You can’t ignore Rolex if you’re a watch enthusiast. So many legends swirl around this brand, which was founded by Hans Wilsdorf in 1905. But why do so many watch buyers decide on a Rolex? What is it that makes these watches so popular? Every Rolex has a story to tell. In this article, our authors will share the stories behind their Rolexes.
Pascal Gehrlein: Rolex Explorer 14270 from 1996
“I see the Rolex Explorer as a bit of an underdog among Rolex watches. In fact, most watch fans don’t even recognize it as a Rolex until they take a closer look. That probably has something to do with its minimalist design and lack of a Cyclops lens. However, this is why I think it’s the perfect foil to my much flashier two-tone Datejust, ref. 16013.
None other than Sir Edmund Hillary played a major role in my decision to buy. A Rolex Oyster Perpetual accompanied him on his successful journey to the summit of the world’s tallest mountain. Rolex viewed this expedition as a way to prove just how well their watches could withstand extreme conditions. What’s more, they saw all the attention it received as a fantastic marketing opportunity. Once again, Rolex was at the center of an event for the history books! The brand remains the unrivaled master of this style of marketing to this day. As a casual adventurer and someone fond of traveling, I feel a particular connection to the history of this timepiece.
The Rolex Explorer is a no-frills watch, and that’s what courageous adventurers want: a tool to easily tell the time. I personally like the tidiness of the no-date dial and how the indices at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock stand out for optimal readability. The polished bezel is also unassuming, lacking any scales for diving or displaying a second time zone. The final result is a watch that I can pair with a suit as well as my swim trunks. This is unique amongst Rolex sports watch; I’m not a fan of wearing Submariners or Sea-Dwellers in business environments. Some people might be put off by the Explorer’s “small” 36-mm case, but it’s the perfect size for my wrist and further underscores its vintage character.
All in all, I think the Explorer I is one of the most exciting, albeit atypical, Rolex models. It perfectly blends the prestige of a Rolex with understated design.”
Balazs Ferenczi: Rolex GMT Master “Pepsi”
“The Rolex GMT Master “Pepsi” has always been my favorite timepiece from the Geneva-based brand. Some people find the colors too loud, but I actually really fancy them. In fact, the combination of the blue/red bezel, black dial, and steel case was the reason I chose this model as my first – vintage – Rolex. I also like that the case of the GMT Master is a bit thinner and somewhat smaller (at least visually) than Submariners from the same era. Of course, it also has the GMT feature, which I must admit, I don’t really use that often. Other than the watch itself, the story of Pan Am and its connection to Rolex was also something that spoke to me, albeit it was not the main reason I chose to get this GMT Master. The overall look and feel on the wrist was what really made me decide to go for one.
A good friend of mine was working for a watch dealer at the time. I told him that if he ever came across a nice Rolex GMT Master reference 1675, he should let me know. I already had another vintage watch that this dealer really wanted. We agreed to trade that watch plus some money from my side for a GMT. A few months after our initial discussion, he messaged me and showed me a photo of this watch, which he had reserved for me. The deal was on, and in a few weeks’ time I was on my way to Frankfurt to pick up my “new” Rolex GMT Master 1675 “Pepsi”. It came on a newer Jubilee bracelet, but luck struck again. Through another friend of mine from Cyprus, I came across a period correct Jubilee bracelet, the final touch I needed to complete my vintage Rolex GMT.
Since the prices of vintage Rolex watches have skyrocketed in the last few years, I have not been wearing it as much as I used to. I’m a bit reluctant to sport it more frequently as I’m afraid I’d love it too much and I’m trying to preserve it as much as possible. I also have other beautiful vintage watches that deserve wrist time, many of which I enjoy just as much as the Rolex, but for different reasons. However, the GMT Master “Pepsi” is still one of the centerpieces in my collection. It is a truly special timepiece that steals the show whenever I take it to watch get togethers or collector’s dinners.”
Philip Conradsson: Rolex Datejust, Reference number 16014
“My name is Philip Conradsson, and I work as a fashion consultant and freelance writer in the menswear and fashion industries. I even have my own fashion and menswear website: www.philipconradsson.com. I also happen to have a huge interest in vintage watches.
