Rolex Redux: In-Demand Models From the Iconic Watchmaker

Wearing an iconic Rolex such as Paul Newman’s Daytona or the Sports Submariner isn’t only about getting a trendy look or flashing a status symbol. According to retailers, buyers are attracted to the history behind the dial. We spoke with three vintage watch experts to find out what their customers look for when purchasing a preowned Rolex.

“The market for vintage Rolex is stronger than ever,” says Josh Bonifas, watch expert and co-owner of Fourtané Jewelers in Carmel, Calif. “Everything is about the watch itself, the condition and the look. It’s like jewelry; if it doesn’t look good, it won’t sell.” The masculine Steve McQueen Explorer II, which retails from $10,000 to $15,000, is the shop’s best-selling model.

A vintage Steve McQueen Explorer II Rolex at Fourtainé Jewelers (courtesy of Fourtané Jewelers)

“Vintage Rolexes are very popular because of the historic appeal,” says one of the watch experts at DeMesy Fine Watches & Jewelry in Dallas. The Paul Newman Daytona men’s chronograph watch in stainless steel, which sells for between $10,000 and $80,000, is a perennial favorite at the store.

A vintage Paul Newman Daytona Rolex at DeMesy Fine Watches & Jewelry (courtesy of Fourtané Jewelers)

Vintage stainless steel Sports Submariners, which are priced between $2,000 and $5,000, are the most in-demand Rolex models at Bachrach’s Jewelers in Richmond, Va. “The historic part of Rolex is what attracts people to them,” says the sales manager. “They’ve been popular probably since the 1980s,” but the best-selling models in the store are from the ’60s and ’70s.

A vintage Sports Submariner Rolex at Bachrach’s Jewelers (courtesy of Backrach’s Jewelers)