11/22/2021
 6 minutes

The 5 Most Affordable Rolex Watches

By Jorg Weppelink
Rolex-Datejust-2-1
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It’s not exactly news that prices for Rolex watches have increased dramatically. Over the last two to three years, some of the more popular models are selling for double, and in some cases even triple, their list prices. This makes buying a Rolex increasingly more difficult for those who don’t have large sums of money to spend on a watch. That being said, there are still some great options available. With the holiday season just around the corner, now’s the time to start thinking about gifts. A Rolex watch could be the perfect gift for the person you love. Thankfully, not every Rolex watch costs as much as a Daytona. We’ve put together a list of Rolex watches that are a lot more affordable than the brand’s most popular model. 

1. Rolex Datejust

The Rolex Datejust is the perfect entry-level watch and has been for decades. You simply cannot go wrong with a Datejust. The design of the Rolex Datejust is timeless and pairs well with practically anything. On top of that, it is the perfect daily wearer because, like all Rolex watches, the Datejust is robust and easy to service. Unfortunately, prices for a new steel Rolex Datejust have also risen to serious levels, making it harder and harder to get one for a reasonable price. Are there ways around paying a lot of money? Absolutely. 

Not every Rolex Datejust costs as much as this diamond-studded version.
Not every Rolex Datejust costs as much as this diamond-studded version.

First of all, go for the 36-mm version if your wrist allows it. This is the classic unisex Rolex Datejust, but even more importantly, you can buy one for under $5,000. Unfortunately, the larger 41-mm size is a lot more expensive, and you won’t be able to find one for that price. Another way to save is to buy your Rolex watch without its box and papers. While I would usually advise you to buy a watch with its box and papers, buying one without costs a lot less money. If you are certain that the Rolex Datejust is staying with you or your loved one for a long time, this could be a great way to save money. 

This brings us to the question of whether to go vintage or modern. Vintage Rolex Datejusts, or really any vintage Rolex model, offer a lot of charm. I personally love when watches have a story to tell. Plus, buying vintage can save you some money. You can purchase a vintage Rolex Datejust in stainless steel for between $3,500 and $5,000. If you insist on buying a Datejust from the 2000s, on the other hand, prices start closer to the $5,000 mark, making it a much more expensive watch. While I would definitely go for the charm of a vintage Datejust, I could imagine some of you would want something slightly more recent, which is also possible. 

2. Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date

The box and papers typically make the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date much more expensive.
The box and papers typically make the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date much more expensive.

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is another of Rolex’s entry-level models. It remains the perfect watch for anyone who doesn’t want to fork over a lot of money. However, with the most recent Oyster Perpetual models, we have also seen market values rising far above list prices. Prices for the previous generation Oyster Perpetual, the ref. 114300, have also skyrocketed. If you are looking for something more affordable, try the 34-mm Oyster Perpetual Date, also known as the Rolex Date. While you need to be able to pull off the smaller size, it brings the same Rolex charm as its bigger brothers. 

Again, the same rules apply when it comes to the box and papers and the choice of vintage versus modern. Vintage 34-mm Oyster Perpetual Date models start at roughly $2,500. The latest 34-mm Oyster Perpetual Date, the ref. 15200, was produced until the early 2000s. It comes with the legendary Rolex caliber 3135 and features a sapphire crystal with the iconic Rolex cyclops date magnifier. This watch could easily be yours for between $4,000 and $6,000. Like the smaller Rolex Datejust, the 34-mm Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date is the perfect watch for both men and women. Speaking of women, Rolex also has a fantastic, affordable option that is specifically designed for women. 

3. Rolex Lady-Datejust

You can find Lady-Datejust watches with diamonds for under $6,000.
You can find Lady-Datejust watches with diamonds for under $6,000.

