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The 10 Best Men’s Rolex Watches For Every Budget

Purchasing a Rolex is a significant milestone for many first-time buyers and experienced collectors. Registered as a trademark in 1909, the name Rolex has been synonymous with excellence, performance, prestige, and innovation for more than a century. Its stellar reputation has earned it a spot on the wrists of powerful and influential men across politics and culture like Winston Churchill, Steve McQueen, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy, Che Guevara, and many more. And for each of these men, their Rolex watches have served as a statement.

While all watches are designed to tell time, a Rolex tells the world you’ve achieved something remarkable and have ample reason and funding to mark that achievement by investing in a timeless timepiece. With a rich history of models, finishes, and features, finding the right Rolex can be a daunting task. Regardless of your reason for celebration, we’ve uncovered 10 of the best Rolex watches for every budget and occasion.

Vintage Rolex Oysterdate

The Rolex OysterDate is considered an excellent entry-level watch by most horologists. While it may be lacking in some of the features that have come to define the brand — automatic movement, chronometer certified, — it’s not lacking in unadulterated essentialism. The Oyster was a monumental innovation for Rolex. The world’s first waterproof and dustproof wristwatch featured a hermetically sealed case deemed perfect for protecting the movement that’s played a key role in the company’s reputation for precision and excellence. If a first Rolex purchase feels out of reach, consider a gently used OysterDate to get your collection moving.

Movement: Manual
Diameter: 29mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel

Purchase: $2,500

Vintage Rolex Datejust

The quintessential Rolex, a vintage Datejust from the 1960s or ‘70s looks just as good today as it did 50 years ago. The model was released in 1945 to celebrate Rolex’s 40th anniversary and remains the modern archetype of the classic watch to this day. It was a revolutionary timepiece when introduced to the world, featuring the first date display in a window and quick date mechanism in a wristwatch. Intended to be a piece of distinction, the now famous Jubilee bracelet was developed specifically for this timepiece. While a new Rolex Datejust will set you back anywhere from $6,700-$52,00, aspirational shoppers can find a multitude of great examples for closer to $3,000.

Movement: Caliber 1570
Diameter: 36mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel

Purchase: $3,100

Rolex Air King

If you’re ready for your first new Rolex purchase but don’t have a five-figure budget, or you’re celebrating an aeronautical-related achievement like earning your pilot’s license, Rolex hand-builds a watch with you in mind. The Air King is the single remaining production timepiece from the original Air Series that was created in 1945 to honor the brave RAF pilots who flew in the Battle of Britain. It became so popular with pilots that airlines like Pan Am offered watches from this series as retirement gifts to their pilots. The current version utilizes calibre 3131 perpetual movement beats with an accuracy of -2/+2 seconds per day.

Movement: Calibre 3131
Diameter: 40mm
Case Material: Oystersteel

Purchase: $6,200

Rolex Explorer

On May 29, 1953, at 11:30 a.m., Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first men to successfully reach the peak of Mount Everest, and soon-to-be Sir Edmund Hillary accomplished the amazing feat with a Rolex on his wrist. To commemorate this monumental human adventure, Rolex released the Explorer series. The watches have a smooth bezel while the 3, 6 and 9 numerals are filled with luminescent materials that emit an unmistakable blue glow, helpful for any would-be adventurer. Strong enough to handle the subfreezing altitude of Mount Everest, the Explorer is more than equipped to handle the day-to-day activities and weekend adventures most owners will throw its way.

Movement: Calibre 3132
Diameter: 39 mm
Case Material: Oystersteel

Purchase: $6,550

Rolex Milgauss

Originally released in 1956, the Milgauss pays tribute to scientific discovery and resists nearly any electromagnetic field one would encounter in a professional setting. In the mid-1950s, scientific professionals working near an electromagnetic field greater than 100 gauss were dealing with dysfunctional timepieces or opting not to keep time while on the job site. The name comes from the Latin “mille,” which translates to one-thousand, and “Gauss,” which is the unit of measurement for a magnetic field. The orange lightning bolt second hand is without a doubt the most recognizable feature of the watch. To this day, the Milgauss remains the preferred gift or mark of accomplishment for practitioners of the natural sciences or anyone working in power plants, research labs, or medical facilities.

