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Rolex or Omega - Which is the Better Watch to Buy?

Posted on May 14 2021

Rolex Vs Omega

I don't see myself as an expert on luxury watches, so why am I writing this article about Rolex and Omega?

Because it's a question that I get asked a lot.

I've spent years surrounded by watches. Although I collect and retail affordable brands, I have a lifetime of experience with watches.

Let me give you an example.

This week I went for a run with my mate Phil. He owns a Rolex Day-Date, Omega Speedmaster and two Tudor's. Earlier in the week, I went for a coffee with a friend who has collected Rolex watches for thirty years.

I might be wearing a Parnis watch while typing this, but I know I my luxury watches too. I’m surrounded by them.

So I'm always being asked - should I buy a Rolex or an Omega.

I normally tell people this. It’s a simple question and it should be an easy choice.

Rolex Daytona Watch

Should I buy a Rolex or an Omega?


Both brands have a history of innovation. They're both Swiss and often sold in the same boutiques.

But if you had a choice, which would you buy?

Common sense should tell you to buy a Rolex. Rolex is the most recognisable watch brand in the world. Everyone knows Rolex. Let's take a minute to see why that's the case.

Of the three most expensive watches ever sold, two were Rolex's.

They're a part of popular culture. Ian Fleming made sure that Bond wore Rolex in his books. Britain's top spy would wear the best watches in the world.

And how many Rolex watches are worn by celebrities? Some to the point that they have nicknames now? You're probably already familiar with the Rolex Paul Newman. There is also a Rolex Clint Eastwood model.

Think about this for a second. Even Che Guevara wore Rolex. And Cuban Communist leader, Fidel Castro, wore two at the same time.

The so the question of which brand to buy should be an easy question.

There's more too.

Rolex claims to have made the watch worn during the first ascent of Everest. They also made dive watches for the British Navy. They even have a watch favoured by world leaders. The Rolex Day-Date is nicknamed the presidents watch.

Rolex Datejust Watch

So you should buy a Rolex instead of an Omega?


Not so fast.

For every Rolex innovation, Omega has its own. There are some iconic Rolex models, but Omega has some beautiful alternatives too.

As I tell people, it's too simple to stop there. To assume that the most famous brand is the obvious choice. Of course, sometimes that is true. I love Rolex and I'll tell you why below.

But that doesn't mean that Rolex beats Omega at everything.

There are reasons that make Omega the best choice. These range from price and availability to personal tastes.

So let's take a closer look at the two brands. I'll discuss the important features of both companies. And after reading this, you'll have the knowledge to start shopping for your own luxury watch.

Which is more desirable? Rolex or Omega?


Rolex watches are more coveted. The brand forces scarcity by making less watches than the market wants. It's a great strategy for Rolex. Each year they also increase the price of their watches.

What happens next? We get waiting lists for new watches and a lively used market.

This is the position that you'll find yourself in if you want a new Rolex. Your local Authorised Dealer will put you on their waiting list. This isn't a short wait either. It's a waiting list that is measured in years. Occasionally several years.

I've seen suggestions that recent lockdowns have made this worse. Rich customers have been unable to holiday or socialise. Instead, they're buying more watches and jewellery.

The chances are that if you're looking for a Rolex you'll be shopping in the used market.

Then you'll see the prices. There is a cost associated with a brand like Rolex. These watches maintain their value. Often they'll increase in value. That could be the minute that you step out of the dealer's door.

Remember my friend who has collected Rolex for thirty years? The last time that he bought a Rolex from an Authorised Dealer they wouldn't give him the box and papers. This was to stop him quickly selling the watch at a profit.

He'll get the box and papers 12 months after he bought it.

This doesn't happen with Omega.

Omega Seamaster Watch

The majority of Omega watches are available new at Authorised Dealers.

Of course, there are scarce Omega's too. They often release limited edition pieces that quickly sell out. But usually, Omega watches are more readily available.

I'd suggest that there are pros and cons to both situations.

You will have to pay more for a Rolex. But your money is safe. You will get your money back if you need to sell it later. It may have increased in value while you've had it.

That's not the case with Omega.

But what if you're the buyer and not the seller? You can usually save money by buying a pre-owned Omega.

A Rolex watch will be more exclusive than an Omega. But as we've seen, that comes at a price. New Rolex watches are more than Omega's. This scarcity then adds a premium.

Are Rolex watches better made than an Omega?


When NASA wanted a watch to take to the moon they chose Omega.

They had a shortlist that included Rolex, Omega and Longines. At the time these were three of the biggest names in Swiss watchmaking.

The Omega Speedmaster was the winner.

