Buying Guide

The 5 Most Sought-After Rolex Models in Collection – And the Sad Reality of the Market

Desirability + shortage at retailers = investment potential and leads to take your wallet out and buy at premium.

calendar | ic_dehaze_black_24px By Brice Goulard | ic_query_builder_black_24px 7 min read |
Rolex GMT-Master II "Steel Pepsi" 126710BLRO

The following buying guide is one that I’m not particularly fond of writing, not that the topic isn’t desirable (on the contrary) but behind these watches hides a market reality that needs to be told… Rolex has always been hot, but recently, some of its watches have become inaccessible. The scarce availability of certain Rolex models at official retailers has fostered a rise in value on the second-hand (or most likely, grey) market. So here are the five hottest Rolex watches now in collection and the truth behind them, meaning what you’ll have to pay if you want to skip the waiting list.

All of us at MONOCHROME, love watches. We truly love them, we’re passionate about them, we love to wear them and we love to collect them. This shared passion was the reason behind the creation of our “magazine dedicated to fine watches”. This statement implies that we also want our readers to enjoy watches, to be able to acquire them and to be able to enjoy wearing them… And not to hide them in a safe to become an investment vehicle, which is what Rolex has become recently. Truth be told, this situation (well-known by most watch enthusiasts) is a sad reality, which weighs on passionate collectors who want to enjoy these watches and not participate in this speculative bubble.

The new GMT Batman 126710BLNR was presented at Baselworld 2019 and, as soon as it was available, it was listed with a premium.

We’re not going to debate the reasons why this situation came about. It involves multiple actors, from the retailers, the grey-market dealers, some opportunist collectors (the so-called ‘flippers’) and people who actually may not have a real enthusiasm for watches. Will this last? Well, unfortunately, we can’t tell but everything comes to an end. Do we encourage you to buy these watches at a premium? Not really, however, if you have an uncontrollable itch and you’re able to afford these watches, it is your money after all. So, why not? But before, be prepared and know what to expect.

Note that the five following watches are currently almost impossible to get at the listed RRP, from an official retailer, without being on a waiting list. Paying a premium at a non-official Rolex watch seller is thus the way to go if you want one immediately. Sadly.

Rolex Daytona Steel 116500LN

The steel Daytona has been a hot commodity since the introduction of the in-house calibre 4130. Fact is that, during the 1970s and 1980s, the Daytona wasn’t sough-after, at all. But the situation changed in 2000 when Rolex introduced its own movement, creating a shortage on the steel versions of this model. The real turning point was when Rolex introduced the Panda dials/black ceramic LN versions in 2016. This watch, with its well-dosed vintage influence, immediately became a success, which resulted in extremely high demand at retailers and interminable waiting lists.

Bear with us, the desirability of the Steel Daytonas 116500LN is justified. This watch has never looked so good and is, in almost all aspects, a winner. The quality is superb, the dials (white or black) are great, the movement is performant and the black bezel makes it cooler than ever. Problem is, too many people are now aware of it and the availability at retailers is close to zero (if not zero).

Rolex Daytona Ceramic 116500LN

Reality: The demand for the Daytona Steel/Ceramic is still extremely high, even three years after its introduction. It might be the most sought-after Rolex to date and this has a direct impact on the real market price. While it retails for EUR 11,350 or USD 12,400, expect to pay a minimum of EUR 20,000/USD 22,000 for a black dial model and EUR 23,000/USD 25,000 for the white dial version. This results in a solid 100% premium over the RRP.

Rolex GMT “Pepsi” 126710BLRO

The GMT was and still is one of the cornerstones of the collection since its introduction back in 1954. The current collection is based on the evolution launched in 2005 with the ref. 116718LN, comprising a redesigned case, a ceramic bezel and maxi dials. Later the steel/black dial LN model would follow. If this watch was well-received, it wasn’t an immediate success and remained relatively accessible at retailers. Then came the two-tone, blue-and-black “Batman” BLNR model in 2013, which started to create fame around the GMT. It was hard to find a new model in stock and second-hand models were already sold at a premium.

In 2015, Rolex reintroduced the Pepsi, a version with red-and-blue bezel, faithful to the original 1954 version… Sadly, it only came in white gold, producing great frustration among collectors. BUT, Baselworld 2018 saw the launch of the 126xxx series, with a new movement and mainly, the return of the Pepsi bezel on a steel watch and the arrival of the Jubilee bracelet on the GMT. No need to say, success was immediate, demand became crazy… prices too.

