When it comes to luxury watches, even some cultivated collectors can be wary of white gold. Most simply just aren’t sure what justifies the often extravagant-seeming price for pieces that don’t look much different that stainless steel. So we consulted two experts to explain the attraction. Paul Altieri is not only the founder of online luxury watch retailer Bob’s Watches but owner of one of the world’s top Rolex collections. And Blake Buettner is the director of watches at StockX, the live bid/ask luxury marketplace backed by Eminem and Mark Wahlberg where collectors can build portfolios of cool timepieces.
“Due to their striking colors, yellow gold and rose gold Rolex watches proudly flaunt their precious metal makeup,” Altieri explains. “On the other hand, white gold is quietly decadent, oftentimes mistaken for more mainstream stainless steel. This is particularly true of white gold Rolex sports watches since unless you’re well versed in the subtleties of Rolex design, most people naturally assume that you’re wearing a plain steel watch. However the people who matter – and that of course includes you yourself – will know the difference. It’s an extremely subtle signal of wealth and taste.”
“I enjoy white gold for its subtle warmth, and its ability to fly under the radar,” Buettner says. “It has qualities that aren’t readily apparent, such as the color and weight, making it the experience unique to the wearer.” Here are the most desirable white gold Rolex models and why they are must-haves if you’ve got the means:
Rolex Submariner 11619
“Aside from its weighty white gold construction, what makes the Submariner ref. 116619 stand out visually is its bright blue dial and bezel combination,” Altieri says. “And yes, while there are few people in this world that would actually take a full 18k white gold Sub scuba diving, this is indeed a dive watch with a water resistance rating of 300 meters.”
“I love the white gold Submariner, also known as the ‘Smurf’,” Buettner says. “The blue bezel and dial feel give it a sporty look and feel that belie its true nature. The fact that these colors are relegated to the white gold model only make it a rare sighting in the wild, and will raise eyebrows of only those in the know.”
Rolex GMT-Master II 116719
“This is one if the most highly coveted modern Rolexes ever, commanding well above its retail price on the pre-owned market,” Altieri says, “and for good reason – it’s simply stunning. Remember, the duo of colors is not just for aesthetics but it actually serves to differentiate between night and day hours in the second time zone. “
“The white gold GMT-Master II holds a special place amongst all other GMT watches,” Buetter adds, “not only for its case and bracelet material, but for it being the only reference to offer the venerable and historic ‘Pepsi’ bezel alongside an oyster bracelet. To me, this is Rolex acknowledging the significance of this combination to the brand’s identity as a whole.”
Rolex Daytona 116509
“With a retail price tag that’s comparable to the Tesla Model 3, the Rolex Daytona ref. 116509 is one seriously luxurious chronograph,” Altieri says. “There are a few dial options, all of which differentiate the watch from the classic stainless steel Daytona. This watch is an indulgence to be sure, but it will never lose value should you want to sell it.”
“The Daytona is the ultimate Rolex,” Buettner notes, “so it only makes sense that it’s been offered in precious metal construction since the ‘60s. Modern white gold Daytona references offered on Oysterflex rubber straps are among my favorite unorthodox mixture of materials.”
Jared Paul Stern has written for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, GQ, WWD, Vogue, New York magazine, Details, Hamptons magazine, Playboy, BlackBook, the New York Post, Bergdorf Goodman magazine and Luxist among others. He is also the founding editor of the Page Six magazine.