Rolex has always been known as one of the most expensive watches in the watchmaking industry. It is a truly magnificent watch brand that is great to go for as a nice treat to yourself.
That said, Rolex watches can cost well over $10,000 USD, so for those on a tighter budget, perhaps going for the alternative route would be best. It does not really matter if you are wearing a different brand other than Rolex. As long as you establish a certain feel and familiarity with your watch, you are good to go. At the same time, if you are still inclined towards getting a Rolex watch, there are quite a few models that are quite affordable compared to the rest of the Rolex catalog.
In this article, we will be going over some of the most affordable Rolex watches in the market. We also have curated a list of some best Rolex alternatives to consider when buying a luxurious watch.
5 Affordable Rolex Watches
1. Rolex Oyster Perpetual Ladies Ref. 276200-0003
This one is for the ladies out there looking for the right luxurious glamour to improve their outfits for the night. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Ladies Ref. 276200-0003 is a magnificent choice for ladies who are looking for a versatile dress watch. It boasts a simple design, with luxurious features such as its Oystersteel case and domed bezel made of the same material, which gives the watch a bit more height and bulk. Its 28mm Oystersteel case has a particular, opulent shine and is extremely resistant against corrosion, shock and other external damage.
This Rolex Oyster Perpetual watch is also equipped with the 2232 Rolex Manufacture automatic movement with a power reserve of over 55 hours. It also allows for winding using its bidirectional crown. The price for this watch is $7,969 USD, making it one of the most affordable Rolex watches on the market.
2. Rolex Lady Datejust Ref. 279163-0006
This list would not be complete without mentioning the legendary Datejust. In this case, the most affordable ladies’ Datejust is the Rolex Lady Datejust Ref. 279163-0006. This watch is a smaller version of the Datejust, with a more feminine design due to its exquisite Roman numeral markers and more slender 28mm Oystersteel case. Its 18K gold domed bezel gives it a more refined and polished style that excels in elegance compared to other Rolex pieces. The case is also fitted with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal that has Rolex’s signature magnified lens over the date aperture.
This Rolex Lady Datejust watch is equipped with the 2236 caliber movement. This slim movement is used as it is better suited to the Lady Datejust’s build and can accommodate the rapid setting of the date aperture. The price for this extravagantly-made yet still affordable Rolex watch starts at $8,850 USD.
3. Rolex Datejust Ref. 126200-0004
The Rolex Datejust Ref. 126200-0004 excels in delivering a sleek style with its quintessential jet-black dial and silver luminous hour markers. It may not use lavish materials like yellow or rose gold, but it does provide a commanding magnificence with its polished 36mm Oystersteel case and bracelet.
Compared to the aforementioned Lady Datejust, this watch boasts a more classic design that makes use of silver rectangular indices rather than numerals. As per usual, the sapphire crystal offers a magnifying lens to make the date aperture more legible.
This Rolex Datejust timepiece is also equipped with the 2235 automatic caliber movement. You can purchase this most affordable Rolex dress watch for just $9,539 USD.
4. Rolex Explorer Ref. 124270-0001
The Rolex Explorer offers the perfect balance of style and versatility, which makes this a watch for literally everyone. This is a watch for explorers and thus comes with superb durability. That said, since this is a Rolex piece, many people might not want to wear this watch during strenuous activities like hiking, outdoor camping, and other sports-related activities. Fear not, however, since the Rolex Explorer is truly unmatched in terms of durability and utility.
The Rolex Explorer Ref. 124270-0001 comes in a 36mm strong stainless steel case and bracelet, which makes it extremely resilient against external elements. It has a straightforward black dial with a combination of Arabic numerals and indices as its hour markers.
The Rolex Caliber 3230 is used for this watch since it does not have a date aperture. This movement provides excellent accuracy and reliability, and it also has a whopping 70-hour power reserve for maximum usage outdoors. The price for this all-around Rolex Explorer watch starts at $11,079 USD. It is the most affordable Rolex for those seeking a hardy timepiece to accompany them on their adventures.
