Watch Snob on Rolex vs. Omega
The Watch Snob on Sleek Swatches and If Steel Has Finally Run Its Course
Omega v. Rolex
Dearest Snob, I read your column, and should know the answer, but I feel as though I must ask the eternal question for a first time buyer: Omega or Rolex? Your opinion is greatly appreciated.
It’s a simple one but the answer is far more complicated than the question. It will also raise questions of its own. Each of these companies has a very different character but before getting into that let us talk about how they are alike. Omega and Rolex are both industrial firms; they are between them the two biggest makers of luxury watches in the world, and to do that, they must use modern manufacturing methods including computer controlled machine tools, extensive automation and highly efficient production lines. This is not to say that there is no hand-work but at this scale humans are most useful for monitoring and quality control; real hand craft throughout the manufacturing process is much more expensive than the typical price point for either company.
RELATED: Watch Snob Last Week: Must-Read Watch Books and Breaking up With Steel
Where they differ is in their technical approach. Rolex represents the furthest development of really traditional Swiss watchmaking. However, everything is done to the highest possible precision manufacturing standards; they do not stint on materials quality and while the criticism has sometimes been made of them, that one Rolex is much like another, that is exactly the point. The average quality of individual Rolex watches is extremely high and there is no Rolex watch which would not be capable of giving a lifetime of service. The firm does innovate technically but in an incremental way, and often consumers are simply unaware of the many constant minute improvements Rolex makes to its watches.
Omega on the other hand, innovates technically rather aggressively and in ways far more apparent to the consumer, than Rolex. The most notable example of course is their adoption of the co-axial escapement, which both Rolex and Patek Philippe declined to attempt to industrialize. The cost to Omega was considerable but they were able to manage it and today they are the only luxury watch brand using a non-Swiss lever escapement in industrial numbers. They have also invested heavily in amagnetic materials; their Master Chronometer watches can resist extremely powerful magnetic fields, and they make extensive use of proprietary alloys as well as ceramic compounds.
Though fans of each brand love to denigrate the other, the fact is that each represents, for now, the pinnacle of two different approaches and watch enthusiasts ought to appreciate each company for what it is (instead of descending into the stupid personal insults of which watch enthusiasts have been fond since time immemorial). Which you will prefer is a matter of personal choice and there are exceptions to these generalizations in each brand’s portfolio, but that ought to give you enough to go on with.
The Banker’s Swatch
When I was working in London, I saw a bunch of pretty successful investment bankers sporting sleek, minimalist Swatch watches. Is that a look I should try to pull off?
Good heavens sir, how the devil am I to know? It has been said that it is possible in matters of fashion as well as in most other departments of life, that to do something with conviction is the best guarantee of pulling it off as you put it, but you have given me little to no data upon which I could make a recommendation.
You must therefore take counsel with yourself (which is what you should do anyway when it comes to watches). Why do you think rich bankers would wear a Swatch? Is it a simple desire to save money? Some sort of postmodern ironic comment on the fleeting nature of wealth? Are they in accumulating riches, reminding themselves, in wearing cheap Swatches, that “vanity, vanity, all is vanity,” as the Good Book sayeth? Or is it simpler than that — do they simply like this type of Swatch on the strength of its design?
These are all plausible reasons, and moreover they are not mutually exclusive. The interesting thing about the thinner Swatch watches (for example metal case and bracelet models in the Skin collection) is that they are versatile owing to being unobtrusive and they are actually elegant, as much as industrial products can be. The nice thing about your question is that it would be very inexpensive for you to find out for yourself so I encourage you to experiment.
I missed the boat on the AP Royal Oak, the Patek Nautilus and the Patek Aquanaut, what’s the next steel watch that’ll take off and really grow in value?
My dear fellow, I don’t know what you mean about “missed the boat,” — if you mean you missed a chance to invest heavily in these watches and then resell them at a profit, that is still something you can do although the cost of entry has increased (a lot) and the margins may not be very desirable. It is a silly question anyway — a game one can play ad infinitum; I missed the boat on Apple stock, what will be the next tech company that will take off and really grow in value?
There will not be another Apple — there will certainly be other opportunities, but they may have little or nothing to do with the sorts of products and dynamics which made Apple a success.
So it is with watches. The Royal Oak, Nautilus and Aquanaut to a lesser extent all belong to a certain time and a certain context, which will not be duplicated. You must simply keep your eyes open and your wits about you. The entire category of stainless steel luxury sports watches may be overvalued and a correction across the entire category may occur, as people learn more about watches and begin to value other things, in a more nuanced way — part of the reason this sort of watch became popular is because there has been an enormous increase in interest in mechanical watches in the last ten years, and this type of watch is easy for beginners to understand.
That said, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas may well be the next widely desired steel watch; some of the signs are already there. But if you buy one hoping to profit by the purchase (or, I should say more charitably, find that it holds its value as well as a Royal Oak or Nautilus) don’t go blaming the Watch Snob.
Send the Watch Snob your questions at email@example.com or ask a question on Instagram with the #watchsnob hashtag.
You Might Also Dig:
- 11 Best Watches Under $1,000
- The 7 Best Pre-Owned Rolex Watches You Can Buy at Walmart
- 12 Best Watch Winders to Keep Your Automatic Watch on Time
This post was syndicated from askmen.com