Rolex: Masters of illusion, not innovation (and how we fall for it)

Baselworld 2015 has come and gone, and while some cool new watches were introduced, it was also disappointing in some very specific ways.

But something that has been infuriating has been this “buzz” around the new movement released by Rolex: the 3255 and it’s variants.

As Rolex has put it, this new movement sets a “new standard of performance” is “2X more precise than an official chronometer” has a “50% greater power reserve at 70 hours” and contains “90% new components”.

All of that is absolutely true.

So why is that infuriating? 

Because its only true for Rolex, NOT for the watch industry as a whole. 

But thanks to some clever language we’re made to believe it’s true for the entire watch world.

So, let me say it again, it’s not true when considering the entire watch world…


First the “2X more precise than COSC” crap: COSC precision has a rating of -4/+6 seconds per day. The 3255 archives a -2/+3 seconds per day. Which is “2X more precise” than COSC, just as Rolex said it is.

But, have you noticed Rolex never actually states the specs? They only refer to the phrase “twice as precise”.

Sneaky, sneaky Rolex!!

Because if they came out and said something like “our new movement now has an improved -2/+3 precision rating”, everyone would say “yeah and? So many other companies have exceeded that for decades”, and that would end it right there for Rolex.

In fact, many many companies have not only exceeded “2X as precise as COSC” for decades, but many many companies have even been able to eliminate the negative rating altogether. In other words achieving a precision rating of 0/+2 per day, which blows away this new 3255.

Then there is the “70 hours power reserve (50% more)”: this is almost as ridiculous as Apple touting the power reserve on their new Apple watch (but I did love that ad IWC put out in response).

A power reserve of 70 hours is not bad, not bad at all, but its also no big deal. Many many companies (again), have surpassed that decades ago. Ever hear of a 7-day power reserver? Or an 8-day power reserve? Or a 30-day power reserve?

That translates to 168 hours, 192 hours, and 720 hours respectively. 

To use Rolex parlance, that is "2X and up to 10X longer than the latest Rolex movement can do".

Again, the 3255 can not compete.

Then there is the little ditty about “90% new parts”: this is pretty clever too, because while they try to stroke themselves a bit as “innovators", the flip side of this is that Rolex has done squat for the past 50 (or so) years.

Because the movement previous to the 3255, the 3135 was just a slow-as-a-slug evolution of their original automatic movement way back when, and maybe even more disconcerting is the fact the 3255 is it!

Most companies have many different calibers. Not just one with slight variations to accommodate a date wheel or not.

Yet, Rolex will have us believe this is somehow some great technical achievement.

It’s one movement. That’s all!

Has anyone seen the impressive collection of “truly in-house” movements by JLC or Patek, or Audemars, or Vacheron, or ALS?

How about this Rolex: I think it’s great you can make a movement that tells me what time it is and even what day or date it is, but how about making a movement that shows some real chops, like a split chronograph? Or a true multi-zone movement (not just a GMT), or a Tourbillion? How about a constant force movement? Ever hear of that?

Or how about this, why not make a movement that is a true “perpetual” movement, not one that simply uses the word “perpetual” as a synonym to the word “automatic”.

(In Rolex terms, the 7S26 in a $50 Seiko 5 is also a “perpetual” movement — for shit’s sakes!!)

But the point with the 90% new parts thing is that Rolex did not evolve the movement as a whole as they usually do, they evolved each part/component individually and in doing so, can say its new “from the ground up”.

And again, that is totally fine. There is nothing wrong with evolving a movement part by part, even if its just baby steps over 100 years. It creates reliability and stability, and I like that. Whats not totally fine, however, is using marketing to make it seem like its representative of true innovation, when in fact its not.

And after all this B.S., they have the nerve to stuff this movement in just about every watch they make, because as mentioned earlier, its the only movement they fricken make! 

The 3255 (or some variant) will be found in the $5700 entry Oyster Date, to their “high-end” Day Date, which in platinum can run as high as $62,000.

Who in their right mind would spend $62k on a new Day-Date when they can get a vintage one that looks (more or less) exactly the fricken same, for under $5k?

Actually, who in their right mind would spend $62k on *any* brand new Rolex (meaning not vintage), when they could get a new Patek, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger LeCoultre, or A. Lange & Sohne (to name just a few better alternatives at that price point) instead?

At the end of the day, the truth is Rolex are marketing geniuses. They know how to choose their words, how to keep things *secret*, and know which events to sponsor.

I tip my hat to you, Rolex.

But it is so infuriating that they are far from transparent, and that the general public, especially the media that covers them is so damn stupid and lacking of any kind of useful critical thinking that they fall for their propaganda every damn time!

My vote, as its been for a long long time is that if you’re in the market to buy a Rolex, great!

But remember: a contemporary Rolex is the antithesis of what (once) made Rolex great. 

So, don’t buy new, buy vintage!!