Rolex is one of the most famous watchmakers in the world. To speak its name is to conjure up luxury, right up there with expensive cars, couture, private planes and second homes on an island that you just bought. You put one on, and instantly, you signify that you are among the wealthy. You don't have to be wealthy though; just strapping a less pricey (if $5,000 is less pricey!) Rolex on your wrist will tell the world that you are (even though you aren't).
The Swiss luxury maker, currently headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, has been creating these uber-expensive timepieces for over 100 years. Every piece of a Rolex is made in-house--watchmakers have access to their own gold and diamonds to make the watches--and every result is a stunning achievement in masterful craftsmanship and a celebration of classicism and eternal elegance. It's the know-how and the high standards of perfection--the lines are sober and refined, the materials are noble and invaluable, and the finishings are luxurious--that makes Rolex the most coveted luxury watch in the world.
It's this heightened approach to the heritage of watchmaking that makes each Rolex rare, no matter when they first appeared on the market or bought at auction. So if you think five grand is expensive, then this list of 20 watches made by Rolex that only the rich can afford, is not for you. But if you have $17 million just lying around--yep, that's the most expensive Rolex out there--then this list is for you. Happy shopping!
20 Milgauss with DLC Coating (116400GV) – $11,950 - $15,300
The Milgauss with DLC Coating is the most unique watch in Rolex's line-up, as it's made entirely out of antimagnetic materials while other watches are made of ferrous materials. It is the most coveted Rolex, as the name Milgauss means that it can withstand a magnetic field of up to 1,000 gauss units, which means it's perfect for scientists.
The Milgauss was first made available in 1956, and its 116400GV iteration was released in 2007. It has a diamond-like carbon (DLC) finish and is pure luxury. While the watch costs $11,950, in certain circles it has been appraised at $15,300.00.
19 Cellini Date – $17,800
The Cellini is an example of a Rolex formed by refined details that respect the codes of the art of watchmaking. It's a watch that is both classic in design and elegant in its facade. Its sheer unabashed nobility will make you want to dress up while wearing the watch. Everything you want in a Rolex is here.
It's exalting, refined, and has a perpetual mechanical movement, a leather strap, a round shape, a classic 39 mm diameter and a textured dial. All of these things are marks of tradition, and to wear one will lend you an air of sophistication.
18 Cellini Dual Time – $19,400
The Cellini was made especially for dress ups, for going to philanthropic events at the Met or at Lincoln Center while wearing a classic tux. The watch features a case made of 18k Everose gold or 18k white gold. Classic and elegant at the same time, the Cellini has straight case bands and integrated lugs, although in this case, the lugs are short, making the case lightweight while on your wrist.
The Cellini also features a double-stepped bezel with a coin profile and a bombé shape on the top. It also has a marker on the dial to distinguish between night and day.
17 Limited Edition Black Explorer II (16750) – $20,000
The Black Explorer II limited edition was released in 1971 and is so popular that it's still produced today. It's more than a watch, it's a scientific tool that became popular with explorers, volcanologists, and scientists who study caves. This Limited Edition Black Explorer II has a PVD carbon coating, and it costs significantly more than the standard Explorer II.
The Explorer has a white dial for readability, as it works to highlight the hands and markers, especially at night. The Calibre 3187 in the Explorer allows it to display seconds, minutes and hours. It also has a second time zone.
16 Steve McQueen’s 1967 Rolex Submariner - $234,000
Steve McQueen, the "King of Cool" is one of our most iconic actors. He died in 1980 and in the 60s and the 70s, he was a major star who could command a lot of money for playing a rule. He starred in several popular films like The Thomas Crown Affair and the Cincinnati Kid.
In 2009, McQueen's Rolex, which was first produced in 1967, sold for $234,000 at auction. The reason the price is so high is because McQueen owned it and wore it, and was thus able to command the auction price at a very high figure.
15 Paul Newman Ferrari Red Rolex Daytona - $267,203
Inspired by the uber-luxurious Ferrari, the watch features a red-and-black dial, making it the most easily recognizable Rolex. It measures 337 mm in diameter, is manually wound, and has 17 jewels. It was sold at auction for $267,203, and the cost was high due to the sheer fact that Paul Newman owned it.
