Why are Rolex watches so expensive?

Rolex, who doesn’t know the golden standard when it comes to watches in the world?

Sure, other brands are up there and competing. However, Rolex is what the Baby Boomer and Gen Z known as the brand to purchase your way up to.

That’s all thanks to the celebrities that have flaunted the watch on movies and commercials. It not just about the people who represent the brand; there is more to why Rolex is indeed an expensive piece of jewelry.

When you look at the Rolex, what you see is sheer elegance and more than a touch of class. It is because it is one of the best Swiss luxury brands, and they do their part to ensure that they have the best watches in the market.

Apart from being considered to be for the upper crust of society, Rolex watches are functional, meeting the needs of the everyday man about his business.

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Not all Rolex are priced the same. They vary depending on the collection and model made. Even with that, the watch is priced dependent on materials and resources allocated for that particular piece of jewelry.

Therefore, you have to look at a few moving parts of what contributes to the much you’ll have to part with when you’re purchasing a Rolex watch. Let’s break them down.

The metal used

Rolex is made of Grade 904L stainless steel. What is the fuss about it? Well, first you need to understand what 904L stainless steel is. It is a non-stabilized austenitic stainless steel and has low carbon content.

Austenitic steel is non-magnetic and contains high amounts of nickel, molybdenum, and chromium but as stated, low levels of carbon.

This type of steel is known for its resistance to corrosion and thus the most used grade of steel. Now back to the 904L steel; the austenitic stainless steel typically has copper added to it to increase resistance to reducing acids that are strong, for example, sulphuric acid.

Additionally, this steel is resistant to stress corrosion cracking, that is when cracks form in a corrosive environment, particularly when the temperature is raised. It is also crevice corrosion, which tends to happen between the links of the watch.

Rolex began using this sturdy stainless steel in 1985 with the Rolex SeaDweller, but they were still using 316L stainless steel until 2003 when they made the full transition. How is 316L different from 904L?

Well, the metal is an alloy of austenitic stainless steel and contains nickel and molybdenum. Combined, that makes for corrosion-resistant metal. When you look at the two metals, they all seem to be just as good as the other. Why did Rolex make the switch then?

Well, while 316L is tougher and considered even to be “marine grade,” it doesn’t have the luster that the 904L has. The 904L is also more acid-resistant as compared to the other metal alloy.

The transition also came about when Rolex began to notice excess wear in the threads holding the case back. That was because salt from sweat and other minerals that came into contact with this waterproof watch were corroding and detreating it.

The platinum and gold used on the various watches did not have a similar problem, indicating to them it was time for a change. With the corrosion resistance and luster combined, Rolex 904L stainless steel watches are now better able to withstand the test of time.

That is why even after years of wear, Rolex watches hold their shine well. The company doesn’t take just any metal from any supplier.


They use an electron microscope for quality control and can note the slightest structural or surface defects. That’s not all Rolex does. Once the metal alloy passes inspection, it gets melted in a vacuum for purification purposes so that there are no corrosion or polishing problems.

One would ask; why don’t other brands use the same 904L stainless steel? Well, the reality is that the hardness of the stainless steel makes it quite hard to work with. Even with that, Rolex had to change the machines used to design their watches for production to continue. That is not something just any company can do because of the cost of making a machine that can work the 904 stainless steel.

Research the brand puts in

The other aspect that affects pricing is unique and classic designs. These designs come out of nowhere. Rolex has an Internal Research and Development department.

Here, there are scientists and researchers alike looking for the next Rolex to hit the market, all the while looking for new and improved manufacturing techniques. Given that here we are talking about Rolex, then you can only expect a top-tiered team is working at their facilities.

They are specific to what they do, including researching for new lubricants that they can use for their machines.

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Additionally, they look into ways they can upgrade their machinery, with robots oddly enough doing little in the assembling of Rolex watches.

There is also another department that looks into the types of metals that can go into new Rolex collections. They use state of the art electron microscopes and gas spectrometers to do that. Even before the watch hits the market, the prototype usually undergoes numerous tests.

One of them is testing the cases, the bracelets, and the watch movements. From start to finish production, Rolex has a hand in what goes on. With such a highly expert process, you can expect the production cost of the Rolex to go up, reflecting on how much you have to part with to get a new watch.


As mention, robots don’t to a whole lot at the Rolex manufacturing plants. They typically do the sorting, cataloging, and then filing. When it comes to the watch movements and the bracelets, those get done by hand.

Before being sent off to ContrôleOfficiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC), where watches manufactured in Switzerland go for testing and chronometer certification, they get tested within the factory by humans to double-check that they meet the high quality.


Rolex also stands out because they are waterproof, and they stand the test of time on that promise. You can even find some watches that are waterproof up to 300 meters below the sea level.

That is regarding the Rolex Submariner watches. The testing of these watches is done in pressurized tanks before being tested outdoors in water. That is the case for all Rolex dive watches.

Precious stones and metals

Rolex cannot be a complete luxury brand without gemstones. The company has a large team of gemologists that test and purchase precious metals and stones into the various models the company has.

After, they have traditional jewelers that do the hand-picking, and hand-settling of diamonds and other precious stones into the Rolex watches. As if we’re not already impressed, Rolex is the only watchmaker in the planet that produces their gold.

That is why you’ll find that their most expensive watches fall under the gold collections they have. They take 24k gold and work it down to 18k white, yellow or Everose gold, the Rolex patent pink gold.

But do the benefits outweigh the cost? Is a Watch a Good Investment?

Value for money

So far, we have explained the aspects that make Rolex such an expensive brand.

From the metal they use to make their watches to the team that is behind getting the watch all together ready for sale, you can see that Rolex spares no cost in giving the planet the best watch around.

They also don’t produce for the sake of getting watches out. It takes them about a year to come up with a new collection so that every one of them is a shiny star and a true beacon of quality.

Rolex does not spare anything when it comes to each process along the way. They aim to make each collection better and more valuable than the last. So it’s safe to conclude that what you pay for with the Rolex watches is the craftsmanship and the overall time taken to produce each watch.

There are hundreds if not thousands of individual parts that are put together to create the perfect watch.

That takes time and professional skills that only experience can provide.  With all these, Rolex maintains the vintage aspects that make it the classical watch, when you take a, peek of what’s inside.


The Rolex watch is not just a fashion statement. It is not something that you purchase to show that you’re of a particular class. It is a vintage piece that you purchase that is guaranteed to serve you for years to come.

It is something that you can hand down to generations, and they also are treated with high regard for owning such an exquisite piece of jewelry. Why are Rolex watches so expensive, therefore? It is because every part of it is the best that the market can offer. That leaves you to decide if it is worth the investment.

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