Rolex and TAG Heuer are both luxury watchmakers based in Switzerland and some people have a definite preference for one over the other. That’s fine, of course, but are there concrete differences between the two brands that mean one can truly be said to be superior to the other? Read on to find out.
Firstly, TAG Heuer is an older company. It has been making chronographs since 1860. Headquartered in La Chaux-de-Fonds in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel, since 1999, it has been wholly owned by a French conglomerate, LVMH. On the other hand, Rolex was founded in London in 1905 and only moved to Switzerland in 1919. As such, you can pretty much take your pick about how Swiss, or otherwise, you see each brand.
That being said, Rolex is definitely the much more recognisable firm. Of course, both companies have reasonably large marketing budgets but Rolex is better known around the globe. In fact, brand recognition surveys have frequently ranked Rolex as the most recognisable watch brand in the world bar none. TAG Heuer, on the other hand, comes in way down the list even among Swiss watchmaking companies behind the likes of Omega, Longines and Tissot. Depending on your point of view, this either makes TAG Heuer watches more exclusive and desirable or less worthy of your investment because they don’t have the cachet of comparable Rolexes.
Timekeeping & Mechanical Movements
In terms of timekeeping accuracy, Rolex is a watchmaker that sets the benchmark for mechanical movements. It has its watches’ movements independently verified for their precision. Therefore, all Rolex watches are certified by Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres, or COSC, the official testing institute in Switzerland. Conversely, TAG Heuer watches do not come with this sort of accreditation. The company maintains that this is to keep the price of its timepieces down, something that is understandable given the costs involved with obtaining COSC certifications. Nevertheless, this difference puts some buyers off TAG Heuer watches altogether. It is worth noting, however, that TAG Heuer’s battery-powered watches with quartz movements are extremely accurate, something that is achieved without a mechanical movement.
It is worth focussing further on the way the two companies go about producing their respective movements, too. Many watch industry commentators would agree that Rolex has the edge here. Certainly, none of the movement manufacturing that goes into a Rolex luxury watch is outsourced. Neither does Rolex make use of ébauche – or semi-finished – movements. In TAG Heuer’s case, some third-party components are bought in as a part of its production strategy. Although this might not affect quality controls, some see this as a mark of TAG Heuer’s inferiority to Rolex.
Which is the Best Value for Money?
In terms of value for money, the picture is more nuanced. As a dealer of both pre-owned Rolexes and TAG Heuers, among other luxury watch brands, the variation in qualities you see from the different watchmakers is reflected in their respective asking prices. In short, TAG Heuer watches tend to be sold at lower prices than Rolexes, thereby allowing more potential for investment growth. For this reason alone, many collectors and investors prefer them.