Why Are Rolex Watches So Expensive?

Most people are aware of the Rolex brand; it’s synonymous with luxury. It’s common knowledge that owning a Rolex watch means owning the very best watch money can buy. But why are Rolex watches so expensive?

Some wear Rolex and might not even be aware of the great lengths the company goes through to put the finest watch possible on each wrist. While some luxury brands fail to distinguish themselves from others, Rolex goes above and beyond luxury to create the absolute best product possible.

Rolex 904L Steel

The stainless steel in a Rolex watch is not just any ordinary steel. It’s not even the same steel other fine watchmakers use. In 1985, Rolex became one of the first watch manufactures to use 904L steel, which is highly resistant to corrosion and cracking. Its also known to hold polishing very well. 

In 2003, Rolex moved all steel production to the 904L. This sets them apart from most other brands because they are one of the few to make the switch. Why wouldn’t all high-end watchmakers use the very best 904L stainless steel? Because it’s more expensive and much harder to work with. 

The upgraded 904L stainless steel also requires different tools, skills, and equipment to manufacture. Changing entire production lines and learning completely new material skills would have a huge cost for other brands. This is a big advantage for Rolex, which produces all their watch parts in-house.

Why are Rolex watches so expensive? 904L steel is a big factor. While some luxury Swiss watchmakers use 316L steel or even 304L steel, Rolex sticks with 904L for what they believe are the absolute best results.

Hand-Assembled Movements

You might not believe this to be true, but Rolex movements are assembled completely by hand, by highly trained watch technicians. They have machines to assist in the manufacturing process with certain functions, like sorting, cataloging, and shuffling, but humans operate even most machines.

Some of the most sophisticated machines in the world, such as Rolex electron microscopes and gas spectrometers, are used to examine every millimeter of polished surface for any trace of a blemish.

If you can get past the corny music, this is a great video showing an inside look at the Rolex headquarters and making incredible watches.

The actual assembly of the movement is done meticulously with human hands. This rules out the option of mass-producing watches with automated robots, where quality might become an issue. One of Rolex’s primary concerns is quality control, and everything is checked, double-checked, and then inspected again.

The process to assure the highest quality of every single watch produced is done by hand. Many companies might look for ways to remove labor costs by adding automated machines; Rolex relies on watch building experts to assemble each watch. The cost of this manual labor is enormous, but the quality standards will always paramount.

Rolex is Expensive Because They Make Their Own Gold

At Rolex, they make their own gold with an in-house foundry. All the gold and platinum used in Rolex watches come from the foundry, where large kilns and hot flames melt and mix the metals to be used in cases and bracelets.

In the early 2000s, Rolex became one of the only watchmakers to build their own in-house, state-of-the-art foundry to cast their own gold. This is one of the huge investments a watch company could make, but Rolex had specific goals in mind for creating their own gold foundry. The purpose was to ensure only the finest precious metals will be used in each watch.

They use a special blend of palladium in white gold to eliminate the requirement of rhodium plating. And for their exclusive 18 karat yellow gold, it’s cast by carefully guarded formulas that produce impeccable radiance.

Highly skilled foundrymen use secretive formulas to produce 18 ct yellow, white and Everose gold alloys. Pure gold is not tough enough for everyday use on a wristwatch, so it must be mixed with other metals to improve resistance and make it harder.

Once mixed in the Rolex chemistry lab, middle cases, case backs, bezels, and bracelets are produced to the highest quality standards. If you’re still wondering – why are Rolex watches so expensive? An in-house gold foundry is one of the reasons

Research and Development Department

Rolex doesn’t just have a research and development department for researching the latest and greatest new watch designs; they have entire R&D Departments to develop new ways to produce every component of each watch they make.

Every process is reviewed and researched in the development lab by large teams of watchmakers to be certain the best techniques are used. Not only that, but there’s a constant search for improving the methods currently in use to produce each component.

Rolex Security

Another big reason Rolex watches are so expensive is the need for extremely tight security. Checking every employee with fingerprint scans and ID badges at all times is a must. The enormous amount of valuable watch parts, pieces, jewels, and material require the highest security at all times.