5. Rolex Datejust Turn O Graph Ref. 116261-SSO
The Rolex Turn O Graph is one of the watches with the greatest heritage in the brand’s catalog. The Rolex Turn O Graph gained its name from its most prominent feature—the rotating bezel. It might not seem like a big deal today, but back then, it was all the rage. The 1953 Rolex Turn O Graph was considered the first watch to have a rotating bezel, and this contributed greatly to its popularity. In addition, the Turn O Graph is notable for being the pioneer watch and inspiration for iconic Rolex names like the Submariner, Yacht-Master, as well as the GMT Master.
After several years, Rolex decided to continue manufacturing the Rolex Turn O Graph under the Datejust collection. Adjustments were made to match the Datejust design scheme, but the re-imagined Turn O Graph still possesses the prominent features that highlight its heritage.
The Rolex Turn O Graph Ref. 116261-SSO has a 36mm stainless steel case with an Everose gold bezel and bracelet links. The white dial exudes effortless elegance, blending blends well with the rose gold hour markers and luminous hands. The date aperture can be found at the 3 o’clock position. Unlike most Rolex date apertures, this one features a bold red text on a white background, adding a pop of vibrant color to the watch. The price for this affordable Rolex piece starts at $9,669 USD.
Alternatives to Rolex Watches
Opting for alternatives is never a bad thing. In fact, the watchmaking community frequently encourages going for affordable alternative timepieces instead of spending all your savings on an exorbitant watch.
In addition, alternatives do not necessarily mean cheap knock-offs or fake models. Rolex is a recognized icon and top brand in the watchmaking industry. As such, it is no surprise that it has inspired several other brands too. The watchmaking market is flooded with pieces that closely resemble Rolex designs and aesthetics, and many of them are solid watches in their own right.
We have previously compiled a list of the 15 best alternatives to a Rolex Datejust. That said, for those who are seeking great substitutes to other Rolex models, here are the 10 more Rolex alternatives that you can opt for. These watches may not necessarily replace a Rolex, but these can provide the same luxurious and stylish vibe you get from an excellent Rolex piece. Not only that, these watches are also fairly affordable and much more accessible than Rolex timepieces.
10 Great Rolex Alternatives
1. Citizen The Citizen Solar Eco-Drive Ref. AQ4020-54Y
The Citizen The Citizen Solar Eco-Drive Ref. AQ4020-54Y is a great alternative for the Rolex Datejust, since it has a 37.6mm super titanium case with a thickness of 10.6mm. It has almost the same size as the aforementioned Rolex Datejust Turn O Graph Ref. 116261-SSO, although it lacks the rose gold accents and a magnifying lens on its date aperture. Like the Rolex Datejust, the date aperture of this Citizen watch can also be found at the 3 o’clock position.
The most prominent feature of this Citizen The Citizen timepiece is its Tosa Washi dial. Tosa Washi is a traditional Japanese special paper, and its use here gives the watch a snow-white dial that simply elevates the elegance of this piece. This timepiece is also equipped with the Citizen AQ 4020 quartz movement, which is fitted with a solar cell and allows for solar-charging capabilities. The price of this watch is $2,789 USD.
2. Tissot T-Classic Ref. T127.407.11.041.00
Another alternative for the Rolex Datejust is the Tissot T-Classic Ref. T127.407.11.041.00. It boasts similar features to the Datejust like a rectangular date aperture at 3 o’clock and a straightforward dial with a sunburst finish. It also has a similar build, with its slimmed lugs, three-piece link bracelet, mid-sized crown with teeth-like edges, and gleaming silver fixed bezel.
This T-Classic watch comes in a 40mm stainless steel case with a height of 11.5mm. The blue dial doubles down on the metallic scheme of the watch and accentuates its luminous silver hands and markers. This watch is also equipped with the Powermatic 80, which is a very reliable movement that can last for over 80 hours. This Tissot alternative to Rolex watches retails at $775 USD.
