Here is an in-depth comparison of Rolex vs IWC watches.
We are often asked and hear other people asking the watch community “Which is a better watch brand, Rolex or IWC?” Many people will be quick to answer biasedly, so we thought we’d give a completely unbiased comparison of the two incredible luxury Swiss watch brands.
We have broken the comparison down into the following categories:
- Brand Recognition
- Movement (complications and accuracy)
- Resale Value
- Entry Price
- Durability (and Warranty)
We believe these main categories should cover all the angles for those thinking about Rolex vs IWC for their next watch purchase.
Rolex vs IWC: BRAND RECOGNITION & PRESTIGE
Rolex is the most iconic watch brand in the world. Their watches are thought of as “utilitarian”, yet they take a lot of pride in making their watches attractive as well. Each model was made for a specific purpose, and they did such a great job marketing them this way that even a casual watch fan will know what each model represents. You have the Submariner for casual divers, the Deep Sea Dweller for deep sea divers, the Daytona for race car drivers, the Yachtmaster for sailors, the Explorer for expeditionists, and so on and so forth.
Rolex’s brand positioning has been aggressive from the start. They create supremely impressive ads via product placement in media stunts. They’ve made it so the Rolex brand is extremely intriguing to serious watch collectors and the average joe alike. So, there target demographic is essentially everyone.
Even though they are expensive watches, they are much more affordable and attainable than brands like Patek Philippe. Thus, it’s possible for nearly everyone to someday purchase the ever-coveted Rolex watch. The public eye considers owning a Rolex as “reaching success”, and we can all agree that their ability to create this image has been a huge part of their own success. Moreover, they’ve made each reference so special, going so far, accidentally or not, to even have slightly unique variations within the same reference. All of this has made Rolexes the most highly collected watch in history.
From creating an incredible product to impeccable branding and marketing, Rolex has managed to achieve 100% international brand recognition, which is an incredible feat that only few companies have done (think McDonalds, Nike, Coca-Cola).
Rolex ranks in at number 1 for the most recognizable luxury watch brand across the globe.
IWC is a refined type of watch that displays sophistication and elegance. They are most well-known for producing top-notch aviation and pilot watches and using titanium. Furthermore, IWC is the leading brand in the watch industry for sustainable development and environmental protection.
IWC is the watch that not everyone knows, but those who are watch enthusiasts respect. In terms of marketing, IWC is not as aggressive as Rolex. Not nearly. But even with that, IWC ranks in at number 9 as the most recognized Swiss watch brands in the world.
When it comes to brand recognition and prestige, no other watchmaker compares to Rolex. There marketing and branding are simply on another level.
So, as Rolex has 100% global brand recognition, and they are without a doubt the most iconic and highly coveted watch across the board, they easily take the W here.
Rolex vs IWC: MOVEMENT (In-House, Complication, Accuracy)
Rolex watches have either self-winding or manually-winding mechanisms, although they have put out quartz movements in the past and there are still a few women’s models powered by quartz movement.
The self-winding mechanism is the most common amongst their models. This simple yet extremely accurate mechanical timepiece has a mainspring that is wound by the motion of a wearer’s arm.
Rolex always publicizes the accuracy of their movements and precision requirements. If you purchase a Rolex, you can expect it to be accurate to +2/-2 seconds per day, at most, full stop, granting them a Superlative Chronometer certificate.
All of Rolex’s movements are made in-house.
They’ve made a statement that aims at other Swiss watch brands – “go and make your own movements”. So, they are clearly proud of their in-house capabilities.
That being said, Rolex doesn’t produce very complicated movements. However, they are known for being superbly well-made. Moreover, Rolex has produced a lot of different movements in their time.
The most complicated complication is the Rolex Yachtmaster II and Sky-Dweller, which has three complications, one being the Ring Command Bezel, which went on to become sublimely famous.
IWC uses a combination of outsourced and in-house movements. Their lower range models, such as the Portuguese Chronograph, are sourced directly from Swatch-owned ETA. The more expensive models use an in-house movement, like their Caliber 5000 and Caliber 800.
The world has a keen liking (or loving is probably the better word) for Rolex, but those who are objective and only look at the facts will agree that IWC has more complicated complications. They use ‘high complications’, combining extra features that go beyond just telling time. Their awesome platinum IWC Grande Complications offer four complications in one – Chronograph, Perpetual Calendar, Minute Repeater and Moon Phase. This specific watch model has a heavy price tag of $283,000.
Moreover, in 1993, IWC released the most complicated wristwatch ever made, the II Destriero Scafusia, which sold for $1,000,000 in 2000 – there were only 125 of these made, in honor of their 125th anniversary.
In terms of accuracy, they’ve only reached a COSC certified Chronometer, which means their movements have a minimum tolerance deviation of -4/+6 seconds per day. When we say “only” that is us being a little hard on them in regards to accuracy…just because Rolex has the best certificate, the Superlative Chronometer. A Superlative Chronometer will have 250% more accuracy over a chronograph with -4/+6 seconds per day.
This one is tough to conclude because in terms of complications, IWC has made greater feats and has higher complications. However, Rolex produces all of their movements in-house, guaranteeing that all their watches are up to their high standard, no matter the price point. And, Rolex’s accuracy is above and beyond IWC’s. So, when you consider those three factors, and Rolex takes two out of the three, we have to give this W to Rolex.
Rolex vs IWC: INVESTMENT (Resale Value)
Rolex watches are like gold. They can be sold pretty much in an instant no matter which country you are in. Of course, not every Rolex model is treated equally.
The Rolex watches that hold their value best are the Daytona, GMT Master and GMT Master II, Sea Dweller (ref 16660), Submariners, Day-Date, Yachtmaster, Air King, and Explorer. Many of these watches will be worth more someday if kept in mint condition. You will often see a Rolex model from the past selling for substantially more money than what the owner paid for it brand new all those years ago.
