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Buyers Guide: Undervalued Rolex References

When the terms affordability and budget-friendly are brought up in conversation by watch collectors, it’s not often that the name Rolex is uttered. Understandably, this is due to the reputation the brand enjoys as a result of the above-retail prices which many modern, maxi-case references trade at — along with the continued, record-breaking success of the vintage Rolex market. Having said this, specific references and variants of such still remain accessible, despite the continuous booming of the market. If you’ve got the time, let’s look into the back catalog at a few pieces that ought to appreciate, suited for tastes of all sorts.

Rolex Explorer II Ref. 16570

In addition to the humble, time-only Explorer, there’s another familiar face from the same family tree worthy of your consideration. This, of course, is the Explorer II, which many will know as the watch originally introduced back in 1971, in an effort to address the needs of cave-dwelling spelunkers. In that these daring individuals spent extended periods of time surrounded by abyss-like darkness, a complication capable of indicating whether it was day or night was of tremendous interest, thus yielding the watch we know and love today. Since its introduction, Rolex has gone on to continue the legacy of the Explorer II through the release of references following the original Ref. 1655. Interestingly, the Explorer II hasn’t seen quite as many references as other sports models like the GMT Master or Submariner, making it one of the more concise collections throughout Rolex’s history. Inside of the near half-century, since the Ref. 1655 got things going, three subsequent references have left the factory doors. These include the Ref. 16550, Ref. 16570, and Ref. 216570.

Despite being a GMT-equipped Rolex cased inside a 40 mm Oyster, the Ref. 16570 Explorer II is still considerably more affordable in comparison to other similar sports references of the same vintage. The pricing of Submariners and GMT Masters in clean shape will definitely support this. For this reason, the Ref. 16570 represents one of the ultimate values in watch collecting, especially considering the reference’s unique, defining traits. These include the white dial, which was previously unavailable on any other Rolex sports reference, save for a few instances in which the coronet brand manufactured white dial variants of other sports references. As the market continues to boom, this remains a relative deal that’s seemingly going unnoticed.

"One such staple is the perfectly proportioned 36 mm Oyster, in practically any form. It’s just that good, being versatile enough to stand out when you want it to, and hide under a cuff when you don’t..."

Rolex DateJust Ref. 1601 & Day-Date Ref. 1803

Debating what Rolex model defines the brand in its entirety is a question considered by many, but answered confidently by few. The truth of the matter this, there’s no denying the brand’s laundry list of smash hits, many of which are regarded as collection staples by important collectors across the globe. One such staple is the perfectly proportioned 36 mm Oyster, in practically any form. It’s just that good, being versatile enough to stand out when you want it to, and hide under a cuff when you don’t. Much like the aforementioned reference, standard examples in a clean condition of both the Ref. 1601 Datejust and Ref. 1803 Day-Date can be had without breaking the bank, offering a serious amount of watch for the money. This point is proven by watches like these — a 1963 Ref. 1601, fitted with a coveted non-luminous, “doorstop dial,” and a “Buckley dial” Ref. 1803 Datejust, executed in brilliant 18K yellow gold.

Each epitomizes Rolex’s finest watchmaking efforts of the 1960s and 70s, in equally stunning, different ways. The endless list of notable figures known to have worn these references only intensifies their appeal. Remember, the Ref. 1803 is the President, after all, with names like Kennedy, Johnson, Ford, Reagan, Nixon, and Roosevelt celebrated as documented owners of Rolex Presidents. Touching on versatility once again, reviewing these two examples confirms that the design of the 36 mm Oyster is deserving of applause. Though the watches are priced differently, cased in different metals, and fitted with dials of their own aesthetics, the cases in question are more or less the same. Knowing these are extremely contrasting watches, and perhaps best suited for different occasions makes the versatility of the 36 mm Oyster only more fascinating. Those who’ve undoubtedly been bitten by the bug might even see this as a reason to collect both.

"To this very day, the Rolex quartz Cal. 5035 that powers the watch is hailed as an impressive feat of watchmaking, displaying Rolex’s commitment to approaching whatever the future may hold for the industry with the same dedication to quality and excellence."

Oysterquartz

Though not necessarily the central focus of most Rolex collectors, the Oysterquartz is no catalog slouch to scoff at, with a history as rich and compelling as other fully mechanical timepieces from the watchmaker. Naturally, this watch is a logical product of the industry’s shift into the so-called “Quartz Crisis,” where the newfound battery-powered technology took widespread production by storm. 1970 represented the official beginning of production for Rolex’s endeavors into the world of quartz, with the release of the collaboratively developed Beta 21-powered Ref. 5100. Fast forward seven years later, and Rolex has developed a quart caliber of their very own, beginning a 25-year manufacturing run of Oysterquartz timepieces.

Thought the 25 years, a variety of Datejust references were produced, including the stainless steel Ref. 17000 Datejust, the two-tone variant which corresponds with the reference 17013, and the Ref. 17014 Datejust executed in white gold. A variety of Day-Date references were manufactured, as well, making up the total production of 25,000 Oysterquartz watches, though for the money — the Datejust can’t be beaten. To this very day, the Rolex quartz Cal. 5035 that powers the watch is hailed as an impressive feat of watchmaking, displaying Rolex’s commitment to approaching whatever the future may hold for the industry with the same dedication to quality and excellence. Being one of the few Rolex references to make use of such a case and integrated bracelet surely earns it some points, too.

If unique patina is what you’re after, examples of the Ref. 17013 arguably offer more in this department than their full steel counterparts. The present example with a “tropical” purple dial demonstrates this idea effectively, as although the watch has visibly aged in such a drastic manner, it remains crisp and clean, after years of visible care.

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