3. Hamilton Jazzmaster Ref. H42725151
Hamilton is a great brand if you are looking for affordable automatic alternatives to your desired luxury watch. The Hamilton Jazzmaster Ref. H42725151, for example, could serve as a great substitute for the Rolex Turn O Graph Ref. 116263 WH. Like the Rolex Turn O Graph, this Hamilton Jazzmaster piece boasts exquisite yellow gold accents on its bezel and the central links of the bracelet. This gives the watch an air of luxury much like that of the Turn O Graph’s.
Plus, the white dial of this Hamilton watch shows off a subtle pattern that adds to the elegance of this watch. The date aperture is also found at the 3 o’clock position and is accompanied by slim gold-tone hands and hour markers. This watch is powered by the Hamilton Caliber H-10, which ensures a power reserve of 80 minutes. It is an affordable, reliable, and stylish alternative to Rolex watches, which you can purchase for just $1,195 USD.
4. Montblanc Tradition Ref. 114367
As for the ladies, the Montblanc Tradition Ref. 114367 is an excellent Rolex alternative. It is quite similar to the Rolex Lady Datejust, particularly in terms of its size and use of exquisite Roman numeral markers. This watch might not come in gold cases, but its lovely mother-of-pearl dial makes up for that. The dial also boasts rose gold hands and hour markers that blend remarkably well with the mother-of-pearl backdrop.
The Montblanc Tradition Ref. 114367 has a 32mm stainless steel case and bracelet, giving it a polished look from the dial to the case. It is larger than the Lady Datejust by just a few millimeters, but it still fits comfortably on small-to-average sized wrists. This Montblanc Tradition watch is powered by the Montblanc Caliber MB 24.17, which enables it to last for over 38 hours. It is an incredibly classy watch, and is a great contender to the likes of the Lady Datejust and Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches. The price for this Montblanc timepiece starts at $1,619 USD.
5. Emporio Armani Zeta Ref. AR1999
Emporio Armani is the most affordable Rolex alternative out of the whole list. But that does not mean that Emporio Armani watches are not as good as other watch brands. The Emporio Armani Zeta Ref. AR1999 is one of the many impressive watches under the brand. It exemplifies reliability and versatility, with the top-notch expertise used in crafting each watch.
The 45mm case of this Emporio Armani Zeta piece is very reminiscent of the Lady Datejust, especially with its rounded shape and slim lugs. This is paired with a classy, dark brown leather strap and a striking white dial with luminous gold-tone hour markers and hands. The date aperture can be found at the same 3 o’clock position, but it is accompanied by a day indicator as well. This Emporio Armani watch is an exceptional alternative to the Rolex Lady Datejust for those on a tight budget. It retails at just $139 USD.
6. Seiko Prospex Ref. SPB243J1
Seiko is undoubtedly one of the most affordable watch brands, and its popularity precedes its reputation as a versatile watch brand. Seiko has introduced several watch models that champion durability, stability, accuracy, and reliability. With that in mind, there are quite a few Seiko watches that are inspired by the lasting heritage of Rolex.
The Seiko Prospex Ref. SPB243J1 is a great watch to consider as an alternative to the Rolex Datejust or the Rolex Oyster Perpetual. It has a 38mm stainless steel case and bracelet with a black dial to establish a color scheme that plays with both light and dark hues. The jet-black dial also complements the gold-tone luminous hands and hour markers. A date aperture can be found at the standard 3 o’clock position, although it does not have the magnifying lens that is found on most Rolex pieces.
The 6R35 automatic caliber movement is used to ensure this Seiko Prospex piece has over 70 hours of power reserve. This makes it a very reliable watch to wear on long vacations as well as to fancy parties. The price for this classy Rolex alternative starts at $729 USD.
7. Citizen Eco-Drive Black Titanium AW1640-83E
The Citizen Eco-Drive Black Titanium AW1640-83E is a balanced mix of both the Rolex Datejust and Rolex Oyster Perpetual. Indeed, the Citizen Eco-Drive Black Titanium AW1640-83E can be said to highlight the beauty of both Rolex models in one single piece. It exudes simplicity and elegance in perfect harmony with its monochrome aesthetic.
