Does Rolex belong in the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Geneve?

Does Rolex belong in the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Geneve?

When it comes to Rolex, it is on the top in many categories. Brand known watch brand, yes. Perception of being the most prestigious watch to own, yes. Holds value better than any other brand, most definitely. But where does the brand stand in terms of pure design?

The most recent Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Geneve, also called the Oscars of Watches by Gear Patrol, shows that Rolex doesn’t have a presence. These awards are intended to celebrate design within the watch industry and although Tudor is among the nominated, Rolex doesn’t have any watches on the list of nominees. Even Zenith’s Chronomaster Sport, which many have noted looks very much like a ceramic Rolex Daytona, made the cut.

Photo of nominee Zenith Chronomaster Sport by Monochrome Watches 

I’ll wholeheartedly state that Rolex not only deserves a spot in the discussion of best watch designs, it should be a winner. Simplicity in design should not be overlooked. I often tell people who ask about my love for Rolex watches this: If I were an alien peering into our earth and asked which of these tiny little time-telling devices strapped to human beings’ wrists I’d be most drawn to, I’d choose a classic Rolex model.

Photo of nominee Bulgari Octo Finissimo by @lukaszdoskocz

I’d choose it based on the looks objectively too. There’s a reason that the Submariner is the most recognized “nice” watch in the world. Its proportions work whether in its classic design or in its newer Maxi case look. The Rolex designers know how to evolve their designs without losing sight of the origins. 

When I was first getting into watches, I would regularly browse the WatchUSeek forums and enjoyed the WRUW (what are you wearing) threads. The Rolex owner’s shot regularly stood out to me objectively. There is a certain balance, and perhaps safety, in Rolex designs for the most part. There is also the continuity in case shape, markers and typefaces. At the end of the day a Milgauss still has a lot in common with an Oyster perpetual. 

If you look at Omega’s designs, the Seamaster 300 doesn’t share much of the same design language as the Planet Ocean series—not to mention how different these watches are from the Speedmaster or Constellation. That’s totally fine, but it shows how Rolex is so protective of its brand identity through design consistency. On the other hand, if you look at Grand Seiko’s lineup, I see too much sameness in their designs. It’s a brand I greatly admire, but even the most fervent Grand Seiko fanboys will admit that the hands and indices are very similar across their core line.

I liken Rolex to Ralph Lauren, another classic, well-known mid-tier brand with a conservative design ethos. Ralph Lauren keeps producing popular hits that never stray too far from its roots. Steadiness in design should be equally rewarded as attempts to be daring.

Photograph of nominee IWC Big Pilot 43 by @kristianhaagen

Though I’m still not sure what the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Geneve is thinking as their choices if the Oris Aquis or IWC Big Pilot 43 make the cut for nominees. Both are fine watches but are rather tame when it comes to their design.

Celebrate your Rolex models' designs by displaying them in one our watch rolls.

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