Buying a Rolex? Go vintage, you could make a fortune!

Why a vintage Rolex is the best investment, and how to make sure you pick the right one for maximum returns.

Peter Iantorno March 23, 2015

Here at EDGAR, we often wonder why anyone would bother investing in standard stocks and shares when there's a whole world of exciting products you could put your money into.

For starters there are diamonds, design products and even autographs (did you know that signed photos of George Harrison have increased in value by more than 1,000 per cent over the past 15 years?), but an investment that has always caught our eye is watches - specifically vintage Rolex watches. But why vintage and why Rolex? Well, before we go into more detail, it's important to clear up what the term 'vintage' actually means.

The main confusion tends to come from less-than-reputable sellers, who label watches as 'vintage' when, in actual fact, they're simply 'second-hand'. To qualify as truly vintage, a Rolex must be a minimum of 20 years old - so step away from that 2010 Submariner. Although the fact that the brand is so popular among watch philistines is often used as a stick to beat Rolex with (if you don't know what we mean by this, check out our 'What your watch says about you' article here), it's this very fact that makes a vintage Rolex such a good investment.

Not only is the brand universally known, but if you buy a vintage example, you know that no more will be made, thus yours is going to, at worst, hold its value and at best, become worth a lot more.Rolex Oyster Perpetual 1931What to look out for
When buying a vintage Rolex, there are a number of factors that can have a big effect on its value - both now and in the future. The first is condition: if the watch is completely wrecked, of course it's not going to be worth as much as if it were pristine.

However, proceed with caution here, as often a watch that has been been restored to its shiny former glory can be worth less than a scratched one if the restoration process isn't done sensitively, as heavy polishing can wear away so much of the case material, the watch loses its original shape.

Next is rarity. It stands to reason that the less common a watch is, the higher its value, and while this is kind of true, the thing with buying a vintage Rolex is that you often sacrifice a bit of rarity you'd get from a lesser-known brand for the universally appealing name, which will make the watch salable to a far wider spectrum of buying when the time comes to cash in. Rolex Submariner 1953It's another generalisation, but in most cases it's true that the more complications a vintage Rolex has got, the stronger investment it is - assuming that all the complications have been looked after well and remain in good working order. While styles tend to evolve over the years and certain looks go in and out of fashion, a good complication is always going to hold its value.

And finally, the proper documentation is incredibly helpful in any form of vintage buying and watches are no exception to this. While Rolexes are generally easy to date and catalogue through serial numbers, it's always going to increase the value if you can produce the certification of ownership and, ideally, the original box too.

If you pick your vintage Rolex carefully, not only will you have yourself a beautiful watch that you can enjoy over time, but you'll also be safe in the knowledge that your piece of wrist candy is earning you extra cash with every tick.Rolex GMT-Master 1955