Rolex GMT-Master II "Steel Pepsi" 126710BLRO

Reality: One year and a half after its introduction, the Steel Pepsi 126710BLRO is still highly sought-after, just like any steel model in the GMT line (including the older 116710LN, which are now discontinued but sell over retail). While the RRP is EUR 8,500 or USD 9,250, prices on the second-hand market are about EUR 17,000/USD 18,500, again a 100% premium over retail.

Rolex GMT “Batman” 126710BLNR

As we mentioned, the popularity for the GMT models started when Rolex relaunched the steel Pepsi in combination with the (clearly cool) Jubilee bracelet. This year at Baselworld, the brand announced that the entire collection will feature two-tone bezels, thus discontinuing the LN model but updated the blue-black version BLNR, a watch nicknamed “Batman”. The concept was the same as with the Pepsi: new movement, new ref. number in 12xxxx, new Jubilee bracelet. And the demand for this version immediately rose, without having an impact on the demand for the Pepsi.

Reality: Just like the BLRO version, this “Batman” BLNR is almost impossible to find new at a retailer, with a retail price of EUR 8,500/USD 9,250. And just like the BLRO version, the price on the second-hand market is high, at around EUR 15,500/USD 17,000 – a bit under the Pepsi, confirming that the blue-red model is the definitive model.

Rolex Submariner “Hulk” 116610LV

No need to present the Submariner, which is probably the most iconic watch in the entire industry. It is available in multiple versions, including steel, steel-and-gold, yellow or white gold. However, if we look at the three steel editions – 114060 no-date, 116610LN date and 116610LV – these are again rare commodities at retailers. The wait for having one is long, especially for the green “Hulk” version, which has always been in demand. This model is rather unique in Rolex’s collection and, with its bold green bezel and dial, gained collectable status.

Photo courtesy of Time and Tide

Reality: The shortage of steel Submariners isn’t new but the situation is getting worse since all the steel, professional Rolex watches are seen as investment vehicles. Even though it is not a rare watch, the Submariner “Hulk” 116610LV, which retails at EUR 8,300/USD 9,050, is impossible to find on the second-hand market without a premium. Expect to pay around EUR 14,500/USD 15,000 for a used model with box and papers – and add 1K to the total for an unworn model. This makes a 75% premium over retail.

Rolex Sky-Dweller Steel 326934

The last watch in this selection came as a surprise. Indeed, the Sky-Dweller, Rolex’s most complex watch introduced in 2012, isn’t part of the professional collection. From 2012 to 2018, this watch was only available in gold (on a leather strap or gold bracelet) and, as such, wasn’t really sought-after. But at Baselworld 2018, Rolex introduced the Rolesor models, including this ref. 326934 mostly in steel (case and bracelet), with a fluted white gold bezel. Suddenly, this watch became hot and demand rose – particularly for the blue dial version, as the demand is lower on the black or white models. As a result, it is now hard to find one at a retailer and prices are getting higher these days.

Rolex Sky-Dweller Steel 326934

Reality: While the gold models were in the 30k range, the Rolesor ref. 326934 retails for EUR 13,050/USD 14,400. However, if you want a blue model right now, the second-hand market price is around EUR 21,000/USD 23,000, meaning a 60% premium.

54 responses

  1. I ll never buy a Rolex. I ll just watch others overpay for mass produced 1.5 million watches a year no heart no soul never a nice caliber watch 😂

  2. Oh lord, won’t you buy me that Mercedes hand?
    My friends all wear Heuers, I must make amends.

  3. I have had a Pepsi for 33 years cost circa £1250
    Have bought second hand Omega Speedmaster and buying Tudor Woods.
    Some real bargains out there if you keep away from Rolex!

  4. You can’t help but wonder – with no stock at ADs but reasonable availability (albeit at exorbitant prices) elsewhere – if some ADs aren’t playing games. Why sell at the RRP if you are able to sell at a premium in a pre-owned store? Meantime, us normal idiot watch lovers continue to wait up to 8 years for our Sky-Dweller… Either way: well played, Rolex.

  5. 9 years ago I bought a 116610LV at list price from a German retailer. At that time I found it very expensive for what it is, but still acceptable (to me). At today’s prices I find the value proposition of this watch to be totally ludicrous. And I think that the current market value defeats its purpose as a tool watch. Since I am old enough to no longer need status symbols on my wrist, I might very well end up selling it … it might just hang in for some more time to see how much more these things will appreciate … 😉

  6. What, if I may ask, is the point of this article? We all know the shape the market has been in for a few years now. I am honestly at a loss here. As you aren’t telling us anything new, what is it you’re trying to tell us?

