Rolex: A Year of Anniversaries

Rolex: A Year of Anniversaries

Celebrating Success in its 118th year, Rolex remains one of the most desirable luxury watch brands in the world, creating a myriad of exceptional timepieces over the decades. As 2023 sees the anniversary of several professional models including the Explorer, Submariner and Daytona, Head of Watches Sarah Fergusson discusses the history of these important modles. 

2023 is a milestone for Rolex and sees significant anniversaries for what have become three of the brand’s most important models. The iconic Rolex Submariner, Explorer and Daytona all celebrate birthdays, reaching 70, 70 and 60 respectively.

Although anniversary years are highly celebrated in the watch industry, and there is always speculation surrounding potential new releases of these popular watches, Rolex is a little different and typically does not release commemorative or celebratory lines. One thing that is almost certain is that press, industry professionals and collectors will be drawn to these three models, creating a general buzz that will see further increased interest.

If you have a Rolex Explorer, Submariner or Daytona, is now a good time to sell? The answer is yes. The surge in Rolex popularity is ever-increasing and with all eyes on the celebration of these three sought-after professional models, there has never been a better time to sell your Rolex watch at auction. If you are based in Glasgow, Edinburgh or London, we can arrange an in-person appointment with one of our watch specialists. If you are a little further afield, we give free, no-obligation consultations online and over the phone to answer the question, “What is my Rolex worth?”

In the meantime, let us start our anniversary celebration and give a little historical context to some of Rolex's significant professional models. 

 Rolex Submariner | Watch Auctions at Lyon & Turnbull

ROLEX: A RARE SUBMARINER WRIST WATCH | Sold for £22,500 incl premium


Creation of Icons – The Explorer & Submariner

The 1950s and 1960s saw Rolex release many of the watches that have since become icons; those professional models that we tend to identify as sports or tool watches. In a feat of spectacular daring, Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, became the first in history to reach the 29,035-foot summit of Everest in 1953. In a bid to ensure their models offered complete reliability in any extreme, Rolex provided the adventurers with prototype Rolex Oyster Perpetual wristwatches; standard pieces, with white dials and black numerals.

The Rolex Perpetual movement, created in 1931, was integral to the model's success. A preceding manual watch would have required winding, involving the wearer removing items of clothing to unscrew the crown, wind the watch and screw the crown back in. This fiddly process would not have been easy in bulky clothing and extreme temperatures, during which the watch would have been vulnerable to the elements.

Following the highly-publicised ascent, the Rolex Explorer went on sale to huge acclaim, featuring a black dial and white numerals, ensuring legibility in low light. Today, it offers an incredible ability to withstand high temperatures, high altitudes and remain waterproof up to 100m - the perfect accompaniment to any adventure. The watch remains one of the most popular to date, with both Explorer and Explorer II models available.

Also released in 1953, was the Submariner. A watch designed as a tool for those going to great depths, rather than great heights, the model responded to the popularity of diving as a recreational sport and professional activity. In a true feat of watch manufacture, at its launch the watch could remain waterproof in depths of up to 100m - the first to do so. As the brand continues to strive for excellence, today, that depth has increased up to 300m.


A Rags to Riches Story – The Rolex Daytona

Although the Rolex Daytona is the current superstar in the Rolex story, it was not always that way. A chronograph model is designed to not only tell the time but measure it, allowing the wearer to monitor elapsed time and work out the average speed of travel. The intended use was of course car racing. Rolex began sponsoring the Daytona International Speedway which was opened in 1959. There had been a racetrack there for the preceding 50 years or so but by the late 1950s, it boasted many improvements including increased ease of viewing for spectators.

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona was first released in 1963 although the inaugural model 6239 is in fact one in a long lineage of chronographs from the company beginning in the 1930s. It has seen countless iterations over the years but its popularity took far longer to grow than that of the Explorer. On its release in the early 1960s, with its deeper case and larger size, it was deemed a bit of a fashion faux-pas, performing brilliantly but aesthetically disappointing. It was not until the late 1980s that the watch became popular among buyers, and anecdotal history tells us it was the Italian market that first took a proper interest. Since then, it has experienced a steady rise in popularity and pre-owned values, accelerating in the last 10 years.

Today, auction prices for the rarest Rolex professional models can reach hundreds of thousands of pounds, and many brand new models are so sought-after that they can be resold for more than they were bought for. Selling your watch at auction offers an international network of buyers, willing to pay premium prices. Do you have a Daytona to sell? Perhaps you have an Explorer that you inherited? Old, tired or perfect, new or old, no box and papers or ‘full set,’ there are queues of bidders waiting to compete for these desirable wristwatches.





Lyon & Turnbull’s Watch Auctions department is a dynamic one with significant expertise, hosting diverse watch auctions across the U.K. featuring fine, rare, modern and vintage timepieces. Highlights from recent auctions include a rare Rolex Daytona 6263 that sold for £62,500 in October 2021 and an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak that achieved £106,250 (incl premium).


Learn more ⇒






Sarah Fergusson



0141 333 1992



Recent Articles