In our 3 previous episodes of “5 Cool Finds“, we’ve been looking at specific types of watches – multiple time-zones, super-complicated and dive watches. Probably, you’ve seen that in every article, there was at least one Rolex, and if you know your thing about watchmaking, you do understand why this brand is so well represented. Thus, instead of having one Rolex in a selection of 5 watches, we decided with our partner Chronext to focus this week only on this brand. That doesn’t mean we’re about to change our habits. You know the deal, 5 watches, all “youngtimers”, meaning not vintage but not in the collection anymore. What we have are 5 Rolex watches, from the last 2 decades, with that unique iconic flair and that are made to last a lifetime.
Why looking at youngtimer Rolex watches and not simply bringing you a buying guide of our favorite new timepieces from that brand? Of course, there’s the simple and oh-so understandable price factor – yes, we’re talking about pre-owned watches, and even if Rolex is one of the few brands to maintain such high prices on the used market, there are good opportunities, especially in watches from the last 2 decades. But there’s an other factor to take into account here. You see, modern Rolex watches, like the current Submariner or the GMT Master-II have changed quite a lot the tool perception of previous Rolex. They now come with ceramic bezels – superb in terms of quality but very shiny – they have maxi-dials – not always elegant and understated – and they have grew, not so much in diameter, but in proportions. When you look at previous generations of most of the icons that Rolex launched, you can see more elegance and at the same time a more toolish aspect. This is why, today, we’ll look at 5 “Youngtimer” Rolex watches that deserve our interest and that are, as usual with the brand, good for a lifetime of intense use.
The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona “Zenith” Ref. 16520
What is it? The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is an icon. We certainly don’t teach anything here. It was born in 1963 as a racing chronograph, with a tachymeter scale engraved or printed on an external (depending on the version). With its 3-compax layout and “panda” style, it defined the concept of sports chronograph for the next decades and became a proper icon, certainly one of the two most famous chronographs ever. Simple as that. The one we have today is the post-1990 version, meaning the deepest evolution the model has ever known. Apart from a major design update, to follow the lines of modern Rolex watches, this watch also bring a great mechanical evolution, with now an automatic chronograph movement. Overall, it became a modern watch, with superior design and still this iconic look of the Daytona.
Why is it cool? It’s cool mainly because it’s a Zenith-powered version. Indeed, inside its stainless steel case ticks a modified El Primero movement (not 5Hz anymore though, but 4Hz), a movement certainly as legendary as the Daytona itself. it means that it has the perfectly balanced sub-dials, positioned on the horizontal axis of the watch. It’s cool too because of the slim profile of the case and the more toolish aspect, compared to current version (less polished). It’s cool also because it’s a black dial version, with silver contrasting sub-dial rings. The present Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 16520 is not a so-called “Patrizzi” (with faded sub-dial rings) but shows a bit of patina, which gives it a nice overall look. Finally, it’s cool because it is a Daytona, and it will remain cool for ages. The present model is from 2000 (just before the current one launched), it is in perfect condition and comes with original box. Listed here.
The Rolex GMT-Master II “Coke” ref. 16710
What is it? The Rolex GMT-Master II is probably the best definition of what a traveller’s watch is. It defines what a GMT watch is for most collectors, both in terms of functionality and design. Often imitated, but never equalled. The iconic Rolex GMT Master which was first released in the mid-1950s (1954 to be precise). It was designed together with Pan American Airways, to equip their crews. Popularity grew at first amongst pilots, NASA crew-members and US Air Force pilots, to then spread amongst business men and frequent travelers. The GMT function is certainly one of the most practical features you can find and the way it work on the GMT-Master II is perfect. This was already featured the quick-set hand, meaning that you can move the main hour hand in one-hour increments (and when you land in a foreign country, that’s just superb).
Why is it cool? The GMT-Master II ref. 16710 is cool because it’s the last toolish GMT watch made by Rolex. With the current reference, there’s a maxi-dial, a shiny ceramic bezel and an overall more luxurious feel. Here, we’re still in front of an instrument made to last and live. It’s cool too because it’s a “coke” version and this does not exist anymore. Everybody talks about the “Pepsi” versions (blue and red) but the Coke is often neglected, for no reasons. It’s black and red bezel, linked to a red GMT hand, is just cool and more understated. Then, it’s cool because it’s already a very modern watch, with sapphire crystal, calibre 3185 (not that different from the current version) and solid bracelet and case. And believe us, this watch is an investment piece. It’s a future classic. The present example of Rolex GMT-Master II “Coke” ref. 16710 is from 1999 and comes with box and papers. Listed here.