I received first watch at around two years old when we were on a visit to London. It was given to me by my grandparents. I don’t have any specific memories of that day, but there’s a video of it. I wore this watch every day for a couple of years. From what I’ve been told, I apparently even slept with the thing. The watch was shaped like Mickey Mouse, ears and all, and made of steel. It had a white dial with black hands. I still have a strong emotional attachment to his watch, and I keep it safe at my parent’s house.
When I turned 23, I decided I’d give myself a watch for my 24th birthday. Unfortunately, I had too much fun that year, so I ended up having to save up money and wait until my 25th birthday. I’d already set my heart on the Rolex Datejust well before then. I had yet to pick an exact reference number, but I knew I wanted one with the typical stainless steel case, white gold fluted bezel, white dial, and the iconic Jubilee bracelet. As my first (luxury) watch, I wanted something suitable for every occasion. The Datejust is often referred to as the quintessential dress watch; however, for me, it works just as well with a three-piece suit as it does with stone-washed jeans, a white t-shirt, and sneakers. I think what I really love about this specific model is how it combines timeless minimalist design with a sense of luxury, all without being too flashy. This is particularly appealing to Swedes in general. I’ve also always had a fondness for jewelry, and the jubilee bracelet is itself a piece of art! Its unique design really stands out and adds a vintage flair like no other bracelet can.
This watch will always be a personal favorite of mine, and I am planning on keeping it for the rest of my life. Hopefully, I’ll be able to pass it down to the next generation when the time is right.”
Bert Buijsrogge: Rolex Daytona
“Rolex sparked my interest in watches at an early age. After I first laid eyes on their sports models, I immediately knew that I would own one one day. I was especially drawn to the Rolex Daytona, and it always put a smile on my face when I saw one. In my teens and early twenties, I was a big fan of motorsport. Perhaps this is why I took such an interest in the Daytona, apart from its fantastic design.
It took quite a while for me to finally buy my first Rolex at about 25. This purchase led me to want to learn more about the technical side of watchmaking. I would start spending ever more time reading about watches. My collection slowly expanded as my passion grew. Once I had saved up enough money, I was able to buy my long-desired Rolex Daytona, ref. 116520, about 10 years ago. Then as now, it wasn’t easy to get your hands on a Daytona, but I managed to find one in like-new condition at a reasonable price. I’d also looked into the 16520 with the Zenith movement. However, it was the in-house movement of the 116520 that made it a true Rolex to me.
I was finally able to wear my childhood dream watch on my wrist. It is such a great-looking chronograph, and its 40-mm case is the perfect size for me. Things only got better when I had the chance to have the white gold version’s racing dial installed. I find that the panda dial gives it so much more character than the standard white dial with silver subdials. As my tastes have changed over the years, so has my collection. However, the one watch that I’ve never looked to sell is that Daytona, making it the watch I’ve owned the longest.”
Stipe Čulo: Rolex Datejust
“When I first started getting interested in watches, I quickly came to the conclusion that I’d never buy a Rolex. In my mind, the Rolex image was entirely contrived. However, the more I learned about their history, read forums, and watched videos, the more I came to appreciate the “Rolex mythos.” That’s why I eventually decided to purchase one of their classics: a Rolex Datejust. The only condition? It had to come from my birth year.
Given the wide variety of Datejusts available, it took me a while to piece together my “dream configuration.” I’ve always found the Jubilee bracelet the most attractive thanks to its delicate look and ability to enhance any outfit. A shimmering blue dial with thin hands and no numerals rounded off my “perfect” Datejust. However, the watch alone wasn’t enough: It had to come with its box and papers, of course, and I had a limited budget to work with. I searched any and every channel I could for a good six months before I finally found the Datejust that met all of my specifications. When it first arrived, I had a moment of panic, thinking that its 36-mm case was too small for my wrist. However, I’ve since gotten so used to this size that I avoid wearing anything bigger.
In terms of performance, I have no complaints. Today, similar Datejust models sell for 30-40% more than what I paid for my watch about 1.5 years ago. Though I was once so adamant that I’d never buy a Rolex, I’m now an enthusiastic convert. I originally only intended to wear my Datejust to special events. Now, it’s become my everyday watch that I can’t imagine not having.”
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