It’s no news that the value and price of Rolex watches have increased quite a bit over the last century. In the last couple of years, many Rolex watches have increased substantially to the point where you wonder how it is possible. In general, the value increase of Rolex watches has been across the whole range, but there are models that have increased a lot, and there are also models that haven’t increased in value as much.
With that said, if you’re looking to buy a Rolex watch but don’t want to spend the tens of thousands that the most popular sports watches require you to do, you should instead be looking at models that have stayed under the radar and can be seen as ”sleepers” when it comes to their value and the attention people pay to them.
This is of course a good thing because when everyone is focusing on the Submariner, GMT-Master II, and the Daytona, you can focus on the undervalued and underrated watches and get exceptional value for money, without having to pay an exorbitant premium.
Whilst it is becoming more and more difficult to find Rolex watches that offer just that, undervalued and underrated, as the popularity for Rolex overall is increasing, there are still a few references and models that haven’t gotten the recognition they deserve. And because of this, their prices have remained very reasonable in comparison. And for you, that is obviously a great thing as it means you can get an ”affordable” (relatively speaking) Rolex watch that offers great value for money.
The fact is that there are actually quite a few of these watches, but when everyone is focusing on a specific few, and everyone wants the same thing, they tend to be neglected.
Vintage or semi-vintage
Whenever we hear Rolex and vintage being used in the same sentence, we immediately think about sky-high prices. But this doesn’t always have to be the case. Yes, while it is true when it comes to vintage Daytonas, GMT-Masters, Submariners, etc, there is plenty of vintage and semi-vintage Rolex watches that do not cost tens of thousands but instead offer great value for money. In general, it is difficult to find modern Rolex watches currently in production that are ”undervalued” and ”underrated” because their secondhand price is generally dictated by the retail price and the demand. But for older watches, the retail price doesn’t matter as much. And in addition, it’s difficult for them to go unnoticed when Rolex consistently promotes them, and people become aware of their existence. The same cannot be said about some vintage and semi-vintage Rolex watches, however.
Let’s have a look at some of the most undervalued and underrated Rolex watches that have remained under the radar and therefore, are really great and price-worthy alternatives.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual reference 1002
First up, we have the Rolex Oyster Perpetual reference 1002.
The Oyster Perpetual is Rolex’s most simple and clean model, displaying nothing more but the time. Ever since 2020 when Rolex discontinued the Oyster Perpetual 39mm and introduced the Oyster perpetual 41, the prices have skyrocketed for these models. And this has also caused the earlier references to increase a lot in price as well.
But the Rolex Oyster Perpetual reference 1002 is one that has stayed under the radar and still is very reasonably priced at around 3000-4000 in writing moment.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual 1002 was introduced in the late 1950s and in production until the end of the 1960s. It has a simple, clean, and timeless design that makes it perfect for any occasion. This watch radiates Rolex design language, but without sticking out or being too flashy. The case has a diameter of 34-36mm and was at the time of production available in stainless steel, or with a 14ct or 18ct gold case.
During the course of its production, it used two movements, the caliber 1560 and 1570. Both of these movements are robust, reliable, and extremely durable.
We really love this timepiece because it captures an era for Rolex of simplicity, form, and function, brought into one, making it a perfect everyday watch for any occasion.
Rolex Air-King reference 14000
Next up, we have the Rolex Air-King reference 14000, and this is yet another greatly undervalued and underrated Rolex watch. As the name suggests, it is part of the Air-King collection
In writing moment, it can be bought at a price of around 4000-5000 depending on condition and dial configuration. This is exceptional value for money considering the fact that Rolex has no mens’ watch in its current collection that is priced less than this. In addition, we have the modern Rolex Air-King reference 116900 which costs considerably more than that.
The Air-King 14000 is yet another watch that captures the simplicity of elegance that Rolex emphasized during the time when it was produced, between 1989 and 1999. It has a stainless steel case with a diameter of 34mm, which can be seen as today’s version of 36mm. With that said, some people find this watch too small today, but we would argue that it is a very classic size that you cannot go wrong with. In addition, due to its smaller size, it makes for a perfect everyday watch for both formal and casual occasions. Remember that during the time that this watch was in production, it was considered a sports watch, which you may not see it as today. In other words, it combines the best of both worlds by being tough and robust, but with an elegant appearance, at least by today’s standards.
In terms of dial design, this watch is very clean, elegant, and simple. You might mistake it for a regular Oyster Perpetual, but the distinguishing factor is its ”Air-King” printing on the dial.
Powering this watch is the Rolex caliber 3000, a self-winding movement with a power reserve of 42 hours.
Rolex Air-King reference 5500
Moving on, we have the Rolex Air-King reference 5500, and if there is one watch from Rolex that is underrated and flies under the radar, it is the Air-King. The Air-King reference 5500 was released in 1957. It features a 34mm stainless steel case which was a classic size during this time, and it displays only the time. On the dial, you find the print “PRECISION” or “SUPER PRECISION”, and this is a way to identify which movement it uses. If it has the text “PRECISION”, it uses the Caliber 1520, and if it has the text “SUPER PRECISION”, it uses the Caliber 1530.
What is particularly interesting about the Air-King 5500 is that during its production, Rolex also offered this reference with an Explorer dial for about a decade. With that said, there is also the Explorer 5500 which is identical to the Air-King, but with a different dial.
