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Alternatives to your Favorite Rolex Watches

Alternatives to your Favorite Rolex Watches

Ask any number of random folks on the street to name an expensive watch brand and 9 times out of 10, people will say “Rolex watches”. 

I mean, you might get the odd Frenchmen perfectly pronouncing JaegerLe-Coultre making you feel quite inadequate, but I digress. 

We simply cannot deny the impact Rolex has had on the watch industry since the official rebranding of the brand in 1908 (hence the new model is called ‘the 1908’).

But what if you’re not about the Crown life? What if the beaten path ain’t your thing? 

Or, what if you just cannot get your hands on one? 

Well, let’s look at some Alternatives to your Favorite Rolex Watches for each model range they have, from the humble Air-King to the not-so-humble full gold Daytona. 

And, as always, we’ll have a legit alternative alongside a more reasonable and affordable honorable mention, with a focus on an affordable alternative—somewhat. 

Luxury watches aren’t cheap, after all. 

Alternative to the Rolex Oyster Perpetual: Tudor Black Bay

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The Rolex OP represents itself as a rather understated offering in the Rolex catalogue coming in various colors and sizes.

It retains the quality and that 100m of water resistance we’ve come to expect from a watch with the word Oyster on the dial. 

So, the perfect alternative will be something that can be worn daily with ease and perhaps offers some fun colors as well.

Some might say I’m playing it safe here, and perhaps I am, but the perfect alternative to the Rolex Oyster Perpetual is the Tudor Black Bay. 

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Offered in 31, 36, 39, and 41mm the watch clearly first the dimensions perfectly.

Furthermore, when looking at the variety of dial color options, you’re also somewhat spoiled. 

And what’s more, unlike the OP you can actually have some gold in here as well – again, for some it might be a tad too much, for others just the perfect amount of flamboyance. 

That said, those with a stainless steel case will remain as classic and timeless as you’ll ever need – paired with the stainless steel bracelet or something like a NATO, this Swiss watchmaker knew exactly what they were doing. 

Honorable Mention: Sinn 556 

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Sinn is perhaps not a brand we would typically compare against the Crown seeing as the former is more known for, well… Military-inspired timepieces. 

In recent years, however, we’ve come to learn that function and form can coexist.

The 556 sits neatly and rather playfully in the catalog with a variety of dial colors ranging from purple to black MOP. Some come with a date, some don’t.

The size is around 38.5mm which isn’t bad, and sits in the middle of the OP range. Something quirky from Germany – not something I get to say every week. 

Alternative to the Rolex Air King: Longines Conquest

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With the Air King we’re delving more into the sporting world of Rolex, but not quite as much as something like the Daytona – yet.

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So, we have a clean dial, metal bracelet, slight hints of color, and some history with motorsport. The newest iteration has the addition of crown guards, something we might take into account. No date, though…

The perfect alternative to the Rolex Air King is the new Longines Conquest.

Sure, it has the addition of a date, and sure, it’s available in more sizes than the Rolex, but it is a lot cheaper.

Plus, if you were to ask me (or my wife’s opinion) far more interesting and beautiful. 

Honorable Mention: Hublot Classic Fusion

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The steel versions of these offered on a leather strap aren’t exactly the same as the Air King, but it is undeniably simple and both are the most underdressed offerings in their respective teams.

There are, however, a million and one different Classic Fusions that are NOTHING like the Air King, so, reader beware… 

Alternative to the Rolex Datejust: Grand Seiko Heritage Collection

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Might be stepping on some toes here, particularly those of Rolex fanboys, but what do we care?

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Grand Seiko has not only been making waves but also solidified itself as one of the strongest competitors when it comes to making some breathtaking watches.

When looking at the Datejust, well, it’s THE classic. Offered in various sizes and more variations than I could list, you really just want something that’ll be everything to all men (and women).

Something classic, in every single scenario. The Heritage range, to me, is that and then some. Even something as extravagant as the SBGH299 would conjure warm feelings in my chest knowing that someone has spent their money wisely, and gotten a great deal out of it.

Plus, these look absolutely stunning! Even the Titanium Evolution range is right up there with someone you could use daily and it wouldn’t be out of place – ever. 

Honorable Mention: Casio Standard Collection Mens 50m

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Sticking to Japan, but not with a Seiko. No, instead we have a wee humble Casio.

A fluted bezel, various dial options, reliable quartz movement, and a three-link bracelet that loosely resembles an Oyster bracelet.

Coming in well below the price of either of the options mentioned above, this is something that I would certainly consider if I just want to scratch the itch. 

Alternative to the Rolex Day Date: TAG Heuer Carrera Caliber 5

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Finding a perfect alternative to the Rolex Da Date without using a Tudor was a lot harder than I thought – not going to lie.

