5 Pre-Owned Rolex Watches to Consider for Your Collection

Can't get your hands on a new steel Rolex sports watch? No worries — that's what the pre-owned market is for.

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Rolex is an exceptional company in many ways. If you own one of their watches, it's reassuring that they're known to hold their value well, but that also means you'll be paying close to retail — or well above — even if you buy a pre-loved Rollie. With most other watches, getting pre-owned is a great way to get what you want for less money, but Rolex is different.

So why would anyone buy a Rolex pre-owned when it's priced similarly to (or more than) a new watch? Well, because certain sought-after references are largely unavailable from authorized dealers. Stainless steel sports Rolexes, for instance, are notorious for their unavailability — watches like Submariners, GMT Master IIs, Daytonas, etc. These watches go to longstanding customers who have established relationships with their ADs, and have likely bought many watches with them before.

However, shopping pre-owned gives you access to these watches — albeit often at inflated prices — and also opens up an entire whole world of models that are no longer in the brand's current catalog, including vintage references with subtle features that make them even more desirable to collectors.

Below are five examples of popular Rolex models that you can buy pre-owned, right now, including both discontinued and current models.

Rolex Explorer II 16550

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The Rolex Explorer has a history of mountaineering and adventure, but the Explorer II (ref. 1655) was introduced in 1971 to give it an even sportier character, with a larger case and 24-hour fixed bezel to accompany its GMT hand. The 16550 available here is a successor to the famous 1655. With its 40mm case size, bright white dial and an orange GMT hand, it stands out among the more familiar, black-dialed look (though these also come in black) of Rolex's most iconic models while retaining the same promise of quality and prestige. Why the ski-high price? This model comes with box and papers.

Diameter: 40mm

Movement: Rolex 3085 Automatic

Water Resistance: 100m

Buy Now: $8,995

Rolex GMT Master II 16710

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The GMT Master is the iconic GMT watch, full stop. The GMT Master II added a host of modern features that continues to be updated, but the format remains largely the same: A red, arrow-tipped hand allows you to track a second time zone, and because this hand is independently adjustable, it can be used in conjunction with the 24-hour bezel to track a third time zone (though some mental math is involved). With blue for nighttime and red for daytime hours, this iconic bezel's look has become known as "Pepsi," and the aluminum insert of this particular example shows faded colors that collectors have been known to particularly appreciate.

Diameter: 40mm

Movement: Rolex 3185 Automatic

Water Resistance: 100m

Buy Now: $10,295

Rolex Submariner 116610

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The Sumbariner is not only Rolex's most successful and representative dive watch, it's probably the world's most recognized watch of any kind, and of all time. This reference is the current date-equipped catalog version, fully decked out with modern specs: these include its famous 904L stainless steel case (which is harder that the common 316L), scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and ceramic bezel insert, as well as its own in-house automatic movement. Accompanied by an impressive steel bracelet, it promises durability for years — or even generations — of wearing.

Diameter: 40mm

Movement: Rolex 3135 Automatic

Water Resistance: 300m

Buy Now: $9,975

Rolex Milgauss 116400

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The Milgauss doesn't have the same iconic status among the general populace as Rolex's Submariner or Datejust watches, but it lacks none of the prestige or history of its peers. Originally developed for scientists who might be exposed to magnetic fields, the Milgauss's name indicates that it can withstand up to 1000 gauss of magnetism. (This is referenced in the lightning-bolt-shaped orange seconds hand, a whimsical touch from a brand known to be particularly conservative.) The version seen here was made as an anniversary model, with a subtly green-tinted dial that makes it even more unusual, though highly recognizable.

Diameter: 40mm

Movement: Rolex 3131 Automatic

Water Resistance: 100m

Buy Now: $7,695

Rolex Datejust II 126334

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Rolex is typically best known for its sport watches, but the dressy Datejust is still an icon, with a swagger that says "Rolex" from across a room. The Datejust II is a modern variant, upsized to 41mm wide (interestingly, making it larger than the sport watches above) with the new-generation 3235 automatic movement inside. This version is in steel, while a subtle with a distinctive fluted bezel in white gold. This particular exampled includes the watch's original box and booklet.

Diameter: 41mm

Movement: Rolex 3235 Automatic

Water Resistance: 100m

Buy Now: $8,995

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