It’s been over a year since I said my final goodbyes to the idea of buying a new Rolex. Firstly, the issue of not being able to buy one at an authorized dealer remains. Secondly, paying over the list price for a new Rolex just seems like a weird thing to do. Combining the two, it was an easy choice with prices going through the roof on the parallel market. But I didn’t say goodbye to the idea of owning a Rolex altogether. There are still a select number of Rolex models that I have set my sights on. With prices now coming down, I had a check on which ones to chase in the near future.

When I said goodbye to the idea of buying a new Rolex, I mentioned the vintage alternatives that I would pick over them. But some of those picks are now selling for prices that I would never even consider. There are limits to the budget I am willing to spend on a Rolex, and more specifically, a stainless steel model. Honestly, around €10,000 is where I draw the line. That’s already a lot of money, to begin with, especially considering the options you can get within that budget.

Rolex Datejust 16030 Watch 2

Never saying goodbye to Rolex

But, as I said, I never said goodbye to the thought of owning a Rolex altogether. There are some models that I would love to own and wear. The reasons for them are both personal and universal to all watch fans. To start with the latter, I wrote another article last year with five reasons why you need a Rolex and five reasons why you don’t. “Needing” one is obviously a little bit of an exaggeration. I certainly don’t need one and neither do you. But looking back at the reasons why you would “need” one, I wholeheartedly agree with reasons 1 through 4 if you already have set your sights on a new watch. So let’s jump in and find out what five Rolex models I would consider buying in the current market. And who knows? Prices might come down even further.

Rolex Sea-Dweller ref. 16600

If you asked me what one Rolex watch I would choose to own, the Sea-Dweller ref. 16600 would be my answer. It has the power to be my one and only Rolex for the rest of my life. I would even go so far as to proclaim this Sea-Dweller the one watch I would be perfectly happy with for the rest of my life. In a universe of Speedmasters here at Fratello, this might raise an eyebrow or two. But it’s a statement that I am not scared to make. The reason can be traced back to the first time I put a 16600 on my wrist some two decades ago.

I had experienced wearing several Rolex watches before getting the chance to wear the Sea-Dweller. But the moment I put it on my wrist and closed the clasp, I felt something that I hadn’t felt with the other models before. It was the first time that I experienced the feeling that a watch was made for my wrist. At 40 × 15mm with a thicker case than the Submariner, it is a perfect fit for my wrist. The way that Rolex has designed and engineered the case and the bracelet makes it extremely easy to wear. This was my first taste of Rolex dive-watch magic, and until this day, it remains the best. The combination of the dial — without the Cyclops — and bezel have become the standard for what a dive watch should look like. Add the bulletproof, chronometer-certified caliber 3135, and I’m good to go.

Prices for the 16600 have gone up

Currently, prices start around the €10K mark for a 16600 with a box and papers. If I let go of the wish to have it with a box and papers, it shaves around €1,000 off of the price. I would definitely chase one with a box and papers, but with prices probably ending up between €10K-12K, they are at the limit of what I’d be willing to pay. The prices have come down slightly over the last couple of months. That said, as Mike explained last year, the Sea-Dweller 16600 and the Submariner 14600 have become increasingly more expensive. For a long time, they were the last approachable divers from Rolex.

Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600

Who knows what will happen with the prices over the next couple of months? It will definitely be interesting to see. As Thomas explained in his recent article about Rolex prices, the prices for most five-digit models have come down but only slightly. It certainly has to do with the fact that these models were among the later ones to go up in price. But both this generation of the Submariner and Sea-Dweller are great watches that are modern enough to be your daily wearer with that slight touch of vintage appeal. This is why I would search for a 16600 with tritium lume. It just adds that tiny bit of character to make it stand out. And stand out enough to stay with me for the rest of my life.

Rolex Milgauss ref. 116400GV

The next one on the list is the Rolex Milgauss ref. 116400GV. The funny thing is that it still is in the collection at this time. It has been since it was introduced in 2007. A lot of people thought we would get an update this year at Watches And Wonders, but the people at Rolex decided differently. If we finally get an update on the Milgauss, it will be interesting to see whether it can top this current version. Surely, Rolex will update the case and most likely use the case that was introduced for the current Air-King. But we’re not quite there yet. And honestly, I don’t mind that at all because I have an idea that prices might go up for the current model.

Image courtesy of The Watch Club

The attraction of the Rolex Milgauss for many is its quirkiness, but it’s just quirky by Rolex’s standards. The Milgauss is still a very serious watch that is injected with some quirkiness in the form of the remarkable color combination and the orange lightning-bolt seconds hand. As I explained in the Buying Guide article about the best Rolex models of the 2000s, I still vividly remember seeing the Milgauss for the first time in the local Rolex AD display. While my attention was drawn to the Submariner, Sea-Dweller, and GMT-Master II, Robert-Jan called me over to look at the newly introduced Milgauss ref. 116400GV. It was also known as the “Anniversary” model with its spectacular presence.

