Is Seiko as good as Rolex?

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Written By Dominic Howard

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Seiko and Rolex are two of the most well-known watch brands in the world. Both have rich histories spanning over a century, but they occupy different positions in the watch market. Rolex is widely regarded as the pinnacle of luxury mechanical watches, while Seiko is known for making high-quality yet affordable timepieces.

But how exactly do the two brands stack up against each other? In this in-depth comparison, we’ll examine Seiko and Rolex side-by-side looking at their history, technology, movements, quality, design, price, resale value, and more. Read on to find out if Seiko watches are as good as Rolex.

Seiko and Rolex:

Seiko was founded in 1881 in Tokyo, Japan by Kintaro Hattori. It started as a watch and jewelry shop before venturing into watch manufacturing in the early 1900s. Seiko pioneered the quartz watch with the Astron in 1969, which transformed watchmaking.

Rolex was founded in 1905 in London by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis. It moved operations to Geneva, Switzerland in 1919. Rolex invented the world’s first waterproof watch, the Oyster, in 1926. The Datejust, launched in 1945, was the first self-winding chronometer wristwatch with a date display.

From their origins over a century ago, both Seiko and Rolex have grown into watchmaking giants. Seiko is known for its innovative technology while Rolex is renowned for its outstanding mechanical watches.

Watch Movements – Mechanical vs. Quartz:

One major difference between Seiko and Rolex lies in the movements that power their watches.

Rolex uses exclusively in-house mechanical movements in its watches. It designs and produces its own movements like the Caliber 3135 found inside the Submariner. Rolex movements incorporate innovative technology like the Perpetual rotor that winds the watch with arm motion. This gives Rolex watches unmatched precision, reliability, and prestige.

Seiko uses both quartz and mechanical movements. Its lower-priced watches mostly feature quartz movements which provide accuracy at an affordable price point. But Seiko’s higher-end watches do have mechanical movements like the Spring Drive which has a unique gliding motion rather than the traditional ticking.

While Rolex swore off quartz, Seiko continued to innovate on quartz technology in parallel with mechanical movements. So there is a clear dichotomy between the two brands’ philosophies on movements.

Quality and Attention to Detail:

When it comes to quality and attention to detail, both Seiko and Rolex produce superbly crafted timepieces but Rolex has a slight edge.

Rolex obsesses over quality in every minor detail. For example, it uses 904L steel which is more corrosion-resistant than 316L steel typical in watches. The hands on a Rolex watch are engraved and polished by a machine first then finished by hand. Such minute details culminate in Rolex’s unmatched quality.

Seiko too produces finely built watches. Its higher-end models match Rolex in quality but some affordable models use generic parts to save cost. For instance, lower-priced Seiko 5 watches use a 7S26 movement that doesn’t hand wind or hack, unlike superior Rolex calibers. Overall, Rolex leads Seiko in quality but Seiko is still impressed considering the price.

Technology and Innovation:

Technology innovation has defined Seiko from the beginning while Rolex is more evolutionary.

As mentioned earlier, Seiko pioneered quartz watches and the kinetic battery charging system. Its Spring Drive movement is also a marvel of engineering with its smooth gliding second hand rather than the jumpy ticking in traditional mechanical watches. The 9F quartz movement is accurate to +/- 10 seconds per year thanks to a high-frequency oscillator.

Rolex has innovated as well, just in an incremental fashion. Its new movements incorporate silicon parts for longevity as well as power reserve indicators. The 9001 caliber in the Daytona has a longer power reserve and increased precision. But Rolex hasn’t revolutionized watchmaking like Seiko.

In technology and innovation, Seiko is far ahead of Rolex. Seiko relentlessly pushes boundaries while Rolex focuses more on perfection and evolution.

Design Aesthetics:

Seiko and Rolex watches appeal to different aesthetic tastes.

Rolex’s design is conservative and evolutionary. For example, the Submariner design today looks quite similar to the original launched in 1953. Rolex does update its watches but in a gradual fashion. Its watches blend sporty ruggedness with classy finishes like polished center links on bracelets. The fluted bezel on a Datejust is instantly recognizable.

Seiko’s design is bolder and varies across its different watch families. The angular case of the Seiko Turtle diver commands attention. Seiko’s Prospex LX sports watches have contemporary styling with angular lugs, exhibition case backs, and unique dials. In contrast, Grand Seiko dress watches have a refined, minimalist aesthetic.

Which design is better comes down to personal taste. Those who prefer conservative, timeless design are drawn to Rolex. For modern and sporty styling, Seiko fits the bill. But Rolex likely has the broader appeal in design given its iconic silhouettes.

Value Proposition:

When it comes to value, Seiko provides superior value across different price brackets while Rolex focuses solely on luxury watches.

Seiko produces everything from affordable watches under $100 to luxury Grand Seiko timepieces rivaling Swiss watches. Its lower-priced watches offer tremendous value. For example, the Seiko 5 series packs automatic movement, day-date, water resistance, and more into a sub-$200 watch. Higher up, the Seiko Presage and Prospex lines provide excellent quality for the price. And Grand Seiko competes directly with Rolex and other Swiss luxury brands.

