So I get that this is a hot topic. People are often either an Omega person or a Rolex person. The two companies are at the epitome of the watch world. Yes there are watch companies that are more technical, and more expensive, and more rare, and more exquisite. But in reality, these two are the leaders of the watch world. They are the two that mass produce highly sought after mechanical wrist watches. They are status symbols and a way to express yourself. The two brands also have a detailed history of being strapped on the wrists of some of the world’s most powerful and influential people. With that being said, which brand do I favor?
I won’t keep you waiting, for me it is simple, Omega is my clearly favorite.
To begin with, when I am purchasing a watch, I want to go try it on, talk with someone and really get an understanding of what the watch is about. I want to be able to walk into a Boutique and walk out the same day with the piece. Chances are, if you walk into a Rolex Authorized Dealer and ask for a steel sports watch, they are likely to laugh at you and tell you to join a wait list that could last years. Rolex steel sport watches are in such high demand that the chances of purchasing one are slim to none. Further, if you are somehow able to purchase a Rolex from and AD at retail price, you would be insane to wear it out of the house because the aftermarket value is simply astounding. Omega, on the other hand, allows you to walk into a Boutique and try on all the pieces and walk out the same day with your timepiece, and if for some reason you can not walk out that day with the watch, you are going to get it much sooner than any Rolex. I enjoy the shopping experience at Omega more than Rolex.
It is also important for me to point out the difference between an Authorized Dealer and a Boutique. Omega has Boutiques, an Omega only store where the people working there are only concerned with all things Omega. The stores often have a wide range of models on display, and more importantly, in stock! Rolex does not have Boutiques. Well, from the information I have gathered they only have one Boutique in Geneva Switzerland that has been able to avoid the massive fan fair. Rolex instead sells watches through Authorized Dealers. This means that they are independently owned and often sell much more than just Rolex watches. The pitfall of this method is the people at these AD’s are not as knowledgable as they do not specialize on one specific brand and are focused on the sale of many different products from a smattering of brands. I much prefer the Boutiques of a brand because you are better able to understand what it is they are all about. You can tell if they are simply trying to push a sale or invested in the customer and want to ensure they get the piece they truly love.
Besides from the fact that Omega will have the watch you desire in store for you to purchase, they also have a variety of color variants and options for you to chose from. Seamasters, for example, come in a variety of models and colors. I love this. It allows for your watch to be slightly more unique. Rolex has a much smaller catalogue of watches. One of the favorite things about Rolex, is their small catalogue. This means that Rolex watches are all someway familiar. If you pick up a Submariner from the 1960’s and one from 2020, you will know that the two watches you are holding are from the same brand, the same family. Omega is completely different. You could pick up an Omega from just 10 years ago and not know it was from the same manufacturer, baring the Omega logo.
There is an infamous quote in the watch world, “Omega makes watches, Rolex sells watches.” I think this quote nicely summarizes one of the key differences between the two. I view Rolex as a brand that has one of the best marketing departments of all time, I would go so far as to say that Rolex is a marketing company that happens to make an incredible watch (Like really good). While, on the other hand, Omega is a watchmaker who has to market their product.
From a strictly technical perspective, Rolex can not come close to the Co-Axial Escapement that Omega has to offer. This movement is simply a modern marvel of watchmaking. Rolex uses a tried and tested classic lever escapement. It is great but nothing close to the technical sophistication and advancement of the Omega Co-Axial Escapement developed by George Daniels in 1976. Omega has been able to adjust this movement and make it work for a variety of their watches. The movement is now a cornerstone of what makes an Omega watch so attractive. My technical understanding of this movement and why it is better stems from the fact that the Co-Axial movement uses radial friction rather than the tradition sliding friction at impulse surfaces which reduces the overall friction. This results in longer service intervals as well as greater longevity in the watches accuracy. In addition, Rolex does not offer a clear case-back. Meaning, you can never see your Rolex movement. Omega offers a clear case-back for a variety of their models. This means that you can ogle at the beauty of your mechanical watch movement.
Lastly, I really appreciate how Omega is willing to work on fun projects with other brands. Some notable collaborations are with the Olympic committee, the James Bond franchise, and the famed sports car maker Porsche. Two other notable collaborations are with Hodinkee which originated after hearing Ben Clymer’s (Hodinkee founder) story of his Omega Speedmaster, as well as Omega’s collaboration with #SpeedyTuesday with Fratello Watches founder Robert-Jan Broer back in 2012.
In conclusion, I think that Rolex makes a hell of a watch. Unfortunately the chances of you owning one for a fair price is slim to none because they are in such high demand, and if you must own one, you can expect to pay astronomical numbers on the used market. The demand is driven by the brilliant marketing efforts behind Rolex as there watches are well made, but not quite at the level of an Omega. Knowing you can actually go purchase an Omega is obviously great, as well as knowing there is always a Boutique for you to bring it back to if there is ever an issue with your timepiece. To me Rolex takes themselves too seriously with limited numbers, solid case backs, slim to no collaborations, and insane waitlists and price tags. Omega understands the customer and in reality, is the best choice. They have a ton of options to choose from, models you can actually purchase, people willing and able to help, interesting and new collaborations, and superior watchmaking ability and pedigree!