Are you thinking about purchasing a high-quality timepiece? If you want to buy a luxury watch, you want to make sure you choose the best brand. When it comes to luxury watches, there are so many to choose from that it will make your head spin, but two of the biggest names in the biz you should be aware of are Omega and Rolex.
But when it comes to these two, how do you decide which is better? The average cost of a Rolex is between $9,000 and $15,000, so putting down your hard-earned money is a big decision. Here are some of our thoughts on where these two brands match up. Perhaps, we can do some head-to-head in the future, but this depends on our stock as it's always very popular!
Omega vs. Rolex — What's the Difference?
Omega and Rolex are two of the world's most recognised Swiss watch brands. Both brands have their specialities, but which one is right for you? Let's start with a little bit of history.
Omega began 50 years before Rolex in 1848 as La Generale Watch Co in La-Chaux-de-Fonds and soon became a respected watch brand. In the early 1900s, the company brought out the "Omega" calibre, which was so well received that the company changed the name on its watches to Omega. They were the official supplier of the British Royal Flying Corps and U.S Army towards the end of the First World War. Omega also became the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games in 1932, and an Omega was selected by NASA for their missions to outer space, hence their most iconic model: The Moonwatch.
Rolex got started in London in 1905 and soon after became a strong competitor for Omega, their original business model was purchasing watch components from Switzerland and assembling them in London. They moved from their London home to their current one in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1915 and established themselves as watchmakers and innovators. Their pioneering water-resistant "Oyster" technology soon became popular when British swimmer, Mercedes Gleitze, wore a Rolex watch around her neck for 10 hours during her swim across the English channel in 1927.
Both Omega and Rolex have been the official watch of James Bond, with Sean Connery donning one allegedly owned by a film crew member, and Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig outfitted with multiple Omegas across the years. Omega watches are easier to buy new than Rolex watches as a result of pricing and availability, but how do they compare in terms of quality and value?
If you are spending a lot of money on a luxury timepiece, you want to ensure it will last you a long time. In 2014, Omega developed a procedure to ensure their watches could withstand real-life situations by testing each watch's resistance to water, temperature, shock, and magnetic fields. This culminated in the release of the "Master Chronometer" certificate, issued by METAS (the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology). Their standards are higher than those of the COSC chronometer certificate, but their testing laboratory is based in Omega's factory in Biel, Switzerland, and only Omegas and one Tudor have received the Master Chronometer certificate, although METAS says anyone can receive it.
Omega has been making watches with a Co-Axial escapement for years. The escapement is the thing in the watch which makes the ticking noise, and there'll be more material on this in the future. The Co-Axial escapement, developed by Dr George Daniels, is designed to be just as if not more accurate than the traditional lever escapements while also being lubricant free, although Omega adds lubricants anyway. However, Omega isn't the only major brand using advanced horological technologies.
Rolex watches are sturdily built and accurate thanks to their Superlative Chronometer Certification. Their newest movements make use of an innovation called a Chronergy escapement. The escapement is made of non-magnetic materials and features lightweight components plus revised geometry for a 15% increase in efficiency over a standard lever escapement.
Outside the movement, it's Rolex that goes a step further. Their standard stainless steel watches are made of Oystersteel, a rebranded type of 904L surgical-grade steel. It's claimed that 904L steel is harder and more scratch resistant than the 316L stainless steel Omega and nearly all other watch brands use. However, Rolex watches still scratch, just like any other watches over time. Also, Omega makes some watches, such as the Seamaster PloProf, their extreme diving watch, out of titanium which is tougher and more durable than stainless steel.
Quality and Workmanship
Omega and Rolex have spent years perfecting their watches to ensure the customer receives only the best. As mentioned above, both brands are well versed in the use of stainless steel, but they also both make solid gold models of their watches. However, Omega cuts above here for the sheer number of materials used in watchmaking. Rolex tends to be traditional with its designs, it's why it has an immensely strong reputation today, but its watches are either steel, gold or platinum and maybe with ceramic bezels. But Omega uses all of the above and ceramic for its watch cases, plus titanium and whatever else it can think of. Omega also uses ceramic for many of its dials, as noted by the [ZrO2] moniker on them (Zirconium dioxide, or ZrO2, is the ceramic Omega uses).
Rolex has a patent for their ceramic material — Cerachrom — used for the bezel on the Submariner and Daytona watches. This hard ceramic can resist UV damage and scratches and helps each watch maintain a beautiful shine. Their GMT Master II models are also noted for having inlays of powered white gold where the markings are to add to the allure.
Omega, for their part, also has some cool tech going on when it comes to ceramic bezels. Liquidmetal is a type of ceramic bezel which undergoes a highly complex procedure. By injecting molten metal into the grooves for the numbers and markers on the bezel under extreme heat and pressure, Omega can make the ceramic and metallic elements bond. This means that, unlike the bezel on a Rolex, a Liquidmetal bezel is completely smooth as the two materials have become one. Neat, huh?
Although we've already spoken about movements a little, it's worth touching base again on this topic when discussing artistry. All of Omega's current mechanical calibres, bar the historical ones used in the Speedmaster collection, feature the same sunburst wave motif. Compared to a truly haute horlogerie movement, this finishing leaves a little to be desired up close, but a watch like that could cost ten or even twenty times that of an Omega, so what you do get from the brand is a good deal.
It's better than not being able to see it at all, at least, as is the case with Rolex. Since the rectangular Cellini Prince's discontinuation, no Rolex from the factory displays the movement inside. But, even if it did, there's not much to look at. Despite the superlative build quality, it's clear Rolex had its priorities elsewhere when it came to finishing.
This is the one stumbling block of Omega and its loyal fans. In terms of resale value, Rolex is the better choice here. In many cases, the resale value of a Rolex watch will begin to increase from the moment you purchase it. Rolex watches are in high demand right now, and many people will offer a premium price for a second-hand watch, especially if it is a vintage or a steel sports piece.
Although the price of an Omega watch is lower, they do not hold value as well as a Rolex, generally speaking. There are some instances of special edition Speedmasters retaining value. Even the MoonSwatch is commanding higher prices than retail on the pre-owned market right now. Having said that, where an Omega may not hold its value as well as a Rolex, it is easier to get hold of a new one. There's a discussion to be had over whether mass market availability equals luxury (it generally doesn't), but that's for another article.
Purchase the Perfect Timepiece
When buying premium timepieces, it can be challenging to decide between Omega vs. Rolex. While Rolex and Omega are similar in many ways, it is clear that Rolex is the superior brand regarding resale value and quality. Meanwhile, Omega offers better value watches with a broader range of styles that you can generally purchase immediately. When you make your decision, the timepiece you select will depend on your personal preference and lifestyle.
Contact the experts at Watches of Wales for more information on buying high-quality watches. With over 20 years of experience and a one-year warranty on all watches, you can shop with ease as you choose the perfect timepiece. Take a look at the wide variety of pre-owned timepieces to find the perfect watch for you.