Rolex vs. Hublot: A Test of Time
There’s no question--when it comes to luxury timepieces, Rolex and Hublot are two completely different brands. While the so-called “Roley” has become a cultural icon with its characteristic smooth movement, Hublot is beginning to make its name as an edgy, innovative alternative to traditional luxury. While Rolex and Hublot both command massive respect as far as status symbols go, the two brands have fundamental differences both on the outside an inside of their watches.
Ranked 64th on Forbes’ list of Most Powerful Brands, Rolex is the largest luxury watch brand in the world, producing about 2,000 every day. Started by two brothers-in-law, Rolex was originally called Wilsdorf and Davis, or W&D. Early on, the brothers showed a strong passion for innovation, inventing the world’s first waterproof wristwatch and then the first automatically changing date dial.
Some say that investing in a Rolex is more profitable than the stock market, with the watch’s resale price consistently growing each year. On October 26, 2017, a Rolex Daytona formerly owned by Paul Newman broke the record for 17.75 million USD.
Compared to Rolex, Hublot is comparatively a much younger brand, founded in 1980. This has little impact on the watch’s performance however, and in fact the Crocco family’s watch lineage dates all the way back to 1906. Determined to make a distinct impact on the luxury world, founder Carlo Crocco left his family’s business in 1976 to start his own brand of watches.
Today, Hublot is owned by LVMH, or Moet Hennessy Louis-Vuitton. Even though Hublot has a shorter history than Rolex, it has carved its niche deeply in the watchmaking business under the leadership of Biver. What Hublot doesn’t have in longevity, it makes up for in innovation and courage to be distinctive and even luxuriously irregular.
Invented by Rolex in 1931, the “self-winding perpetual rotor” in an ingenious mechanism that allows the Rolex to run indefinitely without using a battery. Not only does this innovation require minimal winding from the wearer, it is also remarkable accurate in maintaining a constant and stable source of energy.
The self-winding mechanical movements of all Rolex watches allow for “precision, reliability, shock-resistance, efficient self-winding and ease of maintenance.” As you probably know, Rolex watches are famous for not “ticking,” which is in fact due to 28,800 thousand micro-movements an hour that results in “optimal precision” and “peerless reliability.”
When Jacques Piccard tested their “DeepSea” model at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, he was amazed to find that the Rolex worked flawlessly at a depth of 11,000 meters.
The Hublot watch typically embodies 330 different components, with a 72 hour power reserve. The brand produces both ETA and Hublot watch movements, meaning its mechanical movements are either outsourced or designed in-house, depending on the model. This is a real concern for some purists and also a reason for Hublot’s relatively lesser resale compared to Rolex. Performance-wise, many can argue that the ETA movements are extremely durable and functionally sound. The true reason, however, is that a $16,000 price tag seems a bit less justified for a movement found in some less expensive watches.
Respectable, classic, timeless. These are words that come to mind with respects to the Rolex brand. Opting to remain with the “tried and true,” Rolex is very clearly dedicated to the simple and refined style that has remained for over a century. Like classical music or Greek architecture, there are some styles that are truly classic. Rolex rarely makes any changes to their designs, and their customers are perfectly content with this.
When it comes to design, Hublot is much more interesting as a subject matter. Hublot’s arrival on the international scene has been the successful incorporation of modern and traditional techniques. Described as “‘the art of fusion’ – a philosophy at the centre of the brand’s identity, Hublot’s distinctive features include luxury rubber straps instead of metal bands, and unique combinations of steel, ceramic, and rubber. The strap took over 3 years to perfect, and though the first model did not make a single sale at its debut at the 1980 Basel Watch Fair, it went on to become a major commercial success with over 2 million in sales, proving that the modern rubber design could compete with traditional metal links.
The signature edgy, black and gold look of most of Hublot’s designs fare well with middle-aged businessmen and entrepreneurs, giving a sort of sharp flair that is other unseen in luxury watches. Sharp, new, and young, Hublot’s innovation and desire to defy typical trends are exactly why the avant-garde brand captures such consumer allegiance.
So, which is right for you?
Ultimately, the decision between buying a Hublot or a Rolex comes down to your stylistic preference. Are you a classicist who appreciates “traditional” and time-tested (pun-unintended) design? Or do you prefer a more creative and sporty luxury experience? Is long term appreciation an important factor in making your investment, or do you plan on making multiple investments as trends change and modernize? These are important factors to consider, as a luxury timepiece is more than a watch--it’s a lifestyle.