Thursday, September 24

The Rolex Submariner and the Omega Seamaster

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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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31 Comments

  1. Ervin Tachauer on

    I try to understand: I by a omega seamaster before 20 years Not a automatic mechanism !
    It’s a quartz watch.
    Yes, I now the “real” watch lovers will not like the idea!
    But my Omega never need “maintenance “, is very exactly so……
    Can somebody explain me this issue?

    • If you don’t know why watch colectors tend to prefer mechanical to quartz… Then it’s probably because your watch journey is still yet to start… So I will let you find out by yourself…. By the way some people never do… But at the end of the day what maters is that you’re happy…

  2. Why go to such lengths to praise the Omega’s ceramic bezel? I hate to break the news to you, but the Rolex has a ceramic bezel too.

  3. I personally think that both watches are superb timepieces, and it is solely down to personal preference. I have owned both, and loved both….for different reasons and worn for different occasions. My watch of preference these days is the Deepsea Dweller James Cameron. Sturdy, accurate, not pretentious, and an everyday item. Nothing against Omega in any way! If Omega is good enough for James Bond, it’s good enough for every man, from every walk of life….. but so is a Rolex!

    • Very well say. I also own both time pieces and with today society looks Is what most people are looking special when they see this time piece, it is sad but yes Both are very good watches in today’s industry

  4. As a collector I own many brands and have owned even more and I’m sorry but Rolex watches are middle of the road (which isn’t a bad thing) . They have been resting on there name for years and, for most people there money is being spent so they can say “I have a Rolex”. Don’t get me wrong this is far from true in every case and they make a great watch but so do many other brands, you can get many as good watches for cheaper and just as many that are more expensive. While I feel, even at retail, most (not all) Rolexs are overpriced (so are many other brands) you still get a watch that will make you happy for many years to come and in the end what’s better then being happy? They are produced it high numbers, have basic functions, basic finishes, and basic movements. Many people disagree with me and most collectors agree with me and both sides are right because your opinion is your right and by default can never be wrong. One thing I will add is Rolex gives many people something to strive for and introduces many people to “luxury” watches which is great, I just wish many of those same people would then step into other brands so they can truly experience what Haute Horlogerie means. By doing so they will understand both sides of the argument and be even happier (back to the “what’s better then being happy? ” comment 😉). Guess I should add the Seamaster is a better watch on paper but in the real world that doesn’t always translate to a better product or better owners experience. You can’t go wrong with either watch and yes the Omega is better value for money but money aside you should buy whichever one makes you happy (sorry for beating a dead horse), whichever gives you the warm and fuzzies, whichever won’t make you second guess yourself, and whichever one will put that smile on your face every time you put it on. Viva Watchmaking!

  5. Terrible article. Owned both since 1999.
    Omega in shop three times for defective GMT, quick-set and date changing mechanisms. Each commanding a hefty repair bill.
    Rolex zero issues.
    Sold the Omega and keeping the Rolex.
    The difference in quality is clear as far as I am concerned.
    Proof is in the pudding. Rolex is a superior maison, no one can convince me of the contrary.

  6. Mr Franco, Mr Riley are spot on. While Rolex is a excellent timepiece they are way overpriced and Rolex’ innovation is slow as molasses. I’ll bet Omega R&D budget is more than Rolex as they are striving to constantly make a better product while keeping value in check. I dont see Rolex doing anything innovative except for an occasional hairspring redesign or clasp improvement. Rolex is more focused on brand and less on development.

  7. I couldn’t agree more Mr Riley. While I respect Rolex, the cost to own is ridiculous. The supply chain issues are disrespectful to customers who wish to purchase. No other luxury brand does this; I say give your money to a company that respects the customer.

  8. Rolex fan boys got their panties in a twist. The Omega is a superior timepiece. If you’re desperate for a better brand keep paying exorbitant prices for an inferior timepiece.

  9. Rolex fan boys got their panties in a twist. The Omega is a superior timepiece. If you’re desperate for a better brand keep paying exorbitant prices for an inferior timepiece.

  10. Mechanical watches are Veblen goods, where high prices and unavailability make them more desirable. It’s not as if either of these mass produced watches isn’t made for relative peanuts compared to retail price.

  11. Compare apples to apples. Use the Omega Planet Ocean. I’d be curious to see how that turns out.

  12. It appears to be the opinion of the author that the Seamaster is superior in every objective/mechanical way to the Submariner, and that the only reason to purchase the Rolex is the effective marketing promulgated by the brand. I own both watches (having purchased the Omega first), and I respectfully disagree. While the strengths of the Seamaster as presented are valid, the Rolex also has objective strengths. The indices and hands of the Submariner are superior in both design and material construction, as the skeletonized Seamaster hands are harder to read and the Omega uses steel as opposed to the white gold of the Rolex. The Submariner bezel is far easier to turn than the scalloped bezel on the Seamaster, and the click of the Rolex bezel (4 click springs) is unmatched by the Omega. There is also a marked difference in the operation of the crown and keyless works between to two. The Submariner’s Triplock crown feels better when unscrewing or screwing, and winding the watch manually is a much more satisfying experience (both from a tactile and auditory perspective) than that of winding the Omega. The largest difference between the two, however, lies in the bracelet. The Submariner bracelet is, in my opinion, dramatically superior to that of the Seamaster. It feels more substantial on the wrist, is fully machined of solid stainless steel (including the clasp) and the Glidelock adjustment is unequalled in the segment for range and ease of adjustment.

    As to maintenance, both manufacturers now indicate that a service interval of 8-10 years is acceptable.

    Marketing, image, and resale value aside, both watches have strong objective credentials. The Seamaster is an excellent value, but so is the Submariner, for both similar and different reasons. Availability is a combination of demand and the manufacturer’s willingness to supply. I only waited about 45 days for my Submariner (there was only the wait from announcement until the actual introduction of the Omega). I paid MSRP at a Rolex AD and received a significant discount from MSRP at an Omega AD.

    At the end of the day, the article implies that only people who are sucked in by marketing hype and lack of availability would purchase a Submariner. I submit that a watch doesn’t become iconic simply due to those factors. The Rolex is iconic for a number of reasons, one of which is that it is a damn good watch.

    • As of today unless you spend more than £250000 with an AD you would be lucky to own a steel sports in 45 days

    • Tushar Kolaskar on

      I’m new to the watch world so forgive my ignorance, bit everything you have mentioned seems cosmetic. There actual mechanics of the Omega seems to be better than the Rolex, according to this article. Again I don’t know enough about either of these watches so sorry if what I said is completely wrong.

    • I would consider hands and indices to be in the same category as case design; while they may be cosmetic items, they are also functional components of the watch which can be compared in performance terms, rather than simply as personal preference. YMMV.

    • Exactly. This article did not cover those fundamental points. To be fair, even if it did, for an article written a couple of days ago – it would be raking old leaves anyway.

  13. The seamaster’s 8800 movement (as opposed to the 8900 movement) has only one barrel with power reserve of 55 hrs, and no hour increment function.