That meant that Buzz Aldrin wore a Speedmaster during his lunar walk. Omega will always be known as the first watch on the moon.

In this specific scenario, Omega was judged to be the best watch for the job.

Despite this, you'll often find that buyers believe Rolex watches are better quality than Omega.

Rolex would make that claim in some areas. For example, most manufacturers use 316L Stainless Steel for their cases and bracelets. Rolex uses Oystersteel - 904L. It's a high-grade steel that has anti-corrosion properties. It offers some of the benefits of precious metals.

It's debatable how helpful this metal really is. Most other watch manufacturers are happy with 316L stainless steel. Remember, 316L is still marine grade.

When watch collectors talk of quality and craftsmanship, they're often referring to the movement.

It's the engine of the watch. In terms of cost, it's the major component. And Rolex doesn't make battery-powered quartz watches. Omega favours mechanical models too but does also have some quartz models.

As you'd expect, Rolex watches all contain in-house Rolex movements.

Omega is a little more complicated. They are a part of the Swatch Group. Swatch own a movement manufacturer - ETA. Understandably, Omega has used ETA movements in the past.

Now they do use what I'd consider being in-house movements.

These are small differences. They probably don't matter to the average watch buyer. And that may be the case with a lot of these comparisons.

In many ways, the two companies are very similar. You can see this in their dive watches.

Rolex's most water-resistant watch is the Deep Sea. It has a water resistance of 1200M. It has a Rolex automatic movement and a helium release valve.

Omega has its own iconic dive watch. The Ploprof is also rated to 1200M. It also has a Swiss-made automatic movement and a case designed not to allow helium to build up.

Stylistically, they're two very different looking watches. The Ploprof looks more like a tool. But in terms of functionality, they are very similar. The build quality of both is exceptional.

Rolex Datejust Watch

If you had to sell your Rolex or Omega which would hold its value better?


I've covered this above. We know that Rolex watches hold their value.

I mentioned waiting lists earlier. This plays a major part in the resale value of Rolex watches.

The value of many Rolex watches is often more on the second-hand market than they are new. The Daytona, Submariner and GMT Master II are great examples. They're difficult to buy new and will likely increase in value if you do get one.

That story about my friends' AD withholding his Rolex paperwork? That's a true story. They don't want their waiting lists to include customers looking to turn a profit.

So as long as Rolex buyers are happy to sit on waiting lists, then prices will remain steady or climb. It's the company's strategy and it helps protect the used market.

I've heard more than one person suggest that wearing a Rolex is like sticking money in a savings account. You can cash it in at any time.

Omega doesn't benefit from this. But that isn't always a bad thing. As a seller, most Omega's don't work as investments. But if you're a buyer, you can make great savings buying used.

Omega also produces more watches than Rolex. This makes the supply of Omega's more plentiful. It also makes them more likely to depreciate in value.

Why you should buy a Rolex rather than an Omega


Despite there being plenty of overlap between the brands, Omega and Rolex aren't perfect competitors.

They do have similar models. The Omega Seamaster is comparable to the Submariner. The Speedmaster is a racing chronograph like the Rolex Daytona. But for other models, they don't always have competing models.

Is there a Rolex that compares to the Omega Railmaster?

The Sea-Dweller and the Omega PloProf have similar functionality. But stylistically? They're not very similar. I'd suggest that a buyer could like one and not the other.

But this article is about comparing the brands. So let's look at competing models. I could easily find myself torn between the Rolex Explorer 1 and the Omega Aqua Terra.

So why would I choose the Rolex instead of the Omega?

As you've seen, there are several to go with the Rolex option.

Brand recognition is obvious. Everyone knows Rolex.

They know that they're a Swiss luxury brand. The chances that people will know the story behind your Rolex Daytona is unlikely. But they'll know Rolex.

They'll assume that you have wealth and style. They'll know that successful people wear Rolex. And that's not a bad impression to make on people.

There are also the famous names who've worn Rolex. Paul Newman and his Daytona. Clint Eastwood and his Root Beer variation of the GMT-Master II.

You can wear the same Rolex as James Bond. Or you could wear the same watch as US Presidents.

But a major reason is still the value of a Rolex. If you're spending large amounts on a luxury watch it's comforting to know that you can always change your mind. Your Rolex is unlikely to depreciate.

You can flip your Rolex and buy a different model and not lose money. That's appealing.

But it is only realistic if the value of your watch has remained stable. It gives you some protection. You can always turn a Rolex back into cash.

But many people want to do the opposite? They want to keep a Rolex over the long term. They want to pass it to a child for example.

