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Rolex and Microbrands | VARIO

Rolex. No matter who you are, or even how little you know about watches are. Chances are you know what a Rolex is. They are talked about in popular music, worn by celebrities everywhere, and the name just invokes the sense of luxury. Are they the most expensive watches out there? No. The highest quality watches? No. But they are the most well known. But that brand name fame comes with a price, a waiting list. If you want to buy a Rolex from an authorized dealer most models have waiting list ranging from months to years, especially for the most popular models. Some even have a prerequisite of buying other watches before your allowed to by the Rolex you want. It seems a little over the top to me. Sure, Rolex’s are well made, their designs are classic, the movements are proven rock solid, and they retain value well, but with their entry level watches coming in at around 5000 US dollars there is so much more out there you can spend your money on.

 Photo from Fratellowatches

In essence a watches purpose is to tell the time. And in the end a 5-dollar quartz watch will do so better than a 5000-dollar Rolex but of course that not the reason us watch geeks by watches. It’s for the quality, the prestige, the craftsmanship, the beating heart inside the watch, the use of better materials, the idea that a watch can last many lifetimes it taken care of. I get that. But there is a point where the step up in quality is not equal to the step up in price. If you take a Seiko 5 field watch which goes for under 100 dollars and compare it to a Hamilton khaki mechanical that goes for around 300 there is a noticeable step up in quality, attention to detail, etc. but there are plenty of watches in that sub 1000-dollar range that give so much bang for buck it’s begs the question why do other watches cost so much. Sure a 5000-dollar Jaeger Lecoultre looks better than a 1500-dollar Nomos which in turn looks better than a 400-dollar Seiko Sarb (arguably) which in turn looks better than a simple Timex dress watch. But at each step of the way you are getting something for that money and it’s up to you to decide when it stops being worth it. Do you care if someone used a magnifying glass and hand carved a decorated movement? If not than a 30,000-dollar A Lange & Sohne isn’t for you. Do you shudder when you see a watch tick? Then stay away from quartz (unless it’s mecha quartz because those do sweep and are pretty cool value for the money).

 

But back to Rolex. 5000 dollars is what your paying for the name and history behind Rolex. If you take their most popular model, the Submariner, which retails for about 7500 without the date and 8500 with the date, there is a lot of “upscale” details. The steel used in the watch is a Rolex proprietary steel which is supposed to increase the longevity of the watch’s beauty, the bezel is ceramic so that it’s scratch resistant and never fades, the hour markers are made of 18k white gold to prevent from tarnishing, it’s a cosc certified piece with accuracy within -2 to +2 seconds a day. But I can go get a cosc rated Diver watch from Christopher Ward for about 1200 dollars. Sure, the movement is “only” accurate to -4 to +6 a day and it does not have white gold, proprietary steel, or that famous Rolex crown but in the end it’s not only fraction of the price but it’s a great watch in its own right. It too has a ceramic bezel, great water resistance, even a 5-year warranty which is the same length as one you would get from Rolex. And what’s more is it’s from a independently owned micro brand.

vario empire dress watch 

Christopher Ward, Baltic, Halios, Eone, Martenero, Vario, Dan Henry, these are all brands created and owned by watch geek’s like us who not only want to give the best value for the money, but want to truly make a good product. Micro brands are not only cool in the sense that your supporting a person or a group of people opposed to supporting some corporate machine, but they truly care about their customers. Rolex doesn’t even want you to buy their watches without waiting for months on end, but these brands offer them ready to go. They will go above and beyond to make sure your happy with your purchase. The people that own the companies are the ones that handle issues. Ivan and Judy at Vario and Chris Ward at Christopher Ward are both shining examples. Both companies I have felt with and any problem or inquiry I had was handled quickly, politely, and genuinely. It doesn’t hurt that the watches made by these people are beautiful things that can be worn for the rest of your life if you needed to. The vario eclipse, especially with the mecha quartz movement, is such a cool and well styled watch that can be worn in any situation. The Seaforth by Halios, the Malvern or Trident by Christopher Ward, the Bradley by Eone, Empire By Vario, I can go on and on. All these watches are made with passion. Spanning a wide range of prices from a couple hundred to couple thousand. Designs and customer service are handled by those who truly care about their customers wishes and happiness. But you can always wait a couple years for that submariner. It’s still a great watch.

 

Written by Xavier Sanchez

 

Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the author and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated.

 

Shop Empire handwound dress watch
https://vario.sg/collections/empire-watch

Shop Eclipse sweeping quartz dress watch
https://vario.sg/collections/eclipse-watch-quartz


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  • Ivan Chua on

    Hi Marcus

    When I published the article written by Xavier, I was wondering if I would offend Rolex fans and I guess I might have pissed off some folks but I think it’s good to have to different perspective and I figured different people love different watch brands for different reasons. I very much agree with you that microbrands have lots to learn to get into the hearts of watch enthusiasts and with so many companies creating Rolex homages, I think it just makes Rolex more desirable. I like Rolex’s Datejust but have never been obssessed enough to pull the trigger. Our taste change with age and so will our watch collecting journey. Till this day I wonder why men are obsessed with watches.

    P.S. The Rolex waiting list sounds like a marketing strategy to me

  • Marcus on

    Thank you for offering another perspective. And while I whole heartedly understand and accept where you are coming from (and I am personally not a fan of how Rolex is handling things currently), I feel that micro brands still have a lot to learn before they even try to compare themselves to a brand like Rolex.

    I personally have tried many micro brands, like Zelos, Mercer, LIV, Boldr, Swiss Watch Company, Haldor, Helson, Tempest; and more renown brands like Omega, Ball, Grand Seiko. I was a Rolex cynic and one who came out wanting to prove that other brands can be just as good and not as expensive than Rolex. You know what? I was wrong, and after having my first Rolex on the wrist I realised that Rolex is not famous simply because of marketing but they really make their watches well. I could wear a Rolex and it offers a comfort which brands like even Grand Seiko or Ball could not offer/match. And that was based on comfort alone. My dad always said, “You can go round in circles, but in the end it will always be a Rolex” and I finally understood why, though I wished it had not cost me so much just to come full circle.

    So yes, you have a point and i agree with it, but trying to downplay Rolex and putting it against micro brands is almost an insult to not just a brand but a brand which actually lives up to its reputation. And maybe it is because you are on a journey like I was, someone who refuses and even despised the hype surrounding Rolex (and recent moves by the company only makes it worse), and I understand that for I was that way too; or maybe you are indeed simply a watch lover and want to offer a different view into the world of watches.

    So while micro brands have their advantages like how you mentioned in your article, and how you discreetly took a jab at the Rolex waiting time at the last sentence, it is not an apple to apple comparison which ends up making it look abit like a rant more than a objective article.

    That being said, I want to say keep up the great work and best wishes to you.

    P.S. I would recommend you to try out Swiss Watch Company if you want a great micro brand watch. Personally out of the many micro brands I have tried, this one is the best amongst them, not only for the quality but also service and response.


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