Why are Rolex watches expensive?
Whenever you hear people talking about Rolex watches the question is often asked “but why are Rolex watches so expensive", hopefully we can answer that question for you on today’s blog.
Many people believe that Rolex watches are over-priced, and looking at the second hand market stainless steel boom going on at present I would have to agree with you, for the second hand market at least. The retail prices however of these Rolex stainless steel models I believe is quite reasonable and here we explore the reasons why I think Rolex are worth the money and why they are “expensive”.
If you were to ask the average person anywhere in the world what they considered to be the best wristwatch in the world, 8 out of 10 people would probably say Rolex. Rolex is engraved in modern culture and is often seen as or used as a mark of success. Rolex is one of the worlds’ most instantly recognisable brands as well as being one that is the most loved in the luxury world. Rolex has adorned the wrists of many famous people throughout history and the brand has a synergy with high achievers which all adds to the brand being more desirable to those trying to achieve the same level of success. But why are Rolex so expensive? Is it just really clever branding and marketing or are the parts and processes which make up the Rolex watch what gives them their high price?
During 1910, Rolex were the first wristwatch to receive a Swiss Certificate of Precision by the Official Watch Rating Centre in Bienne, Rolex were then subsequently awarded a class A certificate by Kew Observatory in the UK. When these certifications were given to Rolex such certifications had only previously been awarded for marine chronometers. From the moment of acquiring these certifications Rolex was a brand name which would forever be associated with accuracy and quality. The belief that an item is expensive or not really is in the eye of the person buying it and what the perceived value of the item is to that person, many of my friends think I am mad paying £8000+ for a watch “which only tells the time, your phone can do that” but as a watch collector, Rolex as a brand is either something you feel a connection with or you don’t. If you are happy to tell the time off your phone great, but I want to tell the time from a luxury engineered time piece because I love the brand and all it stands for. So let’s look at some of the other reasons why Rolex watches are so expensive.
We need to first look into how much a Rolex actually costs at retail. So the prices for entry level Rolex start around £3250 for the Oyster ladies watch. A Rolex Submariner 116610 LN would set you back in the region of £6550, a Rolex GMT 116710LN would cost you around £6450 and a Rolex Daytona 116500LN would cost you around £9550. So there is a wide variation in the costs of different Rolex models. But despite the high cost of these watches they are still attainable to people who really want them, they are a similar price to a small family car for example so they are not totally unattainable to the average person it’s just a matter of where you want to put your money… With that said, within a few years the Rolex would retain its value more than the car would.
Another thing which adds to the high price of a Rolex is that they spend a huge amount of money on research development, like any innovative company at the top of their game, when you want the best you need to invest time effort and money into developing a product and continue to improve your products. Rolex keep pushing the boundaries of innovation and developing new manufacturing processes materials and complications to put into their watches.
As part of the overall R&D set up Rolex also has several different types of state of the art equipped professional science laboratories at their facility. They are constantly looking at more effective, innovative and efficient ways of manufacturing their watches while constantly striving to improve quality at every opportunity. All of the materials at Rolex are inspected using electron microscopes and the gas spectrometers to look into the micro structure of the metals. This is done to investigate how casting and machining impact on the molecular structure of the machined and cast components. This is primarily the reason Rolex quality surpasses that of their competitors, they inspect everything to a standard which surpasses all of the industry standards.
Rolex also have their own life testing laboratory where they can stress test all of the components in a manner which they will be subjected to in real life. The movements, cases and bracelets all undergo stress tests and simulated wear tests using custom made robotic testing arms and machines. Further to all of the quality specifications Rolex adhere to each Rolex is actually accurate to plus or minus 2 seconds which surpasses the industry standard of minus 4 to plus six seconds a day.
Every watch which leaves the Rolex factory which is located in Bienne, Switzerland is tested by an independent Swiss chronometer testing institute, this is so that each was can be given the title of superlative chronometer. Because of the size and accuracy of the components used in Rolex watches some of the world’s best tooling, robots and CNC machines need to be used to manufacture them, these tools need to be of the highest grade and need to run at incredibly high speeds to allow the hard metals to be machined accurately on such a small scale. Whenever you are manufacturing small high tolerance parts the production cost rockets.
Rolex also develop and manufacture their own in house movements where as many other watchmakers buy off the shelf movements and tweak them a little. The cost to develop and manufacture your own movement compared to buying a movement off the shelf is huge. These movements take time and money to perfect to the desired levels. Watch movements are expensive to make. All of the parts are tiny and have a high failure rate during the manufacturing process. All of these movements need to be put together by hand by skilled craftsmen based in Switzerland, and with the labour costs in Switzerland being some of the highest in the world it is no wonder that Rolexes are so expensive.
Further to that Rolex uses some of the most innovative materials on earth in their watches, they use 904L stainless steel rather than the luxury industry standard 316L stainless steel. This material is very hard, corrosion resistant and virtually indestructible. Rolex actually had to replace all of their production facility to cope with machining the new material as it is notoriously difficult to machine. This 904L alloy is exclusive to Rolex no other watch brands use this grade when making their watches. Other materials Rolex have developed include a perfected manufacturing method for combining different colour ceramics within the same part, this can be seen on the GMT Master II with the “Pepsi” and the “Batman” which Rolex have branded “Cerachrome”.
Rolex also innovate when it comes to the design of their watches, being a mechanical designer myself I know what goes into the design process to create something special. Designing small intricate parts which can be manufactured to high tolerances, withstand the environments Rolex want them to work in and also look aesthetically pleasing takes a lot of time, development and cost which obviously need to be incorporated into the prices of the final products.
Considering all of the above Rolex watches are designed to last a lifetime, they are not going to go out of fashion in a couple of years, they are built to last and if properly looked after can last 100 years. So when you really know what goes into developing and manufacturing one you will realise why they are priced as they are. Despite Rolex watches being expensive in terms of an object that tells the time I think you would find it difficult to find another product which has the same level of quality and workmanship.
Over the years Rolex has a built a reputation of being a leader in the field of watchmaking, you either love the product or you don’t, but one thing is for sure, Rolex will be around for a long time to come and they will always be marketed at a high price point, so whether you consider that price to be too expensive or something you are prepared to pay to own a luxury crafted timepiece, that my friends is up to you.
What are your thoughts on this subject, do you think Rolex are expensive or are they at a price point you would pay?
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Thank you Lee Scott Founder Vulcan Watch Straps