The Most Underrated Rolex Timepieces

The Most Underrated Rolex Timepiece - The Explorer II

The Rolex Explorer II is probably the most underrated Rolex Timepiece on the market today.  Most collectors go straight for the Submariner, Daytona, and the GMT Master.  However the Explorer II has both an incredible history in horological lore, and is extremely well designed.  It has all of the features of the GMT-Master II, yet can be purchased at a discount used since it loses value almost instantly after purchase. 

That said, picking up one of these fantastic pieces for around  8k list or 6k-7k aftermarket each is not something to be ashamed of by any stretch of the imagination.  It has a beautiful 24 hour bezel.  The 24 hour orange hand provides access to a 2nd timezone similar to the GMT-Master II. 

The base features are extensive.  The highly luminescent hands and hour markers makes it very readable both day and night.  The date window with cyclops lens at 3 o'clock provides a highly visable and useful date notation.  We have a great choice between either a black or white dial.  Both are beautiful.  The strength of this unit - utilizing 904L steel and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal allows for owners to do climbing and almost any other activity without doing much damage. 

It has a more beefy 42 mm dial.  The only drawback of this unit is that the calibre has not been upgraded just yet.  It still has a powerful calibre 3187 with a Parachrom hairspring oscillator and 48 hours of power reserve.  Submariner aficionado's might complain about the depth of this timepiece when diving, but at 330 feet of waterproofness, this timepiece would be able to work well for most casual swimmers, snorkelers and the like. 

The 2nd Most Underrated Rolex Timepiece - The Yachtmaster

The Yacht-Master is treated as if it was the step-child of the Yacht-Master II, when it is probably one of the most beautiful Rolex timepieces made today.  Above you can see the three Yacht Master Models - one in White Gold, Everose Gold and the Platinum and Oystersteel version. 

The new 42 mm Yacht-Master white gold version pictured above gives a slightly larger and more substantial feel to a nearly perfect timepiece.  It has the look of steel but the distinct lustre and luxury of white gold.  The Everose gold version is stunning in almost every detail.  Both of these models feature the Rolex Oysterflex fitted with a Oysterlock safety clasp and Glidelock extension system. 

The final model combines both a steel bracelet with a combo steel and platinum case.  This one will wear well with nearly any situation and is more diminutive in its appearance.  If you want to enjoy your luxury timepiece while flying under the radar, this is the ultimate Rolex to go with.

All three models are fitted with the new 3235 calibre movement which features the new 70 hours of power reserve.  They also support waterproofness at 330 feet of depth. 

The three models retail for around $28,000, but can be purchased after market for less.  It is a purely wearable masterpiece of a timepiece.  Although collectors may pass this one by and give the love to the Submariner, Daytona and GMT-Master, you can't go wrong with owning one of these beautiful timepieces. 

Solid Gold Skeleton-Dial Rolex Daytona

Gold Rolex La Montoya Limited Edition Daytona.

There was a question in Quora asking why Rolex didn't have a transparent case.  The same question could be asked about why Rolex doesn't use skeletal dials.  Well, the Rolex La Montoya Limited Edition Daytona has both.  Rolex dedicated this unique timepiece to Juan Pablo Montoya, famous race car driver - 3 time Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona champion.  Montoya has won the Daytona 24 in 2007, 2008, and 2013, the Indianapolis 500, and the Grand Prix of Monaco.  His greatness is embodied in this ultimate timepiece bearing his engraved name.  

This timepiece was crafted by Artisans de Genève - watchmakers of the highest order who work to personalize timepieces to fit you specific requirements.  This timepiece was originally priced at $70,000.  However, only 42 of these watches were ever produced, making them exceptionally rare.

