Want to wear a Rolex without spending your life savings? Here are the cheapest Rolex watches you can buy (and where to buy them).
Rolex makes some amazing timepieces, but it’s the company’s dedicated customers that have kept their watches on top of demand and price lists everywhere.
That can make tracking down one of Rolex’s most popular watches both difficult and very expensive if you don’t know where to look. Grey market sellers know this, and will often mark up the prices of the watches they sell to 30-40 percent above retail.
All of that adds up to a frustrating buying experience that has driven many would-be Rolex owners to other brands like Omega and Breitling, but you don’t have to give up your hopes of owning one just yet. Let’s take a look at the best ways to find the cheapest Rolex watches.
Least Expensive Rolex Watch for Men
Depending on your definition of “cheap”, a new Rolex may or may not be in reach.
The least expensive model is the Oyster Perpetual, which was updated a few years ago to include a new 39mm size.
The 39mm Oyster Perpetual retails at $5,700, and took over the bottom of the Rolex lineup from the Air King, which moved up the ladder one step with a retail price of $6,450. It’s uphill from there in the Rolex catalog, so let’s talk used.
On the used market, the cheapest Rolexes are almost always going to be models like the Datejust, the Oyster Perpetual and the Air-King prior to its recent update and price bump.
These are vintage models, usually from the late 1960s on, and sometimes come separated from their original bracelets.
The good news is that they look great on a leather strap, but the bad news is that tracking down a replacement bracelet won’t be cheap.
Again, it’s uphill from there, with heavily used Explorer IIs, Submariner no-dates and Explorer Is usually carrying the lowest premiums.
Cheapest Places to Buy Rolex Watches
There are two approaches to tackling this issue. In the first, you’re searching for a Rolex to fit your budget, and nearly any Rolex will work, as long as there’s a five-point crown on the dial.
While this is far from the best way to pick a timepiece, the upside is that nearly every marketplace is awash with affordable Datejusts, Oyster Perpetuals and Air Kings, enough so that there is a likable watch for nearly every buyer.
On the other side of the Rolex shopping coin, you’ve picked out your favorite model and you’re searching for the best possible price for that specific reference.
This is a far more sensible way to shop, because you’re more likely to get the exact watch that you want.
Unfortunately, this is also a far more difficult way to go, because as we noted before, most Rolex models are scarce and expensive.
In both of those scenarios, where you shop matters, though it likely won’t change much if you are shopping for a specific model or just a Rolex in general.
Online retailers and private seller marketplaces are a great place to start, but you’ll have to be sure you’re getting an authentic watch with a traceable back story.
Jewelry shops and other stores like pawn shops may be an option, but they’re usually more expensive than private sellers.
The last option is to buy new directly from an authorized dealer, but they’re tied up in waiting lists and the politics of selling in-demand watches. Let’s take a look at the best places to buy a cheap Rolex.
There are some great places to buy watches online…
Chrono24 is a giant marketplace for sellers of all kinds of watches, and you’ll find both dealers and private sellers with listings on the site.
Rolex, being one of the most popular brands on the market, has a heavy presence on the site and there are several of nearly every model to choose from.
Dealers on Chrono24 can also become verified, which is a process through which the site reviews the dealer’s trade licenses, checks references and monitors customer feedback.
While you’ll probably pay more for a watch from one of the site’s dealers, the extra verification means you can rest much easier when forking over thousands of dollars for a used Rolex.
One big downside to using the site is that you’ll have to negotiate using PayPal if that’s your preferred method of payment, but one positive is that the site offers its own payment processing and can offer escrow for extra security.
Reddit Watch Exchange
Shopping watches on r/watchexchange can be a mixed bag, but there are frequently very high-end watches that waltz across the site.
There are almost always several Datejust and Oyster Perpetual models for sale, and the community does a good job of expressing their distaste for horrendous markups.
Reddit does not verify or protect its users when it comes to sales listings on their site, but there are places to leave and review feedback.
If you choose the Reddit path, just make sure that you’re comfortable with what you’re buying, and as always buy the seller instead of the watch.
WatchUSeek/Rolex Forums/Omega Forums
Though WatchUSeek, Rolex Forums and Omega Forums are different sites, they function in very similar ways. Users can sign up as sellers, and in some cases are required to pay a registration fee or “donation”.
They then list their watches for sale on forum pages that can be searched.
Just like Reddit, the sites don’t police their users in the traditional sense, and instead rely on other users’ experiences and feedback to make judgments on sellers’ continued ability to list watches.
Also like Reddit, users are fairly keen to pick out absurd prices, fakes and scammers, but you’ll still need to do your homework.
If it exists in the world, it’s probably for sale on eBay.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of great Rolex watches listed for sale on the auction site, but not all are a great deal and not all are what they’re said to be. eBay is an international site, so you will see listings from every corner of the globe.
That means the selection of watches is wide and varied, but it also means you’ll need to be extra careful about who and where gets your money.
Buying online can be nice, but nothing beats seeing, holding and purchasing a watch in person.
Jeweler or Authorized Dealer
A big upside to shopping at an authorized dealer, also called an AD, is that you’re guaranteed to get an authentic watch.
The problem with shopping an AD is that you’ll likely have to wait a while.
Brand new Rolex watches, especially steel sports models like the Submariner, GMT-Master II and Explorer can be purchased from an AD at retail price, with a warranty.
However, dealers only get so many watches every year and sometimes hold their best pieces for repeat customers or people who have spent significant sums with them over the years.
You can sometimes find a great deal at a pawn shop, but there’s usually no indication of how well a watch has been taken care of and you may pay a markup that makes the watch more expensive than it’s really worth.
Some pawn shops also monitor grey market prices and try to follow that trend, which means the price you see is more than inflated.
Rolex makes an amazing timepiece, but you’ll have to be careful with where and how you shop to get the cheapest price.
Take care to understand who you’re buying from and make sure that you’re paying a price that is in line with the rest of the market.
Many Rolex models don’t really depreciate all that much, so you can enjoy your new watch for a while without worrying about losing money if you get tired of it.