Rolex Cellini vs Omega De Ville
It’s a rivalry that just won’t stop, one taking chunks out of the other and vice-versa. It’s on a par with David and Goliath, Godzilla and Mothra, Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin. I am of course talking about Rolex and Omega, two brands that have a history of not playing nicely—and it’s not going to stop with these two, the Cellini and the De Ville. Let battle commence.
If I were Omega, I’d have a bit of a bone to pick with Rolex. Imagine being the top dog, the big daddy, the one with all the budget and more to spare. Some bloke and his brother-in-law set up a business selling watches they’ve cobbled together out of a mix of bought-in parts—you wouldn’t think twice about it. But that’s a mistake, because try as you might to swat it, this bloke keeps turning up in all the wrong places.
For example, you’re big on pocket watches. This new guy thinks he’s being a big shot with wristwatches. No big deal, no one likes wristwatches. Until they do. Now this guy has a whole bunch of them and they’re certified for accuracy by Kew observatory to boot. Who cares, they got lucky.
Then, a few years later, you pick up the newspaper and find out a Rolex watch has been worn in a ten-hour swim across the English Channel. Okay, you think, they’re not getting away with it this time. Let’s crush the new kid. So, you invest the next five years into a waterproof watch so complex it has two cases. That’ll show ‘em.
But just as you’re about to announce this new watch, the Marine, to the world, this guy pips you to the post again—only this time it’s with a watch that winds its god-damn self. Now you’ve got budget flying every which way just trying to keep up with a guy who’d spent the better part of his career working out of a jewellers in Hatton Garden.
It’s outrageous. You’re Omega. You made the industry what it is—and now you’re being outsmarted at every turn by this oik and his Oyster. And it won’t stop. The Submariner, the GMT-Master, the Milgauss—a torrent of ideas flooding the market with affordable, hardy watches for which you seem to have no answer for.
There’s only one thing for it. Double investment. Triple it. Make a trio of watches, beautiful and functional, to wipe out Rolex once and for all. The Railmaster, the Seamaster 300 and the Speedmaster. Rolex is on the back foot. You get the NASA gig, Rolex tries to come back with the Daytona, but it’s a failure. The win is in sight. But then your worst nightmare happens. People stop buying your watches entirely.
A new technology has hit hard, and now everything you’ve worked for, everything you’ve built, has been razed to the ground. It’s an apocalypse, the world is crumbling and so you buy into any new technology you can but to no avail—except what’s this? Rolex is … doing well? Thriving, in fact? Your ship is sinking whilst Rolex’s floats like it’s a calm day in the Med? Impossible.
But it’s true. As your world turns to dust, Rolex’s turns to gold. It’s the rivalry of the century, a bitter contest of one-upmanship that left a trail of destruction in its wake. But its’s not over. Oh boy is it not over. The dust has settled, the world rebuilt—and now it’s time for round two.
There are many watches that are directly comparable between Rolex and Omega, and as you can understand, that’s no accident. Submariner to Seamaster, Daytona to Speedmaster—and these two, the Cellini and the De Ville. Where the De Ville invokes a sense of gritty fifties film noir cool—personified by the lavish lifestyle depicted in the 1956 book The Hundred And One Dalmatians—and houses a design that has been passed down by the Seamaster to continue its elegance as the main collection turned more to sporting ruggedness, whose very name means to be under the protection of God—the Rolex Cellini, on the other hand, was simply created out of the blue in 1964 to try and capitalise on customers’ desires to own more than one watch.
This is so telling as to the mindset between these two brands. Omega is endowed with passion and creativity, superlative expectation driving it to push and push and push, whereas Rolex is more pragmatic, asks simple questions, gets simple answers. It’s J. R. R. Tolkien versus Dan Brown. One is brimmed with artistic excess that longs to plunge deep within your soul; the other gets the job done in an afternoon on the beach.
At least, that’s true for the most part. Where the Seamaster is bestowed with sculptural details and artisnal intent, the Submariner is slab-sided and simple-minded. The Seamaster is a tube of Windsor & Newton oil paint; the Submariner is a tin of Ronseal. But it’s different for the Cellini. Where the Seamaster, Speedmaster and Railmaster all dared to venture into Rolex’s territory, the Cellini is very much the other way around. That’s why it took until the 1960s for Rolex to dare try it, and why its design has floundered around in comparison to the almost religious steadfastness of the rest of the collection.
You could say that it’s the very first duel the two brands have had on Omega’s turf, what with Omega playing catchup for over a century, and it’s clear to see that this home advantage is playing out for the positive. The De Ville is, for a start, over £1,500 cheaper at £10,520, and adds a date complication to boot. If you want a date on your Cellini that’ll make it almost £4,000 dearer than the Omega. The Omega also gets a stunning honeycomb dial in comparison to the Cellini’s rather plain affair—which, again, if you want to better, you’ll be going up a few thousand pounds more on the Cellini scale.
Omega really takes it up a notch when it comes to what’s going on inside. It’s like they smelt blood and went for the throat, because the De Ville doesn’t just get whatever automatic is going around the Omega factory at the time, it gets a brand-new manual-wind number instead. The calibre 8511 is technically proficient with its co-axial escapement and anti-magnetic silicon balance, but it’s that passion that’s really apparent here. It’s clear that Omega wanted to give the De Ville a movement as beautiful as the watch, and there’s no doubt that’s been achieved. The calibre 3232 in the Rolex is equally as talented in the technical department, but the aesthetic? A solid case back tells you all you need to know.
After receiving blow after blow over the decades, Omega has really taken the opportunity to bring the hammer right back down on Rolex with the De Ville. But here’s the thing; as exemplary as the De Ville is, as many pounds as you’ll be saving buying one over the Rolex, as much as it may have taken this battle—it’s only one part of a very big, very long war that’s just going to keep on going, and not often in Omega’s favour. And when you look at it like that, the differences between these two watches start to feel rather small indeed.
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