This is very interesting because since the Explorer is a much more popular model than the Air-King, the Explorer 5500 costs substantially more than the Air-King carrying the same reference, although technically, you get an almost identical watch. With that said, you can get this Air-King for several thousands less. If that is not great value for money, we don’t know what is.
The Rolex Air-King 5500 is the predecessor of the Air-King 14000 we just discussed above, but it shares a lot of similar design features, with a simple, clean, and elegant design that has a perfect balance between pure class, versatility, and elegance.
Rolex Oyster date Precision reference 6694
The Rolex Oyster Date Precision reference 6694 is a simple, clean, and classic watch with a date function. Because the popularity of the Datejust has become so great in recent years, the prices have been climbing. But this is why you can opt for an Oyster Date instead and get exceptional value for money. This watch still features a lot of design elements that you would expect to see in a Datejust, and it is presented with a sleek and classic design.
This reference was introduced in the 1960s and has a stainless steel case with a diameter of 34mm which was classic during this time. It has an acrylic crystal and a cyclops on top of the date window at 3 o’clock which is a distinctive element of almost all Rolex watches with date function.
The watch is powered by the Rolex caliber 1225, and whilst it is not chronometer-certified, it is known for being robust, durable, and reliable. It operates with a frequency of 21600 vph. What stands out about this movement is also that it is manually wound and does not feature a rotor. Some people may like this and others may dislike it, but it brings us back to an era when automatic movements were not standard for Rolex like it is today across the whole collection.
All in all, this is a hugely underrated and undervalued classic from Rolex that offers great value for money. It has all of the iconic and classic design elements, great quality, but is considerably more affordable than virtually any men’s Datejust out there.
Rolex Yacht-Master reference 16622
Here we have the first Rolex sports watch in our list, and the reason we only have one professional watch on this list is the fact that ALL Rolex sports watches have increased rather dramatically in price over the last decade or so.
But we would still consider the Yacht-Master 16622 as a great value in comparison to the latest Yacht-Master reference 126622. The 16622 is the first iteration of the Yacht-Master, and because there have been several other iterations since this one was launched, it has become slightly forgotten in recent times. This has helped to keep the prices relatively reasonable.
The Rolex Yacht-Master 16622 was released in 1999 and is the first watch in the new Yacht-Master collection. Because of this, it can be seen as a sporty timepiece with a modern design. And as a matter of fact, visually, it looks very similar to the current Yacht-Master, but just at a much lower price. It features a bidirectional rotating bezel made from platinum and is powered by the legendary Rolex caliber 3135 which is known for being a robust and reliable workhorse movement.
With its case size of 40mm, it has the same size as many modern professional Rolex watches, but as mentioned, at a more affordable price.
Rolex Oyster perpetual Date reference 6534
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date reference 6534 is a rare but still affordable and underrated Rolex watch with a classic size of 34mm.
This is a timepiece that reminds a lot about the Datejust, but since it isn’t one, the prices haven’t skyrocketed as much as for the rest of the Datejust collection.
It was originally presented in 1956/1957 and captures all of the classic design traits of a Rolex watch that we have come to love and appreciate. This reference is also the first Oyster Perpetual Date model.
This watch is available with a number of dial variations, but you’ll find most of them with a light, white or silver dial with triangular indices and alpha-style center hands. At 3 o’clock, it has a date window, and since the Datejust was released prior, in 1945, it also has a Cyclops magnification on top of the acrylic crystal.
All in all, this is a Vintage Rolex watch that has everything that Rolex watches from this era are known for.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date reference 1500
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date reference 1500 was launched in 1962 and is a simple watch that can be seen as entry-level. It has a stainless steel case with a diameter of 34mm, a smooth bezel, and a simple dial. What it also has, however, is a date window at 3 o’clock.
This watch is not only classic but extremely timeless. And its beautiful simplicity makes it suitable for virtually any occasion, both formal and casual. In addition, it is also very affordable in comparison to many other Rolex watches with date functions.
Inside this watch is the robust and reliable caliber 1570 which has been used in a lot of different watches from Rolex, including the Explorer 1016. The movement operates with a frequency of 19,800 BPH and has a free-sprung, self-compensating Breguet hairspring.
If you’re looking for a classic, simple, everyday watch that doesn’t stand out from the ordinary but still offers the classic design language and vintage lines of Rolex watches, the reference 15000 is definitely a great choice.
Rolex Datejust reference 16200
Last but not least, we have the Rolex Datejust reference 16200. Now, this is a Datejust, and therefore, it has increased a bit in price over the last couple of years due to the increased popularity of the Datejust line as a whole. But it is still one of the most affordable Datejust alternatives on the market. And it is still considered underprices and great value if we compare it to the prices of many other Datejust watches from Rolex.
The Datejust 16200 was released as the first version of what is today the reference 126200, and there have of course been several versions in between.
The reference 16200 indicates that this watch has a smooth bezel, and because it has a smooth bezel instead of a fluted (which has become an iconic design trait of Datejusts), it is a more affordable option.
This watch has a more up-to-date case size of 36mm instead of 34mm which many of the watches we have looked at in this article have had. This model was produced between 1989 and the early 2000s. This model combines elegance, class, and simplicity in its most beautiful form. And what’s so special is that because Rolex is all about evolution, not revolution, this model is in many ways very similar to the current Datejust 36, which obviously costs considerably more. This is the type of Rolex watch that you cannot go wrong with on any occasion. It is classy enough to wear on formal occasions but sporty enough for everyday wear.
It is powered by the legendary workhorse Rolex caliber 3135 which has proven to be able to continue to tick for decades.