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Top 5 Vintage Rolex Watches

For decades, Rolex has been the most well-known name in luxury watches. Today, the brand is recognized by collectors and non-collectors alike. For those looking to add a watch to their collection, Rolex is a classic choice. According to a June 2013 study by Chronolytics, a market research firm for the watch industry, these are the most sought-after models form 1980 or earlier. The lasting popularity makes these vintage timepieces an excellent addition to any collection.

Rolex Submariner

The Submariner was released in 1959 and made famous by Bond -- James Bond. This was the watch of choice for 007 in his early films, when Sean Connery played him. In Dr. No, the first Bond film, the Submariner helps 007 tell time while hiding from Dr. No's men underwater.

Like the Submariner in Dr. No, Rolex's 1960s Submariners are simple watches. They are some of the only watches to have a stainless steel wrist band. (The other watches from the 1960s that had a stainless steel wristband were Omegas, worn by astronauts). The case is also stainless steel and has a basic bezel. In keeping with the minimalistic design, there is no date function.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is one of the three lines of watches that Rolex makes. The most popular watch in the line is the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner (mentioned above), but there are many different vintage models available. In general vintage Oyster Perpetual watches are smaller and have fewer features than those made today, but many models are still suitable for taking under water.

Rolex Datejust

The Datejust made it onto the big screen in 2000, when Christian Bale wore it in American Psycho, but it has been a popular timepiece for decades. Vintage Datejusts are smaller than those made today, measuring just 36 mm instead of the 41 mm that new ones measure. When inspected closely, vintage gold Datejusts also have a slightly different color than new ones. The 18 karat gold used to make their cases and hands has an aged, brassy hue, whereas new ones are bright and full of luster.

Rolex GMT Master

The GMT Master has not increased in value as some other vintage Rolex watches. It was redesigned in 2008, though, and the value of GMT Masters made before then could rise significantly in coming years. The sporty GMT Master has an orange hand and 24-hour rotating bezel.

The Rolex Daytona

Named after the famous racing track, the Rolex Daytona is perhaps the most famous series of luxury watches. A vintage Rolex Daytona is much smaller than today's models and is hand-wound. With the 6239, released in 1964, was the first Rolex watch to feature sub-dials with inverse colors and have a tachometer on the bezel -- traits that still are marks of Daytonas made today.

New Rolexes are always popular among watch aficionados, but many collectors opt for these vintage Rolex watches over new ones. Not only is buying a pre-owned Rolex watch often more affordable than new ones, but vintage models also encapsulate a little piece of history. Some commemorate a momentous occasion, but even those that were not made for a specific event reflect the era in which they were made.