Movement: Calibre 3131
Diameter: 40mm
Case Material: Oystersteel

Purchase: $8,200

Yacht-Master II

A polarizing 44mm behemoth to many aficionados of The Crown’s releases, the Yacht-Master II is perfectly over-the-top with functionality only a true sailor will appreciate — with a regatta chronograph built for yachting competition. The current version features a 4146 movement — updated in 2013 — designed with the complication of a programmable countdown timer that can be set from 0-10 minutes with a mechanical memory. Every Yacht-Master is water-resistant to 100m and built with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and screw-down, Triplock crown. You can find Yacht-Master IIs in 18K Everose gold, yellow gold, white gold, and 904L steel.

Movement: Calibre 4161
Diameter: 44mm
Case Material: Oystersteel

Purchase: $18,750

Vintage Red Submariner 1680

The Red Submariner is the gateway vintage watch that will inevitably lead you into a serious Rolex watch collection, which means you need one right away. And if you’re going to start a vintage watch collection, there are few better places to start than the Red Submariner 1680 from the late 1960s — one of the most sought after in the vintage Rolex catalog. The 40mm wristwatch has a sapphire crystal with no top hat plexiglass, caliber 1570 automatic movement, stainless steel Oyster bracelet, and a stainless steel case that’s water-resistant to 200m. The standout features on this model are the red-painted dial with cream-colored indexes and hands — look for one with even wear on the paint and scratches fitting of its vintage.

Movement: Caliber 1570
Diameter: 40 mm
Case Material: Stainless steel

Purchase: $22,500

Day-Date President

A yellow gold Day-Date with a Presidential bracelet has been and continues to be the watch of influential people all over the world. While the Oyster Perpetual Day-Date was the world’s first wristwatch to display the date and spell the day of the week in a window along with the time, it’s the famous President bracelet and a steep price tag that has helped contribute to making this Rolex signature timepiece such a powerful watch to wield. Identifiable by its semi-circular three-piece links, the President bracelet is nearly as famous as the timepiece it holds. The modern Day-Date has a self-winding calibre 3255 mechanical movement, scratch-resistant sapphire, Cyclops lens over the date, and a fluted bezel.

Movement: Calibre 3255
Diameter: 40mm
Case Material: 18 ct yellow gold

Purchase: $34,850

Rolex GMT-Master II

The epitome of a working professional’s timepiece, the GMT was the first watch to display two time zones simultaneously. The GMT-Master II features a calibre 3186 self-winding mechanical movement, scratch-resistant Sapphie crystal, and an Oyster bracelet with flat three-piece links. But it’s the bidirectional rotatable 24-hour graduated bezel with red and blue Cerachrom ceramic inserts that make this watch unique. The bezel features an arrow-tipped hand that circles the dial once every 24 hours. This feature helps display a “home” reference time that’s readable on the graduations of the bezel, making it easy for travelers to set a local time by “jumping” from hour to hour — essentially letting you adjust the hour hand forward or backward independently of the minute or second hands.

Movement: Calibre 3186
Diameter: 40mm
Case Material: 18 ct white gold

Purchase: $36,750

Paul Newman’s 1968 Rolex Daytona

When money is no object and only the best will do, look no further than the Rolex Daytona once adorned by American cultural icon Paul Newman. Beginning its official life in 1963, the Cosmograph Daytona was designed explicitly to meet the demands of race car drivers. It features a chronograph and bezel with a tachymetric scale that’s used to calculate speed based on travel time or measure a distance based on speed — allowing race car drivers to perfectly measure their speed up to nearly 250 miles per hour. The Daytona enjoyed moderate success, making its reputation as a serious racer’s timepiece only after a photo of Newman was published on magazine covers in the 1980s — at which point it was commonly referred to as the “Paul Newman Daytona.” Newman’s Daytona was engraved by his wife with ‘Drive Carefully, Me’ on the back. The watch sold at an auction in 2017 after 12 minutes of bidding for $15.5 million (including a 12.5% fee) that brought the record-breaking total to $17,752,500. It is widely considered to be “the greatest watch on the planet.”

Movement: Caliber Valjoux 722
Diameter: 36mm
Case Material: Stainless steel

Learn More: Here


Didn’t find a Rolex that’s working for your budget? Don’t feel discoured, you can find plenty of high-quality watches on our list of the 18 best men’s watches under $5,000 and treat yourself to something nice.