  7. @Gwai – it all depends on what you imply by « we ». If you mean seasoned watch lovers, nothing new for you. However our audience isn’t just about those. We also have newcomers, people who want to buy their first watch, people who haven’t à deep knowledge of the industry/market and so on. Explains why.

  8. Fair enough, Brice, and thank your for responding in what clearly must be record speed. It is just that whenever I read about how desirable certain Rolex references are, and I get to read that a lot, ‘refueling the market’ comes to my mind. No offense.

  9. Thank-you. I am new to the market. I have been looking, (very unsuccessfully) for a Batman. I purchased my ‘’fancy’’ day date 40 in rose gold, but wanted an every day wearer. Naturally, I am aware of the retail price, and the prices being asked on secondary market. There was some confusion on my part as to why. If people have the ability to acquire a watch why the need to double their money and in effect screw over a fellow collector. I would happily pay someone a $500 or $1000 bonus but will be damned to pay someone $20k for a watch they paid $9500 for. Sadly, I will buy something else. I do appreciate the occasional article highlighting some of the basics with a current market update attached.

  10. @Santiago

    Heh! I should’ve made it rhyme though: “make a stand”, instead of “make amends”. D’oh.

  11. This whole “steel Rolex shortage” thing is both amusing and perplexing. I would like to know:
    1) When exactly did this start?
    2) Who is buying up all these steel Rolex watches and causing the shortage? What countries are these buyers from? Is this a China phenomenon? Is this Middle East buyers? Is there any place to pinpoint as to who is sucking up all these thousands of Rolex watches every year and causing a shortage?
    3) Is there any evidence that this is all fake — so that Rolex can sell more precious metal watches?

    I’m sure there are more questions. I would like to see some real investigative journalism by some watch site. Certainly you are not going to get any from the lazy asses at places like A Blog To Watch, but maybe somebody with ambition and guts would do this. It’s almost Pulitzer material at this point…

  12. It’s not just these models that are hard to find. Something very wrong is going on. Not long ago I was in two Rolex boutiques, one very large, one quite small but in a prime location. There were many watches. Only two of them were plain steel. That is, there was one steel watch in each location. Every other watch was gold and diamond-encrusted. You know, the “Vegas” watches that nobody wants? Well, STILL nobody wants them!
    I visited the smaller dealership maybe 2 years ago and it was full of watches. Three weeks ago, the same place looked like it had just been robbed; most of the cases were empty. In one case there was only one watch. A case designed for 30 watches. It had a single, sad, solitary 36mm Oyster Perpetual. There was one customer in the place when I arrived. The salesman was saying “No, we have no idea how long” and the customer walked away saying, “Well, you’ve got my number.”

    This is not going to end well for Rolex.

  13. I have 2 sports Rolex but I will never pay above retail for any Rolex. C’mon, it’s just a watch. There are so many great watches like a Lange which I am willing to save up for, than pay a premium for a steel Rolex.

  14. The person who buys at a high premium is the one that will be the loser when the next GFC happens , buying at an inflated premium means someone else has made the profit , all the buyer can hope for is not to sell at less than what he purchased the watch for . I wonder just how many people want a steel Rolex simply because its hard to get one ? During the last GFC I struggled to get Aud$5K for a Pepsi Bezel GMT with full set , when people are unemployed and have a mortgage to pay , these things will flood the market .

  15. I bought brand new Explorer from official dealer (Helsinki) couple years ago for the price of 5400€. Waiting time was couple months and discount something like -20%. The discount of Omega like Seamasters would have been -40% on the same dealer at the same time.

    I am wearing my Explorer 16 hrs/day and it works like it should be. I am pretty sure, that I could give it away to my son, when that day will dawn.

  16. Agree that paying above retail for a new Rolex is just not worth it. The limited offerings at the retailers are a due to a combination of Rolex strategy to limit the production of the most desirable models which causes a hype/panic buying in the market and the fact that a lot of the new production ends up in the grey market. The vintage Rolex market is equally stressed. I like both new and vintage Rolex a lot, but not at these price-points. Price-quality wise Tudor and Oris to name a few are much better and more affordable propositions.

  17. Rolex make some great watches. I have had mine for over 30 years and I am confident that one of my grandsons will get it when I am gone. They have become stupidly expensive since I bought mine at normal retail price. There are loads of good watches out there without paying these huge prices. You could get 3 or 4 nice watches for the price of one of those. A Seamaster which I think is a very desirable watch is almost free by comparison.

