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IWC VS Rolex

Let’s compare these two brands from many angles and through many lenses to find out if Rolex or IWC is the brand for you.

IWC VS Rolex | In-Depth Comparison

We are often asked questions such as “What’s better, IWC or Rolex?” This is not the type of question that can be answered directly without understanding the context of the question. This question has many contexts and therefore could mean any of the following questions:

(Click on any question below to jump to the answer)

Today we will look at Rolex and IWC through unique lenses that address each of these questions. Once these are answered you can draw your own conclusions and determine for yourself which is best.

WARRANTY

Rolex most recently has upped their warranty period to 5 years which is more than 200% longer than any other watchmaker in the industry besides for Omega watches that use the Co-Axial escapement which have a 4-year warranty. Either way, you look at it Rolex has the best warranty in the business. Furthermore, Rolex also says that their period between servicing is 10 years and no other watchmaker comes close to that.

The fact is that Rolex stands behind their products longer than anyone else in the business and goes above & beyond to deliver exceptional value with the purchase of any Rolex watch; a long-term value that outshines any other brand.

IWC, on the other hand, offers that same 2-year warranty that almost every Swiss watchmaker offers.

CRAFTSMANSHIP

Both IWC and Rolex offer great craftsmanship with beautifully finished mechanical movements, however, IWC is more likely to flaunt their work by using transparent case backs. Rolex, on the other hand, only has watches with solid case backs which is kind of a shame since they do make excellent mechanical calibers.

It also gives you a subtle hint as to what demographic they are catering to. Some even go as far as to say that people who only wear Rolexes are usually not 100% in it for the horology and mechanical marvels of watchmaking but rather for the public recognition of what they are wearing on their wrist. Then again there are others who completely disagree with that and love the fact that Rolex builds very durable and accurate watches. The same cannot be said about IWC which is a highly recognized brand but at the same time it is recognized more within the watchmaking and watch collecting community. Some might even call it a more refined brand of watch.

It is also very important to note that Rolex produces all their calibers in-house. IWC, on the other hand, will more-often-than-not use ébauche calibers which are a template of sorts made by a 3rd party and then adjust them in-house to built them up as they see fit.

IWC also produces in-house calibers but unless they specifically say that it is an in-house movement, you can bet that someone else such as ETA (i.e the famous Valjoux movement) or Sellita made it (for the most part). There isn’t anything wrong with using ébauche calibers. Most watchmakers do…but a certain amount of prestige is attributed to watchmakers that can do everything in-house.

RESALE VALUE

Rolex is by far the winner here. No other watchmaker has as high of an average resale value compared to Rolex. Not even the likes of the “holy trinity” of watchmakers (Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin & Audemars Piguet). Watches are very similar to other mechanical products such as vehicles in the sense that as soon as you use it once, it lost a good chunk of its value.

PRICES

An entry-level Rolex watch will cost about 150% more than the cheapest IWC watch. On the plus side, you can acquire an iconic IWC watch such as the IWC Pilot’s watch Mark XVIII 40mm Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) for substantially less than that of the most affordable iconic Rolex watch such as the Submariner which will cost about double the price of the most an affordable iconic IWC watches.

BRAND PRESTIGE & RECOGNITION

Most watch enthusiasts, watchmakers, and serious collectors would tell you without any hesitation that Rolex is a different type of watch than IWC. It is more utilitarian; a tool watch of sorts. Whereas IWC is a more refined watch that shows impeccable class and good taste. This resulted in Rolex achieving a 100% international brand recall whereas IWC isn’t anywhere near that. Rolex is, in fact, the most valuable watch brand in the world according to Interbrand, a brand valuation agency that rates the most valuable and recognized Swiss brands; many which are watchmakers. Rolex is the #1 most recognized luxury watch brand in the world. IWC is the 9th most recognized Swiss watchmaker in the world (which is also very impressive).

Some even go as far to say that if you want to impress your average layman, wear a Rolex but IWC is a watch to wear to impress a watchmaker or serious collector. The difference is not only seen in the brand positioning and marketing efforts of both brands but also in the public’s perception of each brand. Rolex pushes their brand aggressively and with many impressive ads that promulgate a desirable and often attainable item to the average person. You can see this in the very publications where their ads are placed. Their target demographic is basically everyone and everywhere. Doing this creates this desire in the public eye for something expensive and give one the illusion of success if they manage to purchase one.

I know this may sound like I’m beating on Rolex but I’m not. I’m just explaining what happens when a brand with the magnitude of Rolex aggressively advertises their products to anyone and everyone. To be perfectly fair towards Rolex, none of what I said takes away from the fact that Rolex has literally perfected their watches in ways that no other watchmaker has in history. We will discuss this further in this article with comparisons in precision, craftsmanship, durability, and warranty. It’s just important to discern the difference between watchmaking know-how and the marketing side of the industry.

DURABILITY

This is another area where Rolex shines brightly. More so too with their sports models such as the Submariner, Deep-Sea, Sea-Dweller, Explorer, GMT Master II, Explorer II, Daytona, Milgauss. Many watch enthusiasts will wear Rolexes as a “beater”; that everyday watch that takes all the hits. Why? Because as they advertise: “No one will ever test a Rolex like Rolex.”

They literally test their watches to extremes that no human being can withstand. The same cannot be said with the same of IWC Schaffhausen watches. If I were to drop both watches (which would never happen willingly), my money is on Rolex 10 out of 10 times.

Rolex has many a procedure in their quality control testing that places the watch in a situation such as shock which will usually destroy a mechanical caliber. However, their “Crash Test” uses 20 different drop tests and another called the "belier" which is literally a battering ram which delivers an impactful slam equivalent to 5,000 G. This is 100’s of times the intensity of the crashes used in testing motor vehicles. The watch needs to stay unharmed and 100% operational afterward and still have the highest of accuracy regardless. Would I dare put a battering ram to an IWC? Heck NO! Not even if you paid me. They are just far too precious to even take that chance.  Rolex also performs many other tests including the depth of water resistance and are just as brutal in any other tests that they perform.

ACCURACY / PRECISION

Again, an area where Rolex takes home the gold against IWC. Rolex has started bestowing all their watches with the Superlative Chronometer designation which is about 250% more accurate than the COSC Chronometer designation, the highest 3rd party designation attributed to the most accurate of watches. Whereas a COSC certified Chronometer has to have a minimum tolerance of deviation of -4/+6 seconds per day, a Superlative Chronometer first gets a COSC certificate, then the movement is cased and tested again until it achieves an accuracy rating of -2/+2 seconds per day.

COMPLICATIONS

Finally, a topic where IWC outshines Rolex! IWC Schaffhausen manufacture many watches which have “high complications” a horological term for extra features and often combinations of extra features other than simply telling time. Watches such as the solid platinum IWC Grande Complications which offers a Chronograph, Perpetual Calendar, Minute Repeater and Moon phase all-in-one are a great example of a high-complications watch and come with a $283,000 price tag.

Simply put: IWC gets to flex their watchmaking muscles and show what they can really do (mechanically speaking) in this area and this is one of the main reasons why serious “watch-people” typically love them more than Rolex.

Not sure if either one of these brands is the right one for you?

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