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Vintage Vs. Modern Rolex Watches

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Are bigger watches more fashion forward?

While following fashion trends is not what Rolex is known for, they certainly haven’t remained the top luxury watchmaker in the world for decades by ignoring what customers want. Rolex strikes the perfect balance between retaining a signature style while undergoing small modifications to ensure that the watches not only stay relevant but coveted too. The most obvious difference between modern and vintage Rolex watches are the sizes. As current men’s fashion dictates, a bigger watch is often seen as better. Although Rolex hasn’t gotten carried away like some other brands by offering mammoth timepieces, the company has followed the size trend too. Rolex has actually approached the demand for larger watches in several ways. Let’s check out how Rolex watches have evolved over the years to accommodate current styles by comparing sizes of vintage versus modern watches.


In some instances, Rolex has outright discontinued vintage editions that sport smaller cases and replaced them with larger contemporary models. Take the Milgauss for example. Vintage Milgauss watches have a 38mm case, whereas the modern Milgauss ref. 116400 – which first came out in 2007 – has a 40mm case. Furthermore, the 40mm case of the contemporary Air-King ref. 116900 is substantially larger than vintage Air-King models with 34mm cases. The Explorer II, on the other hand, began as a 40mm sports watch in the late 1970s. However, in 2011, Rolex celebrated the 40th anniversary of the watch with a revamped Explorer II ref. 216570 outfitted with an even larger 42mm case. Plus, let’s not forget about the anniversary Sea-Dweller that came out earlier this year at Baselworld 2017. The 50th-anniversary Sea-Dweller ref. 126600 grew to 43mm – noticeably bigger than its 40mm predecessors. Although iconic Rolex sports watches such as the Submariner, GMT-Master, and Daytona adopted the 40mm size a few decades ago, early vintage models were, in fact, smaller. There are vintage Submariner watches that range from 36.5mm to 38mm. Additionally, vintage manual-wind Daytona watches are 38mm in size, as are some vintage GMT-Master models.

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