In a previous article, we discussed the visual and historical differences between the Rolex Explorer 1 and Rolex Air King. In this article we’re going to explore the pricing differences between the two watches and dive into whether one is a better investment than the other. The data doesn’t lie and the comparison between the two is fascinating. Let’s take a look.
Unlike many Rolex sport models, one benefit about both of these watches is you can get both of them at an authorized dealer with less of a wait than a Submariner, GMT, Daytona, or SkyDweller. However, it does seem like the Explorer 1 is becoming increasingly hard to get. The MSRP of these pieces is $6,550 for the Explorer and $6,450 for the Air King, a $100 difference. Now let’s examine how that price compares on the grey market.
As you can see in the graph above, surprisingly, in 2017 the Rolex Air King started at a higher secondary price than the Explorer, trading not only above the Explorer’s secondary price, but also above its own MSRP. This is highly unusual because at that time even Submariners hadn’t reached the level of rarity they’re at now. and Air Kings and Explorers should’ve been relatively easy to acquire.
As expected, we can see the market correct itself and the Air King’s secondary market price eventually falls back to below / at MSRP in late 2017, early 2018. What was not expected is the price of the Explorer starting to take off, selling above MSRP in December 2017 and continuing higher until today. After a couple months of lag the Air King takes off as well.
Data Source: Chrono24
Making Sense of It All
Today we can see that the Rolex Explorer trades at a higher market value than the Air King, in the graph above, the Explorer trades at 43% above MSRP. Meanwhile the Air King trades at 31% over. This shows the greater demand for the Explorer over the Air King. However, it’s important to note, in the earlier graph, we see the slope of the Air King’s secondary market price as being almost the same as that of the Explorer. This implies that people are becoming just as “hyped” about the Air King as they are about the Explorer, implying the greater returns of the Explorer are just a result of interest starting at an earlier time.
Why do these two pieces track each other so closely?
We touched on some more points in my earlier article comparing the two watches, on the Everest blog, but we believe that the first reason is that these watches share similar design elements, the 3, 6, 9 numerals, similar case size, dimensions, etc. This gives the watches a similar target customer, someone looking to get their first Rolex, an entry-level piece, so to say. This is further evidenced by only a $100 difference in MSRP making them virtually the same price to a potential buyer.
Additionally, the more classic design of the Explorer 1 may appeal to a wider range of customers. The Air King is unique among the current Rolex lineup, a far deviation from the original Air King, whereas the Explorer is very true to nature and almost an exact copy of the original 6350.
Future Investment Potential of these watches?
In terms of future investment potential, both the Explorer and Air King seem to be on an unstoppable trajectory up, like most of the Rolex lineup. However, the easier to find nature and lower entry point on the secondary market definitely makes the Air King more of an attractive watch for beginner watch investors. That’s not to say that the Explorer doesn’t have room to run. With a little bit of patience the Explorer can still be found at ADs and with rumors of an updated Explorer releasing this spring, secondary market prices for the Explorer are likely to run even higher.
Let us know in the comments section below which you would buy!
Written By: Joshua Jiang