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That said, I did find salvation in the humble Carrera Caliber 5 from TAG. Offered in a good number of dial configurations, you are presented with both the date and day like the Crown’s version.

Way cheaper, however, it’s unlikely you’ll get that same level of respect and recognition – it’s hard to replicate the president’s watch, you know?  

Honorable Mention: Seiko 5 

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Of course, I’m referring to the non-diving models here. These little buggers come in more variations than the Day Date itself, and what’s more, if this one gets a scratch or something, it won’t cost a car’s downpayment to fix it!

Offered in steel only, the Seiko 5 is a cult classic for a reason, ready to take on anything and everything the world has to throw at you. 

Alternative to the Rolex Explorer: Omega Seamaster 300

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If you’re looking for the ‘real’ Rolex deal, something that resembles what the brand used to stand for, then look no further than the Explorer.

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First released to be worn by well, explorers and men going on grand adventures, the Explorer sits as an oddball in the Rolex catalog today as being both great value but also a ‘if you know, you know’ piece.

The Seamaster 300 has more diving chops, sure, but look a bit closer and you’ll see a lot of similarities like the stark dial offering great real estate and a simple and rugged design. Sure, the Omega is a bit bulkier, but hey, we like ‘em thick around here.  

Honorable Mention: IWC Pilot Mark XX

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Again, we’re breaking the mold here slightly, but it’s my article and I think this fits quite nicely.

We have another stark yet striking dial, a clean design, and a rugged overall overarching mannerism that just says “Hey, I got this”.

I would even argue the Mark can be up-styled whereas the Rolex might not, making it a great (and cheaper) alternative.

Alternative to the Rolex Explorer II: Panerai Luminor GMT PAM00029

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While Panerai does have some history with Rolex, it’s hard to see the connection to the Explorer II.

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The latter is a sporty and uber-utilitarian offering coming with either a while ‘polar’ or black dial, boasting a GMT function, and a graded bezel.

Wearing dimensions are somewhat perfect, and when you combine all of this, the Explorer II is often referred to as the Dark Horse in the Rolex catalog.

The Luminor GMT PAM29 also has a black dial, a graded bezel, and even sports a similar style of numerals on the dial.

Sure, the size might be a bit jarring compared to the Rolex, but it does fit the bill. 

Honorable Mention: Seiko Alpinist

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This is to be expected, really. If you know anything about anything you’ll know just how similar these two are.

Sure, the Alpinist comes sporting more dial options, more complications, and IMHO, a better looking dial – however, there are still those who will believe the Explorer is best no matter what.

What I can say is that the Seiko provides exceptional value for the money, and the limited edition models look damn fine while doing so!

Alternative to the Rolex Submariner: Oris Aquis Date

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The Sub is, well, legendary. And I really do mean this, there is no other watch that has a history like this one, and there will never be another.

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The Daytona has a fleeting bit of limelight, but the Sub will remain a mainstay forever. Small wonder the watch is the most copied watch on the planet.

Now, I do have a soft spot for the Aquis Date, it’s rather special to me. Sure, it’s a hunk of a dive watch, but comes in silly colors and doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously – I can respect that.

With an equally handsome price point, various dials to choose from, and even different movements within the lovely steel case, you simply cannot go wrong with this one. 

Honorable Mention: Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe

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Widely known as the first diver to ever hit the market, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe is something truly special – to those that know.

To those that don’t (or those who just don’t care) it’s just another failed attempt for Blancpain to regain some of its earlier honor – which it hasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, it is handsome, capable, and even somewhat pretty, but only appeals to those who know historical dates like they do birthdays – which reminds me, how old is Blancpain really?

Alternative to the Rolex Yachtmaster: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

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Often described as the posh Submariner, the Yachtmaster is presented with far less diving capabilities compared to its Sub brethren but comes in way more variations, dial options, and case finishes.

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So, we’re looking for something slightly more upscale with the ability to look different. To me, there is only one other diver that is really all about the money you spend on it, and that’s the Offshore.

With more variations than you’ll ever need and capabilities that’ll put the Rolex to shame, the Offshore has gained somewhat of a status for being a bit… luxurious and is often referred to as a hype piece.

Sure, the Offshore comes in more colors with more variations as well, but it’s still a great sporty diver – especially the dive models – lol. 

Honorable Mention: Zenith Defy Extreme Diver 

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New for 2024 and released at Watches and Wonders is the new Zenith diver.

Like the Yachtmaster, it is offered on a strap with some eye-catching colors, but unlike the Rolex, this is only offered in steel.

Not quite sure if they’ll ever release precious metal versions, but it does somewhat fit the bill.

Coming in at 42.5mm you are somewhat limited with size compared to the Rollie, however, with the integrated style bracelet, it really shouldn’t be too hard for you to get comfortable at all.

Plus, you’ll have something truly unique. 

