Why do Rolex wearers remain so loyal to the brand?
Vintage Rolex collectors love the nuances of the various dials, bezels, crown guards and other features that vary so widely even for specific models, which can add so much to the value and collectability of a watch. These nuances, such as an ‘underline’ dial, an ‘exclamation’ dial, or a ‘Bart Simpson’ dial (models made very briefly during the 1960s, where the Rolex coronet insignia is flatter with shorter tines, resembling Bart Simpson’s hair) can boost a watch’s value enormously. Suddenly a $5,000 watch is worth $50,000, all because of a tiny detail.
It’s OK to accessorize
Rolexes are versatile in ways that many other haute horology brands are not. Changing the entire look and feel of a vintage Rolex can be as simple as popping off a bracelet and adding a super-cool Italian leather strap or a nylon NATO strap. One watch can so easily become many different watches simply by accessorizing. The latest trend is to swap in a hand-stitched Italian distressed leather or suede strap; real Rolex aficionados love to add a vintage Rolex tang buckle to complete that classic look. It’s all about the way it looks.
Accessorizing isn’t a faux pas with many vintage Rolexes because that’s how so many were originally sold. Back when some of these watches were new, authorised dealers would happily change an oyster bracelet to a jubilee bracelet, or a bracelet to a strap upon request in the store. That’s not the case for most other fine watchmakers.
Their value just keeps growing
Vintage Rolexes have strong intrinsic value and we only see those values rising for examples that are in good condition. Rolex collectors get excited about owning a wearable investment, which is really what vintage Rolex has turned into – particularly with sports models such as the Submariner, the Daytona and the Explorer. These are models that continue to grow in value faster and steadier than most other existing classic watches. In general, the dressier Rolexes don’t gain value as quickly. However, there are exceptions. Super-rare dress models, such as the elusive stainless steel Day Date, are valued in the several-hundred-thousand-dollar range.
The Rolex Explorer, for example, was created to be exceptionally robust, with special lubricants in the movement that could withstand extreme changes in temperature. Rolex specifically had high-altitude mountain climbers in mind, who might encounter profound temperature changes between day and night. One of the Explorer’s immediate forebears, an Oyster perpetual chronometer (likely a reference 6084) accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay on the first summit of Mount Everest in 1953. It survives in working condition today at the Beyer Watch and Clock Museum in Zürich.