Is it true that watch collectors despise the House of the Crown?
The answer is YES. Many do. But not for haughtiness or snobbery.
They dislike Rolex watches. They dislike Rolex branding.
The biggest issue of Rolex watches, in horology terms, is the excessive noise created by the branding business around them, and the amount of people who buys a Rolex because it is a Rolex, without having a clue about its technical excellence.
And more often than not, a Rolex wearer is someone who thinks that he is wearing the best watch of the known universe at his wrist, when maybe you have a haute horlogerie timepiece strapped to yours.
What watch collectors despise is not Rolex, but ignorance.
And this is testified by the sheer abundance of questions around the web like “which is better, XXX or Rolex”. Which is good, because through questions there is the possibility of learning something, but is the result of a basic ignorance for the technical features of the “quintessential” Rolex watch, which nowadays is the most possibly the Submariner.
My 2 cents, as always, are that the majority of Rolex watches are amazing timepieces, and are exceptionally crafted, especially when you consider their mission: they are glorified high-end tool watches. I would not put them into the luxury horology niche, ever. Even the best Rolex movements cannot compare with the medium to high-end production of the Holy Trinity or comparable timepieces. They are simply not in the same league.
However, this might change.
Rolex itself is quietly building up its force and working in the fields that make a real haute horlogerie watch come true, which are complications and finishings. S0, what I am saying could change in the next future, and quite radically so. All brands are competing fiercely, and the high-end niche moreso. We are talking of value-additioned timepieces costing as much as high-end cars here — so it is a very lucrative business.
You see on top? On the right there is a Rolex Cellini dress watch with a moonphase. Have you ever seen something like this? Rolex is quietly revamping its traditional line, after the introduction of the (ugly and preposterous) Skydweller, which featured a complication. So, this is the way Rolex is going now, and dragging Tudor, its little brother, to fill its place at the low end of the spectrum. It makes sense, in marketing terms, while the company is always upping its price lists.
Take a look at the details of the dial and the hands. This is something different from what we are used to see now. But not from what they did in the past.
In a way, the company is going back to its roots to prepare for its future. Because before the Submariner, Rolex was really a luxury company, with all that it means, but did not have the tradition its most noteworthy brethren had. And you know what?
The main issue about Rolex back then — and this is 1965 — was the lack of workmanship in its movements. So instead of fighting a war as the underdog against more powerful opponents, they simply switched table and went in another one.
As you can see, this is a vintage Rolex Datejust movement from around 1960. Good, but hardly noteworthy. Now take a look at a Patek Philippe instead.
The finishing is in Cotes de Geneve on every surface and an amazing handmade anglage. There is also a hint of perlage on the base plate under the balance wheel.
As I told you, there was no game back then.
So, my friend, watch collectors might change their idea about Rolex in the future, especially because they judge the company based on its technical aspect, but will continue to think the same about the dumbkopf buyers which strap something on their wrist without knowing what lies inside it, a good movement or a hamster running in circles.
I am an author and have written a book detailing everything about watches: The Watch Manual. Go check it: it is good for newbies and horology veterans as well.