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Is an expensive Rolex better than something cheap?

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Richard Mille all sapphire watch
Richard Mille all sapphire watch

For a Rolex wearer, a common question that comes up is “why’d you pay that much to tell the time? –My phone is just as good…” or my plastic watch is just as good as a Rolex. Comments such as these are from people who do not understand that there is something genuine when there is a mechanical timepiece on one’s wrist that has both a heartbeat and can run long enough (and without a battery) to experience one’s scars, joys, and memories.

When compared to a all sapphire Richard Mille, or a 1,282 diamond encrusted Hublot that has a five million dollar price tag, a Rolex just seems all that affordable.  But watches in the stratospheric price points are designed for other purposes namely elegance, wrist-candy, and jewelry. A five million dollar watch requires the same care and service as a $5000 Rolex and is just as accurate.  Nevertheless, when compared to a plastic Times, $5,000 is a hefty sum, especially for a watch that might drift a few seconds a day when a quartz stays drifts seconds per month.  A study published in the Horological Journal in 2008 found that the performance of four inexpensive watches, including a fake Rolex found that all were all precise to within a few thousandths of a second per day.

Its mechanical, you dummy…

Vintage Submariner
Vintage Submariner

Unlike wearing a battery powered watch, there is more to wearing a mechanical watch like Rolex. One of the main attractions to wearing a mechanical watch is just that –its mechanical. Quality mechanical watches like Rolex can last 5 years without having to service, which in a quartz’s case would be a battery replacement.  A well running and well cared Rolex will last a lifetime, which for many, is exactly the case.  The cost of the watch justifies keeping it for a lifetime experiencing the same aspects of life as the owner.  Over the years, the scratches on a mechanical watch tell a story of where it has traveled and experienced. Watchophiles refer to scratches as the watch’s “patina.”  A vintage Rolex (defined by being over 20 years old) that is untouched by a buffing wheel with the original faded hands and dial earns greater provenance and value than a watch that has been “cleaned up.”  A 20 year old quartz watch is just that, – a 20 year old “old” quartz watch, -no increase in value or demand.   There are many more reason for taking the plunge and going mechanical, but those reasons we’ll save for later.

Feel free to post the reasons why you like mechanical watches.

  • jan

    nowadays people seem to mind so much that their watch has scratches.
    to me a watch with scratches has character, just as people with wrinkles: it shows experience and maturity; it has seen the world.
    a watch without scratches is like a baby, just about learning to walk… not just there yet.

  • Joseph

    Plus, you never really own a Rolex. It’s just your turn – then your sons or daughters turn. So, how can that be expensive?

    I buy one every decade…first one at 28. I turn 38 in August.

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