Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

The Best Rolexes for Men Based on Your Lifestyle

Image courtesy of The Creative Image courtesy of The Creative

President Joe Biden caused a media stir when he was spotted wearing a $7,000 Rolex watch at his inauguration. How dare he flaunt such an icon of status? Turns out, of course, that Biden knows quality watches, owning a selection of Rolexes and Omegas; and that he joins a presidential tradition of wearing the iconic brand extending back at least as far as the Eisenhower era. 

Rolex is a Swiss company that is probably the most recognized watch brand in the world. In 1905 founder Hans Wilsdorf dreamed of making a reliable wristwatch (most people still wore pocket watches at the time), and with the invention of the world’s first waterproof watch in 1926, Rolex went on to become the choice of explorers and adventurers the world over. Wilsdorf called his innovation the “Oyster,” because its system of screwing down the bezel, case back, and winding crown against the middle case ensured that the case was hermetically sealed and protected. Since then the brand’s fare has become the stuff of legend, a blue-chip investment that’s right up there with good real estate. 

Related Guides

In January 2020, a guest on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow was an Air Force vet who’d been stationed in Thailand in the mid-1970s. A scuba-diving enthusiast, he’d ordered a Rolex Oyster Cosmograph  through his base exchange. Once he got it, he decided it was too nice to wear, so he tucked it into a safe deposit box for 45 years. At the time he’d spent $350 — about a month’s salary — on the timepiece: on the show it was estimated to be worth between $500,000 and $700,000 dollars. 

Ready to make your own investment in time? Beyond this list of our favorite watches, here are our selects from the Rolex range to consider; from some that (might be) about a month of your salary, up to more extravagant editions that may come your way with some luck, hard work, or maybe inheriting a trust fund or two. Check out the Rolex store locator for a certified retailer near you, or head to Chrono24, an online marketplace for luxury watches. Not quite ready to make that kind of a commitment? Consider some of these lovely alternatives, watches for less than $500.

Best Starter Rolex: the Oyster Perpetual 41

That promotion turned out to be even bigger than you thought, so it’s time to show you’re ready to play with the big dogs, and choosing this Rolex shows you know a good investment when you see one. The brand’s signature “sunray” dial is clean and minimal (available in several hues, but we prefer this classic silver), perfect paired with the “Oystersteel” corrosion-resistant steel case, and the Oyster bracelet. It’s perfect to wear with every suit you own, but will look just as dazzling with denim. 

Best for the Frequent Flyer: the Air King Oyster

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Whether you just earned your pilot’s license, just built up more miles than a flight attendant, or just plain have your head in the clouds; Rolex’s Air King is just for you. Designed in the 1950s to celebrate the Oyster’s aeronautical heritage, it features  a combination of large 3, 6, and 9 numerals marking the hours and a prominent minute scale for navigational time readings. Similar to the Perpetual in style, the face is slightly sportier, and may favor your office casual wardrobe. 

Best for the Geek: the Milgauss Oyster

Image used with permission by copyright holder

If wearing a white lab coat and safety glasses is your idea of sartorial perfection, the Milgauss is the only accessory you need (maybe a pocket protector for your Montblanc?). It’s also the watch  to own if you’re accident-prone: the Rolex-developed green sapphire crystal is scratchproof and fade-proof, with an alchemical light green shade that fairly glows at the edges. We recommend the electric blue dial to complement the crystal’s jade hue while offsetting the orange lightning-bolt-shaped seconds hand. A true scientific wonder, it’s called the Milgauss because it can withstand magnetic fields of up to 1,000 (“mille” in French) gauss.

Best for the Deep Sea Diver: the Submariner Date 

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Whether you’re Jacques Cousteau’s heir apparent or just like to splash around in the pool with the kids, the Submariner provides features designed for the depths, and of course that reliable Rolex waterproof seal. The rotatable bezel has 60-minute graduations to accurately and safely monitor diving time and decompression stops. A hard, corrosion-resistant ceramic bezel insert is virtually scratchproof, and a luminescent capsule on the zero marker and Chromalight display ensures legibility no matter how dark the environment (attributes that are pretty handy even when topside). The bezel’s knurled edge offers excellent grip under water, even with gloves. 

Best for the Traveler: the GMT-Master II

Image used with permission by copyright holder

If you’re an inveterate traveler — or just the guy who’s been tasked with keeping an eye on the company’s overseas accounts — you’ll appreciate this Rolex for its ability to track two time zones. Beyond the hour, minute, and second hands, an additional arrow-tipped hand circles the dial once every 24 hours, while the ceramic bezel can be rotated to display an alternative time zone or a reference time. We particularly like this Everose gold model for its elegant ostentation, the perfect thing to catch the attention of that first class cabin flight attendant. 

