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Feature: The most affordable Rolex watches

If you keep a close eye on watch prices like we do, you won’t be surprised to learn how affordable some Rolexes have become. With many entry-level models costing less than they have for several years, this is a great time to get your hands on some of the Crown’s enduring classics. We’ve hand-picked six we think you’ll love.

Air King

The Air King has undergone numerous redesigns over the decades, which means there’s an abundance of styles and sizes to choose from. Vintage models with unisex case sizes of 34mm can currently be picked up for as little as £3.5k.

Oyster Perpetual

This watch is the foundation on which the brand’s legacy was built, even if it’s now considered an entry-level model. Fans of this no-frills icon can find pre-owned steel models sized between 39mm and 41mm from £6.8k—or even less if you’re seeking something smaller.


Few watches encapsulate elegant versatility like the Datejust. Rolex has barely changed the design since its launch in 1945 because there’s little to be achieved by meddling with perfection. Prices for all-steel or steel-and-white-gold models currently start at around £6k.

Oyster Precision

These days all Rolex models are powered by automatic movements, but this hasn’t always been the case. The long-running manual-wind Oyster Precision reference 6694 was only discontinued in the late 1980s and models now sell for between £3k and £5k depending on condition and whether it comes with box and papers.


The trusty Rolex Explorer reference 14270 was manufactured from around 1990 to 2000, which puts it in the category of “neo-vintage”. Modestly sized at 36mm—unlike some newer models with a slightly larger case—it sells in the region of £5k to £6.5k, pre-owned. Great value for a watch that is famously relied on by adventurers in hostile terrain.


Precious-metal Submariners or those with coloured bezels are still in huge demand, with price-tags to prove it. However, plain-Jane Submariners can be bought for much less. You may be pleasantly surprised by the affordability of no-date models like the reference 14060 and its successor, reference 114060. These time-only, black-bezel Subs were the style once worn by James Bond, who wore an earlier reference.

Or you could go full-on antique…

Believe it or not, Rolex bubbleback watches—so called because of their protruding, domed screwdown casebacks—were once the most collectable vintage Rolexes around. These charismatic models, mostly produced during the 1940s, frequently sold in the 1980s and 1990s for prices exceeding those of iconic sports models like the Submariner and Daytona.

Image courtesy of Bonhams

Image courtesy of Bonhams

These days, you can buy them for less than half the price of a brand-new Oyster Perpetual. The catch? Case sizes are rarely bigger than 32mm and you need to be extra cautious of fake parts and dials that have been badly repainted. Stick to respectable auction houses like Bonhams and Phillips and you should be ok.

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