  18. just pay the premium if money is no issue, or forget about these hyped up models.
    Btw, can anyone tell me why the blue/black Rolex is called “Batman” ? I don’t see Batman has anything to do with blue colour.

  19. The price one is willing to spend will depend on how much you really want its company and the tale you both will share. Enjoy what suits your own persona and embrace others!

  20. Batman, Hulk…maybe Rolex should rebrand their name as Marvel 🤣

  21. Even the “waiting list” is a scam of sorts. I found out that these lists cater to those repeat customers or customers who are “friends” of the AD, whatever that means. The rest of those on these waiting lists will wait, and wait, and wait, and wait…It feels like a huge scam from top (Rolex) to bottom. How does a company keep their reputation by acting so arrogantly and dismissive towards what was once a loyal customer base?

  22. @Tommy the original Batman (the comic superhero) aesthetic was black and blue – blue cape, boots, gloves, etc. It was only more recently that his outfit was re-imagined all black. Hence the nickname.

  23. I have both the hulk and the batman models. They are lovely but i prefer both my omega planet ocean which has much brighter and longer lasting lume
    My next watch will be blanchpain

  24. I don’t see the problem.

    If I want to buy a steel bicycle frame from a top builder, I put my name down and wait a year or so. Similarly for a 911 GT3 it requires a EUR 1mn spend, employing the dealer principal’s son, 1mn Instagram followers etc. That way, the product has huge additional value. The problem comes though when people who want to start the relationship just can’t get started. This is why Porsche will launch the next Cayman GT4 with less limited numbers than the last generation.

    I think the next moves from Rolex will be interesting. My bet is that they will be thinking that the economy can go bad at any time, and historically this means a larger drop in volumes for discretionary spend items like watches, so they will move slowly. They will increase production volumes and also slowly increase prices so that they pick up the money available on the table rather than leaving it for competitors. They will of course never admit to this, but look out for building work in Plan-les-Ouates!

    That said, they will wish to maintain a halo effect, so that items like the Daytona and Pepsi always have a multi-year “can’t get your name on the list” waiting list in order to gain free media, position the brand ahead of others and segment their market so that people who want new watches buy bicolour or gold.

    So for watches with a 20% grey premium, you’re probably better off spending the money with a grey dealer rather than waiting a year and then paying 15% more. But for watches with a 100% premium I’d recommend finding a nice dealer and joining the queue. Or spending your money on something else.

  25. Ok, I’ve followed Rolex from the late 70s As a kid, loving those earlier ads in newsweek and TIME, the advertising was very purposeful. Very specific from Reinhold Messner using his oysterquartz to yehudi Menuhin. I think, and I’m certain that clever marketing has propelled Rolex to the fore, they’re too clever where marketing is concerned, lets look at Mercedes Gleitz who was given the first truly waterproof watch around her neck. You can all despise Rolex for it’s prowess, its a wristwatch. People expand this watch to invaluable levels, that’s hardly the fault of Rolex? It’s the wealthiest ‘watch only’ company on earth…. Ok, some models less appealing than the eye permits, but remember, it’s just a watch, we as humans have made it what we see it as, there’s a crown for every achievement.

  26. Additionally, I’d like to integrate into the topic that the Rolex explorer could have, should have possibly been one of the more sought-after models, but, this isn’t the case because its unpretentiously tool andi feel something is amiss as regards the style of especially the fixed bezel models which look like a GMT Master but has lost its true explorer DNA from the early 70s, if, and only if Rolex are interested, i have the ultimate design solution for the aesthetics of that particular watch which i cannot reveal to anyone but Rolex.

  27. A lot of people who can afford to buy have decided not to play these games. They have moved-on, spent their money elsewhere and are very happy. The appalling arrogance of some dealers and the company itself has alienated a great many people. On a side note, the only boutique which has ever given me attitude was a Rolex boutique. Oh and Chopard. Once. And I walked to another Chopard Boutique and told them of my experience and they apologised and offered me a discount to make up for it. Every other company has treated me well, right up to Lange and Patek Philippe, in their
    Cannot–Believe-This-Is-Actually-A-Watch-Shop-Palace-On-The-Bund-Shanghai.
    We are very nearly at the point where only idiots buy Rolexes.
    Hell, we’re already there.

