“Rolex versus Omega, which one should I pick?”
Ask anyone in the streets to name you five watch brands, you are guaranteed to hear “Rolex” and “Omega”. Some even might not be able to name you other brands apart from those two iconic brands of watch history. We can safely say that without these two big players, the watch world wouldn’t be the same. For a beginner watch enthusiast, a common question is “Rolex versus Omega, which one should I pick?” Let’s try answering that big question!
The founding history of Omega and Rolex
For Omega, the story starts back in 1848 when Louis Brandt created the Comptoir d’établissage Louis Brandt in the Swiss city of La Chaux-de-Fonds. At the time, he was assembling high precision pocket watches that were distributed widely in Europe with UK being the number one market. Many years later, Louis Brandt’s sons, César and Louis-Paul joined the company, in 1877, two year before their father’s death. They started industrializing the company, abandoning the workshop for a totally new in-house manufacturing business.
It is finally in 1903, after the death of Louis-Paul and César that the company name switched to SA Louis Brand & Frère, Omega Watch Co. The vertical integration strategy was pursued, with great success as they were considered the “biggest watch manufacture in Switzerland” and the market even saw the first replicas in 1930. The company was merged with Tissot and two years later with Lemania, forming a new conglomerate called Société Suisse pour l’Industrie Horlogère (SSIH), the ancestor of what is now the Swatch Group. Omega started as a family affair and Swatch Group is still family owned (though it is a different family) but this is very different from Rolex’s founder who didn’t have any descendants.
That leads us to Hans Wilsdorf! Born, in Germany in 1880, the future entrepreneur lost his parents at the age of 12 and then came to Switzerland to continue his studies. It was in 1900 that he started his career in La-Chaux-de-Fond (remember this name?), working for a little watchmaker by the name of Cuno Korten. While working, he departed to London as an employee and ended up setting his own company called Wilsdorf & Davis a few years later in 1905.
Hans Wilsdorf took the bet of developing and selling wristwatches which wasn’t standard at all at the time where it was all about pocket watches. However, this opened up to him a whole new market and he started working with Jean Aegler for the movements and Denison for the cases as he wasn’t a watchmaker himself. Wilsdorf was selling those watches to jewelers who were then adding their own names to the dial.
This didn’t last for long as Hans Wilsdorf renamed the company Rolex in 1908 and started distributing his wristwatches under this name. Hans Wilsdorf dedicated all of his focus into building the most reliable wristwatch and he got awarded a Class A precision certificate in 1914. The beginning of a long story!
Omega and Rolex most iconic watches
If you have to name only one Omega watch, it would have to be the Omega Speedmaster. No doubt about that. The Speedmaster was launched in 1957. It is a manually wound chronograph equipped with the famous caliber 321. A few years later, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration(NASA) chose the Speedmaster over many other watches to be the official watch that would equip the astronaut’s wrist on their adventure to the moon. After that, the Speedmaster was known as the Moonwatch! Omega has never stopped producing the Speedmaster and we have seen different variations of caliber with the most famous being the 861 and 1861 and different variations of watches with some limited series, some watches with an automatic caliber, the addition of a moon phase or the co-axial movement. Here again, this is a lot different of what Rolex has done with its famous icon, the Submariner.
Born a little before the Speedmaster, in 1953, the Submariner was the first watch to be water proof to 100 meters. Today, the Submariner, while it is not the most water resistant Rolex, is still water proof to 300 meters. It is a diving watch with a rotating bezel and no complication. It was presented a year later, in the Basel fair of 1954 and has always been a success since then. The COMEX, the famous French diving company adopted the Submariner for their divers making the watch even more know of its legendary reliability. Nowadays, the Submariner is equipped by the caliber 3135, considered as one of the most precise movement ever made by Rolex.
The Famous owners and brand ambassadors of Rolex and Omega
For Omega, we can name a lot of famous owners. Buzz Aldrin the astronaut, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig both staring James Bond, John F. Kennedy, Jacques Cousteau the oceanographer, Georges Clooney the what else guy, Elvis Presley, Prince William and many more. The list is impressive! There are a lot of famous Rolex owners too, Steve McQueen, Winston Churchill, Che Guevara, Paul Newman, Dr Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Picasso and obviously a lot more. Either ways, owning one or the other will let you in good company!
The difference between Rolex and Omega in Accuracy
Regarding accuracy and watch certifications, both brands have taken it very seriously and have serious arguments. Throughout their history they have both some tremendous achievements and its worth mentioning that they are still working hard this matter with some recent innovations.
In 2014, Omega introduced a brand new watch certification opened to anyone, developed with the National Metrology Institute and called METAS. Watches are assessed in several intense conditions for their precision and resistance. For example, a watch should resist to at least 15 000 gauss (yes, 1000 times more than what the Rolex Milgauss is capable of!)
In response, Rolex announced two years later its own new standard, the Superlative Chronometer, enhancing the COSC criteria to all their timepieces by limiting the accuracy variation to only -2/+2 seconds per day! The current COSC criteria has a tolerance of -4/+6 sec per day while the METAS has 0/+5 sec per day. This is truly interesting.
At Toolwatch.io, we provide watch freaks with a free tool to measure and track the accuracy of their mechanical watches. Toolwatch is also available on iPhone and Android. Gathering measures on both Rolex and Omega, we published the below infography:
So, which one should you pick? This is a serious question, therefore the answer will be dead serious too. No one can tell you which watch to pick! When looking for a watch, you must see which one ticks your boxes the most. Both Omega and Rolex are amazing brands and you won’t be wrong choosing either one and make sure you measure their accuracy by using Toolwatch!