Rolex watches made during the 1980s are highly coveted among collectors. The brand’s fans or collectors have not granted watches of this era a vintage status. Moreover, they are also not regarded as contemporary because watchmaking technologies have evolved. The 1980s Rolex watches are even more affordable than modern or true vintage Rolex references.
These timepieces bear a unique aesthetic that ensures to appeal to even the most serious luxury watch collectors. So let’s take a look at some of the best Rolex watches from the 1980s that are highly desirable in the second-hand market.
Rolex is one of the most recognized and desirable watchmakers in the world. Their watches represent the brand’s unparalleled craftsmanship and innovative proficiency that enable them to retain value well with time. Thus, you will find it easier to sell a Rolex watch than watches of other brands, be it is a Rolex from the 1980s or a modern one.
Choose your Perfect 1980s Rolex Watches Below
1. Rolex Submariner Ref. 16800
You can consider the Reference 16800 as the best of both worlds, vintage and contemporary. The Rolex Submariner 16800 is historically significant because it introduced the quick-set Calibre 3035, upgrading the collection. Moreover, Rolex added the sapphire crystal to the series the first time with the Submariner Reference 16800. And there is even more.
The watch came with water-resistant depth ability up to 300m, and this was also the first for the iconic Submariner lineup. However, it features Tritium luminous material that develops a unique, rich patina over the years. Such a combination of retro and modern makes it supposedly more collectible than other popular vintage Submariner models.
2. Rolex GMT-Master II Ref. 16760
The Rolex GMT-Master II with the ‘Coke’ bezel was one of the most exquisite renderings in the watch industry in the 1980s. Introduced in 1982, it was the first GMT-Master II to house the then-new Calibre 3085.
Moreover, the GMT-Master II Ref. 16760 also introduced the brand’s independently adjustable hour hands. Thanks to the slightly broader case that housed the new movement, the model acquired the nickname the ‘Sophia Loren’ and ‘Fat Lady’.
Reference 16760 also introduced the sapphire crystal and the red-and-black ‘Coke’ bezel to the GMT collection. Earlier siblings featured the acrylic crystal. However, Rolex produced the red and black bezel colorway exclusively for Reference 16760.
3. Rolex Datejust Ref. 16234
A classic Rolex Datejust is a timepiece that always occupies a valuable place in any collection. For those looking to start a Rolex watch collection, the Datejust 36 can be an ideal first Rolex to add to the collection without breaking the bank.
However, the Datejust models from the 1980s are robust and clean. A few references also feature textured dial surfaces like the tapestry and linen patterns. Moreover, they measure 36mm in diameter but are not compact as the vintage Rolex Air-King models.
Nonetheless, the 36mm is a versatile case size that wraps around nearly all wrists comfortably. The Rolex Datejust Reference 16234 features a stainless steel case, a matching bracelet, and an 18ct white gold fluted bezel. This is a perfect timepiece to invest in as you are less likely to find a Rolex watch with gold features at an affordable price tag.
4. Rolex Day-Date President Ref. 18078
Rolex released another statement piece in the 1980s: a solid yellow gold Rolex Day-Date Reference 18078. The watch flaunted a unique Tiger’s Eye dial, bark textured bezel, and a President bracelet featuring bark textured center links.
However, the simplicity of the dial makes the Day-Date Ref. 18078 more appealing. It features only an applied Rolex crown, printed text but no indices. However, Rolex does not only equip this reference with this dial type. Collectors recognize the Reference 18078 as a legendary President’s Watch featuring two calendar displays at 3 and 12 o’clock sides.
5. Rolex Submariner Ref. 16803
The two-tone watches were the best glory of the 1980s. You can find bi-tone watches in the 1930s. But while the recession hit in the 1980s and budget tightened, manufacturers began producing more affordable luxury items. Rolex happily delivered two-tone models for those who desired a little bit of flash for slightly less money.
The Rolex Submariner Reference 16803 became a hit among collectors in such an era. The watch turned to be a status symbol more than mere diving equipment. Thus, Reference 16803 paves the way for a new Submariner era in some respects. It is indeed a great bargain in comparison to its full steel siblings.