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Why Rolex Watches Are So Expensive: The Mystery Behind It

By Mike Fried,


Rolex is one of the most well-known watch brands in the entire world. Popularized by figures from James Bond to JFK, the brand exudes success and exclusivity. The Rolex watch symbolizes achievement. But have you ever wondered why they cost so much? 

When Hans Wilsdorf first began the brand in the early 20th century, the watches didn’t cost a fortune. But as the years passed, the quality of these watches kept increasing. Their price tags followed suit. 

Rolex takes no shortcuts in delivering high-quality craftsmanship and engineering. We decided to break down the components that make a Rolex an unforgettable watch, albeit an expensive one. 

Why is Rolex expensive?
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Basic Factors in Pricing?

A major factor in the cost of a Rolex is the caliber of materials and workmanship used to create each watch. They hire only highly skilled individuals, whether it’s a scientist or a marketing expert. 

The prices of their watches will vary depending on the model and collection. For example, this Rolex Daytona 116509 Black Mother of Pearl has a high price point. It costs over $50,000 USD pre-owned. The shimmering MOP dial and added features elevate the price tag. 

As follows, we break down the components of a Rolex even more. We want to see exactly what is behind the expense of a Rolex watch.

Read more: A complete guide to buying a luxury watch

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Here Are 9 reasons Why Rolex Watches Are So Expensive

Rolex’s Use of 904L Stainless Steel

Rolex uses only the best for all its components. Even their stainless steel is a higher quality than most other watchmakers. They use 904L stainless steel which is stronger and shinier than the typically used 316L steel.

The 904L steel is also known as Corrosion-Resistant Superalloy. Rolex started using it extensively in 2003. They make it in-house to ensure quality. Because they make it themselves, it’s unlikely other watchmakers are using this superior product. 

Many Research Facilities 

The Internal Research and Development teams at Rolex are extraordinary. They have various labs with many scientists working on new Rolex watches and manufacturing strategies.

The company stress tests the watch movements, cases and bracelets for durability. They have a room with electron microscopes and other high-tech research tools for testing metals and other materials. We don’t need to tell you that equipment is costly.  

Rolex watch from Bob's watches
Rolex President watch from Bob’s Watches

The Use Of Mechanization

Because of the high demand for Rolex watches, they have seriously invested in machines to help their output. 

For example, they use robots to do repetitive jobs like packaging, retrieving parts and partially assembling Rolex watches. 

Hand-Assembled Movements

There are some tasks that Rolex doesn’t trust to the robots. Most watch movements and bracelets are hand-assembled. Rolex also involves humans in double-checking and testing the watches. They are noted to pay their employees fairly and provide benefits. 

Water Impermeability Testing

Not only can Rolex watches withstand humidity, they have remarkable impermeability. Depending on the collection, some watches like this Rolex Submariner 16803 Black, are water-resistant up to 300 meters. They use pressurized tanks and actually go outdoors into the water to make sure the watches function properly. 

For the serious divers amongst us, the Rolex Sea-Dweller 126660 Ceramic Bezel can handle depths of 3,900 meters. This watch also has a 60-minute graduated ceramic bezel to support your dive. 

An Army of Gemologists

Rolex has an enormous department of gemologists and traditional jewelers. The team helps with buying, testing and setting precious stones and metals. For example, you’ll know Rolex put meticulous effort into your diamond placement on the watches below: 

Diamond Rolex Watches
Rolex DateJust 16233 Diamond Dial (left), Rolex Datejust 178341 Roman Mother of Pearl Dial (right)

Gold Production

Like its inhouse stainless steel production, Rolex melts and mixes its own gold. They want control over the quality and what better way than to take it into their own hands. Because gold is so soft, companies mix it with other metals to give it strength for everyday use. Rolex usually refines 24K gold into 18K yellow, white, or Everose Gold for their watches.  

Quality Control

Rolex takes their quality seriously. They make much of their products, like the gold, in-house to maintain their standard. 

Most of the movements they use are certified by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC). COSC is a non-profit organization, developed to uphold the Swiss watchmaking standard. They’re a third part that tests the accuracy of Swiss-made watches. They continuously approve of Rolex products.

Design Process

Watchmaking is a meticulous process that requires a lot of moving pieces, people, and expensive materials. Rolex takes this process to the next level by always reaching beyond its current success into new realms. 

