Much ado is made each year when Rolex releases new watches. Back in 2018, when the most recent Pepsi GMT Master II was launched in stainless steel, the model was immediately valued at double its retail price of $9,250 for over $18,000, (and now you can find them for up to $22,000). It was nearly impossible to get unless you had a tight relationship with an authorized Rolex dealer where you’d been spending significant funds over a period of years.
But this year’s new Rolex models may be even harder to get your hands on. Sources have indicated that models will be even more scarce due to the shutdown of the manufacture during the early days of the pandemic—with availability expected to decrease by 30 to 40 percent, anyone who can get hold of the brand-new Submariners may have a goldmine on their hands.
Just last year, the Rolex Submariner Ref. 116610 (introduced in 2010) was climbing to $10,000 on the secondary market—it retailed for $8,550. And now, you can already find those models going for up to $16,995 on the go-to site for pre-owned Rolexes, Bob’s Watches. This year’s new Oyster Perpetual Oystersteel no-date Sub Ref. 124060 with a black dial and black Cerachrom rotating bezel, in a slightly larger 41 mm case (the bracelet has also been modified with a broader center link than previous models), retails for $8,100 and comes equipped with Rolex’s new 3230 movement, which extends the power reserve to 70 hours. The Oyster Submariner Perpetual Date Ref. 126610LN, also in 41 mm, comes equipped with the 3235 caliber, first introduced in 2015 on the Pearlmaster 39. Until now, the Submariner Date has used the caliber 3135, which debuted in 1988, so this is a major development for this particular style, also extending the power reserve to 70 hours. The Datejust, Yacht-Master and Sea-Dweller already come equipped with the in-house 3235, so it was high-time the Submariner got this upgrade, too. The new collection signals the discontinuation of previous offerings in the line, last updated between 2008 and 2012, including the popular Hulk model which has already gone up 20 to 30 percent.
“I’m surprised that Rolex took the initiative and made the Submariner in a slightly larger size,” Bob’s Watches founder Paul Altier told Robb Report. “I think it’s fantastic because there are a bunch of people out there that like big watches. It’s been 40 mm for something like 40 years. It’s a win-win because they not only made it larger to 41 mm, but they contoured it and shaped the lugs and the case so it should fit a little more snuggly on the wrist. So, they achieved bigger and better. Also now that they changed the bracelet, they won’t be interchangeable at all, which should make some of the watch afficiandos crazy.”
Topping off the offering, Rolex also released a two-tone 18-karat yellow gold and Oystersteel (a combo Rolex refers to as Rolesor) Ref. 126613LB version with a blue Cerachrom bezel with a blue dial ($14,300), a Ref. 126610LV steel date Submariner with a black dial and green bezel ($9,950) which hasn’t been seen since the 50th anniversary model introduced in 2003, and a Ref. 126619LB white gold iteration with a black dial and blue bezel ($39,650).
The second headliner is the gold Sky-Dweller, now on a rubber strap known as an Oysterflex, which was previously only introduced on Rolex sport models, such as the Yachtmaster in 2015. The new strap phases out previous Sky-Dwellers available on a leather strap. It comes in yellow gold with a black dial in the Ref. 326238 ($40,000) and Everose gold with a brown dial Ref. 326235 or white dial Ref. 326235 ($41,500 each), all in 42 mm cases. First released in 2012, this model is one of Rolex’s most complicated watches to date. Its 9001 caliber features two time zones, a date display, a month indicator and an annual calendar. The 2017 Ref. 326934 with a blue dial has risen in price from $15,000 to $23,000 in the last year.
There are also new Oyster Perpetual models in both 41 mm and 36 mm cases marking the first time this line has seen a full redesign since 2014. The first version, the 41 mm Ref. 124300 ($5,900), comes in Oystersteel with a silver sunray or black sunray dial and replaces the 39 mm iteration that debuted in 2015. Until now, the silver sunray dial hasn’t been seen on an Oyster Perpetual since the 1960’s. While this is an entry-level watch for Rolex, the discontinuation of the 39 mm might see prices rise for the older model on the secondary market. The new piece comes with white or yellow gold index markers and is equipped with the 3230 caliber, which features 70 hours of power reserve.
It joins the 36 mm in the OP lineup, which comes with five new colorful dials in cotton candy pink, forest green, canary yellow, coral red and light turquoise. Also equipped with the 3230, each Ref. 126000 is available in sizes ranging from 28 mm to 41 mm (with the exception of 39 mm) and retails for $5,600.
The smallest sized Rolex release was reserved for the 31 mm Oyster Perpetual Datejust in Oyster Steel and 18-karat white gold. The most expensive piece is the only diamond-accented model in the collection. The Ref. 278384RBR features 46 brilliant-cut diamonds with a royal purple dial in a sunray finish and Roman numerals, including an oversized diamond-set VI marker ($16,050). For those that prefer a more subdued look from one of the brand’s most pervasive models, there is a mint green sunray finish (on a Jubilee bracelet, $8,050); dark gray sunray finish (on a Jubilee bracelet, $8,050); and white lacquer (on an Oyster bracelet, $7,800) dials sans bling on offer. Each comes with a fluted 18-karat white gold bezel set with either index hour markers or Roman numerals, also in 18-karat white gold. All come with the self-winding caliber 2236 with 50 hours of power reserve.
The Submariner, however, is the watch to get your hands on. “When the 116500 Daytona came out 4 years ago, people were shocked at how much it jumped, but it was much more revolutionary. This one is not that different from its predecessor so it’s not going to have that much bang as the 116500 had, in my opinion,” says Altieri. “But l on that Daytona I was telling people, ‘Look retail on it is $12,000. I know it’s $16,000 now but just wait a year and prices always start to come down.’ Historically, that’s what they would do. But I had to throw that out the window, because now they’re $26,000. The people that I told to wait, I gave bad advice. [Laughs] So the Submariner could go up easily, because scarcity this time is going to be even more strained.”
The new caliber and size are covetable updates to a model that is already heating up on the secondary market. Act fast, especially if you have a stellar (read: high-spending) record with your local authorized dealer. For the rest, you’ll have to wait and catch a pre-owned model at, perhaps, double the price.