This exceptional timepiece took 2 years to develop and the help of 100 Swiss craftsmen.  Starting with a standard gold Rolex Daytona reference 116508Artisans de Genève modified the skeleton Rolex 4130 movement by hand and added a 21 carat yellow gold rotor and other elements inside the movement so that the beauty of the timepiece would be stunning through the sapphire glass on both the front and back.  A carbon forged bezel replaces the standard black bezel on regular Rolex Daytona's.  However, the 100 meter waterproof resistance remains the same.  

The 3 dials on the timepiece are colored in yellow, blue and red - representing the colors of the Columbian flag - Montoya's native country.  A red tip is added to the second hand - a nice touch to an overwhelmingly spectacular timepiece. 

A stainless steel version of this timepiece is also made - off the base reference 116520 model.  The outstanding excellence of this timepiece is unmistakable.  It is hard to tell what a timepiece of this magnitude would fetch in an auction today.  However, the high demand for Rolex and for Daytonas in general would make this timepiece's value soar.  

The Artisans de Genève were smart to retain much of the standard excellence of the Daytona timepiece.  The 40 mm case remains a perfect size for most Rolex owners.  It provides a 72 hour power reserve.  The yellow gold Oyster bracelet with folding clasp remains untouched.  This timepiece retains all of the Chonometer and Tachymeter functions of any Rolex Daytona.  It has the ability to time laps and account for the speed of the car up to 500 mph or kph.

The Rolex Daytona "La Montoya" is an outstanding timepiece.  Although it takes a considerable Mod to make this timepiece, all of the exquisite features of the original Daytona remain intact.  It is amazing that Rolex has not started to develop skeletal dial timepiece or adding a see-through sapphire back on its Rolex lineup.  Perhaps the success of this modded version will inspire Rolex to custom design some timepieces to add these features in future models.  I would especially love to see them add a transparent back to the Presidential Day Date.  Why hide such beauty from the world?

The Forgotten Rolex - The Rolex Turn-O-Graph Thunderbird

Rolex Datejust Turn-O-Graph Reference 116264
The Forgotten Rolex - The Rolex Turn-O-Graph
I made a discovery when I was looking through a selection of new Rolex timepieces.  I saw this interesting Rolex that was clearly something I have never seen before.  I thought I had discovered a hidden treasure... a rare species.

The timepiece looked like a Rolex Datejust, but it has some unique differences.  Specifically the seconds hand is bright red.  The date in the 3 o'clock aperture is also red.  But the most unique difference is that the bezel has a 0-60 marking on it in 10 second intervals.

A New Datejust?
So, this was clearly NOT a Datejust even though it retains the name Datejust on the dial.  It wasn't quite like anything I had seen before.  However, it had many of the same features were there.  It has the Oyster case, luminous hour markers and Mercedes-style hands and a screw down crown.  This model is the 116264 which was produced sometime in the early 2000's.  This reference features a Caliber 3135 automatic movement in it.  This one features a Jubilee bracelet and a 36mm case.

As I started to look online, I found that this new Rolex, was actually one of the original Rolex timepieces which had been discontinued and recommissioned in the early 2000's for a short while before being discontinued yet again in 2011.
Vintage Turn-o-graph Ref 6309 with dauphine hands and hour markers.  Photo from Phillip's.

Historically Importance of the Rolex Turn-O-Graph
Pictured above is a vintage Turn-O-Graph reference 6309. This was a later model Turn-O-Graph featuring some exceptionally attractive Dauphine hands and hour markers.  This integrated the Turn-O-Graph into the Datejust lineup and added the date window with cyclops lens. It features a caliber 743.

But if we step back in time a bit further we can see the Reference 6202 with exceptional patina on its more standard hour markers - often found on modern Submariners and other Rolex Lineups.
Vintage Turn-O-Graph 6202 - picture from chrono24
This early Turn-O-Graph Ref 6202 was launched in 1953.  It looks much like a Submariner with the black rotating bezel.  Although the Turn-O-Graph, wasn't the first Rolex with a rotating bezel (that honor goes to the 1937 Ref 3346 Zerographe), it is the first one to be put into regular production. It featured a Caliber A260 movement.

