4 Things You Should Know About Women’s Rolex Watches

Left: Lot 92, Center: Lot 94, Right: Lot 97 (see lot details below). Sotheby's (May 14)

When it comes to women’s watches, collecting is a pretty new sport – even though the variety of women’s watches easily eclipses that for men.

Women’s Rolexes tend to fall into two categories: jewelry-like adornments, and conventional watches that are miniaturized versions of men’s styles. Sotheby’s upcoming Important Watches sale on Saturday, May 14th includes several stunning examples of both.

The watch can be flaunted as jewelry.

Jewelry watches are true examples of watchmaking art that are chosen for their beauty and uniqueness. First, you should note, many Rolex women’s timepieces were marketed under Rolex’s dressier Cellini label.

Lot 89, Rolex Cellini, lady’s white gold and diamond-set octagonal bracelet watch,
ref. 258, c. 1975, Sotheby’s (May 14)

Lot 89 is a case in point. This octagonal piece in white gold and a double row of diamonds on the bezel, with a mesh bracelet, is a beautiful piece of eveningwear jewelry that just also happens to tell the time. And though its vintage is roughly 1975, it’s a timeless design as suitable today as it was 40 years ago.

Lot 88, Rolex Precision, white gold and diamond-set square bracelet watch,
ref. 364, c. 1960, Sotheby’s (May 14)

Other pieces carry the Rolex signature alone. Lot 88, a petite, square dialed Rolex Precision with bezel set diamonds, in 18k white gold is such a piece. And so indeed are lots 90 and 91, both examples of small, square, early 1960s bracelet watches in pink and yellow gold, respectively.

Embrace standout attributes.

Lot 98, Rolex King Midas, yellow gold asymmetrical left-handed wristwatch with bracelet,
ref. 9630, c. 1970, Sotheby’s (May 14)

One might call these pieces traditional jewelry-style lady’s watches. On the other hand, the asymmetry of lot 98 leans avant-garde. This 18K yellow gold beauty is actually mirror-symmetric about a horizontal line through the center of the dial, and could easily be mistaken for a narrow cuff bracelet from across the room.

These jewelry-style Rolexes are so varied in design from one another that the casual observer can be forgiven for thinking them unique. Perhaps that’s the reason they’re not as universally collected. You can’t point to one to discuss and compare the way you can with a couple of double-red Submariner SeaDwellers.

That means the collector is choosing the pieces of their collection based on individual beauty and appeal, rather than relative condition of a popular but perhaps rare model. But truthfully, collecting anything – from fine art to antique cars to comic books – should be based on personal taste rather than speculative investment, given the vagaries of the market.

Consider practicality.

On the other side of the wristwatch spectrum are feminine examples resulting from a couple of centuries of horological evolution, including Oyster Perpetuals, the Lady Datejusts, the Lady Presidents and Masterpieces.

The Rolex Lady Datejust is well-recognized and has been produced in vast numbers and countless variations. On the Datejust, you’ll find at least three types of bracelets – Oyster, President, and Jubilee. You’ll also encounter smooth, fluted, or diamond bezels.

Left: Lot 92, Rolex Datejust, lady’s yellow gold automatic centre seconds wristwatch with Malachite dial date and bracelet, ref. 6916, c. 1980; Right: Lot 94, Rolex Datejust, lady’s yellow gold automatic centre seconds wristwatch with Lapis Lazuli dial date and bracelet, ref. 6917, c. 1980, Sotheby’s (May 14)

Lot 97, Rolex Datejust, lady’s yellow gold and gem-set automatic centre seconds wristwatch
with date and bracelet, ref. 6906, c. 1977, Sotheby’s (May 14)

And perhaps the most visual part of a Lady Datejust is the dial, especially if it’s a semi-precious stone (Malachite or Lapis Lazuli, as in lots 92 and 94, for instance), or has been lacquered in a bright color.


Lot 93, Rolex lady’s yellow gold automatic centre seconds wristwatch
with bracelet, ref. 67198, c. 1985, Sotheby’s (May 14)

Lot 93, a Rolex Oyster Perpetual (at 2mm smaller, think of it as a little sister to the Datejust) is notable for its old-style riveted Oyster bracelet.

Question quality, but know the story and character.

Rolex bracelets have not always garnered the kind of love one might wish for in an exclusive timepiece; collectors around the world have criticized the brand for the lightweight nature of its early bracelets. Indeed, these earlier hollow link examples often exhibit a lot of stretch where those hollow links have deformed.

But don’t be fooled! Rolex bracelets have stood the test of time. The riveted Oyster bracelet of lot 93 is a prime example. No, the alignment of links and end pieces isn’t perfect, and there are gaps here and there. But it’s clear the bracelet has both a story and character, and will serve for many more years.