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The 12 Best Men’s Rolex Watches for Every Budget

Best Rolex Watches 0 Hero

Whether you’re a hardcore watch enthusiast or just a casual observer who has a fledgling desire to pick up a “nice watch,” odds are that one brand sits atop your wishlist: Rolex. By far, Rolex is the most famous name in the luxury watch industry — heck, it’s one of the most famous brand names globally regardless of industry. For over 100 years, the Crown has represented quality, prestige, and style, making the brand consistently popular throughout its history. And that’s more true today than ever, with many modern Rolex watches being nearly impossible to buy new due to outrageous demand. But if you’re looking to defy the odds and try to pick up a Rolex watch regardless, then we’ve got you covered with this guide to the best Rolex models currently on the market.

The History Of Rolex

Rolex has been in continuous operation for nearly 120 years. By most measures, that makes it an incredibly old company. But the Swiss watch industry does not measure time like other industries, and among its peers, Rolex is still a new kid on the block. Chief rival Omega? It got its start in 1848. Patek Philippe? It’s been around since 1839. Blancpain? Try 1735. So Rolex is still fairly young by Swiss luxury watchmaker standards, but the brand has had a greater influence over the industry than any other during its comparatively short run.

Founded by German-British businessman Hans Wilsdorf in 1905 and adopting the name Rolex in 1908, Rolex was a different kind of watch brand from the start. Wilsdorf had a knack for marketing, and Rolex is unquestionably one of the greatest marketing successes in modern history. Just look at the brand’s name. It’s actually a nonsense word — it was chosen by Wilsdorf as something that could be easily pronounced in any language. When the rest of the Swiss watch market was relatively insular, Rolex was already making moves toward globalization. Rolex’s marketing was so effective that the brand is often credited with things it didn’t even do. Everyone knows the Rolex Explorer was worn by Sir Edmund Hillary when he summited Mount Everest… except, it actually wasn’t. While Hillary was given an Explorer predecessor prototype for the expedition, he actually wore a watch made by a company called Smith’s on the journey. But you’d never know that from Rolex’s decades of ads promoting the Explorer as the watch that climbed Everest.

But Rolex’s success can’t just be attributed to clever marketing. Another consistency throughout the history of Rolex is the brand’s focus on lasting innovation. In 1914, Rolex made the first wristwatch that earned a Class A Chronometer certification — and today, it’s well known for its “Superlative Chronometers.” In 1926, the Rolex Oyster became the first “waterproof” watch thanks to its groundbreaking case design, and Rolex is still one of the only brands that dares to use the term over the legally safer “water-resistant.” In 1931, Rolex created the Perpetual Movement — the world’s first fully-winding automatic movement wristwatch movement — and the dials of today’s Rolexes still often bear the word “Perpetual” (along with Oyster). In the ‘40s and ‘50s, Rolex also made significant contributions to date complications with the Datejust, dive watches with the Submariner, and dual-time watches with the GMT-Master II. A frequent criticism of modern Rolex is that the brand doesn’t innovate like it used to, but that’s not really a fair criticism. After all, no watch company today innovates like Rolex used to.

The Current Availability of Rolex Watches

You’ll notice the prices of Rolex watches are quite high. In fact, the lowest end of the brand’s range is a cool five grand –– which is relatively accessible considering the prestige of the Rolex name –– with the more expensive models hitting well over $100k. However, even the lower-end timepieces can quadruple on the secondary market due to scarcity on the retail end. If you want fairer pricing on a Rolex, we suggest looking at the vintage market. But beware of frankenwatches and fakes; only buy from reputable sites that can guarantee authenticity.

The Vocabulary Of Rolex Watches

There are a number of terms that are specific to Rolex watches that you’ll see pop up frequently on the brand’s watches. Here, we’ll break down the most common to help you better understand Rolex watches.

Cerachrom: Rolex’s trademarked in-house ceramic formulation is used as the material for the bezel inserts of the Submariner, Daytona, GMT-Master II, Yacht-Master II, Sea-Dweller, and Deepsea. It’s impervious to fading from UV light and is nearly scratchproof, and the markings on a Cerachrom bezel are typically filled with PVD platinum or gold.

Chromalight: Most Swiss watches use luminescent material from the Swiss-based Super-LumiNova for their hands and indices, but not Rolex. The brand has its own in-house lume called Chromalight, which emits a strong icy-blue glow that has become a trademark of the brand in recent years.

