Rolex VS Zenith

Today we will compare two very popular luxury watch brands, Rolex and Zenith to determine which is the best brand for you.

I'm often asked "What's better, a Rolex or a Zenith watch?" and this is the exact kind of question that you should ask before making a high consideration purchase such as a luxury watch. Furthermore, this question can hold multiple different contexts such as: "Which brand is more popular", "Which brand makes more complicated watches",  "Which brand makes higher quality watches?" or even "Which has better resale value?" etc. The real question is "Better in terms of what?" All these will be answered in our in-depth comparison of Zenith and Rolex. Use the links below to navigate sections of this article. Let's begin, shall we?

Popularity   |   Resale   |   Price   |   Warranty   |   Accuracy   |   Horology   |   Collections

Rolex VS Zenith

Historically speaking, Zenith is an older brand than Rolex and has been manufacturing watches for nearly 35 years longer than Rolex. However, Rolex has been making great use of their time building up their brand to the point that they now manufacture approximately 2,000 Rolex watches per day.

Popularity

Which Brand is More Popular? This is going to be an easy question to answer. Rolex is a more popular and famous brand than Zenith. Despite being a significantly younger brand, they managed to climb to the very top of the food chain. The Rolex brand is actually #3 in the top 50 most valuable Swiss brands and that makes it the #1 most recognizable Swiss watch brand. Zenith, although a very popular luxury watch brand, never made it to the list. Because of Rolex's popularity, naturally, you will hear about this larger company in the press throughout the world. It will appear more frequently when you search for luxury watches and have a larger presence of models on both the new and previously owned market. The same would apply to finding parts and service centers for either of these two brands. Naturally, because of the difference in the size of the two companies, it's easier to find parts and find a place to get service (from an official service center) for a Rolex than for a Zenith.

Source: Interbrand, a brand valuation agency that benchmarked the top 50 most popular Swiss brands...many of which are Swiss watchmakers.

Resale Value

Zenith VS Rolex: Which brand Holds Value Best? Rarely does someone ever think of selling a watch before they buy it but it is wise to think about this when considering a high-ticket item. The resale value is important because in the event that you ever needed to sell the watch you want to make sure that you get back as much as possible when doing so.  

That said, the average resale value of a Zenith is lower than a Rolex. While Zenith is a lower market brand than Rolex and this may be an explanation but to be frank, Rolex will hold a higher average resell value over any other brand, including the most expensive tier 1 luxury watch brands. So this doesn't take away much from Zenith since it finds itself in the same predicament as every other watchmaker in this regard.

Prices

Rolex versus Zenith Prices: An entry-level men's Zenith watch such as the Elite classic 39mm starts at a retail list price of $4,700. For the ladies, the most affordable Zenith watch is the Zenith Star 33mm which starts at about $100 less.

The cheapest new Rolex watch available will run you about $1000 more than the cheapest Zenith watch and that would be the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39mm. Unlike Zenith, Rolex also has a lower-market line of watches under a different brand called Tudor that comes at a significantly lower price-point than Zenith. However, Tudors are not Rolexes. Mind you, this is one of those situations where you should also take into consideration the resale value when crunching the numbers.  Watches are like cars in the sense that as soon as you use them, a good chunk of the value is already lost. 

Warranty

Between these two brands, Rolex has a longer warranty period. Zenith only offers a two-year warranty whereas Rolex offers an above-average 5-year warranty period. While a 2-year warranty is pretty standard in the luxury watch business, more and more watchmakers are starting to offer longer warranties.

Accuracy & Precision

What is more accurate, a Zenith or a Rolex? One of the things that these two watch brands are great at is accuracy, yet each in their own special way. Rolex makes a superior mechanical caliber when it comes to overall accuracy and precision. Their movements are even more accurate than the standard COSC chronometer.

This is why you will see the words "Superlative Chronometer" on the dials of modern Rolex watches. This means that the watch has an accuracy which a deviation threshold of +2/-2 seconds per day. The standard COSC certified watch is -4/+6 seconds per day.