In addition to being an iconic actor of his generation, Newman was also a racecar driver enthusiast. That's why this Rolex collaborated with Ferrari. The actor won an Academy Award in 1986 for The Color of Money. The watch will make you want a Ferrari to coordinate with your Ferrari Rolex.
14 Rolex Platinum Diamond Pearlmaster - $277,850
When it comes to Rolex watches, you pay a premium when it's drenched in diamonds. That's certainly true for the truly limited-edition Rolex Platinum Diamond Pearlmaster, which is decked out in so many precious metals and native minerals. The dial is made of meteorite diamond and the bezel is made with 42 baguette diamonds.
It also has a double quick set made of sapphire crystal. The band material is made of platinum, and the case size is 39mm. The Rolex was first introduced in 2011 for $277,850, This is a truly luxurious watch, luminous and shiny.
13 Dr. Rajendra Prasad's Gold Rolex Oyster - $440,000
The first president of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, owned this watch, given to him in 1950 during India’s first ever Republic Day. The watch features an 18K pink gold dial with a map of India dated January 26, 1950, inscribed into it.
The Oyster is expensive because it was stolen in 1964. In 2011, it reappeared and was included in the auction house Sotheby's line-up of important timepieces belonging to famous leaders of the post-WW era. Dr. Prasad's grandchildren petitioned the India government to not sell the watch at auction. To this day, we still don't know where the watch ended up.
12 James Bond 1973 Rolex 5513 - $450,000
5513 was used in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die. The watch was actually a movie prop and was heavily modified for filming. Thus, the bezel was recut to look like a circular saw. Bond uses the saw to cut through some ropes holding him and a heroine hostage at a critical point in the film.
At the bottom of the watch, there's a tiny hole where a wire could be placed. That wire is what Bond used to unzip actress Madeline Smith's dress. For those interested in buying the watch, note that it can't tell time due to it being a promotional item.
11 GMT Master II White Gold - $485, 350
The Rolex GMT Master II Diamond Automatic 18kt White Gold Set With Diamonds is pure luxury. It has an 18kt white gold bracelet set with diamonds, an 18k white gold case set with diamonds and an 18kt white gold bezel also set with diamonds. There's a diamond wave dial with silver-tone hands and dots hour markers.
It's also scratch resistant, has an automatic movement, a screw down crown, a solid case back and is water resistant at 300 feet. So now you can have fun wearing your watch outside the boardroom! The functions are the date, hour, minutes and seconds.
10 Rolex 6062 Gold – $895,000
This is a legendary watch. First introduced in 1953, there were only two 6062s ever made of this model. It's obviously very rare now, and if you can track one down, it's now considered an antique, which means you should never wear it! This model boasts a triple calendar and a display having the phases of the moon. In fact, this trademark pink gold piece is rarer than the other gold models available.
And the attention to detail is from Rolex's in-house watchmakers, who have their own diamonds to work with. Its nickname is ‘Stelline’, which means starlet in Italian. (Source: BeautifulLife)
9 1950 Rolex Sleeping Beauty Ref. 8171 – $1.14 million
Previously nicknamed the “Padellone” ("Big Frying Pan" in Italian), the 1950 timepiece immediately earned a new nickname—“Sleeping Beauty”—on account of selling so high on the auction market. It has a triple date and moon phase display. This limited edition Rolex--only around 100 were ever made-is hard to come by as its iterations are very rare.
Christie's NY--the auction house--estimated that the Rolex would sell between $250,000-$350,000. Instead, it sold for more than four times its estimate and, in so doing, set a new world record. The Ref. 8171 sold for $1.145 million after a fierce bidding war that spanned across four countries.
8 1971 Daytona ‘Albino’ Ref. 6263 - $1,418,000
The Daytona Albino is the most exclusive and expensive Rolex on the market. There are only four in existence, and legendary Eric Clapton owned one before he put it up for auction in 2015. It sold for $1.4 million and demolished every record for any Rolex watch ever sold at auction at the time.
This rare vintage Rolex stands out because there is something unusual about it. And every vintage Rolex like that is exorbitant in price. This watch's uniqueness is the silvered dial with the same-color silvered chronograph totalizer subdials, which is why its nickname is "Albino." It first went on sale in 1971, and is housed in a stainless steel case and a stainless steel bracelet.
