List vs. Ask: Comparing Steel Rolex Prices at Retail to Prices on the Secondary Market
It is no secret that many watches within Rolex’s steel range can be difficult to come by at retail prices. With wait lists stretching for weeks to months to even years, depending on the dealer and the model reference, many collectors are now turning to watch resellers and the grey market to cut their wait time significantly.
Naturally, working through these channels in search of in-demand timepieces comes both at premium and with increased risk. Price hikes of 20, 30, 50, even 100 percent are common for many models, and the presence of, shall we say, less-than-authentic watches continues to sow distrust within the online market especially.
Buying a watch online is hard enough, so we wrote a guide earlier this year to help you navigate that terrain. Today we will be comparing the lowest list price of in-production steel Rolexes to their current lowest asking prices on Chrono24 — a popular watch reselling platform — and WatchBox, a reputable, resell-focused dealer — to give you a sense of the common going prices of popular models. We organized the list in order from the lowest to the highest percentage change in price from retail to resell.
Rolex Datejust (-4.2% to +19.88% and Above)
Kicking off our list is the widely beloved Rolex Datejust. Datejusts these days encompass a large swath of reference numbers, styles, colors, and sizes, so we focused on four: the Datejust 36 with a domed bezel (Ref. 126200), the 36 with a fluted bezel (Ref. 126234), the 41 with a domed bezel (Ref. 126300), and the 41 with a fluted bezel (Ref. 126334).
The Datejust 36 with domed bezel was the closest-to-retail steel Rolex we could find, with the lowest asking price standing at $6,754 on Chrono24, down 4.2% from the retail price of $7,050; WatchBox at the time of writing was sold out of this reference.
Rolex Air-King (+13.34% and Up)
The second model we looked at was the Rolex Air-King Ref. 116900. The modern Air-King is usually a love-it-or-don’t model within the Rolex catalog, but at the end of the day it is still a production member of the most in-demand luxury brand in the world, and its price mark-ups reflect that.
Rolex Explorer (+13.74% and Above)
Like the Milgauss and Air-King, the Rolex Explorer is a time-only classic presented by the Rolex brand. The modern production reference is 214270, and it is currently listed by Rolex at $6,550.
Despite the entry-level pricing (at least in terms of a Rolex), the Explorer’s historical link to mountain scaling and adventure draws it a slightly higher premium in terms of percentage gained, at least in comparison to the Air-King. Currently, Chrono24 lists the watch at $7,495 — a gain of 14.43% — and WatchBox lists it at $7,450, a gain of 13.74%.
Rolex Milgauss (+13.86% and Up)
Next up on our list is the cult-classic Rolex Milgauss Ref. 116400GV. The Milgauss has often been considered a sleeper hit, offering fans of the brand a slightly more affordable option within the brand’s lineup, though one still possessing plenty of intrigue.
Rolex Sea-Dweller (+19.6% and Above)
The red-lined Sea-Dweller was one of the most talked-about Rolex models following its introduction in 2017. The reasons for that were many: solid specs, a vintage elements recalling the red-lined divers of the past, and classic looks all provided the essential credentials for the now widely praised model.
The current production model of the Sea-Dweller, Reference 126600, is listed by Rolex at $11,700. However, if you don’t want to sit on a wait list for one, you can find an example through Chrono24 for $13,993 and another via WatchBox for $14,450, price increases of 19.6% and 23.5%, respectively.
Rolex Explorer II (+19.75% and Above)
The GMT-equipped Rolex Explorer II Ref. 216570 tends to drive an even higher percentage premium than the original Explorer. This is an interesting development, especially considering the Explorer II has long been positioned as one of the most accessible steel models within the Rolex range.
While currently priced at $8,350 by Rolex, the dual-time-zone, adventure-focused watch is frequently found at 20% premiums and above, with a model found via Chrono24 for $9,999 (+19.75%) and another via WatchBox for $10,450 (+25.15%)
Rolex Oyster Perpetual (+20.18% and Up)
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual was one of the most-discussed watch releases in 2020, with the brand unveiling an array of new colors and sizes for its entry-level collection. Entry-level or not, the new models are commanding quite a high premium, with the 36-mm Ref. 126000 and 41-mm Ref. 124300 leading that growth in value.
Currently, Rolex lists the 36-mm Oyster Perpetual at $5,600, though it can be found immediately via Chrono24 for $6,730 (+20.18%). Likely as a result of its limited availability, the model is currently unavailable on WatchBox.
The 41-mm Oyster Perpetual is marked by the brand at $5,900, though is available immediately via Chrono24 for $7,513 (+27.34%). Similar to the 36-mm version, the 41-mm option is also unavailable at this time via WatchBox.
Rolex Submariner (+57.37% to +134.9% and Above)
So far, the models we covered have found themselves around 20% and below in terms of premium increases from their market price, but here is where the prices begin to really rise. Starting with the Rolex Submariner, we begin to see massive premiums on modern Rolex watches. This is particularly interesting since the latest steel Submariner references, the non-date Ref. 124060 and date-equipped Ref. 126610LN, were both unveiled only this year, alongside the aforementioned 2020 Oyster Perpetuals.
As of this writing, the Rolex Submariner Ref. 124060 (non-date) carries a price of $8,100, though it can only be acquired immediately in the secondary market. The lowest priced available model from Chrono24 is marked at $12,995 (+60.43%) and the one on WatchBox, for $12,950 (+59.88%).
As for the Date models, the black-dial edition is listed by Rolex at $9,150 and by Chrono24 at $14,399 (+57.37%), with no availability currently via WatchBox. And the incredibly popular green-bezel Date version, while listed by Rolex at $9,550, can be found for a stunning $18,950 via WatchBox (+98.43%) and via Chrono24 with an even more astonishing increase of +134.9% at $22,433.
Rolex GMT Master-II (+64.89% to +91.59% and Up)
The 2018-released “Pepsi” Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126710BLRO and 2019-released black and blue “Batman” ref. 126710BLNR tend to drive even higher percentage premiums in the secondary market than the Submariners. Some chalk this up to the iconic design of the watches, the practicality of the models for a growing segment of luxury travelers, or the prestige that collectors often associate with the references — though it is almost certain the rise in value can be attributed to all three as well as other reasons.
Currently, Rolex prices the GMT Master-II “Batman” at $9,700, though it can be found via Chrono24 for $15,994 (+64.89%) and via WatchBox for $18,150 (+87.11%). The red-and-blue “Pepsi” version of the model lists for the same $9,700, though it retails in the secondary market at a considerable premium, with Chrono24’s lowest priced model costing $18,584 (+91.59%, almost double Rolex’s list ptice!); WatchBox is currently sold out of this reference.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona (+101.1% and Above)
The final model on our list is none other than the iconic Cosmograph Daytona, one of the most in-demand Rolex watches since its contemporary debut in 2016 with the Reference 116500LN. Recalling the famed vintage variation “Paul Newman” Daytonas which so often drive massive premiums at auction, the modern-production Daytona has swiftly become a contemporary classic in the four years since its initial release.
The 116500LN reference encompasses both the black-dial and white-dial variations of the watch. Both are popular in their own right and neither commands a more significant premium over the other. Currently, Rolex prices the reference at $13,150, though demand for these models is high. The lowest priced model we could find for immediate purchase was via Chrono24, marked at $26,445, a percentage increase of 101.1%, and no model currently for sale via WatchBox.