Rolex is without a doubt the most well-known watch brand in the world. Everyone will notice your Datejust, Submariner, or whichever model you were lucky enough to purchase. But is the brand with the crown really the best watch brand in the world? Yes, it is! Let me explain my top three reasons why I think so.
The Best Overall
Similar to the now-retired American boxer Andre Ward, Rolex is quite simply the best luxury watch brand, pound-for-pound, on the market. It may not be the leader in every individual category, but on aggregate, it is such a strong contender it simply cannot be defeated. As a vertically-integrated manufacturer, Rolex controls every aspect of the production lifecycle and consistently produces top-quality, extremely reliable products in high volume. Perhaps even more impressively, the brand has found a way to make this mass-produced luxury product appear scarce and, therefore, inherently desirable.
Is it all just an elaborate scam though? Were you duped into paying way more than you should have simply for brand recognition? I would argue that the answer to both questions is a resounding no. There have been a number of watch brands that have come and gone – and many that are still around – that resorted to an over-hyped marketing strategy without much substance to back it up; however, none of these have ever even come close to challenging the dominance of Rolex. The reason for this is simple: A Rolex watch delivers real value.
This is the reason why just about every watchmaker in Switzerland has something good to say about Rolex watches. You may not like the brand or its watches, but you have to respect them. Anyone who’s ever owned a Rolex will likely tell you how reliable, functional, robust, and well-made they are. Sure, they may be limited in terms of complications, but they do the one job assigned to them (i.e., tell the time) more reliably and consistently than practically any other mechanical watch on the market. If Rolex says its watch can do something, like remain water resistant up to 12,800 ft, then you can be confident the watch will do exactly that, every single time.
No Double Tourbillons
There’s also something to be said for an unblemished track record of consistency and innovation that stretches over more than a century. When it comes to innovation, we tend to think of large-scale changes, like the invention of the annual calendar by Patek Philippe in 1996. Rolex, however, is all about incremental innovation. They relentlessly focus on reengineering something until it’s absolutely perfect, and then they find a way to improve upon it again. A prime example of this is their ingenious, patented Easylink comfort extension system, which is found on all Rolex Oyster bracelets. This allows the wearer to easily increase the bracelet length by approximately 5 mm. It’s not flashy, but it is functional, practical, and, above all, useful.
This is what’s known as making things “the Rolex way,” which they define as a way of making things unlike any other brand. To see what this looks like in practice, just consider that most Rolex movements now come with Superlative Chronometer certification. This is because the manufacturer wasn’t satisfied with the independently-tested requirements for COSC certification. Thus, in addition to receiving COSC certification, Rolex performs additional testing on its movements after they have been encased to ensure they satisfy their own impossibly high standards. Who does that?
Something You Can Count On
Then there’s the consistency factor. The statement “every Rolex looks the same” can either be seen as a positive or a negative, depending on who you’re talking to. If you’re an individualist who likes to stand out from the crowd, then a Rolex is likely not the watch for you. If, however, you’re someone who values design continuity and brand recognition, a Rolex is an instant communicator of status and wealth. A Rolex watch is also a currency unto itself. Bought a Submariner in Rome and want to flip it in Los Angeles? Easy. You can be confident that the value of your watch will remain relatively unchanged by geographic location and that all dealers will be speaking pretty much the same language.
Speaking of buying and selling Rolexes, this brings me to my next point: For the most part, Rolex watches are still reasonably sensibly priced and, relatively speaking, quite affordable, especially when you consider what you’re getting for the money. Many people who aren’t into watches automatically assume that if it’s a Rolex, it must be ridiculously expensive. However, just about every steel watch Rolex makes (with a few notable exceptions, of course) is available brand new for less than $10,000 – that’s pretty reasonable overall.
I’ve seen watches on Kickstarter with ETA-based movements that try to – and do – sell for the same or a similar amount as some entry-level Rolex watches. That’s simply ludicrous, especially when you consider the pedigree and unrivalled manufacturing excellence of Rolex, not to mention the fact that most new models come with a 5-year warranty which is longer than most of those Kickstarter brands will be in existence.
Look, if you want something fancy with a useless complication like a tourbillon or an equation of time, then Rolex is clearly not the brand for you. Ditto if you’re looking for an understated, elegant dress watch. There are several other legendary manufacturers who do that much better.
If, however, you want a robust, reliable, extremely well-made, good-looking, and highly recognizable luxury mechanical wristwatch, then Rolex is quite simply the best watch brand, pound-for-pound, period.