With a history going back more than a century and with many innovations and iconic designs under its belt, it was only a matter of time before Rolex would be homaged and copied. Last week, I wrote an article discussing the rise of high-end Submariner replicas, a concerning phenomenon which we at Everest absolutely do not support. I wrote the article to warn watch collectors and enthusiasts about the proliferation of these replicas, as they can easily pass as being the real deal to non-Rolex experts. While researching the subject of replicas, I came across a similar phenomenon—yet a less concerning one: Rolex homages released by popular brands.
Homaging a Brand Is Nothing New
Let’s face it, it is very common for micro and independent brands to homage big name brands. It happens everyday and I do not have a problem with it. I could write an article discussing the standardization of the design of skin divers during the 1960s and 70s, something that could also be regarded as brands homaging each other for at least two decades. (And perhaps I will one day write this article!) Homaging means borrowing design elements from popular models, for example the Mercedes hands of the Submariner which can be found on divers from TAG Heuer, Invicta, and a myriad of other micro and independent brands. While not everybody is crazy about homages, they are not regarded as being replicas.
I can confidently make the latter statement because it would be silly to say, for example, that any diver with a circular case, applied hour markers, and a rotating bezel is an homage to a Rolex Submariner. Or that no other brand can use a rotating bezel with the same font as the one found on the Submariner. Similarly, Cartier does not own the monopoly on square watches, just like Omega shouldn’t be the only brand to make a chronograph with an arrow hour hand and three sub-registers. I think you are getting my point here. Regardless, I found it interesting to discover a few Rolex homages released by popular brands which we will take a look at below.
A Few Examples of Rolex Homages from Popular Brands
I was slightly shocked when I first came across the Orient President Day Date FEV03001BY (see picture below.) It looks, as its name indicates, like a Rolex Day Date and the brand seems to have been comfortable giving it the same name. The Orient FEV03001BY is no longer in production and the Japanese brand created several versions of the President Day Date, some coming with full gold plated cases and bracelets, and even one showcasing diamond look-alike for the hour markers. The one pictured below seems to be the most sought-after. It used to retail for $300 and now fetches prices upward of $1,000 on the second-hand market.
Squale is a popular brand that makes solid divers which are praised by enthusiasts of the micro and independent watch world. For many years, Squale fabricated cases for other brands and that’s how it gained a solid reputation in the horological world. Eventually, Squale started making its own watches and the 20 ATMOS became one of its most popular collections. The model pictured below is the 20 ATMOS MAXI Ceramic 1545 which evidently looks like a vintage Submariner. Or, should I say, a mash-up of different generations of Submariners given the fact that Squale paired a ceramic bezel insert with a maxi case and printed hour markers. The clearest element of the design that is reminiscent of the Sub is the Mercedes hour hand. Source: www.pinterest.com
Smiths Everest PRS-25
The third example I will discuss here today is the Smiths Everest PRS-25. This is an interesting one because Smiths provided watches to Sir Edmund Hillary’s team when they ascended Mount Everest. (Smiths closed its doors many years ago but the name was bought by British online retailer Timefactors.) Rolex famously equipped the alpinists with the predecessor of the Explorer 1, and Smiths provided a watch as well. The new Smiths brand found tremendous success amongst watch enthusiasts with the 36mm Everest PRS-25. Based on the model name, there is no denial the brand wanted to nod to the Smiths worn during the ascent of Mount Everest. The PRS-25 bears the name Smiths but looks like an Explorer 1016.
The topic of homages is always a delicate one to discuss, however it is interesting to see popular brands homaging Rolex. Especially, seeing Orient—a mainstay of the Japanese market founded in 1950—make a $300 version of an Oyster Perpetual Day Date. This proves one thing: most watch designs we see everyday stem from the same few iconic models designed many decades ago. In reality, not much has changed since and brands keep going back to the same designs over and over again. And there is nothing wrong with that, it keeps our hobby interesting and the watch market healthy. Furthermore, I would add that this phenomenon is equal to that of cars and even music, in which case music historians explain that most genres of music popular today have their roots in jazz.
Featured image: @jdm_horologist