Rolex and Cartier. Everyone recognizes these names and respects them for their art and prestige when it comes to watches. Unsurprisingly, when searching for the perfect watch, many people turn to Rolex and Cartier for high-end pieces that match function with timeless style.
What sets each brand apart? When comparing two well-known companies for watches, what are their strong suits, and their weaknesses? Read on to understand both brands and determine which is the best choice for you.
Hans Wilsdorf (photo: Rolex.org)
Rolex could claim to be the most famous watch brand globally today. What started as a dream in 1903 became a business in 1905 when Hans Wilsdorf founded his London business intent of distributing watches.
Within five years the business would rise to fame and fortune due to brilliant business plans and dedication to flawless functioning. Wilsdorf sourced all his Rolex watches from Switzerland (Maison Aegler in Bienne to be precise) and insisted on quality and flawless functionality, earning his company Chronometric Certification in 1910.
Upon his death in 1960, the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation continued his mission by donating earnings to watch research and an applied arts college.
Louis-Francois Cartier (photo: Cartier)
Cartier, as we know it today, started in Paris in 1847 when Louis-Francois Cartier took over his master’s factory. For ten years, Cartier flourished through the revolution, and Alfred, his son, took control in 1874. Alfred had a mind for business and quickly grew the company.
By introducing Cartier to the royal families of Europe (and beyond), Alfred saw great success via kings like Edward VII and by 1899, Cartier was able to open a shop on the Rue de La Paix district of Paris.
Alfred won over the aristocracy and his children Louis, Pierre, and Jacques won over the world. The brand succeeded for over 150 years and remained a family-owned business until 1964. Cartier is now a subsidiary of the Swiss Richemont Group.
When you think of luxury watches, Rolex is the most recognized brand worldwide
Certified Chronometers. Their watches undergo rigorous testing to provide you with the best accuracy you can buy.
Not only do Rolex watches have excellent value on the resale market, but they also have a higher-than-average value compared to any other watch brand on the market.
Rolex is always developing new styles and therefore has many watches under production at one time but also has even more than that out on the secondary market, from vintage models, to discontinued styles from years back.
If you’re looking for a case shape other than round, Rolex doesn’t have a lot of options for you. They are most famous for their waterproof Oyster case, but at one point made a rectangular watch – the Rolex Cellini Prince.
Rolexes are priced higher than most other brands which makes them more exclusive but harder to attain for some.
If you prefer a Quartz movement watch, you’re going to have a hard time finding a Rolex you like. There has only been one quartz powered Rolex model, and that is the Rolex Oysterquartz, which was discontinued in the 2000s.
Cartier designs watch faces in a wide variety of sizes – from a small 28mm designed for women up to a 44mm large face that’s preferred by many men.
When it comes to shape, there are many more options than the average round case. Cartier is a master at playing with shapes. Their rectangular Tank and square Santos has seen many iterations, not to mention other distinctly-shaped models like the tonneau-shaped Tortue and the cushion-shaped Drive.
When you’re considering Cartier vs Rolex, Cartier watches are significantly more affordable for a luxury brand. Cartier has some styles available for under $3,000 while the cheapest Rolexes are listed at $5,700 (as of 2022).
Cartier produces many quartz watches alongside their mechanical designs without sacrificing anything in style and function.
Cartier is far more recognized globally for jewelry rather than watches. With the wide variety of styles and shapes compared to that of Rolexes, Cartier watches are more difficult to recognize easily.
Cartier has not achieved the status of Superlative Chronometer with a level of accuracy of +2/-2 seconds per day that Rolex has.
Cartier watches do not hold their value as well as Rolex does, however their resale value is still competitive vs other high-end watch brands.
While Cartier produces their models in various metals, and uses embellishments like diamonds and types of gold, they don’t have nearly as many models available as Rolex.
Rolex vs Cartier – The Details
When it comes to basic pricing, Cartier watches are more affordable in most cases compared to Rolex watches. If this is your first excursion into luxury watches, Cartier would be a good choice.
