Rolex has made a name for itself on the watch market not only with its iconic designs and high quality standards but also with its excellent value retention. But what other, potentially more affordable brands does the watch world have to offer that similarly hold their value and boast some of the most coveted timepieces in their portfolios? We’ve picked three exceptional manufacturers for you!
Rolex’s Fiercest Rival: Omega
Omega is a very well-known watch brand with a history dating back to 1848, long before Rolex’s founder was even born. If we look more closely at Rolex’s biggest competitor, we immediately notice parallels to the brand with the crown. The Omega’s quality standards are comparably high, and the pricing of the watches is about the same – that is, if we’re talking about list prices. As the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games, Omega sponsors many major sporting events. And since the mid-nineties, James Bond has served as a perfect advertising partner when it comes to bringing the brand and its watches onto the silver screen and into living rooms.
Omega and Rolex have another aspect in common: portfolios stocked with classics. Like Rolex, Omega’s catalog also boasts iconic watch models that retain their value over time. The Omega Seamaster 300M is currently very popular, featuring a unique ceramic dial, an extremely precise METAS-movement, and advanced technology. Priced at around $5,700, the Omega Seamaster 300M makes for quite an attractive diving watch, even for those just starting their watch collections. Moving a bit higher on the price scale, we find what is likely Omega’s most powerful workhorse: the Speedmaster Professional. I won’t bore you again with the storied history of the “Moonwatch,” as it should be well-known by now. Still, as an ardent enthusiast of the Rolex Submariner, even I have to admit that the Omega “Speedy” is perhaps the most iconic watch of all time. This status is also reflected in its solid value retention: Prices for the current “New Moon” reference are stable, while those for the predecessor model discontinued in 2021 have already risen slightly. Meanwhile, prices for vintage references climb higher and higher the older they get.
The limited editions that Omega has released over the years are particularly valuable. They could even make the Rolex Daytona green with envy! Take, for instance, the Omega Speedmaster Apollo 11 35th Anniversary Edition: The “Panda” version of the Speedy, which cost well under $5,700 when it debuted, has since reached prices beyond $11,300. The Omega Speedmaster Snoopy editions are also rare collector’s items whose current market value of over $34,000 far exceeds their original list prices. I find the Snoopy released for the 45th anniversary of Apollo 13 particularly beautiful: It’s packed full of homages and allusions to the near-tragic mission with a happy ending and is now approaching the dizzying price of $56,500. So pay close attention when Omega again releases a special edition of its Speedmaster Professional. It, too, might just become a highly sought-after collector’s watch.
The Charming Sister Brand: Tudor
Tudor has undergone a truly remarkable evolution. Formerly a more affordable counterpart to Rolex, Tudor is now a thoroughly independent watch brand. This is particularly encouraging news given that the Rolex sister company almost went under. During the 2000s, it tried to develop its own style and break away from the virtually identical appearance to its Rolex siblings (some of its models even used Rolex parts). These efforts, however, were unsuccessful at first.
Only in 2012 did the brand succeed in finding its unique signature: with the sensational release of the Black Bay. Since then, Tudor has gradually distanced itself from its bigger sister and become increasingly independent. The result: its own in-house movements and a successfully expanded product portfolio. The watch designs follow a clear pattern with a hint of nostalgia, a touch of playfulness, and a bolder look than Rolex timepieces. Tudor has the freedom to do what Rolex cannot: It can dare to do something different. Indeed, the brand’s slogan “Born to Dare” is no coincidence but instead perfectly captures the essence of Tudor. The value you get for your money is unbeatable compared to other luxury watch manufacturers, which is why this brand often attracts beginners.
But Tudor has long since conquered the hearts of experienced watch collectors, as well, with their excellent quality, attention to detail, and popular designs. The Black Bay is Tudor’s most powerful workhorse, with some references so popular that they already sell for well over list prices. The original version of the Black Bay 58 is reminiscent of the old Rolex Submariner from 1958 and perfectly transposes this nostalgic design onto modern technology.
The newer versions look a bit more modern and experiment with different materials, such as silver or bronze. One example is the Black Bay GMT, which has enjoyed a sensational run since 2018. For under $5,700, Tudor offers this GMT complication in the popular Pepsi design without copying the Rolex GMT-Master; instead, it exudes its own unique charm. Tudor’s rising popularity in the world of watches is evident not only with its vintage references, which continually appreciate in value, but also with its newer releases. The Tudor Black Bay Chrono, for instance, is all anyone can talk about since its appearance a few months ago, as is the recently released Pelagos “Marine National,” which currently demands above official list prices. Tudor’s development over the next few years promises to be very exciting.
Iconic, Timeless, and Innovative: Cartier
The third brand I’d like to present might surprise you a bit. After all, Cartier is better known for its jewelry than its watches. But there is one thing that Cartier does as well as Rolex: iconic, timeless watches that never go out of style. The same classic design that resulted in their famous jewelry pieces like the Cartier Juste en Clou or the Love bracelet also gave us some of the most well-known and influential watches of all time, particularly the Cartier Tank and the Santos. The latter is considered the world’s first pilot’s watch and was already making a name for itself well before Rolex came onto the stage.
In my opinion, Cartier does a slightly better job than Rolex of translating its icons into the present. They don’t just rely on their timeless design, which, like Rolex, is carefully adapted. The watch and jewelry manufacturer also introduces practical innovations to the market, significantly increasing the value of their timepieces. Some of the best modernizations include the Quickswitch system, allowing for a swift and easy bracelet change, and the Smartlink system, which lets you shorten the bracelet without tools.
These small details show that timeless, iconic design and innovation are not mutually exclusive. I would hope to see this kind of inventive approach from Rolex and many other watch brands, as well. As of yet, Rolex doesn’t offer me the option to quickly and easily shorten the bracelet, and I still fear getting unsightly scratches on my timepiece with every band change, even when carried out by a specialist. Cartier is doing everything right in this department, as evidenced by the prices of their watches. The Cartier Santos is especially popular at the moment; the more difficult it becomes to purchase this unconventional watch through official channels, the more valuable it gets. Cartier is an extraordinary brand boasting iconic watches and jewelry designed for men and women alike.