Not only is protecting watches from people breaking into the facility a huge concern, but protecting watches from people already inside the building is just as critical. Watch parts are scanned, cataloged, tracked, and monitored at every phase of the watchmaking process. Each movement includes a unique serial number, photographed and paired with a case indicating a different serial number.

Iris scanners are required to enter vault doors, where the scanner identifies eyes before it will allow entrance. Heavily armored trucks are used to move expensive Rolex parts and material outside the headquarters. All of this security, as necessary as it may be, is not cheap.


If you still wonder why Rolex watches are so expensive, you might want to consider the cost for an entire Gemologist department to source precious stones. Diamonds, emeralds, and rubies must have the highest standards to be accepted for use in a Rolex watch, and sourcing these precious stones is a hugely important job.

Every diamond on a Rolex is selected by hand and hand-set. They must ensure these stones are not fake, so each one passes rigorous testing using x-rays and other methods to ensure they are the real deal. After inspecting 20 million diamonds over the years, Rolex has said only two have been found to be fake.

Extensive Testing and Inspection

Even though the production of a Rolex is complete in the factory, the testing and inspection process has just begun. A rigorous verification process includes quality control like no other. Once air pressure tests are complete in the stress test room, each watch is tested for water resistance. Submariner and Deep Sea Rolex dive watches are submersed in actual water to a depth of 300 meters to assure they are water-resistant.

Research and development is a huge expense for Rolex. The company is focused on innovation and creating amazing designs to keep them on the cutting edge of the watch industry.

Why Are Rolex Watches So Expensive?

Each Rolex watch takes up to a year to build. The incredible attention to quality and detail, along with the finest sourced materials, plays a major role in the price of a Rolex. Assembling the entire watch in-house with technology and tools developed specifically for each step along the way.

The slogan, “Every Rolex tells a story,” applies to each watch from day one. Before the customer even sees their watch, there’s a year of painstaking design and assembly assuring rigorous standards are met. The Rolex brand name depends on this lengthy process to assure customers are always satisfied.

If you should hear someone ask the question, why are Rolex watches so expensive, the retail price tag reflects the brand’s dedication to excellence in every way. This keeps a Rolex watch not only worth the price paid but also creates the potential for price appreciation over time.

The power of the Rolex brand is enormous and getting stronger over time. This focus on greatness is a continuous reminder to any watch lover that their good investment is protected and will continue to make it more desirable in the future for as long as you wish to own it. Just consider the Paul Newman Rolex for a minute.

When the star power of a celebrity is combined with the predominant brand in any category, the potential for enormous value exists. Recently, a Rolex Daytona owned by Paul Newman sold for $5.4 million at a Phillips auction. Whether it’s Jack Nicklaus, Paul Newman, or Eric Clapton, famous watches need a brand such as Rolex to withstand the test of time.

Here’s even more reasons why Rolex watches are so expensive, if you’re still not convinced they are worth the price tag.

Where to Sell Rolex Watches

Now you understand a little bit more about why Rolex watches are so expensive; what do you do if you already have a Rolex and want to sell? There are many great options available when asking where to sell Rolex. From online retailers to brick and mortar stores and auctions. Understanding what you own is the first step in selling your Rolex.

Checking current Rolex prices of your particular year and model is critical to understanding what price your watch could bring. Owning good watches is one thing, but owning a Rolex is a completely different story.

Bob’s Watches

Bob’s Watches is one of the most trusted names is pre-owned Rolex watches. The company prides itself on paying full market prices for used Rolex watches. One of the first things you will want to do if you’re considering selling is to fill out Bob’s Watches free instant quote request form found on their website.

After filling out the instant quote, you will receive the estimated value of your watch. Next, answer a few additional questions, and you will get a free offer and a free fully insured FedEx label for shipping. Finally, you will receive cash or a check instantly for your Rolex. Bob’s Watches doesn’t only deal in Rolex; they offer all of the major watch brands, from Patek Philippe to Audemars Piguet; Bob’s is a one-stop shop for luxury timepieces.

Bob’s Watches is an online marketplace for resale and trade of luxury watches, focusing on Rolex. Headquartered in Newport Beach, California, the company was founded by Bob Thompson in the mid-1990s and has grown to over $50 million in revenue.

Used Rolex prices, an official pricing guide on the pre-owned market from Bob’s Watches.