The innovation that comes out of Rolex is indicative that they spend a lot of money on research and development. In 1926, they invented the first waterproof wrist watch. Since then they’ve fabricated many other notable inventions. To name a few, they were the first to have an automatic date on the watch dial, first to display two time zones, and first to have a multi-use command bezel.

Rolex watches

Another example of recent ingenuity is the green sapphire crystal, first introduced in the Rolex Milgauss Green Crystal 116400V. It’s a watch crystal that’s sturdy, scratch-proof and fade-proof. It works well in low-light conditions. Each crystal takes weeks to make.  

We’re also impressed with the creativity behind Rolex’s Oysterflex band. While the outer shell of the bracelet is a strong black elastomer, the center is flexible titanium and nickel alloy blades. It’s the ultimate in comfort, style, and durability. You can see the chic band on this Rolex Yacht-Master 268655 37MM

In early 2022, Rolex had introduced 6 new watches. It’s a prove that they are still innovating and adjusting to current needs and wishes.

Interested in finding a handsome Rolex at a good price? We can help. Reach out any time. 

Can Rolex prices really be justified?

Each Rolex collection takes almost an entire year to create. They spare no cost to ensure the sound quality of their reputation. 

Whether it be materials, expert professionals, or quality control measures, the grade is high. This makes certain their product is dependable. They charge a lot but they also spend a lot to make the perfection of their watches possible.

Is Rolex worth the money? 

Rolex watches (especially pre-owned watches) are worth the money because they are exemplary little machines. Not only do the watches last decades, Rolex uses the utmost care in every segment of production. Their company uses only the best materials and professionals. Their lack of short-cuts give you a watch that’s dependable and attractive.

Rolex watches have a high initial cost but most only appreciate in value as the years go by. A Rolex watch also functions well for a long time. Whether you choose to keep the same watch your entire life or sell it later on, a Rolex watch is going to keep working for you. 

How much does the average Rolex cost?

Rolex watches vary in price but start around $6,000 and go up to $75,000 USD for brand new. They differ in price depending on the materials, movements, collection popularity and features within the watch. But for an average estimate, most Rolex watches cost between $7,000 and $12,000.

According to JCK, the Rolex company has announced that they are “starting a certified pre-owned program, which will enable its official retailers to sell secondhand models it has certified as authenctic.”

The lowest price we found for an authentic, pre-owned Rolex like this Vintage Rolex Date 1501 Stainless Steel was around $4,000 USD. 

How do I know if my Rolex is real?

One indicator of a real Rolex is the silence. There should be no ticking noise present because Rolex watches use automatic movements. An automatic movement produces no ticking noise.

Another factor is the small Rolex crown logo close to the 6 o’clock part of the watch dial. The 12 o’clock position should also have a larger Rolex crown logo. 

Rolex watches have smooth backings without any etching. They are always made from metal. Does it have a fancy window to see the inside of the watch? It’s not a Rolex. 

Another easy way to check if your Rolex is real is to look at the certificate of authenticity, warranty paperwork and manual that should be in the box of a Rolex. 

Using a trusted brand, like Bob’s Watches, to shop for a pre-owned Rolex is always smart. It’s important to buy a Rolex from a watchmaker or jeweler you trust. Or get their opinion if you are considering buying a pre-owned Rolex from an individual. 

How many watches does Rolex make a year?

The exact number of Rolex watches made every year is a mystery but the general estimate is between 800,000 and 1 million. Some people propose they make a higher number. Rolex is a rather secretive company. They never disclose more information about their operations than is necessary. 


There is no doubt that Rolex can charge a pretty penny for a product. They have a glamorous reputation of high-achievement and success. But the product of Rolex is not merely a marketing mirage. Watch making at any level is a meticulously involved process. Rolex has made it into an artform. 

Buying a Rolex watch can be daunting, even if you know why they’re expensive. We are here to help you find the perfect watch for your price point.

Here are more specific watch topics to browse:

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About the author

Mike Fried Mike Fried Mike Fried has over 25 years experience in the diamond industry working with Leo Schachter Diamonds, Moshe Namdar Diamonds, and joining The Diamond Pro in 2007. He is recognized as an industry expert and has been quoted in publications such as Us, People, Page Six, The Next Web and more.

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