Zenith, on the other hand, has an iconic and highly precise chronograph movement (a movement with a stopwatch function). In fact, when it was first released in 1969, after 7 years of development,  it was the very first automatic chronograph in history. Their legendary Zenith El Primero movement is a high-beat caliber that resonates at 36,600 VpH and can be used to measure time in a highly precise way. It's also the first-ever self-winding chronograph caliber.

What is Rolex Zenith? Also known as the Zenith Daytona, the El Primero movement was the very caliber that powered the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona many moons ago before the Rolex Daytona model started only using in-house calibers in the series and the rest of their collections for that matter.

Horological Complications

Is Zenith better than Rolex? In terms of high horology watches, possibly. This is an area where Zenith shines brighter than the very star that inspired their brand name. In terms of horology, many will judge a brand by how complicated their watches can get. Many brands are admired for their added features. In watchmaking, this is referred to as "complications". Some examples of high complications are perpetual calendars, minute repeaters, and of course, tourbillons which are usually considered by most to be "la crème de la crème" in terms of complications since only a few manufactures are able to create these mesmerizing complications. Zenith created the first high-beat tourbillon which oscillates at 36,000 VpH or 5Hz which adds an extra level of prestige to their brand.

Rolex doesn't manufacture any tourbillon watches. Some after-market companies have been adding them to the Milgauss watches lately but Rolex doesn't make them. Rolex does have some manufactured some pretty complicated movements of their own that tell you more than just the minutes, hour, and date, such as the Rolex in-house caliber 9001 found in the Sky-Dweller which holds 14 patents. While this is a very impressive movement, to say the least, the brand has never aligned itself with Haute-Horlogerie (high-horology watches) the way Zenith did with the introduction of their 1-minute and 5Hz tourbillons. Rolex, according to most people is a high-end brand that manufactures excellent tool-watches that offer higher-than COSC Chronometer accuracy.

Collections

One thing you will find is that Zenith has a significantly lower annual production output and a smaller number of variations in its various collections. In fact, they make less than 140 different watches which is about 10% as many different watches compared to Rolex who has a ballpark figure of around 1,400 different models. Most of the Zenith ref numbers can be found in the Chronomaster collection, their most popular one, and are powered by one El Primero movement or another. Zenith is known for their high-precision chronograph movements, so it should come as no surprise that any collection of theirs, including the classic-looking Elite collection, has certain models that are chronographs and they are powered by one of their many Zenith El Primero automatic chronograph calibers.

Another popular collection is the Pilot collection which is a series of popular aviator watches, most with a distinct-looking oversized winding crown design and cathedral-style hands. The Pilot chronograph models also run on an El Primero movement. A more impressive collection to many horologists is the Defy 21 collection that has chronographs powered by a new El Primero caliber that is capable of timing things with a precision of up to 1/100th of a second. Rolex has many more collections than Zenith and many that are highly popular. Their collections span across every area of watchmaking with the exception of Haute Horlogerie or high horology that includes models with high complications such as the 1 minute-5Hz tourbillons that you will find with Zenith.

Many of Rolex's models have a very distinct look. Many have their cyclops magnifying lens on top of the date window at the 3 o'clock position of the dial. Their distinct white gold fluted bezel has more luster, and it's another distinguishing feature of their dressy steel, and white gold watches. Their Oyster case is another popular feature commonly found in which the bezel ring, case back, and screw-in winding crown all screw down to lock the middle case, increasing its waterproofness in wet conditions. Rolex's long list of models and their collections are too many to mention in detail but more information about them and Rolex can be found in our blog post titled: "Rolex FAQ and Review".

Conclusion

Both of these brands make excellent watches. Rolex watches, specifically their sports models such as the Submariner, GMT Master II are known to be built tough as nails. They are often used as the "beater watch" for many luxury watch collectors that are looking for a wristwatch that can take a little punishment all the while maintaining impressive accuracy.

Zenith watches are slightly more affordable than a Rolex and offer great value with their highly precise chronographs. They don't hold their value the way a Rolex would and in the defense of Zenith, neither does any other brand for that matter.

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