Rolex prices keep increasing year upon year, so they're great long term investments.

If you can afford it, buying a Rolex makes sense. The stable resale value protects you. You can change your mind later without being out of pocket.

Rolex is a great choice if you want to impress people. We all know that a Rolex is a symbol of success.

Why you should buy an Omega rather than a Rolex


Remember when I said that Ian Fleming's James Bond wore a Rolex? That was true in the books and the early movies. But Lindy Hemming, an Oscar-winning costume designer, changed this. She believed that Omega better represented the job that Bond did.

In Goldeneye James Bond wore an Omega.

This shows something very simple - some people prefer Omega. It depends on the watch. It depends on your tastes. And as we've seen, the Rolex you like may not even be available.

I want to look at the main issue first. The availability of watches.

It's fine to see the Rolex Submariner as a better watch than the Omega Seamaster. But can you actually buy one? That's the first thing to consider. It's ok to want a Submariner, but is the model you want actually available?

In contrast, an Authorised Dealer will sell you an Omega Seamaster now. You might have to go on a waiting list for the Rolex.

The Omega is also more affordable.

And there is more choice. Omega has a bigger range.

Rolex designs, with some exceptions, are tried and tested. They use established designs. Mostly quite conservative and in mid-sized cases. Apart from watches like the Milgauss, most have simple colour options. The full green Submariner Hulk was discontinued, meaning that the Submariner line doesn't have much colour.

There's more flair in the Omega range. The orange Planet Ocean is a good example.
They also have quartz and mechanical models - some with their own co-axial movements. Quartz isn't for everyone, but at least Omega gives you the option.

Other examples of variety include textured dials and reissued designs.

And then we have the Omega Speedmaster.

Omega Speedmaster Watch

Some history can't be replaced by marketing. There is only one brand that was first on the moon. It was an Omega and they can live off this for decades. That means the iconic Speedmaster is always available.

If a brands backstory is important to you, and it is to me, then Omega has that. They have a place in watchmaking history.

I can't stress this enough - they're available now.

Apart from the odd limited edition, you can get a new Omega today.

Does the choice of Rolex or Omega come down to personal preference?


This is a more simple question.

Is the main reason to choose one Swiss watch brand over another just a question of taste?

Really, that's all it comes down to. The most important point to consider when watch shopping is what watches you prefer.

If you prefer the Omega Ploprof to the Rolex Deep Sea, buy the Omega.

But if you value the brand name above all else, then Rolex is the obvious choice. Rolex is a household name. Wearing their watch tells the world that you've made it.

Rolex would be the first choice if resale value is important to you. A Rolex will cost more than an Omega, but you have more chance of getting your money back later.

Pick the right Rolex and you might make a profit.

But who wears a watch because of its monetary value? I find that boring.

Most watch fans see watches as works of art. We're fascinated by the history and the engineering skills. We want beautiful designs with excellent build quality.

Everything else comes second to a watches design. I really don't like the Omega ProPlof. It's massive and lacks refinement.

But the Omega Railmaster? I think that's a stunning watch. It also captures an era. Its anti-magnetic features and Swiss-made movement are great extras. But it's the design that matters.

I treat Rolex the same. I love my country's history of exploration. Among the best achievements was the first summit of Everest. Rolex, probably more through marketing than anything else, has linked the Explorer to that event.

The Explorer is a refined and beautiful watch. For me, it's the best tool watch ever. The resale value wouldn't matter to me. If I owned one I wouldn't be selling it.

And that's where I've tried to bring everything together. The price, the quality, the resale value and ultimately, the design.

Your perfect watch should tick these boxes. So the answer is yes. Whether you choose an Omega or a Rolex should come down to your personal tastes. It's about what you enjoy in a watch and where you place the most value.

Conclusion


The answer seems obvious. Rolex is the watch you should choose.

But Rolex has a waiting list. You can't buy a new one. For a lot of people, a new watch with a warranty is a must. But with Rolex, you're often better buying used. And that comes with inflated prices.

Omega watches are more affordable and you can buy them new.

That's where personal preferences come into play. What do you value most? Brand name? Resale value? Design?

Only you can answer those questions.

And they're questions that you'll have to keep asking yourself.

That's because these two amazing Swiss companies do cover some of the same ground. The Aqua Terra does compete against the Rolex Datejust. And Rolex's signature dive watch, the Submariner, could be the perfect alternative to an Omega Seamaster.

Rolex has brand recognition. Particularly among the general public. But Omega is a more affordable brand. It also has a more diverse range of watches.

But then again, Rolex watches hold their resale value better.

I've given you some ideas to work with. Now it's up to you to go and explore.

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