Cyclops: Far from a mythological monster with a hatred for Nobody, Cyclops in Rolex vernacular simply refers to the date magnification found on the crystal of every model with a date window with the exception of the Deepsea.

Everose Gold: Rolex famously has its own foundry where it casts its own gold — a highly unusual feature for a watchmaker. Everose is the brand’s exclusive rose gold alloy, made from a blend of 18 kt yellow gold, copper, and a bit of platinum, with the last material added to keep the alloy from ever losing its color like typical rose gold — hence the name “Everose.”

Fluted Bezel: A signature bezel style seen on the Datejust, Day-Date, and Sky-Dweller, distinguished by its fluted pattern that brilliantly catches the light. Rolex’s fluted bezels are only ever crafted from solid gold — with the exception of the first-ever platinum version that debuted on the Day-Date this year.

Glidelock: Rolex’s patented clasp extension is meant to aid divers in fitting their Submariners, Sea-Dwellers, and Deepseas over their dive suits. In reality, though, it’s mainly utilized by casual wearers to adjust their bracelet size on the fly over the course of a given day. It works via a toothed mechanism on the underside of the clasp that provides up to 20mm of additional room for your wrist. In addition to Rolex’s divers, it’s also available on the Yacht-Master and Sky-Dweller.

Jubilee: Debuting in 1945 to celebrate Rolex’s 40th birthday, the Jubilee bracelet is considered a dressier option. Made up of five links, with the two outer links being large and brushed and the three inner links being small and polished, the Jubilee is widely considered to be Rolex’s most comfortable metal bracelet due to the size of its links and fluidity. It’s mainly associated with the Datejust but is also available on steel GMT-Master II models.

Mercedes Hand: Not an official term used by Rolex, this refers to the hour hand on a number of Rolex Professional Watches — most notably the Submariner, GMT-Master II, and Explorer — as it strongly resembles the three-pointed star logo of Mercedes-Benz.

Oyster Bracelet: The most mimicked sports watch bracelet style in the world is Rolex’s Oyster bracelet. Made up of a simple three-link design, with the center link sometimes polished, it’s been around for nearly 90 years and is meant to be robust and versatile. Easily Rolex’s most common bracelet, it’s offered on every model line except for the Day-Date and Cellini.

Oyster Case: One of Rolex’s most notable innovations was the Oyster case. Designed in 1926 as the world’s first waterproof wristwatch case, the Oyster achieved its trademark seaworthiness thanks to the combination of a screwdown bezel, caseback, and crown. Rolex still uses Oyster cases on most of its watches today, and they’re recognizable by their clean lines, slab sides, and fluted casebacks.

Oysterflex: Rolex’s newest bracelet, invented in 2015 for the Yacht-Master and now also available on the Sky-Dweller and Daytona, the Oysterflex has the outward appearance of a typical high-end rubber strap — but it’s anything but. While the exterior of an Oysterflex bracelet is made of high-performance elastomer that’s resistant to environmental effects, the interior of the bracelet is a titanium-nickel alloy structure, making it far more durable than a normal rubber strap.

Oystersteel: Rolex’s proprietary stainless steel alloy is the only steel used in the brand’s watches these days. It’s basically a souped-up version of 904L steel, which Rolex formerly used, and is highly resistant to corrosion while also being especially brilliant.

Parachrom: A feature in the escapement of many of Rolex’s modern Perpetual movements is the blue Parachrom hairspring. Made from a paramagnetic alloy, it’s resistant to interference from magnetic fields and is ten times more shock-resistant than a typical balance spring. Less frequently, Rolex utilizes a newer technology, the silicon-based Syloxi hairspring, in some of its other movements.

Perpetual: Rolex today exclusively makes automatic watches, but you’ll never see it use the term. Rather, the brand refers to its movements as “self-winding” or “Perpetual.” The latter specifically refers to the bi-directional winding rotor system that Rolex pioneered in 1931.

President: Specifically, President refers to the rounded three-link bracelet that can only be found on the Day-Date. Like the Day-Date, the President bracelet is made only in precious metals and never in steel. Colloquially, “Rolex President” also refers to the Day-Date itself, with both the watch and bracelet getting the moniker from their longtime association with U.S. presidents dating back to Dwight Eisenhower, who wore a solid gold Datejust to his 1953 inauguration. The Day-Date and President bracelet debuted in 1956, and Lyndon B. Johnson soon after became the first President to wear it in office in the 1960s.

