03/01/2024
 6 minutes

Know your Rolex Sports Watches

By Chrono24
Know Your Rolex Sports Watches

Know Your Rolex Sports Watches

Despite being a mechanical watch brand in a digital age, Rolex is still one of the most high-performing companies in the world. Over the years, Rolex has been appreciated by US presidents, Hollywood icons, and Marxist revolutionaries, and its formula has remained the same: clean, robust, and classically stylish watches, built to last. Its specialty is the sports watch, which can typically be worn both in the sporting arena and at the most upscale evening events.

Which Rolex sports watch model is the most popular?

Generally speaking, every Rolex watch model is difficult to get your hands on because demand is higher than supply. However, some watches are even more popular than others. The most-sold Rolex watch model on Chrono24 is actually not a sports watch, it’s the Datejust. However, the second most purchased Rolex is indeed a sports watch: the Submariner. The Rolex model that achieves the highest prices on Chrono24 is another sports watch, the Daytona.

ロレックス サブマリーナ―
The Rolex Submariner is the most popular Rolex sports watch on Chrono24.

Which Rolex models are sports watches?

Rolex tries to keep their number of model lines to a minimum – to great effect. That said, there are actually several different Rolex sport models out there, some of which are unknown to the masses. Most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the lines or know their functionality off by heart.

The Rolex sports model lines are:

  1. Rolex Submariner
  2. Rolex Daytona
  3. Rolex GMT-Master II
  4. Rolex Explorer
  5. Rolex Explorer II
  6. Rolex Sea-Dweller
  7. Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea
  8. Rolex Yacht-Master
  9. Rolex Yacht-Master II

So, in honor of Rolex sport watches – all of which are brilliant – here’s a list the models, how they differ, and what makes each one great.

1. Rolex Submariner

Although the Rolex Submariner wasn’t the first dive watch ever made – that prize goes to the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, which beat the Sub by mere months – it’s certainly the most well-known. It’s also the most popular sports watch in Rolex’s collection, and arguably the most sought-after watch from any brand ever.

As you’d expect from the dive watch that was frequently used by James Bond (pre-GoldenEye) to escape imminent death and cause destruction, the Rolex Submariner is robust, stylish, and highly collectible.

Since its launch in 1953, the overall watch design has barely changed, but it has been revamped, reimagined, and upgraded more times than Bond himself. The Submariner ref. 116610LN for example has a magnified date window at three o’clock, a stainless steel case, and a ceramic bezel. It houses the trusted Rolex 3135 movement and measures 40 mm in diameter. Moreover, it’s water-resistant to 300 m (984 ft) and comes in a number of different color schemes.

The Rolex Submariner Ref. 126618LN looks great in gold and is available with a blue or black dial.

2. Rolex Daytona

The Rolex Daytona is the second most-loved sports model. The Daytona was made as a racing-inspired chronograph. After becoming involved with racing legend Sir Malcolm Campbell, Rolex took their relationship with the sport a step further, sponsoring the 24 Hours of Daytona race in 1962.

A year later, the watchmaker released the Cosmograph ref. 6239, the first Rolex with an inverse subdial color scheme and a tachymeter scale on its bezel. Over the years, through countless partnerships with Hollywood idols like Paul Newman, the Daytona has become one of the most collectable, lusted-after watches of all time.

The Daytona ref. 116520 is a 40-mm stainless steel chronograph. It houses the 4130 movement and is water-resistant to 100 m (328 ft). In 2016, Rolex released a model with a ceramic bezel, the Daytona ref. 116500LN.

The Daytona Ref. 116500LN is another of Rolex’s famous sports watches.

3. Rolex GMT-Master II

The original GMT-Master was made to answer the demands of pilots. Rolex teamed up with Pan American Airways (Pan Am) to produce a watch that could display two time zones at once via an extra hand and a 24-hour bezel.

The GMT-Master was upgraded to the GMT-Master II in the early 1980s. The newer version had an upgraded movement, which featured a quickset function for the hour hand, allowing it to be adjusted independently of the 24-hour hand. It also had a larger case and a ceramic bezel.