Image courtesy of The Watch Club

Quirky but not weird

While it definitely looked “unique” at first glance compared to the other Rolex models I was checking out, it grew on me quickly. The contrast of the orange elements against the black dial is stunning and makes it a spectacular sight. Add the green sapphire crystal, and it is an absolute winner. With a 40mm case that’s a little over 13mm thick, the watch has the perfect specs. Inside the case, just like its predecessors, Rolex equipped the watch with a Faraday cage to protect it from magnetic forces. Inside the inner case, Rolex used the automatic caliber 3131. But it’s the playful design that makes it exactly the right watch for me. It stands out, has become iconic, and is a clear and colorful statement piece. On top of that, having come from a family of engineers with me wandering off into design, you will understand my love for the watch.

The circle of watch life

When it comes to prices, the Milgauss 116400GV was another one of those sleepers. Prices for the watch, however, have shot up tremendously over the last 12 months specifically. In that light, the price development is somewhat similar to the Sea-Dweller that I just discussed. Prices for a black-dial Milgauss with the green sapphire crystal start around €9K and move up to roughly €14K for a new one. I would not chase a new one but would opt for one of the early pieces from 2007-2010. It reminds me of a great time in my life, and that’s why it is second on this list of my top three Rolex picks.

Image courtesy of Bulang & Sons

Rolex Datejust ref. 16014

The last watch on this list is a Rolex Datejust. It had to be a Datejust. It was the first Rolex watch I ever put on my wrist, and from the moment I did, I knew I would have to get one someday. And I should have years ago when they were still cheap compared to today’s prices. But I guess that every watch enthusiast who has been into watches for more than a decade has regrets like that. I essentially have only one deep regret — not buying that Omega Speedmaster “Moonwatch” ref. 145.022-76 from 1977, the year of my birth. But that’s for another time… Back to the Datejust!

Image courtesy of Bulang & Sons

The first question that pops up with a Datejust is, “How would you like it?” For me, it’s very clear — a stainless steel case, a fluted white gold bezel, and a Jubilee bracelet. A very good pick would be a Datejust ref. 16234 that comes with a sapphire crystal and the caliber 3135. It was first introduced in the late 1980s, but it’s still a very good daily wearer because of its specs. But after talking to Thomas, Fratello’s resident Datejust connoisseur, and being reminded of how incredibly cool Mike’s Datejust ref. 16030 is, it’s the vintage charm I would go for. When I saw Mike’s Datejust on his wrist last year when we had dinner at a local hotspot with Gerard, Timo, and Robert-Jan, I was really impressed with its charm and presence.

Vintage charm with a modern movement

Vintage charm with a modern movement

The Datejust 160xx series combines the best of modern-day practicality with vintage characteristics. The watch comes equipped with the automatic caliber 3035 that features the quickset date. The drilled lugs and acrylic crystal, however, give it a vintage charm. As you can see, Mike’s ref. 16030 has an engine-turned bezel. While definitely a cool feature if in good condition, I do prefer the more refined white gold fluted bezel of the ref. 16014. When it comes to dial colors, that would be the biggest question mark. While I usually go for black instantly, I will keep my options open when it comes to the Datejust, and I will keep the year of production open as well.

Vintage charm with a modern movement

The 16014 was introduced in 1977 — the year of my birth is a thing — and stayed in production until 1988 when the Datejust 16234 was introduced as its replacement. So when it comes to the dial color and production year, I’m flexible. For me, it’s more about finding the right one in the right condition, and that could take a while. Prices for the Datejust 16030 go from a little over €4,000 up to €7,000 depending on condition and delivery with box and papers. Prices have come down for this Datejust only marginally, so I don’t expect to see big price drops anytime soon. But out of the three, this Datejust is definitely the most affordable option by a mile and a great addition to any collection. I want one. No, I need one! That’s a joke of course, but it would be nice to own one.

Final thoughts on my three Rolex favorites

Will the Datejust be my first Rolex added to my collection? The answer to that is “not likely.” The Sea-Dweller 16600 has a special place in my heart. Why I haven’t chased one earlier is one of life’s unanswered questions. Every time I put one on my wrist, I am reminded of watchmaking greatness. The design, the execution, and the overall quality make the Sea-Dweller my favorite Rolex. I’d love to see whether prices will come down further, but I can’t wait around for that. It is time to start making that watch the next goal. It has been a long time coming — too long, in fact — and that is why it needs to happen. Saying it out loud makes this a nice goal to strive for in the near future.

With prices today, what are your top three Rolex models that you could still justify? I’m interested to read your picks in the comments!