A Patek or an Audemars Piguet doesn’t even come close. The Rolex Daytona’s value has increased by an astonishing 10,000% since its original debut in 1963. This vintage tops all other watches when it comes to increase in value.


When it comes to high-end timepieces, very few luxury watch manufacturers come close to Rolex as far as desirability and brand equity are concerned. In fact, many people simply choose to purchase Rolex watches just for their ability to perform exceedingly well as an investment option. A study carried out by online retailer Bob’s Watches last year showed that Rolex watches have regularly outperformed traditional investment options like real estate, gold, and even stocks over the last 10 years. While recently there has been a price correction in the secondary market for all major high-end watchmakers, the value of vintage watches seems to be unaffected. Despite the current economic uncertainties, collectors are still shelling out hundreds and thousands of dollars on certain vintage watches, often creating new sale records.

Interestingly it is not Patek Philippe but the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak which makes it to the list after Rolex.

Tim Harrison, co-founder and watch expert at UK-based Watch Pilot, recently did an analysis with the objective of finding out the watches that have appreciated the most in value by comparing their original retail prices to what they presently sell for in the secondary market and auctions. It should be noted that the research includes inflation-adjusted original retail prices, while the current value for different models has been derived from auction prices for the very finest examples that have set price records. Nevertheless, Harrison’s research gives us an idea of how much some of the most desirable vintage watches have appreciated in value over time.

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Without any surprises, the model that sits right on the top of the Pyramid is Rolex Daytona. According to Harrison’s analysis, the iconic Rolex timepiece has had a staggering increase of 9639% since it originally debuted in 1963. The timepiece that retailed for around $2500 (inflation-adjusted) back in the 1960s can fetch more than $300,000. That’s the kind of money collectors are willing to pay for the Rolex watch that wasn’t even very popular when it debuted six decades ago. However, there are some historically-important Daytonas that have been auctioned for several million dollars, including Hollywood legend Paul Newman’s personal Rolex Daytona which was sold for a record-setting $17.8 million back in 2017.

Paul Newman’s Rolex 6239 shattered records when it was sold for $17.1 million in 2016.

In the early part of the 20th century, Rolex chronographs were never as popular as the brand’s three-handed models. Most of them came with third-party calibers housed inside conventional, classic cases. It was in 1955 when launched the Reference 6234 chronograph, which did not feature the “Cosmograph” or “Daytona” branding on the dial. Only 500 of those watches were made till 1961 before being discontinued, but it became the precursor to the iconic Daytona model. In 1963, Rolex introduced the first Daytona model, which was named after Florida’s Daytona International Speedway. Created as a tribute to Rolex’s official partnering with the racetrack the year before, it went on to become the foundation for the Swiss manufacturer’s involvement in motorsports.

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When it comes to absolute returns, second on the list is the Rolex Submariner.

Right behind Daytona on Harrison’s list is Rolex Submariner, which according to his analysis has appreciated by as much as 3586% since it was originally introduced in 1953 as the world’s first diving watch. A vintage Submariner that sold for a little more than $200 in the ‘70s can easily sell for more than $30,000 these days. While the top two positions are taken up by highly-desirable Rolex models, the third spot is taken up by Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Often considered as the world’s first luxury sports watch, the iconic watch helped save Audemars Piguet from bankruptcy when it debuted in 1972. Harrison’s research indicates the Swiss watch’s value has increased by 2456%.

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Sayan Chakravarty, a Senior Writer at Luxurylaunches, brings over 10 years of automotive journalism expertise. He provides insightful coverage of the latest cars and motorcycles across American and European markets, while also highlighting luxury yachts, high-end watches, and gadgets. An authentic automobile aficionado, his commitment shines through in educating readers about the automotive world. When the keyboard rests, Sayan feeds his wanderlust, traversing the world on his motorcycle.