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The Rolex Submariner and the Omega Seamaster

by Chester Lau on October 26, 2019

The classic Omega Seamaster vs Rolex Submariner debate has been talked about so often, we sometimes forget what its story symbolizes. The debacle has drawn many different opinions, but one argument is agreed upon unanimously.

Ultimately, it is less about who has the better watch, but more about who has the better brand. And as of today, Rolex is the clear winner.

The Omega Seamaster Diver 300m Co-Axial Master Chronometer

But what’s the point of wanting a submariner, when you can’t actually buy it? Not at retail prices at least. Furthermore, if we were to pit both products side by side, specifications for specifications, the Omega comes ahead in almost every way.

The Omega is the better priced option

For two very closely matched timepieces in the same diver’s watch category, the Omega Seamaster Diver 300m co-axial is priced at US$5200 while the Rolex Submariner with date retails at US$8550. But considering today’s real purchasing price, the Submariner easily costs more than twice the price of the Seamaster to own.

Love it or hate it, the iconic skeleton hands are here to stay.

The Omega has the better case

No doubt style and aesthetics are subjective and for some emotional. But for an empirical comparison, ‘better’ is being quantified as being more difficult to manufacture in terms of finishing and complexity. The Omega Seamaster Diver 300m co-axial has more edges, turns and bevels. Its lyre lugs iconic to Omega, requires hand polishing to finish. Its ceramic dial is laser cut and polished. Working with ceramic dials are extremely tedious, and unlike cutting steel, laser cutting ceramic is a manufacturing feat. Other features on the Omega, like an open-caseback and a helium valve mechanism are not available on the Rolex.

The new Seamaster is equipped with the caliber 8800 – a robust and reliable movement.

The Omega has the better movement

Omega uses the new Co-Axial Escapement caliber 8800. Jointly developed with George Daniels, the Co-Axial Escapement shows significantly better performance as compared to the traditional pallet-fork escapement. The movement is more durable, precise, and requires a less frequent maintenance routine. The self-winding movement has a 55 hour power reserve as compared to the Submariner’s 48 hours.

Using a silicon hairspring, the movement is magnetic resistant with an EMF resistance of up to 15,000 gauss.

The Rolex Sea Dweller 4000 Ref. 116600, the Rolex Deepsea Sea Dweller (also Ref. 116600) both cetified to 3.900 m, and the experimental Rolex Deepsea Challenge rated to 12,000 m. Case size: 40mm, 44mm, 51mm.

But the Rolex is what people want

Tooth to tooth, the Omega Seamaster comes ahead in every specification. It has a more painstaking to make case, a movement with better anti-magnetism and longer power reserve. Significant effort is put in by the brand to design a competitive and contemporary timepiece. But ultimately, a big part of buying a watch has to do with branding. It is after all, the emotions of wanting and owning a watch that supersedes mere ‘specifications’.

A close up on the Submariner.

The Omega Seamaster Diver 300m possibly costs more to develop, costs half the price to own, and is readily available in stores. The Rolex Submariner on the other hand, costs twice as much to own, and can scarcely be found in stores. Ironically, it is this scarcity that makes the Submariner more desirable, and the value of the brand with the crown is a competition that few can topple. Omega may be selling a watch, but Rolex sells a story, a status symbol, and for some a dream.

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