolex Watches Buying Guide

January 5, 2021

BY Paul Altieri

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While there are plenty of gold and platinum Rolex watches available, it’s the stainless steel versions that are the brand’s most popular. In addition to being more affordable than their precious metal counterparts (generally speaking), they are also typically more understated, rugged, and sporty. As a result, waitlists for stainless steel models can actually be much longer than gold versions, with some reaching multiple years in length.

Below we take a look at the top stainless steel Rolex watches from both sports watch and dress watch categories. Let’s take a closer look at the different  Rolex stainless steel heavy hitters.

Rolex Daytona ref. 116500LN

Stainless Steel Rolex Daytona 116500LN

Daytona 116500LN Key Features:

Case Size: 40mm

Materials: Stainless Steel

Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, 12-Hour Chronograph

Dial: Black or White w/ Luminous Hour Markers

Bezel: Fixed, Black Ceramic w/ Tachymeter Scale

Movement: Caliber 4130

Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet

Daytona

From the minute the stainless steel Rolex Daytona ref. 116500LN was unveiled at Baselworld 2016, it became an instant must-have with countless Rolex enthusiasts around the world vying to get one.

For fans of the signature Rolex chronograph, the Daytona 116500LN has everything one could want – a stainless steel 40mm case with the duo of screw-down chronograph pushers, a black Cerachrom ceramic bezel with tachymeter scale engraving, the ubiquitous steel Oyster bracelet, and the choice between a white or black dial with the obligatory trio of registers.

Almost two years later, the waitlists for the stainless steel Rolex Daytona with a ceramic bezel (ref. 116500LN) are still multiple years long and we are pretty sure the model will remain as one of our top stainless steel Rolex watches for many more years to come.

Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 116710BLNR

Stainless Steel Rolex GMT-Master II Batman 116710BLNR

GMT-Master II 116710BLNR Key Features:

Case Size: 40mm

Materials: Stainless Steel

Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display, GMT-Functionality

Dial: Black w/ Luminous Hour Markers

Bezel: Bidirectional, Black and Blue Ceramic w/ 24-Hour Scale

Movement: Caliber 3186

Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet

GMT-Master II

Aptly nicknamed the “Batman” thanks to its dark black and blue colorway, the Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 116710BLNR has also been one of the top stainless steel Rolex watches since its debut in 2013, and it continues to remain one of the top choices among stainless steel Rolex watches even after it was discontinued in 2019 and replaced by the updated Batman GMT-Master II that has the Jubilee bracelet.

Its introduction actually surprised many since Rolex had previously said that they would be unable to create a dual-colored ceramic bezel. However, Rolex seemingly did the impossible and the ref. 116710BLNR GMT-Master II Batman is even more desirable and difficult to find now that it is no longer in production.

The Rolex GMT-Master II is one of the brand’s most practical models with its ability to indicate the time in three separate time zones, along with a calendar display for the date. The black and blue Batman bezel on the 40mm stainless steel Oyster case is especially attractive and joins the other iconic bi-color bezels like the Pepsi, Coke, and Root Beer. Plus the blue 24-hour hand  matches up nicely with the blue on the bezel, for a fresh take on the classic Rolex GMT watch.

Rolex Submariner ref. 114060

Stainless Steel Rolex Submariner 114060 No-Date

Submariner 114060 Key Features:

Case Size: 40mm

Materials: Stainless Steel

Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds

Dial: Black w/ Luminous Hour Markers

Bezel: Unidirectional, Black Ceramic w/ 60-Minute Scale

Movement: Caliber 3130

Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet

Submariner

Although most Submariner models come with the date function, we love the symmetry and simplicity of the classic no-date version. Just recently discontinued in 2020, the stainless steel Submariner ref. 114060 is the last 40mm no-date model and the first Submariner N0-Date to feature a Cerachrom ceramic bezel.

Also, as a diver’s watch, the Rolex Submariner ref. 114060 boasts other diver-friendly features such as the Oyster bracelet with the Glidelock extension system and an official water resistance rating of up to 300 meters (1,000 feet).

The lack of a date window means that the sapphire crystal protecting the dial does not include the Cyclops magnifying lens, thus making it completely smooth and uninterrupted. As far as tool watches go, the 40mm Submariner ref. 114060 is one of the top stainless steel Rolex watches to own.

Rolex Explorer II ref. 216570

Stainless Steel Rolex Polar Explorer II 216570

Explorer II 216570 Key Features:

Case Size: 42mm

Materials: Stainless Steel

Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display, GMT-Functionality

Dial: Black or White w/ Luminous Hour Markers

Bezel: Fixed, Stainless Steel w/ 24-Hour Scale

Movement: Caliber 3187

Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet

Explorer II

The Explorer II ref. 216570 is a beautiful example of how Rolex creates modern sports watches while still paying tribute to vintage references. The current Explorer II ref. 216570 uses design elements from the inaugural Explorer II watch from the 1970s, such as the orange arrow-tipped 24-hour hand, engraved metal bezel, and highly luminescent dial.

However, these features are repackaged in a contemporary sports watch that includes a generous 42mm Oyster case, an Oyster bracelet equipped with the Easylink extension system, and the dependable in-house Cal. 3187 automatic movement.