In general, Rolex has the best resale value of all luxury watches. This is simply because people care about Rolex the most. Again, they are the most iconic brand of watches, and with that, their resale value if of course the best.
IWC watches have a quick and considerable depreciation from MSRP when comparing to Rolex (albeit normal when comparing to other expensive luxury watches). However, it really depends on the model. Their Big Pilot watch tends to hold its value considerably well. Nonetheless, in general, their watches only depreciate slightly over the years, and after the 20 year mark, they can usually be sold for the same price, or more than, they were bought for brand new.
Note: In recent years, IWC flooded the market, which has affected its resale value.
Hands down, Rolex is the winner. In fact, there is no other watchmaker that compares to Rolex when it comes to resale value. Rolex is one of the few watch brands that can actually be considered an investment.
If you buy expensive watches pre-owned, resale value won’t be affected much. This goes for any popular luxury watch brand. The reason is, the person who bought the watch brand new has already taken the hit when they sold it. We are talking about models purchased new within the last decade. Older models may resell for much more so of course there would be no hit to the original buyer. So if you are buying a used IWC or Rolex from recent years, you shouldn’t worry too much about its resale value, it is not likely to decrease much in value at all…unless you were to beat it up through wear and tear.
Rolex vs IWC: ENTRY PRICE
Entry into the Rolex world will cost you around $5,700. This is the cost of their new Oyster Perpetual. For their most iconic and best overall resale value model, the Submariner, you are looking at an entry-level price of $7,500-8,000.
Rolex’s most expensive watch ever sold is the Paul Newman Rolex Daytona Cosmograph, which sold for 17.8 million dollars. However, this was an auction price. In terms of MSRP, their most expensive model ever is the GMT Master II Ice, which has a market price of around half a million dollars. Rolex’s gem-set watches have a very high price point.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII is their entry level watch and it goes for $5,000 MSRP. IWC is currently selling 5 watches for over $100,000, the most expensive being the Portugieser Grande Complication for $235,000.
It’s hard to choose a winner when it comes to price because this really depends on your budget. If you want a winner that goes by the lowest cost of entry, then IWC wins, but not by that much. But if you consider it to Rolex’s Submariner, which is what most people who enter into the Rolex world want, it is quite a bit more, almost double. And for half the price of a Submariner, the IWC Pilot Mark XVIII 40mm is really nice. Either way, you need to consider the resale value vs the MSRP, by which Rolex makes more sense if you have the extra few grand.
Rolex vs Prestige: DURABILITY (Longevity & Warranty)
Rolex watches are extremely durable. They test their watches to the extreme. Rolex says “no one will ever test a Rolex like Rolex”, meaning they put it to the maximum test that most people wouldn’t even be able to manage. They have very tough standards for their quality control testing. For example, their mechanical caliber can withstand an impact that’s 100 times the intensity of normal dummy testing for car crashes. They go to the extreme because that’s part of their branding – Rolex is a tool.
IWC watches are precious. They simply aren’t made for extreme conditions, so of course, their durability isn’t nearly as great. They need to be handled with care. If you plan on wearing an IWC as it should be, you will have no issues with its durability as the quality is superb.
Rolex gets another hands-down-W in this category. Rolex is known for being durable, strong, and “to the extreme”. There is no other Swiss luxury brand of watches made to handle wear and tear like Rolex.
Furthermore, Rolex has a warranty of 5 years, which is more than double that of IWC’s 2 year warranty. They also state you won’t need a servicing until around a decade after purchasing. IWC doesn’t come close to that. Rolex has the best warranty in the game.
Rolex vs IWC: CRAFTSMANSHIP & QUALITY
Rolex offers incredibly beautiful watches with exquisite craftsmanship. All Rolex watches have solid casebacks, which is kind of a shame as their mechanical calibers are excellent. It goes to show you they stick to their guns on their branding of being a tool watch.
Again, Rolex crafts all of the movements in-house. So, this says a ton about their pride in their craft of horology, not a transparent caseback.
According to Rolex, it takes about a year to make a single Rolex watch. But, it’s about 4 hours from start to finish once all semi-finished components are ready for assembly.
IWC is super crafty as well and they have impeccable designs. Their watches are absolutely stunning. IWC uses transparent casebacks to show off their high complications. Many believe IWC is one of the most refined Swiss watch brands in respects to craftsmanship. Moreover, you have to respect IWC’s concern for environmental impact.
This really comes down to personal preference. So we will call this one a draw.
ROLEX VS IWC – WINNER
All in all, we have to crown (pun intended) Rolex the winner. We were as unbiased as possible, as we do sell both Rolex and IWC watches. Albeit, we do have one of the largest collection of Rolex watches in South Florida, so it’s clear that Rolex is one of our favorite luxury watch brands. But again, all subjectiveness aside, Rolex wins because they have a far greater resale value, warranty, and durability, not to mention, they are far more iconic and have unparalleled brand recognition.
Who are We? Raymond Lee Jewelers in Boca Raton
Raymond Lee Jewelers (and our newer location, Diamonds By Raymond Lee) is a family-run business in Boca Raton. Recognized in the community as a leader in the watch industry, we buy and sell high-end, luxury watches at the most competitive prices. Raymond Lee Jewelers has been in the watch business for over 30 years and we guarantee to take care of you for any watch or jewelry dealings as if you are family. Please don’t hesitate to contact Raymond Lee Jewelers today if you have any questions about Rolex watches, IWC watches, or any other luxury watch brand and model. We are experts in the field. It’s what we do.
We’d love to hear your opinion on Rolex vs IWC in the comments below.