7 1942 Rolex Chronograph – $1.16 million
The 1942, made from ultra-rare oversized stainless steel, is the only split-seconds chronograph ever made by Rolex. 12 examples were released, so this watch is really rare. Most of these watches were given as gifts to famous racing drivers in Italy and the UK. It's also the most expensive Rolex ever sold at auction back in 2011.
At Christie's Important Watches sale in Geneva, the Rolex was expected to fetch around the $500,000 mark but instead sold for a ground-breaking $1.16 mill. At the time, this was the first Rolex ever to be sold at or past the million-dollar mark.
6 Rolex Oyster Perpetual – $1.22 million
The 1949 edition of the Oyster Perpetual is both rare and beautiful. The piece is an 18-karat gold automatic with sweep center seconds, automatic jeweled lever movement, star numerals and the cloisonné enamel dial, which depicts a whale and frigate sailing through stormy seas.
Images like that come along very rarely, which adds to the price of the watch. When it was put on sale by Christie's, it was expected to sell above the $500,000 mark and upwards to the $1 mill mark. But, as usual, every time a rare Rolex like this comes to auction, it's always sold way above its estimate. Thus, the Oyster sold for $1,220.632.
5 1942 Antimagnetique Ref. 4113 - $2.4 million
A record was made in the world of watches auctions in 2016. The Antimagnetique Reference 4113 from 1942 sold for nearly $2.5 million. Encased in stainless steel rather than a precious metal, the 44 mm manually wound split-seconds chronograph is a very rare breed. Only 12 are known to exist, and they're all encased in stainless steel.
The Ref. 4114 was never intended to be sold to the public. Instead, the watchmaker--which has close ties to the luxury motor world--were given as gifts to a handpicked selection of famous racing teams and their drivers.
4 The 1971 Rolex Daytona Reference 6265 -- The Unicorn - $3 million (approx)
The Unicorn is part of a thematic auction house sale by Phillips of 32 of the finest Rolex Daytonas ever made. The manual-wound Unicorn is the only one of its kind because vintage Daytonas were only made in stainless steel. The Daytona Reference 6265 is the only known 18-karat white gold considered to be so rare it's been nicknamed "The Unicorn."
The auction house Phillips has an opening bid of $3,175,000. The Unicorn was first produced in 1970 and its hands are made of gold. The bracelet is also made of gold, but the watch supposedly used to come with a leather strap. (Source:PhillipsAuction)
3 Rolex Split-Seconds Chronograph 4113 – $2.45 million
Sold at 2.45 million in a Phillip's stainless steel chronograph auction, this watch held the record of the most expensive Rolex watch to be sold for just a couple of months. The split-seconds chronograph happens to be among the most complicated and features two sweep seconds hands. It is known that only 12 examples were ever produced and all of them were in stainless steel.
The 4113 was one of those promotional items that were never intended to be sold. Instead, Rolex made these gift watches to racing teams and their drivers. (Rolex has been involved in motorsports for decades). (Source: QuillAndPad)
2 The Bao Dai Rolex - $ 5 million
The Bao Dai is the most expensive and rarest Rolex at the time it was made. Owned by Bao Dai, the last emperor of the Nguyen dynasty in Vietnam in 1954, this timepieces is the second-most expensive watch ever sold in an auction. In a Phillips auction in Geneva in 2017, the rare watch, bought by the Nguyens for $235,000 in 2002, sold for over $5 million.
Only three models of this watch exist, according to Hodinkee. This particular model is the only one to have had diamond markers on the even hours, making it unlike every other watch in the world.
1 Paul Newman’s Rolex Cosmograph Daytona - $17.8 million
Luxury watch aficionados know that the Paul Newman’s Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is one of the hardest watches to find in the world of watches, making it highly-sought after and very rare. The watch was put up for auction in 2017 by Phillips, and broke records as it sold for a whopping $17.8 million, becoming the most expensive watch ever sold in an auction.
Paul Newman received the watch from his wife and wore it every day for 15 years. First coming onto the market in 1963, the Daytona is so tied to Newman that it is often referred to as the "Paul Newman Watch." (Source: BuisnessInsider)