Alternative to the Rolex SeaDweller: UTS 4000M

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We’re thinking big. Bold. In your face, yet capable. This is the Lexus SUV to the Submariner Toyota SUV.

This is a big boy – literally.

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So, what are we going to go with? Well, above all, we have to retain that ridiculous water resistance, so, we better not use something that’ll buckle under the pressure.

Now, UTS certainly won’t win any prizes for looks, and to be fair, neither will the SeaDweller, but I think it knows that.

To me, the Rolex represents the horse of the team, an unsung hero. So, with 4000m of water resistance and looks only an engineer could love, the UTS 4000m does fit perfectly.

What’s more, a rather interesting bracelet and lug design makes for a piece that is truly unique.  

Honorable Mention: Doxa SUB 1500T

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Doxa is a brand I will include in almost every single list I can, and for good reason.

With a rich history of diving stories and a massive variety of dial configurations, there really is something for everyone.

Diving up to a depth of 1500m, it’s not quite up to par with the Rolex or the UTS, but it is still way more than most of us will ever need if we’re being honest.

A turtle-like shape, cool colors, and history to match – yes, please! 

Alternative to the Rolex SkyDweller: Patek Philippe Nautilus 5740/1G

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The SkyDweller is something rather special, being the most complicated watch Rolex has ever produced, but aesthetically it is something rather special as well.

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With the functionality of a GMT alongside a date and month. This is actually, something very special when you really think about it. So, what is a great alternative?

Well, it’s easier said than done if you ask me. Well, it’s a lot easier when you consider a brand like Patek.

The 5740 uses white gold as a material and offers the same level of sportiness alongside a similar movement—somewhat.

The Patek actually dials things up in the view of a full perpetual calendar, making it even more special! It might come with less color and bracelets, but hey, perpetual calendar… 

Honorable Mention: Breitling Bentley B04 GMT

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This might not be the exact same style. Hell, this might not even be in the same realm, but hear me out.

First, I spent about 2 hours on Chrono24 trying to find a suitable alternative. Secondly, this offers you similar functionality – time, a GMT hand, a date, and even a world-time function – something the SkyDweller doesn’t even have.

Then, you have touches of design features that set it apart from other watches such as the knurling bezel meant to resemble the knurling found on a Bentley gear lever.

It even has the same lackluster 100m water resistance! 

Alternative to the Rolex GMT-Master II: Zodiac Super Sea Wolf GMT

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Well, lookie here, we might actually save you some money by offering something friendlier to the wallet from Zodiac.

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Known for their diving pieces and exceptional build quality, Zodiac should be getting you excited, especially with this 40 mm steel case alongside a funky rotating bezel, a deep date indicator, and a handset that’s pretty cool looking.

Maintaining the retro-style Zodiac is known for, it sets itself apart from other luxury watch brands, but retains the functionality to take on pieces like the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra.

The Automatic Soprod C125 takes care of timekeeping duties, and the use of highly luminous hour markers and those funky hands make for something truly eye-catching.

This all can be yours for only around $1,695 – not half bad.

Honorable Mention: Ball Hydrocarbon AeroGMT II

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If you’re looking for something that looks more similar to the Pepsi and the typical deep black dial, look no further than Ball.

Based in the USA with Swiss watchmaking at its base, you can count on Ball to bring their A-game.

The red and blue Pepsi bezel will look familiar to those who love the popular Rolex models but maintain an interesting crown guard and numerical design.

Personally, I do not like this. It’s an odd combination between old and new, and while the movement within, the Automatic BALL RR1201-C is a COSC-certified ETA movement, I just don’t see myself spending the $3,499 as listed on the price tag.

Sure, it looks somewhat the part, but with far too many sacrifices – the date window looks odd, it’s slightly larger than some dive watches, and there are too many other great options to consider – some are even on this list! 

Alternative to the Rolex Daytona: Baltic Tricompax Panda 

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If you’re looking for something that’ll scratch that vintage Daytona itch without completely wrecking the bank, you’re looking at the Baltic Tricompax.

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This looks like an old school Daytona, and I really do mean looks like one almost exactly. 39.5mm and coming in below $2,000 you simply cannot go wrong.

It even has a Swiss SW510-M Calibre within to meet your Swiss needs, and if you’re lustering after a great Swiss chrono, look no further. 

Honorable Mention: Maen SkyMaster 38 MKIII.MCT

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Maen is a small Dutch company that has been capturing the hearts of collectors for the last couple of weeks and for good reason.

Affordable, quality, and even rather good-looking as well! This is also similar to older Daytonas but with a few modern touches such as a Sandblasted Tachymeter Bezel alongside the stereotypical bi-color dial configuration.

Loved by Mr. Cool Himself Nico Leonard, and if it’s good enough for him, it’s probably good enough for us too – since he basically wants to have babies with the Daytona… 

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