I won’t say ‘why you shouldn’t collect vintage Rolex watches’, because this post just reflects my opinion on collecting vintage Rolex watches. I am a huge fan of Rolex watches and have my share of them. My collection also includes a vintage ref.1600 Rolex Date-Just dating 1969 featuring a beautiful pie-pan’ish dial. A few years a go (+/- 2003), if you had 2500 Euro to spend, you could either choose a slightly used GMT-Master (II) or a vintage ref.1675 GMT-Master in good condition. Including the original box, if you were lucky. In the same period, you could have your vintage Submariner for a few hundreds extra.
ref.1665 Rolex Sea-Dweller. Picture by OysterInfo.de.
Since then, Rolex forums, portals and fan sites have been popping up like mushrooms, and boosted the vintage Rolex market. Even vintage Rolex watches in bad (or even worse) condition do not stay with the seller for a long time. Prices went up like crazy. A vintage ref.1675 in a so-so condition would easily fetch 4000 Euro. A vintage red printed Submariner? 8000 Euro. A ref.1665 Sea-Dweller from the late 1970s? 15.000 Euro! And I left out the double red printing on the last one, add another 10.000 Euro for the Sea-Dwellers with the red lettering.
That’s how the market works I guess. And if you like vintage Rolex watches and have the money for it, buy now and don’t wait another 5 years. New Rolex watches also see their annual price increases, but not with the percentages of vintage ones.
Undoubted, a modern Rolex watch is better than a vintage Rolex watch, in terms of quality of used materials and because of the movement. As for beauty, it’s a different issue. As I wrote before, I like the vintage Rolex watches, but the hype made the fun go away. A number of people seem to buy them to be able to show off to other vintage collectors, not for their own pleasure. It also occurred to me that most of the current vintage buyers are mostly focused on the optical aspects of a Rolex and do not care for its condition of the mechanical movement. That’s like buying an old-timer with a perfect paint job without popping the hood.
Vintage Rolex watches in a good condition are expensive due to the demand, but asking (or paying!) crazy prices for watches in such a condition that the buyer should be lucky that it runs at all, is insane.
I would be only interested in buying a vintage Rolex watch when it was in superb condition. Optical as well as technical, otherwise it is just an old watch to me. However, instead of paying 15.000 Euro for a vintage ref. 1665 Rolex Sea-Dweller, it also brings me – for example – an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo ref.15200ST that is a few years old AND a brand new Rolex Sea-Dweller. Or, the summum of watch making, a Patek Philippe. In other words, if I would be in the market to spend 15.000 Euro on a wrist watch, it surely wouldn’t be a vintage Rolex.