Rolesor: While it may sound like another exclusive alloy, Rolesor is simply the term Rolex uses to describe a two-tone watch. In other words, a Rolesor watch is made up of both stainless steel and gold.

Superlative Chronometer: After its watch’s movements (Rolex produces all of its movements in-house) receive the standard chronometer certification from COSC, Rolex goes the extra mile by conducting its own even more stringent tests in its own dedicated labs in order to achieve its exclusive Officially Certified Superlative Chronometer designation. Among other tests, Rolex watches must achieve a precision of ±2 seconds per day (compared to COSC’s −4/+6 seconds per day) in order to be certified as Superlative Chronometers.

Classic Vs. Professional Models

Classic: The smaller portion of Rolex’s catalog is its Classic Watches. These are dress watches and simple timekeepers lacking the complications and bold styling seen in the brand’s sportier models.

Professional: Many of Rolex’s most popular watches fall under this category. The brand’s Professional Watches were originally built for divers, pilots, explorers, racecar drivers, and the like, and as a result are sporty, robust, and feature purpose-built complications.

Oyster Perpetual

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41
Why It Made the Cut
  • The entry-level watch for the brand, the Oysterl Perpetual is available in lots of variants with a classy design that still manages to punch above its price.

Rolex’s entry-level model, the OP is a basic time-only watch that’s available in a ton of different variants, all of which have a smooth bezel, an Oyster bracelet, and Oystersteel construction. With sizes of 28mm and 31mm for women, a 34mm unisex style, and 36mm and 41mm for men, the Oyster Perpetual is one of Rolex’s most customizable offerings — especially once you figure in the colorful dial options that include pink, green, and the extremely popular Tiffany Blue-like Turquoise. It can admittedly be a bit confusing as to whether or not this actually is its own model, as Rolex prints “Oyster Perpetual” on the dial of all of its other watches, with the exception of the Cellini. In those cases, the words are referring to the waterproof Oyster Case and the self-winding Perpetual movement — two Rolex hallmarks. By stripping away everything else but those two things with the simply-named Oyster Perpetual watch, you are left with a timepiece that is the bare essence of what a Rolex represents — and that’s exactly what this watch is.

Case Size: 34mm, 36mm, or 41mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic


Rolex Explorer
Why It Made the Cut
  • Rolex’s entry-level sports watch is a simple model with a distinct dial layout and versatile aesthetic.

The watch that climbed Everest (kinda) still stands tall today as Rolex’s entry-level sports watch. Recently seeing a size reduction from 39mm to its classic 36mm case, the black-dialed time-only watch is the simplest Rolex makes along with the Oyster Perpetual. What sets it apart from that watch is its sportier styling, with its iconic 3, 6, and 9 Arabic indices boldly set against its black dial, along with its Mercedes handset. With a reputation for robustness and iconic styling, the Explorer is extremely popular with enthusiasts. Long available only in steel, the brand introduced a Rolesor version in 2021, and both are only sold on an Oyster bracelet.

Case Size: 36mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic


Rolex Air King
Why It Made the Cut
  • Sporting a smooth bezel and crown guards, this pilot’s watch features a unique hybrid dial configuration that’s meant to aid in navigational time readings.

Ostensibly Rolex’s pilot’s watch (though the GMT-Master II also lays claim to that title), the Air-King was recently refreshed for 2022 with a tweaked design. The watch now sports crown guards — the only smooth bezel Rolex ever to have that distinction — along with reworked dial that includes lumed indices at 3, 6, and 9. The time-only watch features a unique hybrid dial layout that combines hour markers at the cardinal points and minute designations elsewhere, which is meant to aid in navigational time readings. Like the Explorer, the Air-King is time-only and comes on an Oyster bracelet. Unlike the Explorer, it has just one variant in Oystersteel.

Case Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic


Rolex Datejust
Why It Made the Cut
  • One of the paradigms of the Rolex design language, the Datejust was the first watch to have a date change at midnight upon its 1945 release.