Though the Role Explorer II ref. 216570 is offered with the choice of a black or white dial, the white dial version – affectionately known as the Polar among collectors – is one of our top stainless steel Rolex watches right now. The bright white dial sets the perfect stage for the luminous plots with black surrounds and bright orange details.

Rolex Air-King ref. 116900

Stainless Steel Rolex Air-King 116900

Air-King 116900 Key Features:

Case Size: 40mm

Materials: Stainless Steel

Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Antimagnetic

Dial: Black w/ Luminous 12 o’clock Marker

Bezel: Fixed, Stainless Steel, Smooth Style

Movement: Caliber 3131

Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet

Rolex Air-King

The relaunch of the Rolex Air-King ref. 116900 in 2016 was a slightly controversial one. Unlike other Rolex models where the brand takes extreme care to retain the original style while incrementally updating key features, the new Air-King is nothing like the preceding models that carry the same name.

Not only does the new Rolex Air-King ref. 116900 sport a much larger 40mm Oyster case, but it features a complete dial redesign too. A far cry from the minimal aesthetic of former Air-King models, the new Air-King includes a mix of Explorer-style 3/6/9 numerals alongside 5-minute markers. There’s also the green lollipop seconds hands along with the matching green ROLEX name, topped with a bright yellow coronet. Lastly, the current Air-King 116900 shares a case and movement with the Milgauss, granting it the same legendary magnetic-resistant capabilities.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 ref. 114300

Stainless Steel Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 114300

Oyster Perpetual 39 114300 Key Features:

Case Size: 39mm

Materials: Stainless Steel

Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds

Dial: Multiple Options Available

Bezel: Fixed, Stainless Steel Smooth Style

Movement: Caliber 3132

Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet

Oyster Perpetual

If you’re just getting into the Rolex collecting or are simply looking for a minimal take on a luxury dress watch, then it doesn’t get better than the Oyster Perpetual 39 ref. 114300. Introduced in 2015 and discontinued in 2020, the Oyster Perpetual 39 is a modern approach to one of the brand’s longest-running collections.

As its name suggests, it retains two of the features that make it an Oyster Perpetual – the waterproof Oyster case and the self-winding Perpetual movement. However, the Oyster Perpetual 39 is a thoroughly modern rendition of the classic Rolex watch and it occupies somewhat of a sweet-spot in case size – one that many collectors were sad to see discontinued in 2020.

Because the OP 39 offers classic Rolex styling, top-notch quality, a straightforward three-hander dial, and an accessible price point, it deserves its spot as one of the top stainless steel Rolex watches. Additionally, with its versatile case size and relatively short production run, it is no wonder why the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 is a favorite among so many collectors.

Rolex Datejust 36 ref. 116200

Stainless Steel Rolex Datejust 36 116200

Datejust 36 116200 Key Features:

Case Size: 36mm

Materials: Stainless Steel

Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display

Dial: Multiple Options Available

Bezel: Fixed, Stainless Steel Smooth Style

Movement: Caliber 3135

Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet or Jubilee Bracelet

Rolex Datejust

As Rolex’s signature dress watch collection, the Datejust is incredibly varied with a slew of material choices, size options, style variations, and dial selections to comb through. The collection is easily the brand’s largest and most diverse, but despite the wide range of precious metals, we love the understated aesthetic of the stainless steel Rolx Datejust 36 ref. 116200.

Sporting the traditional 36mm size, a smooth bezel, full stainless steel construction, and a beautifully finished dial in a variety of different styles, the Datejust 116200 is a great contender for a one-watch collection. Additionally, due to its versatile size and stying, it will look just as good fifty years from now as it does today.

Easy to wear, always appropriate, and incredibly practical thanks to its characteristic date window at 3 o’clock (magnified by the iconic Cyclops lens), the contemporary Rolex Datejust 36 ref. 116200 is an easy choice as one of our top stainless steel Rolex watches.

Rolex Milgauss ref. 116400GV

Stainless Steel Rolex Milgauss 116400GV

Milgauss 116400GV Key Features:

Case Size: 40mm

Materials: Stainless Steel

Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Antimagnetic

Dial: Black or Z-Blue w/ Luminous Hour Markers

Bezel: Fixed, Stainless Steel, Smooth Style

Movement: Caliber 3131

Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet

Milgauss

For a slightly colorful and unusual luxury watch, we recommend the current Rolex Milgauss ref. 116400GV. Developed specifically for scientists and laboratory technicians, the Milgauss’s unique selling point is its magnetic resistance of up to 1,000 gauss, thanks to an internal shield protecting the automatic movement within.

However, aside from its non-visible yet highly practical functionality, why we consider the Milgauss ref. 116400GV as one of the top stainless steel Rolex watches is due to its striking and usual design. Dial colors can be either black or an electric shade of blue that Rolex calls “Z-Blue” and both versions are fitted with a green-tinted sapphire crystal. Truly unlike any other Rolex watches ever created, this is a model that stands out from the crowd.

Contrasting with the quirky dial of the Milgauss ref. 116400GV is an archetypical 40mm Oyster case with an unfussy smooth bezel and the sporty Oyster bracelet. A contrast between bold colors and classic design, the various aesthetic elements all come together to make a very wearable everyday Rolex watch.

What do you think of our selection? What are some of your top stainless steel Rolex watches? Leave us your thoughts, pictures, and suggestions in the comments section below!

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