Why Are Rolex Watches So Expensive?

You can have a watch that enthusiasts will appreciate and awe at, but it’s only a Rolex that is acknowledged as a status symbol that everyone instantly recognizes. Whether you want it for the brand or for the actual functionality, owning a Rolex watch is definitely a dream for many. There are other brands and watch models that can cost ridiculously high, but Rolex wins the popularity contest and has an appeal that makes the rich get it and the not so rich want it. Some call it pretentious and over-priced, but it nevertheless remains a coveted watch brand to own. Whether it is taking the Deep Sea Dweller watch 11000m below sea level with James Cameron or being worn by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay as Everest was conquered for the first time, Rolex knows how to publicize. But why is Rolex so expensive?

about rolex history

Rolex was founded by two Englishmen, Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis, in 1905 in London but the company was moved to Geneva post WW1. Rolex also has a sister company, Tudor, which was founded as a more affordable alternative to Rolex by its founders. Rolex is among the few companies who have defined the art of watch making. It was first to make a waterproof watch in 1926 that it named Oyster and that were used by swimmers; first to make self winding calibre in 1931 that it named Perpetual; first to make a date watch in 1941 they called Datejust; first to make a waterproof diving watch in 1953 it named Submariner; and finally, first to make a racing chronograph they called Cosmograph Daytona. Clearly Rolex has been a pioneer and its watches and have come a long way. According to Bloomberg, it is the world’s most valuable watch brand, and surprisingly is listed as a non-profit as it donates all its profits to its owner company which is registered as a charity, Hans Wilsdorf Foundation. This does have the benefit of saving Rolex a lot of income tax!

(Read here our guide to watches and terminology)


Rolex is a quality obsessed company with a very fine eye for the craft of watchmaking. But why are Rolex watches so expensive? Several things make Rolex stand out.

  1. Rolex was the first watchmaker to utilize 904L grade steel in its watches that makes them much more immune to corrosion by chlorides (hence making the watch more durable against sweat and sea/swimming pool water) and offers a better polish. But it also requires a specialized set machinery to mold the steel into shape as it is difficult to machine and that increases the manufacturing costs for such watches. Rolex is still among the very few, if not the only one, to use this material as it makes all its watches in house so could deal with this change whereas most other watchmakers outsource some parts. Other than this Rolex uses its own proprietary ceramic that’s scratch and UV proof so the color never fades.
  2. Rolex has its own R&D labs to research about manufacturing techniques, materials, watch designs and stress tests to ensure that the watch lasts at least a lifetime.

    Image: ablogtowatch
  3. Rolex movements and bracelets are all hand assembled and employs human’s meticulous attention to detail rather than using machines that can produce defected items, and if you are Rolex, then a watch with even the slightest defect that most people won’t care about won’t qualify to leave the facility. The facilities uses robots only to assist humans in their tasks. The whole process of designing, making the materials, assembling one watch to testing and quality assurance is said to take about an year, tough we doubt this claim considering Rolex shells out close to a million watches an year.
  4. Rolex watches are very accurate and the date changes sharply at midnight. If not, then it’s time for a maintenance session for the watch.

are rolex watches real gold

Rolex use real 18k gold and infact makes all its gold, platinum and most of the steel in-house. When Rolex parts move locations, they are in highly discreet unmarked and guarded trucks. Their diamonds are of the highest clarity (IF) and excellent color (DG) and all the diamonds, rubies and other stones are sourced from highly credible sources and have to pass quality tests. The in-house gemologists then set the stones in watches.


The starting price for Rolex comes with the Oyster Perpetual watch, which is a classic dress watch for men. A brand new can cost close to Rs. 3 lacs whereas the used ones can be bought for almost a 1/3 of the price.

The most expensive Rolex ever sold was at an auction for 17.8 million USD, and for the markets too there is no set price for an expensive model as they are often so customized and sky is the limit. In general, Rolex Pearlmaster is known to be their most expensive range starting upward of Rs. 50 lacs. Submariner, Daytona and Yachtmaster are the most popular ranges.


is rolex worth it
A Rolex Sky-Dweller starts upward of Rs. 10 lacs.

There are luxury watches, and then there is Rolex. It is often said that Rolex watches are as good as money, and we’ll let you be the judge of that. As a company, Rolex is a sophisticated factory with very high quality standards and closely guarded trade secrets for its manufacturing processes which make it nearly impossible to replicate a Rolex watch by others. As a product, a Rolex watch is a sign of success and wealth. It is a watch that moves from one generation to next in a family, because it indeed is made to last that long. The 18k gold and diamonds may slightly increase in value over time, but Rolex watches mostly have value for watch collectors and some limited edition models may be able to fetch you a good price which can be much more than what you paid. For other watches, you can always resell a Rolex watch pretty quickly just like you could an expensive LV bag as the market for second hand luxury items is huge. A Rolex watch is a quick asset if the buyer acknowledges its worth.  

how to spot a fake rolex

Rolex is one of the most counterfeited brands and there are several naive ways to lose money when buying one. Although the most fool-proof method of spotting a fake Rolex is to just contact the company with the serial number as each timepiece ever made has a unique identity, there are some small identifiers to give a cue. However, most people can still miss them so it’s best to buy a new watch from an authorized dealer and confirm the serial number for a used one. So, how do you know if a Rolex is real or fake?

Ways to spot a fake Rolex are – 

  1. Rolex makes mechanical watches that do not run on battery except for one old and limited series of OysterQuartz. Due to this its watches will also not have a ticking movement of the second hand but a gliding motion.
  2. The real watch has a cyclops lens that magnifies the date. This can be difficult to make and the fake Rolex will usually have the date of the same size when viewed from all angles.
  3. Run it through a water test. A real piece is meant to be waterproof.
  4. Check online for the serial number and you’ll know if that piece was mass produced as a dupe. Sometimes, the seller can also make a mistake and write the serial number for say a Daytona on a Cellini. A real piece will also the numbers clearly engraved and not just acid printed.
  5. Finally, judge the overall look of the watch. There should be no blurriness or unevenness of font or patchy paint anywhere. A real watch will also have clear case backs with no engravings.

    how to spot a fake rolex infographic
    Image: Gentlemans Gazette

Men do not have a plethora of accessory options and wearing a luxury watch is more than just about reading time and date, but rather a way of expressing what stage of life they are at. There will always be better uses of money, but a luxury watch is what one would buy for self-satisfaction. For some, a Rolex is an investment to their social standing. And for others, it is an overpriced watch playing on brand marketing and illusion of scarcity. As a final call to judgement, you buy a Rolex if you want a Rolex. If you a want a quality luxury watch to last a lifetime, many other brands like Omega, Breitling, IWC, etc. are just as good in their job and relatively cheaper.


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