This Citizen watch has a 41.5mm lightweight titanium case and bracelet. The black dial brilliantly contrasts the use of silver-tone indices and hands. The date aperture, which can be found at 3 o’clock, is also outlined with silver. It might not be as lavish as some other stylish watches, but the structure of this Citizen Eco-Drive piece gives it the perfect shine Rolex is known for. The Citizen Eco-Drive Black Titanium AW1640-83E currently costs $149 USD, and is one of the most affordable Rolex dress pieces in the market.
8. Victorinox Alliance Ref. 241822
As far as Rolex alternatives go, the Victorinox Alliance Ref. 241822 is by far the sleekest looking watch on the list. It boasts an all-white color scheme that establishes a refined look, much like the Rolex Datejust.
This Victorinox Alliance timepiece has a 40mm stainless steel case with a polished finish that perfectly blends with the white and silver-tone dial. The hand and hour markers are also in silver to ensure consistency in theme and design. A small date aperture can be found at the same 3 o’clock position.
One thing to keep in mind is that this is a quartz movement watch. As such, many watch enthusiasts see it as being slightly less valuable than mechanical options. That being said, it is still a beautiful watch that is perfect for all and any events. The price for this Victorinox watch starts at $389 USD.
9. Gucci Dive Ref. YA136301A
For those seeking a most affordable Rolex Submariner, there are quite a lot of options in the market. After all, the Submariner is possibly the most iconic watch of all time.
Gucci may seem like the last brand you would expect to introduce a solid dive watch. That said, the Gucci Dive Ref. YA136301A is an impressive dive watch that has some striking similarities to the Submariner. It has a striking black rotating bezel, an elongated date aperture, sizable silver hour and minute hands and bold rectangular indices that are easily legible, and a 40mm stainless steel case. It is a very durable watch that has a water resistance rating of 200m. If you are in the market for an affordable dive watch, the Gucci Dive Ref. YA136301A will do you good for just $849 USD.
10. Seiko Prospex Diver Ref. SBDC101
The Seiko Prospex collection is home to several Submariner-lookalike watches, and picking one can prove to be a challenge. The watch that perhaps most closely resembles the Rolex Submariner is the Seiko Prospex Diver Ref. SBDC101.
This Seiko diver has a 40.5mm stainless steel case and bracelet with a jet-black rotating bezel. This bezel is painted with white Arabic hour markers, along with dot and rectangle indices, for excellent readability even in dim lighting conditions. Instead of using Rolex’s signature Mercedes hour hands, the Seiko Prospex Diver Ref. SBDC101 uses a pair of thick sword-shaped silver hands to provide the wearer with comparable levels of legibility. It also has a water resistance capacity of 200m, which is the average rating for a dive watch.
This watch is powered by the 6R35 automatic movement, which has a impressive power reserve of 70 hours. You can purchase this heavy-duty dive watch that is an excellent alternative to the Rolex Submariner for $1,469 USD.
Alternative watches are not bad per se. The word “alternative” only gained such a negative reputation due to the inevitable existence of fake products. That said, these 10 most affordable Rolex alternatives are certainly great choices to add to your collection. These are budget-friendly and accessible that are as reliable and stylish as Rolex. And don’t let the prices fool you either. A $100 USD watch can be as good as a $1,000 USD watch. The only thing that you should always consider before buying a luxurious watch is whether or not your budget can take it.
That said, you now have some nice options. Ideally, getting a real affordable Rolex would be the best course of action—as long as you have the money. If you do not quite have the budget for even the most affordable Rolex, then you should definitely check out the list of best accessible Rolex alternatives we have curated. Whichever you go for, there is always an affordable way for you to roll!
If you are still looking for the perfect watch to wear, check out our review on the Seiko Samurai, a viable alternative for the Rolex Submariner—you might like it!
All images courtesy of WatchShopping.
Featured image courtesy of Rolex.