  28. So what did you buy from Chopard, Lange and Patek, JAGOTW? Kept that lot under your hat!

  29. Sorry, I tend to get a little confused with which JAGOTW to show an appropriate amount of credulity to. The one who says, “We are very nearly at the point where only idiots buy Rolexes. Hell, we’re already there.” or the one who says, “Educated enthusiasts know that Rolex is not the be-all and end-all of horology. They buy a Rolex because of the timeless quality of the design, often I believe, DESPITE the hype and marketing and price-gouging.” :S

    And when someone looks down their nose at you, ruin their moment. Gently whisper in their ear, ‘fuck off and get me someone who isn’t allergic to doing business.’

  30. People do buy for those reasons and refuse to buy for the reasons currently being discussed.

  31. Cheap available finance, plus increased social media pressure means every Tom Dick and Harry has. steel sports watch. When the next GFC hits the market will be flooded with very cheap steel watches.

  32. Los Rolex son hermosos eternos y caros y sus fabricantes bien lo saben y al igual que patek realizan pocos ejemplares para no perder valor y gente con ganas de tenerlo yo que soy un trabajador de clase media baja pude comprar cuando el tipo de cambio estuvo a mi favor y por supuesto usado con ver crono 24 puede encontrar cosas usadas muy intetesantes

  33. Ese no es el problema. Hay muchos otros relojes de igual o mejor calidad. El encanto es realizado por el departamento de marketing de Rolex, no por la realidad. Hay una cafetería muy buena cerca de mí. Me gusta. Pago un poco más porque el café es bueno. Pero si se quedan sin café, o me dicen que tengo que comprar cinco tazas de té antes de comprar un café, dejaré de comprarlo. Rolex se ha vestido de fantasía. Cuando la fachada se desliza, todo se derrumba

  34. El marketing lo es todo en la sociedad moderna es cual marca te gusta para usar de zapatillas de camisa de reloj lo que sea en mi país hay un cantor con mucho sentido del humor que en los años 70 se burlaba de la gaseosa más famosa y la alababa y contaba los milagros que hizo en el y hasta es una estrofa relataba que había matado a su padre por que le negó la gaseosa popular todo en tono de humor claro esta y cerraba la canción diciendo la generación de su competidora y el mundo de ya sabemos de quien hablamos eso es marketing

  35. Esto suena como si aceptas la mentira y la abrazas como verdad. Esta debe ser la “etapa final” del consumismo: “Sé que es una tontería, todo el mundo sabe que es una tontería. Pero estas mentiras se han convertido en la verdad compartida de la humanidad”.
    Una vez escuché a un Gurú de Marketing hablar así. Se le preguntó sobre una marca particular de artículos de cuero que había decidido representar recientemente y por qué la gente debería comprar sus productos. NADA de lo que dijo acerca de este “marca” tenía nada que ver con los detalles del producto. Estaba perdido en su propio mundo de metalogic, hasta el punto de que la realidad ni siquiera se le había ocurrido.
    Rechazo enfáticamente este punto de vista.

  36. El mundo capitalista es así quien lo puede cambiar?
    Ya lo dijo Dostohiesky la malicia esta cosida con hilo blanco,la elección siempre es personal y no en todas las ocaciones elijo la mejor

  37. Casi ninguno de nosotros puede permitirse elegir el mejor y Rolex ciertamente no es el mejor. ¡Ni siquiera casi! Estoy seguro de que lo sabes. Pero más difícil, tan difícil que la mayoría de la gente ni siquiera hace el esfuerzo, es averiguar cuál es realmente. ¿Quién es el mejor zapatero de la Tierra? Si tuviera el dinero, haría algunas cosas poco ortodoxas para poder tener un reloj Daniels. ¿Para un “producto” producido en masa como un Daytona?
    No.

  38. @Ian Spike Smith… sorry to contradict, but the watch in the article IS the Hulk, as it features a ceramic bezel and a green dial. The Kermit 16610LV has a green aluminium bezel and a black dial.

  39. A Sales rep at an AD a while back mentioned he has a “bunch” in a safety deposit box. Nice.

  40. Rolex bubble price will be soon explode . Because people not like being treated buying a wristwatch like buying a property. Queue with not possibility to get one that is rude way to bake the price.

  41. Ah hello? The reason I buy then is :
    I’ve never lost money on buying one. Daytona paid $10k sold a week ago for $18. Sea Dweller Red paid $12200 sold for $13500. Have a yg President, Deep sea James Cameron, and Sea Dweller.

    So for me they are free to wear and a privilege.

  42. I love all my Rolexes. Proud fanboy for over 30 years! Have NEVER lost a dime on any of them. Some of them have appreciated many times more than what I paid for them. A pleasure to collect and own.

Leave a Reply