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Which are the most coveted Rolex watches?

Rolex is known the world over for luxury timepieces that define the highest standard of Swiss watchmaking. The history of Rolex dates back to 1905, and its timepieces are not only desirable amongst the elite class, but they have made their mark in aiding the military, NASA, and professional sporting industries.

Which are the most coveted Rolex watches?

A Rolex watch will steadily increase in value and desirability overtime because of their prestigious status and worldwide popularity. This has led to timepieces that have become considered Holy Grail’s in the timepiece world, such as Paul Newman’s Daytona and the Bao Dai Rolex. Watches such as these are no longer available to buy from Rolex and so many will take to sourcing pre-owned Rolexes for a better chance of finding a coveted model, as a luxury timepiece holds more value when it is rare or exclusive in one way or another. 

Therefore, the advantages of buying a pre-owned Rolex often outweigh the benefits of buying a newly released one, since the pre-owned model is likely to possess features that are no longer available in newer models available from retailers or concessionaires. 

To understand what makes certain Rolex models so rare, we have put together a list of some of the most converted Rolex watches in the world. Read on to discover exactly what made these watches coveted and why they hold such significant status.

Paul Newman Daytona ref. 6239

The Paul Newman Daytona is amongst the most coveted Rolexes in this line-up. The infamous cosmograph gained its nickname after the film actor was repeatedly photographed wearing a 1968 Daytona with a distinctive dial. He even went on to wear it when racing in the 24 Hours of le Mans and Daytona races, gaining it notoriety amongst racers and watch aficionados alike. 

The unique dial of Newman’s Daytona, ref. 6239, was introduced in 1963 and was labelled as the ‘excotic dial.’ Its uniqueness meant it was not to everyone's taste, however, Newman certainly took a liking to it. Therefore, versions of it were sold far and few, making it so scarce and collectable today. The original Paul Newman Daytona fetched $17.8 at auction, making it one of the most popular and coveted Rolexes in history.

Pepsi GMT-Master II

Unveiled in 1954, the Pepsi GMT-Master II got its infamous moniker by the public because of its bright red and blue bezel that resembles the iconic logo of Pepsi. It has famously donned the wrists of Daniel Craig (despite being an ambassador for Omega watches), Pablo Picasso and also Che Guevara, who was reportedly wearing the timepiece when he was captured and executed in Bolivia in 1967. 

The timepiece has been adored by Rolex fans and watch lovers in general. Its five-piece links bracelet design is considered a classic, and is one of the most sought-after vintage Rolex watches. In 2007, Rolex released the ref. 116719 BLRO, in 18ct white gold, and a durable Cerachrom ceramic bezel. It is the most expensive Pepsi model to date and is equipped with a 3186 calibre and a triple lock crown. It can also withstand great temperature variations and high magnetic fields, making it a luxury sports watch that stands out from the crowd. 

Rolex Submariner 16610LV “The Hulk”

The Rolex Submariner was designed in 1953 with the intention of being the ultimate diver’s watch. In 2003, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the legendary Submariner line, Rolex released the ref. 16610VL to mark the occasion. The timepiece featured a bright green aluminum bezel insert which was a first for the brand who had a history of traditional monochrome stainless steel dive watches.

The green was a display of the company’s official colour, however, it got its “Hulk” nickname as a reference to the iconic green superhero, now making it Rolex’s green beast timepiece. It is truly one of a kind in its design, and is the only Submariner with both a green dial and bezel, and to ever feature a dial in Rolex’s signature company colour. Its discontinuation has propelled its status and marks it a Holy Grail timepiece for Rolex. 

The key features of the Hulk include a stainless steel case, time with seconds and date display, a unidirectional bezel with green Cerachrom insert, green dial with luminous markers, sapphire crystal with cyclops lens, a 3135 calibre movement, oyster bracelet with Glidelock clasp and water resistance to 300m. 

Rolex GMT-Master II "Batman"

Designed to simultaneously show the time in two different time zones, the cosmopolitan GMT-Master, launched in 1955, was originally developed as a navigation instrument for professionals crisscrossing the globe. The Batman is one of the most popular Rolex watches as well as being one of the most unobtainable. Its iconic blue and black tone associated it with everyone's favourite caped crusader, dubbing it the Batman. The timepiece marked a first for Rolex in putting both blue and black together and was something completely new to the brand. Instantly, it became a classic and has not been seen in authorised dealer cases for years. 

Heir to the original model, the GMT-Master II was unveiled in 1982, with a new movement ensuring ease of use. Its combination of peerless functionality, robustness and instantly recognisable aesthetics has attracted a wider audience of world travellers. To own one of these watches, you’ll find yourself on a 1-2 year waitlist, and that’s if you have a good relationship with an authorised Rolex dealer.

The Bao Dai Rolex

The Bao Dai Rolex is well-known. The story goes that while attending a convention in Geneva in 1954, the final emperor of Vietnam, better known as Bao Dai, headed into a local Rolex boutique and requested to be shown the rarest Rolex ever made. The watch shown to him was a ref.6062 in yellow gold, with a black dial and diamond indices, a triple calendar display and a moon phase complication. There are known to be two other 6062s with diamond dials in circulation, and the unique five-diamond layout of the Bao Dai makes it completely one of a kind. 

The family first sold the watch in 2002 when it fetched a record breaking $235,000, the most paid for a Rolex at the time. It then went to auction again in Geneva in 2017 for $5.1m. However, Paul Newman’s Daytona beat the record half a year later. Still, the Bao Dai is revered for its rarity and is considered a Holy Grail. 

Cosmograph Platinum Zenith Daytona ref. 16516

The most expensive Rolex and the most identifiable is the Zenith Daytona. The ref. 16516 in particular features a striking dark blue lapis lazuli hardstone dial and is known to be incredibly rare if not one of a kind. A coveted platinum casing adds to the watches appeal, and was certainly alluring when it was bought to market in Hong Kong in 2020. It fetched an impressive $3.2m which instantly catapulted it to the Rolex hall of fame. 

The Zenith marked a change in the timepiece world. It was significantly bigger than the first generation of Daytonas, with a 40mm case compared to the original 36mm. However, it wasn’t only size that made the Zenith popular. The timepiece included the signature Rolex crown guard and contrast colour rings around the sub-dials. It was a watch that was flashier and more distinct than other sport watches on the market at the time, and became a must-have watch for anyone who was anyone in sports and Hollywood. 

While these are some of the most famous Rolex watches to have ever been released, and finding such timepieces, whether new or second hand is rare, they show just how valuable a pre-owned piece from the brand can be. 

With decades of experience in the jewellery and watch industry, our experts at Browns Family Jewellers have carefully hand-selected a vast range of pre-loved Rolexes. Rest assured that each model in our collection is guaranteed to be in good condition, fully serviced and with two years’ warranty.

If you have any questions or queries, or would like some advice in purchasing a pre-owned Rolex, do not hesitate to get in touch for more information or advice.