The Turn-O-Graph acquired its name "Thunderbird" because in 1953 the U.S. Air Force Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds - the pilots began wearing the timepiece while performing.  Rolex capitalized on the partnership and issued rare Thunderbird Turn-O-Graphs to the talented pilots.  This made the Turn-O-Graph one of the first Official Military timepieces.  And since it was worn by these acrobatic pilots of the USAF, the Turn-O-Graph became the first Rolex pilot's watch.
Rolesor version Reference 6609 - Picture by Chrono24

The Turn-O-Graph is also the first Rolex to use 2-toned gold and steel - the first "Rolesor" sports watch.

Inspiration for the Submariner and GMT
The Rolex Turn-O-Graph's rotating bezel and design became the inspiration for both the Submariner and the GMT-Master. The introduction of the Turn-O-Graph into the Datejust line most likely killed the model since its unique appeal of its rotating dial was probably lost since the GMT and Submariners took off with great fanfare.  Datejust users were probably not impressed by the "tool" functionality.  The distinctive Turn-O-Graph features really never became standards.  You could see many different bezels, hour markers, hands, and more.  Unlike many distinctive Rolex timepieces, the Turn-O-Graph kind of lost its unique identity - trying to take on too many looks.  It never developed its unique style.

However, it is clear that the Submariner and GMT-Master owe their popularity today to the early Turn-O-Graph designs.  Vintage Turn-O-Graphs have been fetching a nice price in auctions today, but haven't had the kind of outrageous success  of the Rolex Daytona.  So, it is still possible to pick up a vintage Turn-O-Graph for a reasonable price in comparison.

Where Did the Name Rolex Come From?

Where Did the Name Rolex Come From?

Rolex is probably the MOST recognizable brands in the world. 

However, the earliest name for the brand was nowhere even close to the name we so adore and admire.  The Founder of Rolex was Hans Wilsdorf.  He was born in Germany but moved to Switzerland as a young man and started working for a watch export company.  Soon he moved to London with his brother-in-law Alfred Davis, and created Wilsdorf & Davis Ltd. 

Early Hans Wilsdorf (Pre-Rolex) timepiece (image:
Interestingly, men initially thought that the watches that Wilsdorf designed and assembled were un-masculine.  Most men preferred the larger pocket watch. 

In 1908 Wilsdorf registered a trademark for the name "Rolex". 

What makes Rolex a great name?

  • Wilsdorf thought that Rolex sounded like a watch being wound.
  • Easily pronounceable in many languages.
  • It is only 2 syllables.
  • The name ROLEX, it goes Consonant, Vowel, Consonant, Vowel, Consonant.  
  • LEX sounds much like Luxury.  
  • The name is short and easy to remember.  

However, it wasn't until 1915, during the World War 1 conflict against Germany, that Wilsdorf decided to rename the company, Rolex Watch Co. Ltd.  Clearly he wanted to avoid the prejudice against Germany that came with the WWI conflict.  This was a good bet, because many soldiers who utilized a timepiece far preferred to have one of these highly durable wristlets rather than a pocket watch that could break or take precious time to pull out of their pocket in the heat of battle. 

At the time, Wilsdorf also relocated the company headquarters in Geneva Switzerland in 1919, which avoided heavy taxation from the post-war Great Britain.

Hans Wilsdorf Watch (Image:

Name Timeline For Rolex

  • Wilsdorf & Davis, Ltd.  (1905-1915)
  • Rolex Watch Co. Ltd. (1915-1920)
  • Montres Rolex SA (1920)  (In Geneva)
  • Rolex SA (1927)
    • Montres Tudor (SA) - a Sub Brand to Rolex SA, offering Tudor watches since 1946)
  • Currently owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation - a registered charity which does not pay corporate income taxes.

How Long Does a Rolex Last

How Long Does a Rolex Last?