Best for the Romantic: the Cellini Moonphase

If you insist on wearing a boater with your seersucker suit, and you binge-watched Bridgerton, Rolex has something for you, too. Named for a Renaissance artist, the Cellini series combines all of the brand’s superior engineering with heritage focused design. In this model the lunar cycle is clearly displayed at the bottom of a white lacquer dial (Hmm. Maybe this is a good choice for werewolves?) The retro look is completed with a fine leather watchband. 

Best for the Racer: the Cosmograph Daytona

Image used with permission by copyright holder

How many speeding tickets can one man rack up? No judgments here. We’ve all been there: The open road and a spirited automobile is an invitation to push our limits. Rolex understands and designed the Cosmograph Daytona for the budding race car driver in all of us. The bezel features a tachymetric scale for measuring average speeds of up to 400 mph, as well as precise chronograph dials. The black Oysterflex bracelet is a super-elastic metal blade “overmoulded” with high-performance black elastomer. 

Read more: Best Automotive-Inspired Watches

Best for the Connoisseur: the Day-Date 40

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Life’s too short to … We’ll let you fill in the blank. You only drink Krug, and you’ll put your Benz up against anybody else’s wheels any day. Platinum describes so many things in your life, but at Rolex, it’s used to update and ennoble one of the brand’s most practical models, a favorite since its debut in 1956. The Day-Date was the first watch to show the day of the week, spelled out on the face of the watch. Customize yours to include your language of choice. 

Best for the Seafarer: the Yacht-Master II

Image used with permission by copyright holder

It’s not a boat. It’s not even a ship. Your yacht is both your pleasure and your passion, and when aboard you want to maintain the competitive style that tradition demands. With the Yacht-Master II, you’ll already be way ahead of the competition. This Rolex is the only chronograph in the world with a mechanical memory: The bezel operates in conjunction with the internal mechanism, allowing it to be set and synchronized to the sequence of race start times. We’re particularly fond of the nautically inspired styling of this yellow gold and marine model. 

Editors' Recommendations

John Jones
John Jones is a Jersey City, New Jersey-based writer who enjoys covering design in all its forms, from fashion to…
These 6 ’90s fashion trends for men have staying power
Feed your nostalgia with these throwback trends
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas bucket hat

Fashion is cyclical. There are looks that we loved when they were all the rage and then started to make fun of when they lost favor, only to look back fondly and do all we could to bring them back. A good example of fashion-making comebacks is the mom jeans of the '80s starting to show up in women's fashion and men bringing back the mullet. No hairstyle was mocked harder than the mullet in the 00s, but here we are wearing it again. '90s fashion trends are never far out of our nostalgic minds, but some of them are making the jump from fond memories to current staples.

Fashion may be cyclical, but style is an ever-evolving thing with classical, unmoving ideals. The warring dynamic between the progress of fashion and the unwavering mindset of style creates some striking looks to make you stand out. Bold confidence is the way to take what you saw thirty years ago and make it your own today. Here are six trends from the '90s you can make work today.
Baggy is back

Read more
5 stylish spring color combinations every man should know
Ditch the fall and winter colors for the spring
Man in linen jacket and shirt

Now that spring is here, your wardrobe could use a bit of an update in the color department. While the fall and winter seasons have a bevy of jewel tones and earth tones to keep you nice and cozy, the spring and summer is built for light and fun colors that keep your mood as light as the hues. Spring colors are some of the brightest and lightest on the color wheel, including pastels and lighter tones of your reds, greens, blues, and purples.

When putting together spring colors for men, there are some great options to ensure your looks are always top-notch. One of our favorite resources is Max Israel of Y. Chroma. His entire system is built for ease of color use, and while you may feel a little initial unpleasantness getting outside your comfort zone, adopting these five color combinations will ease you into some more fun palettes and get your wardrobe to the point of being the talk of the town.
Navy/white

Read more
Go bold with yellow watches for men: Our top picks
Our top picks for yellow watches for men
Hublot Big Bang Unico Yellow Magic

Yellow watches for men are not for the faint-hearted, and you'll need some serious confidence if you're going to sport one of these eye-catchers on your wrist. With summer just around the corner, a yellow watch is the perfect accessory to brighten up your look, whether you're taking a stroll along the Italian Riviera or lounging at home with steaks on the grill. These citrus-hued watches, from the TAG Heuer Formula 1 to the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver, stand out as a ray of sunshine amid the gloom of rainy spring days, making us dream of the warm breeze and blooming flowers in summer.

Yellow watches come in a hue that commands attention, that's for sure, which is why you see them on road signs and neon highlighters at school. With its inherent ability to captivate, either as a matte yellow or a more lustrous gold, the presence of a yellow dial on your watch will certainly draw attention.
Yellow watches for men: Our Top 5 picks

Read more