Welcome to our latest watchmaking column: The Versus Series! Each article will pit two industry powerhouses together and compare their latest releases’ appreciation potential, while taking a brief look at the brands’ resale power in general. The first edition sees this author’s favourite Rolex novelty from Baselworld lock horns with Omega’s newest iteration of the Seamaster 300M. Buckle up, it’s about to get rough in the Omega versus Rolex debate.
This battle of the titans for Omega versus Rolex is an obvious starting point for this series despite the fact the average price (and expected buy-in) of a Rolex is quite a bit higher than Omega.
They were selected to go toe-to-toe because of their commercial popularity and similar target demographic. Although the two watches chosen for comparison occupy very different price points, we’ll be looking at their relative chances of success rather than actual accrual.
The Rolex GMT Master-II (or the ‘Root Beer’ as aficionados are already calling it) is going to split opinion on first, second, and five thousandth glance. However, the chance of those opinions remaining consistent over prolonged exposure to this oddly coloured piece is unlikely.
The more run-of-the-mill choice in this segment would have been the new Rolex GMT Master-II (the ‘Pepsi’), but I find this piece far more interesting from an aesthetic perspective and also as an investment.
Dividing opinion on release can be a good thing for long term appreciation – just take the Paul Newman Rolex Daytona as a perfect example – a mixed reaction scared producers into keeping its shelf life short. The quickly discontinued model now ranks among the most sought after pieces in the history of the craft.
I personally think this ‘Root Beer’ Rolex is an absolute gem from the get-go, but I’ve heard plenty of vitriol directed towards this model, and so wouldn’t be surprised if it spent less time than it deserves in the catalogue.
In contrast, the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M can probably guess its fate from day one: It is the latest interpretation of a brand stalwart that keeps the business ticking over almost mindlessly.
It will have its day in the sun, but will go the way of its forebears soon enough. However, during this window of availability it will be produced in much higher volume, and treated with a little less reverence from reviewers and purchasers alike.
So why have I clubbed these two quite different pieces together? As far as their respective brands go, they occupy a similar stratum, while representing some insignificant upgrades in manufacturing or mechanics that make them more attractive propositions
The Root Beer’s exterior is a thing of beauty. The Everose gold is as warm as ever and adds tangible value to the piece. The brown and black Cerachrom bezel shouldn’t work but it does so triumphantly. It’s the kind of aesthetic move only Rolex can pull off without relying on an existing trend to justify their chromatic choices.
Meanwhile, the Omega Seamaster 300M has had its guts ripped out and dragged into modernity with the utilisation of the in-house Omega 8800 calibre and a sapphire crystal display back. For my money both are huge upgrades on the previous version.
While the reborn wave design decorating the dial is sure to draw detractors basing their opinions on the press shots, it holds up much better in real life. The wider wavelength provides a futuristic counterpoint to the somewhat chintzy forerunners and is sure to titillate existing fans of this series as well as converting a few naysayers.
So which of these Baselworld novelties goes home with the prize in the Omega versus Rolex debate? Despite coming in at almost three times the cost of the Omega ($13,400 versus a shade under $5,000) the Rolex gets the nod from me, and not simply because it’s a Rolex.
The Omega could well go down in history as a high point in this series for realising old characteristics in a new way, but it fails to be as novel as the Rolex. This is despite the fact I’m basing that analysis on colourway alone.
When Rolex push the boat out with aesthetics, they either hit or miss with their conservative market. Creativity is to be encouraged, but a lot of the time it feels a bit forced. This Rolex has plopped into existence and leaves its observer feeling as if its always been there.
In layman’s terms, the Root Beer variant could come to be regarded in the same way as its famous, fizzy counterpart. For that reason, it lands the knock out blow.