The simple answer is that a Rolex can last a lifetime or more as long as it is well cared for.  Just like any piece of equipment, a fine timepiece needs to be looked after by professional watchmakers and gemologists.  Depending on the kind of timepiece you purchase, you might need to have specific things to address.

3 Things to Do to Protect Your Rolex

  • First - Make sure you Screw Down Your Winding Crown tightly to ensure waterproofness.  This is most important for diving watches.  However, if you take your Rolex swimming or in the shower, this becomes the top priority.
  • Second - If you have a metal band, wash and clean your Rolex using soapy water and a soft brush.  However, do not wash a leather band.  We highly recommend a Rubber B or similar rubber band for normal wear and tear.  You can preserve your original leather band in a case or drawer for years, while enjoying the beauty of your Rolex with a more functional rubber band. 
  • Third - Wind your Rolex often.  If you wear your Rolex, you don't need to do this.  However, if you don't wear your Rolex, you could purchase an autowinder that can keep your timepiece working and ready to go when you need it.
Rolex timepieces can last many years without much care at all.  However, some of the luster of the metal might start to lose its shine, and often the scratch resistant sapphire crystal can still get scratched.  This is certainly not the end of the world.  Scratches do add character.  And even the highly "worn" Paul Newman timepiece went at auction for over $16 million.  So, collectors still will pay a premium for a highly sought after timepiece even if it would be considered in "Poor" or "Well-Worn" shape.  

Rolexes are made to be worn.  The purpose behind Rolex, is to make a durable timepiece that can withstand the life activities of the man or woman wearing it.  Whether it is diving in the ocean, climbing a mountain, or racing on a yacht or racecar at breakneck speed the Rolex is bound to keep up and exceed your expectations.  

How Rolex Services Your Rolex

Some experts suggest sending the Rolex in for servicing every 5 years.  Just as you would send your car into service every 3-6 months to change out the oil and rotating the tires, Rolex owners are often urged to send their timepiece to Rolex for care and cleaning.  Here is what Rolex does to preserve the function of your timepiece.
  • Complete Disassembly - Rolex takes all of the pieces of the timepiece apart.  This means they remove the entire band from the watch, and the movement out of the case itself.  
  • Cleaning the Movement - Dust and debris can get inside a timepiece over time.  Rolex uses ultrasonic devices to clean the movement completely.
  • Replacing Components - Each watchmaker examines individual components in the movement and identifies components that may require replacement.  Genuine Rolex replacement parts are used to preserve the integrity of the movement.
  • Timing Calibration - Rolex watchmakers meticulously adjust the balance wheel for several days to make sure the timepiece provides precise timekeeping performance.
  • Refinishing the Case and Bracelet - Cleaning is not limited to the movement.  The entire case and bracelet are examined for damage and wear and tear.  Parts, such as links in a band, might be used to replace damaged links.  Everything is cleaned with the same precision as the movement - restoring the lustre of the entire timepiece.
  • Lubrication - One of the biggest reasons for having Rolex service your timepiece is for them to add their advanced lubricant to minimize friction and prevent wear and tear, while preserving accuracy.
  • Reassembly - Each timepiece is reassembled with ultra care and precision.
  • Testing the Waterproofness - The newly reassembled timepiece is tested to meet pressure-resistance, a vacuum test, compression test, and a condensation test.  If even the slightest bit of moisture is found inside the case, these tests will reveal all.  
  • Final Quality Check - During this final checklist, the watchmaker tests power reserve, timing accuracy and overall appearance of the watch one last time for the highest possible standard of quality.
After achieving all of this, Rolex offers a two-year service guarantee.  Servicing can cost approximately $600 - $1000.  However, it could be more or less depending on the model.  Some service centers have their own watch experts and may charge less for a complete servicing.  However it is imperative that Rolex timepieces are serviced by only authorized Rolex Dealers.

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