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CHRONEXT Price Index: The Rise of the Rolex Submariner - Invest Smart


by John Wallis

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May 15. 2018 - by John Wallis

Ever been curious about how Submariner prices change over time? Newly released data from CHRONEXT reveals the price development and steady rise of this Rolex legend over recent years and its investment opportunities. Read and discover as we delve into how owning one of the most popular watches in the world makes for a great asset!


It's arguably the most recognisable timepiece in the world, and one of the most commonly counterfeited. The Rolex Submariner achieved its ascendancy in the 1950s, when it was accepted by both watch collectors and divers as the greatest of the first dedicated diving watches. The Submariner built on Rolex's reputation for water resistance pioneered with the "Oyster" case, and its most notable innovation was the "revolutionary time-recorder", or what we now call the rotatable bezel - crucial for divers who need to measure decompression periods.

Fame came from a variety of sources. One was involvement with major diving expeditions, including the patronage of the grandfather of diving himself, Jacques Cousteau, who can be seen with a Submariner in the acclaimed 1956 documentary Silent World. Another was James Bond. Sean Connery and his successors wore Submariners in Bond movies throughout the sixties and seventies, establishing them as effortlessly groovy. Since then, the watch has remained exceptionally attractive for collectors, enjoying a reputation like no other. Rolex has changed the iconic look very little over the years, and fans love the connection to history. Incremental changes in the design culminated with 1988's legendary ref. 16610, the definitive Submariner, fitted with the brilliant calibre 3135. Recent years have seen upgrades with ceramic bezels and gold cases, but 16610 remains the best known, even if many collectors prefer the cleaner "no date" models (ref. 14060).

Price Development

So what does the Rolex Submariner price look like today? Chronext recently released data on Submariner sales for the last few years, and it makes for interesting reading. As ever, it is clear that the Submariner remains a strong investment watch. Rolex value continues to hold steady while other brands have been less fortunate. In 2015 you could expect to pay between €4,500 and €6,500 for a pre-owned 16610 at Chronext, and today, four years later, that range has increased to around €5,500 to €7,000. While the Sub has appreciated steadily, the overarching trend hides a lot of fluctuation over time. The 16610 has sold for as much as €9,950, and can vary by as much as €2,000 over the course of just a few months.

These numbers reveal a vital truth at the heart of the luxury pre-owned watch market, which is that things can change quickly. Unlike new Submariners, pre-owned models - which are just as fine quality - are subject to major changes in price as the market is buffeted by the winds of supply and demand. It is a caution to all buyers to bide their time and wait for good deals. It's not always clear exactly why prices change - sometimes it can be due to fluctuations in currency exchange rates, or even the stock market. Other times, it’s simply a matter of what's on offer at a given retailer.

The Rolex Effect

The key takeaway, of course, is that despite variation, Rolex prices have trended upwards, even as luxury watch price development across the industry as a whole has not performed so well. This is not a new phenomenon. The Submariner appreciates: it's one of the most dependable laws of watch purchasing. Ever since its launch in the 1950s, the good old Sub has enjoyed a dramatic and unwavering price increase year on year well beyond inflation. For those looking to make a watch investment, it's one of the very best choices you can make.

Rolex retailers have long mourned the public perception of Rolex watches as expensive. The not-so-secret truth is that a Rolex investment is one of the best you can make in luxury watches - especially the Submariner, which is one of just a handful of watches in the business that is practically guaranteed to give you a decent return. In large part this is due to the pure power of the Rolex name. One of the most respected and prestigious brands in the world, it commands such a cachet that it has been able to push up its prices every year for the same products, against the regular laws of economics - and the same effect is generally seen in its pre-owned market too, as if by magic. 

Conclusions

In this kind of article, it is common to make a prediction about the future. However, in this case it seems almost too easy. It is virtually certain that, barring an unforeseen calamity, Rolex prices will continue to increase, and that the Submariner will always be a superb investment. But it is equally clear that you can never be complacent when it comes to watches, and that even holds true for the Submariner. The data shows that uncertainty will always be a part of any purchase, even one as dependable as the Sub. 

John Wallis

by John Wallis

Living and working in London, John has been writing about watches since graduating university. He got his start at SalonQP, London's finest watch show, where he was inspired by the breadth and creativity of the modern industry. His fascination with mechanical horology has only grown from there.

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