Is Rolex really the most reputable watch brand in the whole world? And are the high prices that Rolex watches demand really justified? Let’s take a look.
It’s not news that the name Rolex is synonymous with luxury around the world. A few months back, Rolex was named the world’s most reputable company by the Boston-based firm RepTrak. According to its website, RepTrak is the “world’s leading reputation and insights company.” This is the first time that RepTrak has had a watch brand at the top of its list. What’s even more interesting is that Rolex is the only watch brand that even made it onto RepTrak’s list of top 100 reputable companies this year if you exclude Chanel, which is also on the list and produces some watches.
The question is, is this accolade really justified? With thousands of exceptional companies around the globe, how did Rolex manage to make it to the top? And why was Rolex the only watch brand on the list? Why is the brand so very prominent all over the world?
Rolex’s Reputation: Quality and Design
There are, of course, several reasons why Rolex came out on top. Unwavering quality and impeccable, instantly recognizable designs are what Rolex is all about. Without its watchmaking excellence, Rolex would not be in the top spot. However, perhaps what’s most important is Rolex’s exceedingly successful marketing strategies, most notably in the world of sports.
Rolex sponsors notable sporting events all over the world, as well as individual top athletes. For example, tennis superstar Roger Federer wears a Rolex; I can only guess that theirs is a very lucrative partnership. Rolex also sponsors the Daytona 500 and the US Open golf championship – you get the picture, the brand is everywhere.
Rolex: Hero Marketing
Rolex’s founder Hans Wilsdorf integrated this “sports hero” marketing strategy early on for the brand. Wilsdorf caught wind of top swimmer Mercedes Gleitze, who became the first British woman to swim across the English Channel in 1927. Her athletic prowess was touted in the newspapers, both local and international. Wilsdorf, having recently created his waterproof Oyster watch, was eager to promote the timepiece and prove that it was indeed waterproof. He contacted Gleitze and gave her an Oyster, which she wore on a chain around her neck during her next Channel swim. The Rolex Oyster watch was still ticking after Gleitze’s swim, thus proving Wilsdorf’s claim that it was waterproof. The floodgates opened, and the company got even more worldwide media attention.
It was a stroke of marketing genius. In a single event, Wilsdorf introduced his waterproof watch to the world. The Oyster, or some iteration of it, has been part of the brand’s offerings ever since and is a pillar of the brand.
Rolex: The Magic of the Crown
In 1931, several years after Gleitze’s swim, Wilsdorf introduced the Rolex crown logo. The logo represents “a crown for every achievement,” according to the brand. Not only does this relate to achievements in sports, but also to other more “normal” achievements like a graduation or milestone birthday. Again, the crown is a brilliant marketing tool, and the symbol is now recognized the world over. Even still, there are other brands out there that also partner up with sports heroes for marketing purposes and produce watches of exacting quality and design.
Let’s look at Omega, arguably Rolex’s closest competitor in the luxury sports watch category. Omega’s watches also meet the highest quality standards and offer the same functions as Rolex watches. Not only that, but Omega has also experienced international fame and glory; after all, the only watch that NASA authorized for the Apollo missions is from this brand. Omega watches travelled to the Moon and kept on ticking. Of course, the astronauts who went to the Moon are considered international heroes and superstars.
Omega and the Olympics
For decades, Omega has been the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games, the most-watched sports competition on the planet. Olympic champion Michael Phelps is sponsored by Omega, as is golfer Rory McIlroy. And of course, Omega has been James Bond’s watch of choice since 1995. For these reasons and more, Omega certainly is in the same league as Rolex, but somehow the brand is not as in demand globally as Rolex.
This disparity is obvious when purchasing new watches and in the resale market. Buyers are willing to shell out much more for a Rolex, sometimes twice as much or more than for a comparable Omega. Take the Rolex Submariner Date with a black dial and steel bracelet, for example. This watch is priced at $13,995. On the other hand, an Omega Seamaster, likewise with a date display and black bezel and dial, is priced at $4,799. Both watches are water-resistant to 300 m (984 ft) and are superb diving watches.
So, why the huge difference in price when the watches both deliver excellent performance? And why would someone pay so much more for a Rolex? It’s a mystery that is yet to be solved.