Two weeks ago, I wrote an article called Hidden Gems: 3 Undervalued Rolex Watches in Fall 2023. The response was outstanding and the demand for market report content was made clear. As such, you can expect bi-weekly installments of Hidden Gems from here on out, highlighting the best deals in the used Rolex market. Today, we have three Rolex sports watches that offer excellent value compared not only to their modern counterparts, but their original retail prices.
Rolex Milgauss Ref. 116400
Image Source: bobswatches.com
The Rolex Milgauss is an exception to Rolex’s slow-and-steady approach to design evolution. I’ve written about this model family at length, but in short, the anti-magentic tool watch was born in 1956 with the ref. 6541 and has seen two generations since: the ref. 1019 and the ref. 116400. The Milgauss was quietly discontinued this year at Watches and Wonders (the model’s second discontinuation following that of the 1019 in 1988). The three Milgauss generations can be clearly distinguished; their designs are all different. The ref. 116400 is the newest and least expensive, offering a safer entry point (mechanically and financially) into the historic Milgauss line.
The Milgauss ref. 116400 saw multiple configurations during its lifespan, including one with a bright “Z-Blue” dial (pictured above) and many with green-tinted sapphire crystals (also pictured above). The reference also features a bright orange lightning bolt seconds hand. Needless to say, this is a quirky, colorful watch with lots of personality. Beyond that, it’s a Rolex sports watch; it’s robust, reliable, and accurate thanks to its caliber 3131.
Image Source: watchpro.com
Depending on the watch’s condition and color configuration (Z-Blue seems to command a premium), the Milgauss 116400 hovers in the range of $7,000-$11,000. For context, the Milgauss retailed for $9,300 leading up to its 2023 discontinuation. It’s somewhat rare to find a modern Rolex sports watch below $10,000, let alone below retail.
Rolex Sea-Dweller Ref. 16600
Originally released in 1967, the Sea-Dweller was (and really still is) Rolex’s attempt at making a technically-superior Submariner. By increasing the Submariner’s already-impressive water resistance rating (200 meters in the late 1960s) and adding a helium escape valve, Rolex created the ultimate watch for saturation divers.
The Sea-Dweller ref. 16600 (1989-2009) currently occupies a sweet spot between modern and vintage. Much like the Explorer II 16570, the Sea-Dweller 16600 has the charm of an older watch – particularly early examples with tritium – without many pitfalls of a truly vintage watch. The 16600’s predecessor – the “triple-six” 16660 – is recognized as the first modern Sea-Dweller. That makes the 16600 the second modern Sea-Dweller: the kinks were ironed out, a newer movement was included, and due to its sheer length of production, there are plenty of examples out there.
Image Source: ocwatchguy.com
Again depending on condition and extras (box, papers), the Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 hovers around $7,000 to $10,000. From what I can find, this watch retailed for $6,400 in its last year of production: a figure that would surely be higher if not doubled today. Of course, it might hurt your soul to buy a used watch above its retail price, but in the world of Rolex, I’d call a $7,000 Sea-Dweller 16600 a rock-solid deal.
Rolex Explorer Ref. 114270
Image Source: analogshift.com
The Rolex Explorer was one of the Crown’s iconic 1953 releases. Originally created for mountaineering, the Explorer has become the archetype for wearable, legible, do-it-all wristwatches. It’s the closest thing Rolex has to a field watch, and for that reason, I love it.
Obviously, there are too many Explorer references to go over in this article. The 114270 was made from 2001 to 2010 and features a few upgrades from its predecessors. Inside is the caliber 3130: a pre-Parachrom movement that’s as robust, accurate, and reliable as you would expect (and hope for) it to be. This reference also introduced solid end links into the Explorer family, giving the watch a heavier luxurious feel. Solid end links also prevent denting and/or misalignment issues commonly presented by hollow endlinks.
The 114270 retailed for $5,050 in its last year of production (2010). Today, you can find them used in good condition for around $4,000-$5,000. For a watch that’s commonly touted as the most versatile ever made, not to mention the fact that it will outlive you, not to mention the fact that it’s from Earth’s favorite watch brand, the Rolex Explorer 114270 presents a lot of value in today’s used market.