One of Rolex’s most recognizable models — and probably the one you picture if you’re not thinking of a Submariner — the Datejust predates most of the brand’s other current models, with a history going back to 1945. The first watch to have its date instantaneously change over at midnight, the Datejust is known for its Cyclops date window, its Jubilee bracelet, and its fluted bezel — though it can be had without the latter two these days, as Oyster bracelet and smooth bezel versions are available. There are nearly endless variations of the Datejust, with diamond bezels, multiple index styles, several different sizes, and a slew of patterned, colored, and jewel-encrusted dials all available. Datejusts are available in all Rolex materials except platinum: Oystersteel, Rolesor, Everose gold, white gold, and yellow gold.

Case Size: 36mm or 41mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic w/ Date


Rolex Submariner
Why It Made the Cut
  • Arguably the most famous watch on the planet, the Submariner is still the paragon of the dive watch style.

Arguably the world’s best-known watch — and certainly the most frequently copied and emulated — Rolex’s flagship dive watch is one of the biggest icons in the industry. One of the first modern divers upon its 1954 debut, the Submariner quickly became the standard by which all other sports watches were measured. The modern version, debuting in 2020, is technically the largest Sub ever with its 41mm case, but it maintains its classic styling just the same. The watch comes on an Oyster bracelet, features a unidirectional Cerachrom bezel, and boasts Chromalight lume on all hands and indices. Just one current Submariner is produced without a date — a black-dial version in Oystersteel. All others, of which there are seven, are Submariner Date models in Oystersteel, Rolesor, or white/yellow gold.

Case Size: 41mm
Water Resistance: 300m
Movement: Automatic or Automatic w/ Date

Explorer II

Rolex Explorer II
Why It Made the Cut
  • Made for polar explorers and spelunkers, the Explorer II blends GMT class with a tool watch toughness.

Another purpose-built sports watch from the Professional line is the Explorer II. First debuting in 1971 as a watch for spelunkers and polar explorers, it was designed to help those working in all-dark conditions distinguish between day and nighttime hours. It did so thanks to its fixed steel 24-hour bezel, great lume, and GMT movement with a bold orange fourth hand that made one rotation around the dial every 24 hours. The Explorer II of today also features an independently adjustable hour hand, like all modern Rolex GMTs, along with a date window, making it a superb option for travel as well. The watch comes in Oystersteel on an Oyster bracelet with either a black or white dial, with the latter frequently being referred to as a “Polar” dial.

Case Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic GMT w/ Date

GMT-Master II

Rolex GMT Master II
Why It Made the Cut
  • Rolex’s flagship GMT is also the most iconic travel watches in the world, most famous in its Pepsi bezeled colorway.

In case you couldn’t tell, Rolex was pretty busy in the 1950s. Launched in 1955 after Pan-Am put out the call to Swiss watchmakers for a watch that could simultaneously tell the time in two time zones for its international pilots, the original GMT-Master accomplished this feat thanks to a red and blue bidirectional 24-hour bezel and the original GMT movement with a fourth hand to track that outer bezel time. In the ‘80s, Rolex introduced the GMT-Master II, which added the independently adjustable hour hand and began the age of the “true” GMT. The standard-setter for travel watches, today’s GMT-Master II is available with Cerachrom bezel inserts in the original “Pepsi” color scheme along with black and blue (“Batman” or “Batgirl”), black and brown (“Root Beer”), and a newly-introduced green and black, which sits on an unusual left-handed case. Rolex GMTs come in Oystersteel, Everose gold, white gold, and Rolesor, and while all variants are available with an Oyster bracelet, the three Oystersteel versions can also be purchased with a Jubilee.

Case Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic GMT w/ Date


Rolex Deepsea
Why It Made the Cut
  • A more robust, extreme version of other Rolex divers, the Deepsea is a fairly new addition and proof that the brand still evolves nicely.

Submariner not extreme enough for you? Then meet the Deepsea. Introduced in 2008 as a member of the Sea-Dweller family, the Deepsea is largely a showcase piece to display Rolex’s engineering capabilities. It’s waterproof to an absurd 3,900m — far deeper than any diver could reach — thanks in part to its Ringlock System case architecture, its helium escape valve, and its 5.5mm-thick sapphire crystal. It’s also the largest watch Rolex makes at 44mm and over 17mm thick. The Deepsea is only available in two Oystersteel variants, both of which come on an Oyster bracelet with a Glidelock-equipped clasp.