The Rolex Sea-Dweller ref. 16600
What is it? While everybody know the Submariner as the most famous dive watch, the Rolex Sea-Dweller might the ultimate dive instrument (and not watch, instrument!). Developed on the base of the Sub, the Rolex SD aimed to perform better in any way, as being more resistant to pressure, to wear and to the toughest conditions. Launched first with the 1665, it was already water resistant to 2000ft (610m) and featured the helium escape valve in the caseband. Evolutions after evolutions, then came the 16600, and that watch really was the ultimate diving tool. Don’t be fooled by its super understated look, this watch can go under 4000ft of water (1220m) and can resist to everything a professional diver can do. If you do a bit more than just jumping in a pool, this watch is for you.
Why is it cool? First, with the Sea-Dweller 16600, you have a watch that visually doesn’t scream its origins. Look at it briefly and all you’ll see is a normal Rolex. It basically have the same diameter, same bracelet and same dial as a Submariner. But it is much more solid and resistant to pressure. It’s a proper tool in the sea and a proper watch on land. The best of both worlds. It’s cool too because it features a date but no magnifier (the Rolex cyclops), making it practical and sleek. And it’s cool too because the present Sea-Dweller 16600 is one of the last of its kind, as manufactured in 2008, meaning modern and safe. It features box and papers, is in superb condition and is listed here.
The Rolex Milgauss non-GV ref. 116400
What is it? The Rolex Milgauss is the doctor’s and scientist’s watch of Rolex – yes, that’s the Rolex way: one watch, one function, no blabla. Why is this watch dedicated to this very specific category of people? Well, simply because its movement is enclosed in a faraday cage, protecting it from magnetic fields. From the beginning of its production, it has been a mix of functionality and understatement: solid inside, elegant outside, wearable everywhere. The latest evolution of the watch, the ref. 116400 (yes a 6-digit so the more modern side of Rolex) continues in the same path, with still a antimagnetic case and a modern movement, enclosed in a sporty and elegant watch, with simply a 3-hand display. However, the 116400 has one or two very cool features that makes it special in the Rolex collection.
Why is it cool? First, unlike most Rolex watches, the Rolex Milgauss 116400 has a certain eccentricity. See, it has that thunderbolt orange hand for the seconds, which is not too visible at first but makes that watch so unique. Then, this color can bee seen on the logo and the hour indexes, but not too much. That’s the good thing with the non-GV (the non-green sapphire version), it keeps things simple: a normal sapphire, not tinted, and white applied indexes. And because it’s not in the collection anymore and even if very recent, it does qualify for this “youngtimers” theme – and is rather affordable. The one here is from 2008 and comes with box. Listed here.
The Rolex Datejust II 41mm ref. 116300
What is it? The Rolex Datejust is an icon (yes, again…). it was born in the mid-1940s and, as such, it is one of the oldest Rolex that is still in the collection. What is special with the Datejust? It simply created the most common complication a watch can have: the quick changing date with an aperture at 3 o’clock that changed automatically at midnight – and thus, the date was always just. And if you think it’s not something important, you’re wrong. In the Rolex collection, the Datejust has always been a sort of compromise between the tool – Submariner, Daytona, GMT – and the gold dress watch – Day-Date or Cellini. It is the perfect definition of a casual watch that can be worn for business or pleasure. It looks good all the time, in all places, with all attires. If you have to have one, the Datejust is a very good option. And it modern, elegant, efficient, reliable, qualitative… it’s a Rolex!
Why is it cool? For ages, the Rolex Datejust has been a rather small watch, with a 36mm case. Not that we don’t like it (we do), but some of the collectors may 1. have a large wrist 2. want something larger. Then came the Datejust II 116300, with its larger 41mm case, to project this model into modernity. The one we have today is just perfect: stainless steel for the comfort, the resistance, the discretion and the price, silver dial with white indexes to keep things elegant and simple, Oyster bracelet for the sporty look… And all of that in a 41mm case that will please modern tastes. What to say… you can’t be wrong with this Rolex Datejust II ref. 116300 (from 2013, with box and papers). Listed here.
Chronext is a London-based online marketplace for buying, selling, and servicing of luxury watches – and here, online goes together with the same security and service as any high-end boutique (for more details – and the possibility to win a 2016 Rolex Explorer – please look here). For more watches for sale, keep an eye on Chronext. Everyday, some new items are listed.