The ref. 116710BLNR, looks very similar to the Submariner, with the exception of its ceramic bezel and 24-hour scale – and the GMT hand, of course. It also has a quickset hour, unlike the Submariner. This timepiece houses the 3186 movement and comes in a 40-mm stainless steel case.

The Rolex GMT-Master II Ref. 1675 is the GMT watch.

4. Rolex Explorer

The Rolex Explorer was released in 1953 to celebrate the successful ascent of Mount Everest by pioneering explorers Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. The original Explorer was robust and featured a simple, highly legible design.

The modern Rolex Explorer, ref. 214270, has a larger stainless steel case, measuring 39 mm across instead of the original 36 mm. But the watch maintains its minimalist roots. It is powered by Rolex’s 3132 movement.

The Rolex Explorer Ref. 214270: the ultimate watch for adventurers.

5. Rolex Explorer II

The Rolex Explorer II, introduced in 1971, is a larger version of the Explorer, coming in at 42 mm. There are a few other notable differences from the original model, including the addition of a magnified date window and a 24-hour hand and bezel. The Explorer II was made popular by the likes of Steve McQueen.

The Explorer II may look more like the GMT-Master, or even the Submariner, rather than the original Explorer, but there are in fact a few things that set it apart, such as the size, stainless steel bezel, and orange accents on the fourth hand and dial. Such as the ref. 216570, which is fitted with the Rolex 3187 caliber and is water-resistant to 100 m (328 ft).

The Rolex Explorer II Ref. 1655: another iconic GMT watch from the brand with the crown

6. Rolex Sea-Dweller

The Rolex Sea-Dweller first hit the scene in 1967. It was a more serious diver’s watch than the Submariner, complete with a helium escape valve and capable of reaching depths of 610 m (2,000 ft).

Unlike the Submariner, the Sea-Dweller doesn’t have a Cyclops lens over its date window, but it does have a similar 40-mm stainless steel case with a ceramic bezel, and it houses the same 3135 movement. Also, the Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600 is water-resistant to 1,220 m (4,000 ft).

The Rolex Sea-Dweller Ref. 116600 is not as well-known as the Submariner, but it’s technically more advanced.

7. Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea

The Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea takes things one step further than the Sea-Dweller. The Deepsea is Rolex’s most serious dive watch, capable of traveling down to the incredible depths of 3,900 m (12,800 ft). The watch is extremely robust and also very chunky, partly due to its 5-mm thick domed crystal, as well as its Grade 5 titanium case back.

The Sea-Dweller Deepsea ref. 116660 measures 44 mm and houses the 3135 movement. In terms of looks, larger size aside, the Deepsea can be recognized by the silver ring around the edge of its dial, which reads “Original Gas Escape Valve.”

The Rolex Sea-Dweller is the iconic Submariner's bigger, bulkier, more professional sibling.
The Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea Ref. 116660 is the iconic Submariner’s bigger, bulkier, and more professional counterpart.

8. Rolex Yacht-Master

The Rolex Yacht-Master was first released in 1992. It’s yet another watch that is similar to the Submariner in some ways, with the same 3135 movement, but was intended for sailors instead of divers. In some sense, it could be considered a slightly more exclusive version of the Sub.

The Rolex Yacht-Master ref. 116655 is made from Rolex’s rose gold alloy and comes on a high-end rubber strap. It’s 40 mm across and is water-resistant to 100 m (328 ft).

Although the Rolex Yacht-Master 40 is one of the most beautiful watches in the Rolex portfolio, it's a rare sight in the wild.
Although the Rolex Yacht-Master 40 Ref. 126622 is one of the most beautiful watches in the Rolex portfolio, it’s a rare sight in the wild.

9. Rolex Yacht-Master II

The Rolex Yacht-Master II, introduced in 2007, is the most distinct of the Rolex sport watches. Its most telling feature is the regatta timer set-up and complication, which consists of a 10-minute countdown timer with a flyback feature.

The Yacht-Master II is a large 44-mm watch, which is usually crafted from precious metals with colorful accents.

The Rolex Yacht-Master II Ref. 116688M sets itself apart from the rest of the Rolex portfolio.

About the Author

Chrono24

The team behind the Chrono24 Magazine consists of Chrono24 employees, freelance authors, and guest authors. They're all united by a passion for anything and everything…

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