Case Size: 44mm
Water Resistance: 3,900m
Movement: Automatic w/ Date

Cosmograph Daytona

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
Why It Made the Cut
  • Rolex’s legendary racing chronograph is coveted amongst car enthusiasts and still maintains its vintage charm.

Arguably Rolex’s hottest watch over the past few years, the Daytona is the brand’s iconic racing chronograph. The unprecedented lust for vintage references — particularly those with “Paul Newman” dials or watches literally owned by the late actor — have helped fuel the popularity of the modern Daytona, but Rolex’s chronograph today doesn’t really need any help in the desirability department. Equipped with a tachymeter bezel in Cerachrom or any one of Rolex’s three golds and boasting a tri-compax layout with subdials measuring running seconds and chronograph minutes and hours, the Daytona has been a mainstay at motorsports events since its 1963 introduction. Despite its rather humble beginnings, just 2 of the watch’s 44 references currently produced are in Oystersteel. All others are Rolesor, Everose gold, white gold, yellow gold, or even platinum, making this sporting chronograph one of Rolex’s most luxurious watches. In addition to its traditional Oyster bracelet, some Daytonas are now also offered on an Oysterflex bracelet.

Case Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic Chronograph


Rolex Sky Dweller
Why It Made the Cut
  • The strangest model from the brand, the Sky-Dweller may not function like a typical Rollie but still sports the iconic design language.

Perhaps the weirdest model Rolex makes, the Sky-Dweller is like a cross between Rolex’s two collections with its gold fluted bezel coming from the Classic line and sporty dual-time complication and available Oysterflex bracelet seeming more at home in the Professional range. Its movement is also unusual. While it features Rolex’s typical GMT complication with an independently adjustable hour hand, it displays the second time zone on an inner dial and does not include a fourth hand. Furthermore, both time zones are set with the help of the Ring Command Bezel, which can be rotated to set different functions. Finally, the watch also features Rolex’s only annual calendar complication (which the brand named “Saros”) and it will keep track of the day and month automatically, only needing to be reset once every four years on February 29. The Sky-Dweller is available in Oystersteel with a white gold bezel along with Rolesor and full yellow and white gold offerings. Some options come on either an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet rather than the Oysterflex.

Case Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic Dual-Time Annual Calendar

Yacht-Master II

Rolex Yacht Master II
Why It Made the Cut
  • The Yacht-Master II is Rolex’s most complicated watch, featuring a regatta chronograph for yacht races.

The most complicated watch Rolex makes is one that hardly anyone talks about. Granted, that may be because its complication is somewhat confusing and highly specialized in its usage, as this watch’s unique regatta chronograph movement was designed to time yacht races. The watch’s dial features a 10-minute countdown timer, tracked via a dedicated arrow hand, that can be programmed with the bidirectional Ring Command Bezel. This timer, which is mechanically memorized, is then measured with the watch’s flyback chronograph function. It’s wildly complicated and shows that Rolex is a true high-end watchmaker that’s capable of crafting some pretty impressive technical movements when it feels like it. Only available in a white dial with a blue Cerachrom bezel insert, the Yacht-Master II comes in Oystersteel, Rolesor, and yellow gold flavors.

Case Size: 44mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic Regatta Chronograph


Rolex Day Date
Why It Made the Cut
  • Only offered with full precious metal cases, “the President” is Rolex’s most prestigious and expensive timepiece.

Rolex’s most prestigious and most expensive watch is “the President.” Only offered with full precious metal cases and bracelets — there are no steel Day-Dates — the President is certainly a grail-status watch. It’s known, unsurprisingly, for its ubiquitous day-date complication that shows the date at 3 o’clock under a cyclops and the day of the week fully spelled out in an aperture above the 12 marker. It’s only offered on the President bracelet, which is exclusive to the watch, and is currently available in yellow gold, white gold, Everose gold, or platinum, and with either fluted or diamond-encrusted bezels. Day-Dates basically come as opulent as one could want, with some variants featuring dials and bracelets festooned with diamonds and gemstones. However, the classic yellow gold references will likely always remain the most popular.

Case Size: 36mm or 40mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic w/ Day & Date

Review: Rolex’s Submariner Is a Legend for a Reason


More interested in learning about one of Rolex’s discontinued models? Then have a look at our in-depth review of the Rolex Submariner ref. 114060, where we go hands-on with the final 40mm Sub.