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 6 minutes

The Perfect Three-Watch Rolex Collection for $30,000

By Donato Andrioli
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We’ve got $30,000 to spend on assembling a collection of three Rolex models. Which watches and references would be in your collection? I’ve chosen two modern models and a vintage reference to create a well-balanced combination with plenty of variety. These three timepieces couldn’t be more different from one another. They each play their own unique role in the collection: There’s a sporty icon for everyday wear, an elegant counterpart for special occasions, and a very underrated Rolex that will let you fly under the radar with a great watch on your wrist. 

The Everyday Rolex

I don’t know about you, but if I were building a collection, there’s one watch that would be an absolute must: the Rolex Submariner. And this is undoubtedly the case for our three-watch Rolex collection under $30,000. This design icon looks excellent no matter which reference you choose. But the one I personally like is the No Date. It is the original Submariner, as the very first Sub Rolex created came without a date complication. And if you’re new to watch collecting, you’ll be getting a timepiece that you can wear every single day and whose design goes with anything. It has never gone out of style since its release in 1954. And why would it? Its classic looks pretty much ensure that it will still be fashionable in 2054 and, if you ask me, for many years beyond that. 

As mentioned, the Submariner doesn’t feature a practical date complication. However, you do get a dial with perfect symmetry that will draw eyes to your wrist again and again. (Adamant about a date complication? Fear not. The second watch in our $30,000 collection will stand in stark contrast to the Rolex Submariner and feature an iconic Cyclops lens above its date window). Which Submariner reference did I choose for you today? Well, even though I really like the so-called “Two Liner” ref. 14060, I ultimately chose the modern ref. 114060. This six-digit reference model delivers a modern watch with a solid case and bracelet. The ref. 114060 is also an exciting timepiece from a collector’s perspective. In production for eight years, the 114060’s uncompromising case design isn’t a favorite among all watch enthusiasts. On the other hand, this means you won’t see it on the wrist of every single Rolex wearer you bump into (by the way, this case design prompted Rolex to slim down the lugs on the 2020 model). I strongly feel the ref. 114060 will be very sought-after among Rolex collectors in the coming years. Ref. 114060 watches in very good condition (and with their full set) start at around $15,000 on Chrono24. 

No Rolex collection is complete without it: the Rolex Submariner. Here as a "No Date" ref. 114060.
No Rolex collection is complete without it: the Rolex Submariner. Here as a “No Date” ref. 114060.

The Sophisticated Rolex for Special (and Everyday) Occasions

Our second watch enjoys a similar “must have” status in any Rolex collection. We’re talking here of course about the equally iconic Datejust in its classic 36-mm size. Its sophisticated appearance and elegant size stand in complete contrast to the Submariner. The Datejust adds the beloved Cyclops lens to our collection, something that these days is a signature feature of every Rolex watch with a date complication. The Datejust truly enhances our three-watch collection with the right touch of sophistication and variety. 

The Datejust is the finer timepiece in our collection, perfect for special occasions. But don’t be afraid to have it on your wrist for everyday wear as well. To me, that’s what makes the Datejust so unique: It achieves just the right balance between being a “dress” and everyday watch in a way you’ll be hard-pressed to find with any other timepiece. Like any iconic timepiece of its kind, the Datejust has changed its appearance only slightly over the years. As technical updates have been made to the Datejust, at its core, we still have the same iconic watch, which is why we’re selecting a vintage version for our collection. There are countless options here, and the final choice is ultimately up to you. Do you want an older, more affordable 1601 with plexiglass? Perhaps a newer 16234 whose sapphire crystal and overall quality essentially put it in the same league as more recent Datejust references? Maybe you’re looking for an exotic Datejust “Oysterquartz” model? Or is it the legendary two-tone 16013 seen on Christian Bale’s wrist in the 2000 film American Psycho? Whatever it is, you can find your perfect Datejust 36 on Chrono24 for less than $8,000. As a Rolex enthusiast, you’re going to love the endless selection of dial colors that will let you select the Datejust that fits your lifestyle and tastes the best. 

The iconic Datejust delivers the right touch of variety to any Rolex collection.
The iconic Datejust delivers the right touch of variety to any Rolex collection.

The Rolex Under the Radar

The reserved character of our third watch is exactly what our collection needs. I mean, just about everyone will recognize the Submariner and Datejust at first glance, even if they don’t know anything about watches. Speaking of which, does it really matter what watch you have on your wrist at the end of the day? Or put a little differently: do people even notice? Well, if we’re honest, as a watch enthusiast, it matters to you, and isn’t that all that counts? But there are still those situations or events where we’d like a watch on our wrist that doesn’t jump out at you and flies a bit under the radar. With this in mind, the Oyster Perpetual 39 ref. 114300 is just the timepiece we need to round off our $30,000 collection. It’s a six-digit, reserved modern Rolex reference that subtly and quietly makes its mark. I know, I know: We’re talking here about a reserved model, then Rolex goes and causes a stir with the release of its new OP39s and their colorful dials (candy pink and coral red, to name just a few). But generally speaking, the Oyster Perpetual maintains a place within the brand’s catalog outside of the spotlight, leaving that role to its more popular Rolex brethren. 

The foundation of every Rolex and perfect for those who want to fly under the radar: the Oyster Perpetual 39.
The foundation of every Rolex and perfect for those who want to fly under the radar: the Oyster Perpetual 39.

And yet, the Oyster Perpetual’s heritage is at least as impressive as that of any other Rolex model. I’d even argue that it might be the most significant Rolex ever. Rolex understands the Oyster Perpetual as the quintessential Oyster; it is nothing less than the essence of every Rolex watch. It should be no surprise that the name is found on just about every one of the brand’s timepieces. After all, “Oyster” signifies a water-resistant case. At the same time, “Perpetual” communicates the automatic rotor that Rolex invented and patented in 1931, a technology that would go on to do nothing less than power every modern automatic watch. Typical Rolex: While the watch’s technology would continue to improve over the years, its design today is the same as it was back then, with a reserved look and feel that lets you have an Oyster Perpetual on your wrist for really any occasion. You can find Oyster Perpetual 39 models on Chrono24 in good condition for anywhere between $8,000 and $11,000, with a wide choice of dial colors. Is a classic look your thing? Go with black or blue. Want something a bit fresher? You’ll want to check out the stunning rhodium dial with its light blue accents. If you’re looking for an even classier touch, you might enjoy setting out to find the rare white dial. Or if you’re going for something entirely different, why not check out the “Red Grape” dial? No matter what you select, the Oyster Perpetual is the perfect companion for anyone looking to fly under the radar with an iconic watch on their wrist. It combines with the Submariner and Datejust to create the perfect trio in our Rolex collection. 

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About the Author

Donato Andrioli

With the purchase of my Tudor Black Bay 41, I discovered a passion for mechanical watches. I am particularly drawn to iconic watches with long and exciting histories.

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