3 Rolexes & 3 Budget-Friendly Alternatives That Are Perfect Graduation Gifts

3 Rolexes & 3 Budget-Friendly Alternatives That Are Perfect Graduation Gifts

Celebrate time with grads

One of my favorite things about spring is the endless possibility that it seems to hold in store, which is especially true for high school and college seniors as they prepare for the next chapter of their lives. There are very few life events that can unite us quite like a graduation. Filled with mixed feelings and emotions, it’s a time to let go of what was and set forward on a brand new journey. The whole world is literally at their feet.

Firstly, a huge congratulations to anyone who is graduating this year. 2020 proved beyond difficult for the entire world, but somehow these kids persevered and continued their focus on reaching their goals regardless and for that, a huge round of applause. There are certain occasions in life that I feel the gift of time resonates most. After all, a watch is far more than a fancy accessory, it’s indicative of the time that’s forever passing by. It marks the most special moments in our lives, and what better moment to celebrate than graduation! 

watch in everest leather pouch

With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of three of our favorite Rolex watches for graduates (because what graduate of this generation doesn’t know the most popular watch brand around?  I’ll guarantee that Ayo & Teo song, “I just want a Rollie Rollie Rollie with a dab of ranch” plays through their mind every time they think of Rolex). *side note, this song is now stuck in my head and the rest of this article may not get written. Also, I’ve never understood what ranch has to do with Rolex’s but I digress. I’ve decided to take this guide a step further and include a budget friendly alternative for each Rolex model we discuss. 

1. The Rolex Explorer II

Firstly, because I’m a bit of a sentimental one when it comes to gifts and watches, I have to recommend the Explorer II. This watch is just such a great modern “go anywhere, do anything” watch which I feel is important when considering a first “luxury” timepiece. At 42mm, it offers a modern size but is also a bit of an under the radar Rolex perfect for those early days in the workforce. All that combined with the fact that it is incredibly versatile and looks great on so many different straps makes it a top contender in my book!

rolex explorer on leather strap

Rolex Explorer II Budget Friendly Alternative: Christopher Ward C63 Sealander GMT

The budget friendly alternative for the Explorer II is a watch that I’m personally quite excited about and was just launched a few weeks ago. The Christopher Ward C63 Sealander GMT has a very similar aesthetic to the Explorer II but comes in just over $1,000. The 39mm size makes it a bit more practical for smaller wrists and, similarly to the Rolex offering, comes in both a black and white dial variant. 

christopher ward watch


2. Rolex Submariner

Next up, for the athletic graduate is a watch that keeps up with everything they throw at it. Of course I’m talking about the Rolex Submariner. Iconic, robust, no frills, legendary...honestly I’m not sure there are really enough words to describe this watch. Fortunately the fact that it is the most recognizable watch on the market today means that its reputation speaks for itself. It’s exactly the kind of watch your graduate can make memories for thirty years in and still look as sharp as the day it was purchased. And again, incredibly versatile when it comes to straps!

rolex submariner on everest rubber straps

Rolex Submariner Budget Friendly Alternative: The MONTA Oceanking

The alternative, and by no means is it any less worthy of hype - the MONTA Oceanking. Designed by watch enthusiasts for watch enthusiasts, the Oceanking sits a bit over $2,000 and holds its own when compared to the Submariner. MONTA has packed one hell of a watch into a 40mm package, and genuinely I cannot tell you enough how great the finishing is on these watches, not to mention the bracelet is the most comfortable I have ever worn. Available in multiple dial and bezel options, it’s equally capable of handling any beach to the boardroom lifestyle.

MONTA Oceanking


3. Rolex Cellini

Finally on our Graduates Gift Guide, a watch for the graduate entering a profession that requires a suit and a tie, the Rolex Cellini. Celebrating horological craftsmanship and tradition, the Cellini screams perfection. Available exclusively in 18k white or Everose gold, this 39mm piece of art stands out in the Rolex collection as unique and bold, much as any graduate hopes for when entering his first boardroom meeting. 

rolex cellini watch


Rolex Cellini Budget Friendly Alternative: Hamilton IntraMatic

While the world of “budget friendly” dress watches is far less saturated than that of its sporty counterparts, the Hamilton IntraMatic is a true gem. From a brand with a ton of history, it offers a sleek yet modern twist on the traditional dress watch. And with prices starting at $850 it appeals to collectors of all types. 

hamilton watch

One of the things I’ve always loved about this hobby is that there is truly a watch made for everyone. And whether you’re surprising your graduate with their first nice watch or planning a group shopping trip so they can pick it out for themselves, this is a moment in life that none of you are sure to forget anytime soon. For the grads out there, congratulations once again. Life is full of challenges, but for each one of those you’ll have the tools to navigate the road ahead. And if nothing else, maybe at least a great watch to stare at while trying to figure it out!


Written by: K. Wells

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