Starting as a jeweler gives Cartier a head start when it comes to following current fashion trends. You can see this in the greater number of case designs that Cartier offers, appealing to a larger crowd.
Both Rolex and Cartier produce high-value manual and quartz analog watches using premium components from Switzerland. While they both utilize stainless steel for their cases, Rolex uses a higher quality stainless steel (904L) that’s more resistant to corrosion.
Both feature a sapphire crystal dial window and a water resistance of around 100 meters; however, Rolex offers a few models that offer a water resistance of 1220 meters and greater (particularly their Sea-Dweller range).
When it comes to pricing, Rolex wins when you consider their resale value. If you aren’t intending on keeping your luxury watch forever, perhaps trading it in for a newer model, then it is best to choose a Rolex watch as maintains its value longer.
While Cartier watches will cost less initially, Rolex will give you more money back down the line.
Most Popular Rolex Watches
If Rolex watches have won you over and you’re now looking at the market, there are a few models that stand out over the rest of them.
TOOL WATCHES TURNED LUXURY WATCHES
The Rolex Daytona is the Crown’s signature chronograph and racing watch, introduced in 1963. The collection was named after the Daytona International Speedway, which was home to the most prestigious races of the era, and of which Rolex was the official timekeeper.
The model originally launched in 1955 and updated in 1982 appeals to world travelers with its ability to track the time in two time zones simultaneously. Professionals traveling the globe can adjust their time with a winding crown without stopping the watch.
This piece is considered Rolex’s most iconic watch to date. A sturdy and powerful piece that can withstand water up to 300 meters, the Submariner was developed with divers in mind, but has a design timeless enough to be worn for all occasions.
The first model was made public in 1945, and became the first automatic watch whose date changed instinctively at midnight. The Jubilee bracelet and the Cyclops magnifying lens over the date first appeared on the Datejust, and have become iconic traits of Rolex watches.
They’ve added contemporary comforts like sapphire glass that resists scratching and the workhorse Caliber 3135 movement that maintains accuracy.
The Rolex Day-Date was unveiled initially in 1956 and was built exclusively from precious metals right from the start. This timepiece displays the day of the week spelled in full in 26 different languages and the date in numbers.
Like the Datejust, it was introduced with its very own three-piece bracelet called the “President”. It eventually became the moniker of the watch itself after having been worn by several US Presidents.
Most Popular Cartier Watches
This must-have, square-case, Cartier watch appeals to men and women alike. While inspired by the Renault tanks of World War One, its craftmanship is an instant status symbol and adds elegance to anyone’s wrist.
Featuring Cartier’s signature Roman numerals and blue sword-like steel hands, the Ballon Bleu features the newer bubble winding crown. With a sapphire cabochon crown and integrated crown guard, this accurate timepiece makes a statement.
This model evolved from a collaboration between the Brazilian pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont and Cartier creating the company’s – and the industry’s – very first men’s wristwatch.
The square casing and distinctive roman numerals have a bolder design that closely resembles a sports watch while maintaining the sophistication that comes with Cartier designs. The band technology allows for easy changing of your band.
MODERN SPORT WATCHES
Placed on the market in 2010, Calibre is the sporty model while maintaining the distinct Cartier style. Its large size and prominent lugs accompany those signature Roman numerals and sword-shaped hands that define Cartier watches.
In-house Cartier movements are combined with time-only, diver, and chronograph models.
Rolex vs Cartier – Final Thoughts
When choosing a luxury watch, personal preference holds a lot of power. While Rolex watches are far superior in many ways it really comes down to your budget and the goals and desires you have for your luxury watch.
Both Rolex and Cartier are excellent luxury brands with their own selling points that appeal to different crowds. Whether you want a Rolex or Cartier watch, you can find a high-quality timepiece from our vast selection at SwissWatchExpo.com.