A Few Underrated Budget Rolex Watches

We all know about the Rolex Submariners, GMTs, and Daytonas of the world. These are the popular references that get a lot of play on Social Media. I’m here to offer you a few alternatives. If you’re on a budget, or like to stand out from the crowd, these watches are for you.



Rolex 6694 "PRECISION":

Introduced in the 1960's and produced until the late 80's, this sleeper Rolex has serious watch chops. The watch had many variations in terms of dials, but the movement and case pretty much remained the same throughout it's entire run.

This watch has a very appealing, clean vintage aesthetic. This watch is charming, and easy to wear on any occasion. It's a simple three-hander, with Rolex's signature cyclops date at 3.

This watch is 34mm, but wears more like a 36mm. The lack of a rotor makes this watch very svelte on the wrist. It's perfect for a business meeting or on a golf course. You can usually grab one with an Oyster Rivet bracelet.

These watches have many dial variations, including a creme, silver and a blue dial. My favorite iteration is a classic silver dial from the 80's like the one pictured. You can scoop one of these up for $2,000-$3,000 depending on documentation, dial, and condition. 


Rolex Explorer Ref. 14270

We've all hear of the Rolex Explorer Ref. 1016, which has exploded in value in recent years, due to it's popularity with many watch experts and aficionados (ex: Ben Clymer). The 14270 is still an explorer that is very much under the radar. The watch had an 11 year run from 1989-2001.

In terms of design, it's the classic 36mm explorer design we all know and love. In it's 11 year run, there were 4 main dial variations:

"BLACKOUT": 1989-1991

"T-SWISS": 1991-1998

"SWISS ONLY": 1998-1999

"SWISS MADE": 1999-2001

At 36mm in diameter and 12.5mm thick, this watch is infinitely wearable and comfortable on any wrist. 

As of the date of this writing, the 14270 is hovering around the $6,000-$7,000 mark. I anticipate these will go up over the years, as more explorer lovers become aware of this reference.

Rolex 16570 (Explorer II)

Introduced in 1989 and discontinued in 2011 the 16570 was introduced as the predecessor to the 16550. It brought with it a sapphire crystal, new Mercedes hands, and the Calibre 3185, which was the 1st Rolex movement to feature an independent hour hand.

The explorer II was originally designed for Spelunking (Cave Exploration) which explains the fixed bezel and 24 hour hand. At 39.5mm by 12mm thick, the Explorer II will fit on most wrists, and easily slip under the cuff.


This watch has great proportions though I will say that this watch may not dress up very well, due to the brushed bezel and overall utilitarian look.


This watch has gone up in recent times and is trading in the $7k-8k range. The POLAR dial models are very popular, while the black dial versions are less so. This watch has crept up considerably, but is still a decent value and should hold it's value pretty well.

Rolex BubbleBack

For our final watch in the lineup we go way back into the Rolex Catalog. The Rolex Bubbleback was introduced in the 1930's as part of Rolex's first foray into automatic watches. Rolex took an incremental approach in designing it's first automatic, and decided to layer the rotor atop it's existing movement. This gave the watches a thicker back, thus the name bubbleback.

Part of the fun of Bubblebacks is that they are available in a wide range of dials, and metals including Steel, Two-Tone, 9/14/18k Rose or Yellow Gold.

Most Bubblebacks usually clock in at around 32mm which will be way too small if you have bigger wrists. If, like myself, you have smaller wrists, this watch is totally doable. It's usually around 14mm thick, which helps bulk up it's presence on the wrist a bit.

These watches have a very wide range, usually $3-8K depending on dial, condition, etc. These watches are a bargain hunter's dream, as they are not yet as popular as other vintage models and have a ton of fun dial variations.

That concludes our small lineup of affordable, under the radar Rolexs. In the future, we will be posting more of these, are there are some very obvious sleepers we failed to mention (cough Rolex Oyster P cough).

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