The perfect example of a beautiful and affordable Rolex watch for women is none other than the Rolex Lady-Datejust. It sports the same looks as its bigger brother but is significantly smaller than the classic 36-mm size. While the current Lady-Datejust comes in at 28 mm, previous models measured 26 and 31 mm. The 31-mm version is technically considered a “mid-size” Datejust, but you are unlikely to find it on any man’s wrist, so it is considered a women’s watch. 

These “larger” Lady-Datejust models bring the same charm as their bigger brothers but have the advantage of some very exotic dial colors and executions, making them the perfect gift for the lady in your life. The pink and salmon dial options look particularly stunning, and if your loved one is into diamonds, there are even some options well under $6,000 with these precious stones on the dial. Prices for a Lady-Datejust from the 2000s start at roughly $3,000. You have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to dial configurations, and you also have the choice between an Oyster or a Jubilee bracelet. While it’s a matter of personal taste, my pick would be the graceful Jubilee bracelet. 

4. Rolex Air-King

The Rolex Air-King may be discontinued in the near future.
The Rolex Air-King may be discontinued in the near future.

Another legendary model from the Rolex catalog is the Air-King. As many of you will probably know, the Air-King is still part of the Rolex collection, but the current model may be discontinued in the not-too-distant future. That being said, it’s not the watch I would like to highlight in this article. Even though it’s a bit of an oddball Rolex, the current Air-King still goes for well over its list price. No, I would like to focus on the previous generation of Rolex Air-Kings. 

The earlier Rolex Air-King also has a 34-mm Oyster case, making it the perfect option for men and women alike. While the ref. 5500 looks very similar to other vintage models like the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date or Rolex Datejust, there are also some more unique options. Models with so-called engine-turned bezels are particularly intriguing, as are the more modern Rolex Air-Kings with “Explorer” dials. The Air-King ref. 14000M looks amazing with a dark blue or salmon Explorer dial complete with the characteristic 3, 6, and 9 numerals. Prices for vintage Air-King models start at roughly $3,000. The Air-King ref. 14000M can be yours starting at roughly $4,000. Models with Explorer dials go for $4,500 and up. 

The Rolex Oysterdate is an affordable vintage option.
The Rolex Oysterdate is an affordable vintage option.

We now come to the final affordable Rolex on our list. The Rolex Oysterdate is a vintage Rolex model that is your best bet for a smaller budget. The Rolex Oysterdate was introduced in the early 1950s and stayed in production until 1989. During that time, it was Rolex’s entry-level model and strictly produced in stainless steel, i.e., no precious metals. Additionally, Oysterdate watches were always powered by manual movements that were not chronometer-certified. This is why you will find the word “Precision” on the lower part of the dial instead of the now-famous “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified.” 

If you don’t mind winding your watch regularly and are looking for a true vintage Rolex, the Oysterdate could be the perfect choice for you. Your best bet is the Rolex Oysterdate ref. 6694, as it is the most up-to-date reference. This watch was in production for thirty years before being discontinued. The design of the Rolex Oysterdate is brilliant in its simplicity. The streamlined dial with a date window at 3 o’clock and a cyclops lens is effective and boasts quite a lot of charm. Whether on an Oyster bracelet or a nice leather strap, the Oysterdate is undoubtedly a versatile piece. You can buy an Oysterdate for between $3,000 and $4,000, making it one of the most affordable options on this list.  

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are still plenty of affordable Rolex options out there. Yes, we are still talking about a good amount of money, but the watches on this list sell for a fraction of the price of more famous models. If you’re specifically looking for a modern 40-mm Rolex sports model, expect to pay a lot more. Your best option here is the Rolex Explorer II, but we are already talking about roughly $7,000 for this timepiece, which is by no means particularly affordable. Why not widen your search and check out some of these other models as a gift for a loved one or yourself? Happy hunting! 

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About the Author

Jorg Weppelink

Hi, I'm Jorg, and I've been writing articles for Chrono24 since 2016. However, my relationship with Chrono24 goes back a bit longer, as my love for watches began …

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