Rolex Watches Discontinued In 2020
As with every year, 2020 saw Rolex give with one hand and take away with the other.
The Geneva-based giant furnished us with a slew of new watches, or at least, new takes on already established names. But at the same time, a number of pieces were quietly relegated to the history books; among them, several very well-loved examples, causing their prices on the preowned market to skyrocket.
Below, we have picked out those models no longer available, along with what you can now expect to pay for them.
The Rolex Submariner
Undoubtedly the biggest news of 2020 was the introduction of an all-new collection of Rolex’s class-leading dive watch, the Submariner. The 8-strong ref. 1166XX range was updated and displaced by the ref. 1266XX series, signifying an end to the bulkier case experiment and bringing the Sub back to a more graceful silhouette.
Among those pieces making way were two particularly colorful examples—models which have now gained sizeable premiums on the preowned market and are only set to increase still higher in value over the coming years.
The Submariner ref. 116610LV
The withdrawal of the first ever Rolex Submariner to have a green dial had been predicted for at least three or four years before it occurred, but it was 2020 which marked the official retirement date.
Better known as the Hulk, it had, like its green-bezeled forerunner the Kermit (ref. 16610LV) released 10-years earlier, grown massively in popularity after an unsure start to life.
It was one of the first of the short lived Super Case generation, trading in the Sub’s previously sleek lines for a thicker, more angular profile, a transformation which appealed to some more than others. But there was no doubting it added some extra oomph to the wrist presence. They were also the first of the breed to be fitted with Rolex’s own Cerachrom ceramic surrounds.
So, we have the perfect storm of an unorthodox and relatively transitory reference of perhaps the brand’s biggest success story, one which debuted several key features and which can now only be sourced through unofficial channels.
As you might have guessed, prices for the Hulk are not for the fainthearted these days. Think around $18,000-$20,000 as a start point—more than double the retail from its last year in production.
The Submariner ref. 116619LB
Another especially vibrant Submariner shown the door in 2020 was the ref. 116619LB. Like the Hulk, this watch’s story was all about its coloring; in this instance, a rich blue dial and bezel, lending it the nickname the Smurf.
Although beloved by the faithful, as have been all blue Subs since the first arrived back in the 1960s, it didn’t sell in quite the same numbers as the Hulk due mainly to its steep price tag—the result of its 18k white gold case and bracelet.
Nevertheless, this Super-Cased, Cerachrom-bezeled, ultra luxurious dive watch is again commanding premiums on the preowned market. Just before it was discontinued, the retail price for the ref. 116619LB ran at around $38,350. These days, expect to pay anywhere from $42,000 for earlier pieces, up to about $50,000+ for end production models.
The Rolex Sky-Dweller on Leather
Rolex has made a concerted effort to ‘sporty’ up their premium travelers’ watch, the Sky-Dweller, recently.
Currently the brand’s most complicated and technically impressive achievement, the watch that manages to shoehorn in a GMT and annual calendar alongside the time-and-date functions ceased production of all its models fitted with leather straps and replaced them with Oysterflex bands.
It gives the opinion-dividing model a more active, energetic look, and takes it away from its ‘Day-Date with extra stuff’ persona. The move manages to reinvigorate the Sky-Dweller’s image to the same degree as when Rolex performed the same trick with the Daytona a while back.
In truth, the leather option had started to be phased out in 2018 when the white gold ref. 326139 announced its departure, leaving only the yellow and Everose models (ref. 326138 and ref. 326135 respectively). They have now both quit as well and been superseded by their rubber strap versions.
Happily, for those with a hankering for one of these remarkable watches, the Sky-Dweller’s love-it-or-hate-it reputation has led to preowned examples doing something extremely un-Rolex-like; you can actually buy them now for less than their original retail price.
The yellow gold piece sold at $38,150 through authorized dealers in 2020 but can be had for less than $35,000 on the secondary market, while the Everose model goes for about the same, down from its final $39,550.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39mm
One of the biggest surprises from 2020, and something of a disappointment on a personal level, was Rolex’s culling of their 39mm Oyster Perpetual collection.
For many, it is the perfect size for an all-duty, go-anywhere watch but the brand do seem to have something against those particular proportions—the Explorer has likewise recently given up its 39mm models and shrunk back down to the time-honored 36mm.
The OP, however, went the other way and was replaced by a new 41mm, so at least there are still five different sizes to choose from in the range as always.
The increase is a tricky one to get the head around. All markers seem to be suggesting Rolex is enjoying a real vintage-inspired drive at the moment. We have the Submariner returning to its former svelte self, as well as pieces such as the Sea-Dweller gaining little nostalgic touches like its single line of red text and, of course, the aforementioned scaled-down Explorer.
So why they have decided to do away with one especially well-received version of their entry level, bread-and-butter creation is a mystery.
Still, there it is and the last of the 39mm Oyster Perpetuals are trading far above their closing retail price of $5,700 or so. Expect to pay around $8,000 for one of the ending 2020 run pieces.
The Rolex Datejust 31mm ref. 178xxx
The final farewell was an especially under-the-radar one, with two versions of Rolex’s all-time bestseller heading off for a well-earned rest.
The Datejust which, like the Oyster Perpetual, is issued in a total of five sizes, replaced a pair of its 31mm models with updated substitutions.
The Rolesor ref. 178274 (white gold fluted bezel on a steel case) made way for the new ref. 278274; the biggest difference between them being a switch from the outgoing Cal. 2235 to the Cal. 2236, the latter benefitting from the first silicon hairspring Rolex has ever put into action. Named Syloxi, it is rumored to outperform even the brand’s own and much-hyped Parachrom Bleu.
And the other one to make way was the full stainless steel ref. 178240, swapped out for the ref. 278240. The two were the last models in the entire, exhaustive Datejust range to graduate to the brand’s latest generation movements.
All in all then, 2020 was a relatively big year for Rolex comings-and-goings. Check back in with us to soon for our article on which models went bye-bye in 2021.
— Featured Photo: BeckerTime’s Archive.