Nearly all Rolexes are classics among the classics. Whether you go for a Submariner, a Sea-Dweller, a GMT-Master or a Datejust, you can’t really be wrong. Of course, you’re not going to stand out of the crowd. We’ve all experienced this moment where you look at the wrist of the person in front of you. And even if you’re looking at your lawyer, your doctor, your banker or one of your colleagues, he/she might easily worn a Rolex. We won’t blame them, Rolex certainly has one of the best quality / price ratio. Today, we just want to show you that for roughly the same price as a brand new but common Rolex, you can have an original and quite unique vintage Rolex, that will makes you look different.
A true icon, the Submariner Date 1680
What can we say about the Rolex Submariner except that it may be the most legendary watch ever. It has been around for more than 60 years now (introduced in 1953 with the reference 6204). It has been constantly improved but it has never really changed. It has been worn by the legendary James Bond 007 but also by… every one. And that may be the main default of the Submariner: it’s a mass product. Meaning that if you’re looking for something discreet, a bit sporty but also suitable for a business meeting, you’ll certainly go for a Sub. As well as your colleagues and people you might interact with. No originality here. Except if you are looking for one that has an history, a pedigree or a special feature. For those who will never face the issue of money, the easiest is to go for a Comex or a Military Submariner (the legendary Milsub). For those who just want to be slightly different without selling one of their kidneys, a vintage Rolex 1680 is the solution.
For a lower price than a new one (with its unalterable ceramic bezel and luminous indexes) you can choose the reliable, precise and very cool 1680. It was the first to come with the date feature, meaning that it has this emblematic cyclops lens on the crystal. The movement is modern and easy to service, so no issue to use such a Sub as a daily beater. The one we’ve been choosing is listed by Eric Ku from 10 past ten, sort of legend in the vintage Rolex industry. Why him? Because buying a vintage Submariner can be tricky. And thus, you have to be sure of what you’ll buy, especially if you’re not an expert. The 1680 here (from 1974-75) comes with a very nice faded bezel that has turned to a grey-blue tint, and a tritium matte dial (that might be a service one considering the highly white markers). It is one of the most recognizable watches, a true classic that will never be outdated. It is listed here for $6.300 USD – €4.900Eur.
The classical elegance of an Explorer 1 ref. 1016
This one is not the most collectible, prestigious or recognizable vintage Rolex. It won’t set records during auctions. Leave this to the Daytona Paul Newman or the Submariner with a chocolate tropical dial. This one doesn’t come with fancy features or unbeatable water resistance. And that’s the reason why we love the Explorer 1 – a simple but solid 36mm watch, with a clean dial and a robust look. It even has this typical old-fashion elegance, when sports watch were thin and wearable, without any compromises on their robustness. The Explorer was meant to be used in rough and difficult conditions. So it is solid as a rock. Even a vintage 1016 can be used on a daily basis. It is precise – chronometer rated – as long as your watchmaker knows how to properly adjust a movement. And it is slightly different from the rest of the collection, with this 3-6-9 matte black dial.
We choose the one that is listed here on Chrono24 here because of its very nice dial. First, it has matching hands and markers, meaning that the tritium has faded uniformly. Then, the colour of this patina is really nice. Not too brown, not too white, just the good amount of creamy yellow. The dial itself is flawless and shows a very nice dark grey color too. It is listed for €5.200, the same price as a modern Explorer 1, that unfortunately come in a 39mm case.
The originality of a unique dial – A spiderweb GMT-Master II Pepsi 16750
The Pepsi is an icon. Ask people about the colour of a GMT-Master and you’ll see that most of them will answer the blue/red bezel edition. Recently, Rolex re-issued the GMT Pepsi with a new and innovative ceramic bezel, unfortunately (for our bank accounts) in white gold. Usually, this reference was sold in stainless steel. The GMT-Master is certainly the most iconic traveller’s watch, with its legible and practical 24-hour rotating bezel and GMT central hand. All together, it creates a very appealing timepiece but clearly not one that will makes you look different.
Except if you’re going for a vintage one with a unique faded or cracked dial, also known among the collectors as a spiderweb dial. Something strange into the vintage Rolex community is to focus on the defaulted watches. For example, a Submariner with reversed meters/feets scale will be more collectible. And a GMT with a dial that has cracks is something that will be under the scope of collectors. That is something that not every buyers will accept but that will clearly differentiate you from the rest of the GMT enthusiasts. We found such a dial on a quite common reference, a 16750 from 1985, that allows you to access the world of the odd Rolexes for a reasonable €4.250Eur. It is for sale by a trusted seller on Chrono24 here.