The Most Expensive Rolex Watches Currently Available
If you take into account the level of craftsmanship in a Rolex watch, the choice of materials, the exhaustive years of research and development, the generations of heritage behind each one, not to mention their peerless resale value, there is a very strong case for saying they are not actually expensive at all.
Yes, the most basic entry level piece still costs around the $5,000 mark, but being able to take that model and sell it on again in the future for roughly the same as you paid for it makes the initial outlay much more palatable.
There are, of course, exceptions.
Rolex is the ultimate luxury lifestyle brand, and their range of watches sometimes concentrate solely on the luxury and do away with the lifestyle bit entirely. In more recent times, they have released some outrageously pricey specimens onto the market, intended very much for the super rich only.
Below, we have put together a list of some of the most expensive examples featured in the current lineup, excluding special order or customized versions. While they have a definite character all their own, if your tastes run to the subtle and understated, you might want to look away now.
The Cosmograph Daytona Rainbow ref. 116595RBOW
Originally appearing in 2012 in both white and yellow gold versions, the latest kaleidoscopic Daytona completed the set when it was launched at Baselworld 2018 in a pink Everose case.
The dictionary definition of a love-or-hate piece, it is certainly not one to be ignored.
Any outward semblance of the legendary racer’s raison d’être has been discarded, with the once engraved tachymeter scale on the bezel replaced by 36 baguette-cut sapphires, graduating through every color of the rainbow. The 11 hour indexes, too, are formed from the same stone, perfectly mirroring the tone and saturation of each point on the surround.
There are a further 56 brilliant-cut diamonds infused into the crown guards and lugs to add even more sparkle, all offset by a deep black lacquered dial. The sub counters, arranged in their standard tricompax layout, are crafted in Rolex’s own Gold Crystals, lending them a mottled, textured finish.
Overall, the effect is unmistakably extravagant but with a somewhat warmer aesthetic than with previous iterations.
Inside, all is as it should be. The industry-leading in-house caliber, the Cal. 4130, remains at the pinnacle of automatic chronograph movements. Column wheel-controlled, the vertical clutch setup eliminates any trace of hand slop on starts and stops (for all those times you take the Rainbow Daytona to the racetrack). COSC-certified and, more importantly, Rolex-certified to stay within -2/+2 seconds a day, the brand’s proprietary Parachrom Bleu hairspring renders it near impervious to magnetic fields and gives it greater stability to shock and temperature fluctuations. Power reserve remains at 72-hours.
The Rainbow Daytona has actually become one of the most popular of Rolex’s ultra-opulent editions, and suffers the same problems as the rest of the family, the steel versions in particular. Because of the difficulty in finding gemstones which match exactly in color and clarity, the production of the watch is severely limited—leading to the usual immense demand and formidable waiting lists. Those turning to the pre-owned market to jump the queue will struggle to find one for less than twice the already eye watering official retail price of $96,100.
The Rolex Day-Date ref. 228396TBR
Rolex’s iconic Day-Date, otherwise and better known as the President, has always been the brand’s most luxurious and aspirational offering. The flagship model from the world’s most successful watchmaker has never appeared in anything less than pure gold, and is the one most often seen in that noblest of all precious metals, platinum.
A favorite among some of history’s most successful and influential figures, it can be discreetly inconspicuous or lavishly flamboyant. This is the latter.
The ref. 228396TBR is one of the more recent additions, and is part of the biggest shakeup to the range since it debuted in 1956. Sticking stubbornly to its 36mm dimensions for more than 60 years, 2015 saw the introduction of the Day-Date 40 series, after the first short-lived attempt at a larger version, the Day-Date II.
This spectacularly iced piece ups the gemstone count even more than the Rainbow Daytona, with a total of 40 trapezoid-cut diamonds on the bezel, encircling a dial completely awash in the stones. Eight of the hour markers are also diamond baguettes, with a pair of rich blue sapphires at the 6 and 9 o’clock.
Inside the exquisite 40mm platinum case is one of Rolex’s latest calibers, the Cal. 3255, which is itself one of the most radical overhauls the brand has made in recent years. Taking over from the previous Cal. 3155, the new movement replaces more than 90% of the outgoing caliber’s components. Designed from the outset to be lighter, more reliable and more accurate, it contains a completely modified self-winding module with revised reversing wheels, a rotor mounted on ball bearings, and a high capacity mainspring for a 70-hour reserve.
Its patented Chronergy escapement is a revolutionary take on the traditional Swiss lever mechanism, promising a 15% increase in efficiency and Rolex even developed and synthetized its own lubricants to ensure the whole thing continues to run smoother for longer.
No expense has been spared with the ultimate in Day-Date models, and it is something reflected in the asking price. It can be yours for $141,850.
The Rolex Pearlmaster ref. 86409RBR
Released in 1992, the Pearlmaster line is a reimagining of Rolex’s longest serving creation, the Datejust, with a far more feminine slant.
Exemplified by its liberal use of diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds, it stands as the most jewelry-like range in the collection, and an unashamedly expensive one at that.
It was originally a larger revamp of the illustrious Lady-Datejust and available in two sizes; a 29mm and a 34mm. In 2015, in keeping with the overriding tone of the Rolex portfolio, a 39mm was introduced, and a year later the extraordinary ref. 86409RBR made its first appearance.
Somewhere in there is an 18k white gold case, although we have to take Rolex’s word for it. Every square millimeter is festooned with brilliant-cut diamonds, 37 on the bezel alone, with around a further 200 on the paved dial, and even the Pearlmaster bracelet, from which the series gets its name, is dripping in the stones on each of its five softly rounded links.
It is an exercise in pure indulgence and quite magnificent. Rolex’s gemologists work with nothing but the finest diamonds, each one x-rayed to ensure authenticity and then painstakingly selected before being allowed near the watch. No stone can be less than IF, or Internally Flawless, in clarity, meaning no visible blemishes at 10x magnification. Only the four purist color grades make the cut, rated D to G, and every stone is hand placed into its own custom setting.
Ticking at the heart of all this sumptuousness is the Cal. 3235, and it was actually the first 39mm Pearlmaster which debuted the next generation caliber when it initially launched. Since then it has gone on to serve inside the latest versions of the Sea-Dweller, Deepsea and, of course, the Datejust itself.
As a movement it is essentially the same as the Cal. 3255 from the newest iteration of the President we looked at above, with the exclusion of the second date complication.
The ref. 86409RBR is certainly an acquired taste, as are any precious stone-flaunting Rolexes as far as the diehard fans are concerned. In fact, the real purists tend to turn their nose up at anything other than stainless steel examples of the legendary sports collection. But for those after the definitive dress watch for those rare occasions when only the very best will do, who also happen to have $210,300 going begging, the 39mm diamond-bedecked Pearlmaster is the best the crown has to offer.
— Featured Photo and Body Photo Credits: Beckertime’s Archive.