Most of today's watches are made of stainless steel. They're robust, corrosion-resistant, and gentle on the skin. Polished finishes look especially exquisite, and the matte look is great on tool watches. Some models make a very solid investment.
When it comes to watches, stainless steel has established itself as the industry's dominant metal. It's hard but not brittle, corrosion-resistant, doesn't tarnish, and is gentle on most people's skin. What's more, it's easy to work with and can be polished, brushed, or sandblasted to create beautiful finishes. Simply put, stainless steel is the perfect watch material. Watchmakers first discovered it for themselves in the early 20th century. Prior to that, they had preferred working with softer precious metals like gold or silver.
Stainless steel has been an unstoppable force in the watch industry since the 1920s. Models like the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso and early Rolex Oyster watches were key to stainless steel's rise. It didn't take long for them to find all kinds of fans and start flying off the shelves. In the 1930s and 40s, many militaries realized how robust stainless steel is and quickly came to rely on pilot's and navy watches from Omega, IWC, Hamilton, and Stowa.
Today, timepieces like the Patek Philippe Nautilus, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, and stainless steel editions of the Rolex Submariner and GMT-Master are some of the world's most sought-after models and enjoy large fan bases among men and women alike. Recent years have seen some of these watches reach astronomical prices, often selling for more than their sister models in gold.
|Model||Reference number||Price (approx.)|
|Patek Philippe Nautilus||5711/1A||76,000 USD|
|Audemars Piguet Royal Oak||15202ST||44,500 USD|
|Rolex Submariner No Date||5512||22,500 USD|
|IWC Big Pilot's Watch||500201||10,500 USD|
|Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch||3184.108.40.206.01.001||4,000 USD|
|Seiko Prospex Dawn Grey Turtle||SRPD01K1||770 USD|
|Hamilton Khaki Field Automatic||H70305143||580 USD|
|Fossil Machine Chronograph||FS4552||130 USD|
Some of Rolex's most successful and sought-after luxury models are made of stainless steel, including the Submariner diving watch. Rolex first introduced this timepiece in 1954. Today, it's available in a number of gold and two-tone editions, though most fans and collectors prefer the versions in so-called "Oystersteel" stainless steel. This is also true for Rolex's other sports models, such as the GMT-Master or Daytona, as these editions bear the strongest resemblance to the originals from the 1950s and 60s. However, it's not just Rolex's stainless steel sports watches that sell well. There are also many fans of the Rolex's classic dress watch, the Datejust, in stainless steel.
If you decide to purchase from a dealer or retail location, expect long waiting lists for the Submariner and similar watches. In some cases, the wait may even be several years. As a result, many collectors and watch lovers are willing to pay a premium to get their hands on one of these timepieces more quickly. That means shelling out anywhere from 6,200 USD for the 28-mm Lady-Datejust 28 ref. 279160 to spending 25,500 USD on a Cosmograph Daytona ref. 116500LN.
Vintage models are even more highly coveted. For example, the especially rare Submariner COMEX often demands upwards of 112,000 USD. At 17.75 million USD, Paul Newman's personal Daytona ref. 6239 worn is the most expensive watch ever sold.