The ultimate battle of diving watches from a golden era of diving. But which is our favourite?
A classic case of Omega vs Rolex, again. And if I'm honest, I don't see comparisons between the two brands ending anytime soon. I admit I am adding more fuel to the fire by comparing two giant iconic tool watches from each brand, let alone the watch world in general.
Each of these specific watches recently went up for auction at Fellows in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham and with it being just up the motorway from WatchGecko HQ, we took full advantage of the opportunity. First up, let's start with a watch I desperately want to add to my collection at some point...
Rolex Submariner 5513
The 5513 is a pretty iconic reference number for Rolex. It's not only the reference for arguably Rolex's most recognisable model in their range, it's also one of Rolex's longest manufactured references with production starting in 1962 and running for nearly 30 years. This long-run means there are many different variations out there and almost endless supply of 5513 models, good news for people hoping to add one their collection in the future (cough, me).
This particular example has a black 'Mk 4 Maxi' dial meaning this is a later model, something which is reflected in the condition of the piece. The watch is in a fair, worn state. Yes, it has some knocks and scratches on the bezel, the lume pip at 12 is missing from the bezel but that is all to be expected and not uncommon. The lume on the dial has evenly turned a warm custard colour, a perfect amount in my opinion. This condition is a desirable amount as it's enough to have a unique charm and reflect it's age, but not too much that you cannot witness the lume age on your wrist over the years.
On the wrist, the 5513 is of course very familiar. At the end of the day it is another Submariner, however, the domed acrylic crystal compliments the overall warmth of the matt dial and the lume colour perfectly. Possibly my favourite aspect of this watch is the lack of date and the incredibly appealing symmetry it creates. I was tempted myself to go for a no date Sub and spent a few weeks debating positives and negatives of each. However, I concluded that I needed one with it being my first Rolex and something I would wear every day.
Approx 30 years between them and virtually identical...
However, with a vintage model, it's a completely different story. With the exception of a Red Submariner, I personally feel vintage Submariners are best with no date. The Submariner was created to be a tool, and for the first 10 years of its life, the Submariner was strictly a no-date piece.
The final hammer price for the 5513 with all fees included comes to just under £16,000. If you know the ever-changing market for vintage Sub's, this price seems around what you would expect to see. However, this price is a great example of how explosive the watch world has been in the past decades. For what was and still is, essentially just a simple time only tool watch, £16,000 is an incredibly high price to pay. I think it's a fair assumption to make that the price of vintage Rolex is only one they way up.
Omega Seamaster 300M 'Big Triangle'
So in corner 1, we have a no date, simple three hand tool watch with a characterful amount of patina, rotating bezel and a rich history. And in corner 2...? Essentially the same, but from Omega. The Seamaster 300 is very commonly compared due to their almost identical features and initial purpose when they were introduced. But saying this, there are some massively noticeable (and some not so noticeable) differences between each model.
The Seamaster is one of Omega's most iconic line of watches. The name dates back to 1948 and has appeared on an incredibly wide range of different models in the Omega line up. Dress watches, chronographs and divers have all been graced with the Seamaster name, so it's understandable to see why collectors go crazy over examples like this 300. Originally intended for military models only, the design of the piece became accessible to civilians in the 60's and ever since, it's enjoyed a popular life.
For me, one of the stand out features of this Seamaster is the incorporation of both long, wide hour markers and 3,6,9. If this was suggested for a new watch design, I would likely express some concern as combining the two could potentially clutter the dial and make the design seem crammed. However, the symmetry and how they effectively bring the dial surface area down is an absolute pleasure. A fact that cannot be avoided is that the 300 simply has more lume on the dial with its larger hour markers, the big triangle at 12 and wider hands which really helps the watch to feel a lot more vintage and characterful. In fact, speaking of character, this watch has it in abundance.
One of the main contributing factors to the increased character over the 5513 I believe is down to the sword hands. These tactile, robust hands scream military and on the wrist, they have a very purposeful feeling. Combine that with the oversized marker at 12, and you really get the feeling of a watch with history. The final price of the Big Triangle was £10,335 including fees. Once again I'm left scratching my head somewhat thinking 'how can such a basic, simple tool watch fetch more than an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak at the same auction...
So, which one is the winner?
Well, this all depends on what we classify as being the most important feature. In terms of price, the Omega wins it obviously. Rarity? That also goes to the Omega. Condition? For me, I believe the Omega also gets it as apart from patina and similar welcomed 'damage', the condition of the piece was very good. The Sub does have a lot more dinks and marks in comparison. Wearability? Fortunately for me, I can comfortably wear both on my wrist, but I think this is where the Rolex begins its clawback of points. It's overall thickness and slender style with its more popular case width and classic versatile dial layout triumphs. If you were looking to invest in one of these watches? That's a tricky one as both of the watch prices look to continue increasing. On one hand, you have the most recognisable watch (quite possibly in the world) vs a very good example of a rare, desirable watch with ties to the military.
I think one of the most interesting points to bring up is the character of each watch. The Submariner, of course, has a lot of character, but I feel this character comes mainly from the patina and the thoughts of what the watch witnessed. Whereas the 300, with its sword hands, huge amounts of lume, larger hour markers, continuous seconds track on the bezel and use of 3,6,9 I feel myself being drawn to the 300 and it's characteristics...
In terms of the watch, I would add to my personal collection if possible? That is a very hard one to call. After quite a while of thinking and weighing up the positives and negatives of each, I believe I would have to go for the 300 based on 4 main points...
1. Rarity- There simply are not as many of these out there as there are 5513's which I could pick up whenever.
2. Charm and Character - This 300 is jam-packed with it, and I think it would bring hours of enjoyment.
3. Uniqueness - When compared to the Sub, this does offer something more unique, not everyone is going to have, or have seen one of these before. and finally,
4. A nearly perfect 5513 - I would want a 5513 with a slightly more patinaed blue/grey bezel fade.
And yes, the deciding factor is that very slight lack of blue tint on the 5513's bezel. Have I really I've got to the stage where something that small is a deciding factor in which watch I'd go for?