You could be forgiven for believing that with smartwatches on the rise, and every user able to access health data, messages, and of course, the time of day from their multifunctional smartwatch, mechanical and traditional watches have fallen out of favour with buyers. But you’d be wrong.
The data in 2017 showed that, for the first time since smartwatches were released, mechanical watch sales began to increase again – with Rolex spearheading the watch industry with its classic but refined and highly stylish models. In fact, in that same year (2017), Rolex sales and revenue in the UK rose by 19% with an increase in pre-tax profits as well.
All of this points towards the conclusion that Rolex is very much still in the running for customers’ attention and investment – both for new buyers, owners, and Rolex sellers. But how does the Swiss brand manage it? Let’s take a closer look.
A Short History of Rolex
Rolex is a Swiss brand that was founded by Hans Wilsdorf in 1905 as a way of keeping time with a device that could be worn around the wrist. At the time, wristwatches did exist, but they were unreliable and not very stylish – Wilsdorf wanted to change both of those things and create something which ticked every box.
Since then, Rolex has become a symbol of status as much as it is a retail brand, with watches worn in the movies, by noteworthy individuals, and gracing the covers of endless magazines and shoots.
And while it has long faced challenges surrounding its link to a high profile and the fact it is seen by some as a mark of elitism, buyers have an emotional connection with the Rolex watch – so much so that it has garnered the long term support of many celebrities and brand ambassadors as well as consumers.
The Most Popular Models of Rolex
One of the core selling points of Rolex is that it focuses on a selection of core models. Two such models are the Submariner and the Daytona.
The Rolex Submariner is considered one of the best diving watches in the world and boasts a high value which makes it attractive to Rolex buyers and sellers from all walks of life. Combining its impressive features and capabilities which allow it to be used underwater to depths of 1,000ft, the Rolex Submariner is as stylish as it is functional – leaving no question as to why the Submariner has continued to be one of Rolex’s top brands after 50+ years on the market.
The Rolex Daytona is built to support another sporting activity, though this time on dry land. A mechanical watch with built-in dials which allow racing drivers to measure their elapsed drive and race time, the Daytona was first manufactured in 1962 as a way of recognising Rolex’s place as the official timekeeper of the Daytona International Speedway. Since then, the model has become one of Rolex’s most popular – both for drivers and fans of fashion.
So, with Rolex intricately embodying the concept of substance and style, how does it really compete with the smartwatch of the 21st century?
A Short History of Smartwatches
The number one selling point of smartwatches is that they are built around innovation and giving the consumer exactly what they need when they need it. By combining the traditional watch with a phone, a radio, an alarm clock, and even a fitness trainer, smartwatches are incredibly clever – giving them a global army of followers who rely on their smart devices.
The very first smartwatch was created in 1972 in the form of a digital watch, with Seiko releasing their own version in 1983 which was seen in James Bond’s Octopussy film (for Rolex and Bond fans, you will know that 007 also has a history with Rolex watches!)
From then on, smartwatches continued developing – with new features, new capabilities, and new innovation continuing to rock the market every year. This trend around enhanced usability and function is still being seen today.
The Most Popular Smartwatches
Arguably the most popular smartwatch comes from Apple – a brand known for its place in the tech industry. The Apple smartwatch was first released in 2015 and has since embodied all the selling points of the brand – linking apps, communication, and more to the small wearable device.
With a goal to complement the iPhone and allow users to optimise their usage of Apple devices without needing their phone, it is estimated that around 100 million Apple watches are being worn around the world in 2022.
How does the Rolex Compete Against a Smartwatch?
The challenge faced by Rolex is that the traditional watch is simply not as useful nor as innovative as a smartwatch – however, the smartwatch market is heavily saturated by competitors with no single brand leading the pack in quite the same way as Rolex spearheads the luxury watch market. Not to mention, while Apple watches user numbers far surpass those of Rolex’s, the status and exclusivity held by Rolex owners is second to none.
Rolex doesn’t have to compete with the smartwatch, because its position in the market is and always will be completely different.
A Rolex is a timeless piece that can be worn with any outfit, in any situation – always elevating the appearance and presentation of an individual, while also allowing them to tell the time. A smartwatch, while useful in a number of ways, often does not present that same timeless look, with smartwatches becoming outdated as soon as a new model is released – and that, more than anything else, lowers the investable value of each new smartwatch piece.
Rolex vs. Smartwatch – Which Should I invest in?
The simple fact is, while smartwatches will continue to change, adapt to the modern world, and fast outdated older models, Rolex watches are steeped in a tradition that makes older models just as valuable if not more so than new models. Owning a Rolex isn’t like owning an accessory – it is more than that, linking owners to a certain, coveted, and exclusive lifestyle.
Rolex is so much more than its product line. As a brand, it is recognised for its philanthropy, its corporate responsibility, and its enterprise and entrepreneurship programs.
Anyone can own an Apple watch or a similar smartwatch. But to own a Rolex is to recognise the value of fine craftsmanship, timeless style, and a high-end reputation.