Best Rolex Watches for Under $5,000

4:14 PM

If you have $5,000 to spend on a watch and you really want a Rolex, you will not be able to purchase most of their 2016 models new, but you still have options. In my post about the cheapest 2016 Rolex model on the market, I recommend taking a look at Rolex's sister company, Tudor, for brand new models under $5,000. However, if you have your heart set on a Rolex and are okay with purchasing one pre-owned on the gray market, there are a few models that you can find to fit your budget. 

Rolex Submariner Date
When people talk about the gray market, they refer to the market for watches that are not sold by the original manufacturer, but are acquired and sold legally through other entities. In other words, you are buying a Rolex, just not directly from Rolex. There are many online shops that offer pre-owned watches from reputable sellers. The Rolex Forum has a Classifieds section where people can sell and trade their timepieces. Other sites like WatchRecon aggregate listings from various sellers to give you an idea of what's available online. There are also shops like Bob's Watches, Chrono 24 and Hodinkee that sell pre-owned timepieces.

In terms of which Rolex models you can find pre-owned for under $5,000, you have a few options as well. The most commonly posted models within this price range are Oyster Perpetual and Datejust models with cases usually under 36mm in diameter. I've seen midsize Air-King and Explorer I models priced in that range as well, but they are a little more scarce than the OP and DJ models. The 42mm Explorer II model is the largest stainless steel pre-owned Rolex that you can find in this range, though the ones in better condition usually go for more. The stainless steel Submariner and Sub Date can also be found for just under $5,000, though the majority are priced closer to $6,000. Every once in a while you can find a Milgauss and GMT-Master II in this price range, but they are more scarce than any of the models mentioned above.

There are some risks involved with purchasing a luxury watch on the gray market. I have run into forum threads that accuse sellers of posting the photo of one watch and sending the customer another. There is also due diligence required to make sure that the timepiece you are purchasing is authentic and has all of its original parts. Rolex will not service a watch that contains any parts that aren't theirs, so if you would like the option of sending your watch to them for service in the future, you should make sure that the watch you purchase is in its original configuration, unless indicated otherwise. Luckily, there are usually very helpful Rolex enthusiasts on forums and subreddits that would be more than happy to assist in assessing a pre-owned watch's value and condition.

Essentially, purchasing a pre-owned Rolex on the gray market means that you can get a good deal, but also requires you to assume all of the risk involved in purchasing a watch from someone other than the watchmaker. There is no champagne and hors d'oeuvres offered to you while you shop and no guarantee that you will get exactly what you are looking for, but if you want a Rolex for under $5,000, it's still a possibility if you play your cards right.

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