In part 1 I had a good rant about my feelings on Rolex’s Bucherer takeover ( I think it spells doom for the necessary creativity and innovation needed to keep watchmaking alive), but the fact is that even without industry-shaking takeovers, I’m just bored of Rolex dominating the watchmaking world in general but I never felt confident enough to say it.
Ask anyone on the street to name a watch brand known for quality, and 8 out of 10 people will say Rolex.
The brand is extremely well recognised for their quality, which seems to cloud the fact that from a perspective of pure product novelty, I don’t feel they’ve done anything interesting for years, especially for a company of that size and power.
They’ve stayed close to their safe designs and diverted less and less over time.
Finding a comparison in another product category, sports brands like adidas and Nike also have perennial shoe styles that we all know and love. A Stan Smith or Air Jordan can be seen as a Submariner or a Datejust in the company’s lineup. However, adidas and Nike continue innovating new styles alongside those guaranteed sellers.
So, where’s the watchmaking innovation right now? Clearly it’s in the micro brand sector where there is so much experimentation it’s hard to keep up. That’s what comes by being hungry and connected to the art of it, and not the industrialisation.
Rolex is for people who want it easy. That’s the customer they’ve created.
Buying into the brand these days only shows that you can. I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t show style, taste or discernment like Cartier, A Lange & Sonne or a XX does.
These days Rolex is best suited for those who are investment-driven, group pleasing watch wearers.
Besides the often-reported disappointing service and waiting times customers must endure, Rolex simply doesn't do anything innovative with their designs. The new models are such slight iterations that quite frankly it’s hard to tell what the design department actually spend their time doing.
The brand’s creativity seems to have been the collateral damage of its growth. Gradually, their rising popularity has restricted them from thinking outside of their little green box.
They’re not the only brand to have this happen but in an industry fighting for relevance and keeping interest in the world, I believe watchmaking needs to make a stir, or else you’re just going backwards.
It’s tough to say these things, since I also lusted after a Submariner for years, and one cannot ignore how Rolex and the HWF have propped up the industry over the last decade or so. They should be thanked for this, just like Swatch Group did before them and Audemars Piguet even before that.
I absolutely love the world of watchmaking and all the disciplines it folds in. I’m no engineer or watchmaker, I’m a filmmaker but I consider myself an unofficial ambassador for this complex art form.
And that’s how I see it. It is an art, because it’s a rare kind of product category that is more emotionally connected to us than most.
I have a small collection myself, and each one has a story for me, or a story OF me. I don’t want to see watches as a commodity, and as important as Rolex is, they can’t fulfil that for me anymore. So I’ll be looking towards the other brands to keep me inspired because that’s a part of watchmaking too.