Rolex only makes luxury watches with a starting price of around $5,000 extending to over $75,000. Given its brand stature, Rolex watches do retain value. But other brands like Omega and Tudor compete at similar price points with arguably better value. Rolex value comes from its unmatched brand prestige.

For shoppers across all budgets, Seiko provides much better value, innovation, and technology. Rolex only competes on prestige.

Resale Value and Investment Potential:

One area where Rolex strongly beats Seiko is resale value and investment potential.

Rolex watches famously hold value and often appreciate in price on the secondary market. For example, the GMT Master IIPepsi has nearly doubled in value, trading between $20,000 to $40,000 when its retail sticker is around $10,000. Even stainless steel Rolex sports models are selling way above retail.

Seiko watches typically lose value once sold by an authorized dealer. For example, a new $6,000 Grand Seiko may trade hands in the low $3,000 range pre-owned. Only some vintage Seiko models have gained collector value like the original 6105 and 6159 divers.

For the average consumer who simply wants a great watch to wear, Seiko provides better options. But for watch collectors and enthusiasts, Rolex has proven itself a safer long-term investment.


Here’s one area where Seiko has a big advantage over Rolex – it’s much easier to get your hands on a Seiko watch.

Rolex sports and professional models are notoriously difficult to find at authorized dealers. Wait lists stretch into years for some Rolex stainless steel models. Many Rolex buyers are forced into the secondary grey market to find their desired watch.

Meanwhile, Seiko watches are readily available both online and at retail stores. The vast majority of Seiko models can be purchased immediately without any wait. The supply chain issues plaguing the Swiss watch industry have not similarly impacted Seiko.

So while Rolex is exclusive and difficult to acquire, pretty much anyone can easily buy a Seiko model to suit their needs and budget.

Service and Maintenance:

Servicing and maintaining a Rolex vs. a Seiko also differs in some key ways.

Rolex recommends a complete service roughly every decade to keep the mechanical movement running properly. Complete Rolex servicing costs anywhere from $750 to over $1,500 from an authorized dealer. The bill can run even higher if parts need replacement.

Seiko quartz models require a battery change every 2-3 years costing around $30. Mechanical Seiko watches should also be serviced every 7-10 years but will cost much less than a Rolex service given lower labor rates. For example, a basic Grand Seiko service starts at around $180.

As complex mechanical watches, Rolex timepieces are inherently costlier to maintain over the long run. Seiko’s affordably priced quartz models are more economical to own.

Public Perception:

In terms of public perception, Rolex certainly has the upper hand over Seiko when it comes to prestige and brand status.

Rolex enjoys perhaps the strongest brand name of any luxury product globally. It’s universally associated with success and achievement. The iconic Rolex crown logo is widely recognizable. For many, owning a Rolex watch represents a milestone and a coveted status symbol.

Seiko, while respected for its innovation, doesn’t carry that same prestigious image – especially in the Western world. Seiko has made great strides propelling Grand Seiko as its luxury brand to compete with top Swiss watchmakers. But it will take many years for Seiko to match the sheer aspirational appeal of Rolex.

This intangible brand prestige is the key reason Rolex maintains its stellar reputation worldwide. Although Seiko offers better technology and value, Rolex leads in brand image.

Frequently Asked Question

1. Is Seiko a reputable watch brand like Rolex?

Seiko is a well-respected watch brand known for its craftsmanship and innovation. While Rolex is considered a luxury brand, Seiko offers a wide range of high-quality watches that cater to different price points and preferences.

2. How does Seiko compare to Rolex in terms of quality?

Seiko produces high-quality watches known for their durability and precision. Rolex, on the other hand, is often associated with luxury and is considered one of the top-tier watchmakers. The quality of a Seiko watch may be on par with or even exceed that of some Rolex models depending on the specific watch and its intended use.

3. Are Seiko watches as durable as Rolex watches?

Seiko watches are renowned for their durability and are built to withstand various conditions. Rolex watches are also known for their robustness, and both brands use high-quality materials. However, Rolex watches are often tested more rigorously and are designed for extreme conditions, which can make them exceptionally durable.

4. Do Seiko watches hold their value like Rolex watches?

Rolex watches are known for their ability to retain their value over time, often appreciating in price due to their status as luxury timepieces. Seiko watches may not hold their value to the same extent, but some limited edition or vintage Seiko models can appreciate value among collectors.

5. Is Seiko more affordable than Rolex?

Generally, Seiko watches are more affordable than Rolex watches. Seiko offers a wide range of watches, including budget-friendly models, while Rolex is primarily a luxury brand with higher price points. Seiko provides an excellent balance between quality and affordability.

6. Do Seiko watches have the same level of craftsmanship as Rolex watches?

Seiko watches are crafted with precision and attention to detail, and they have earned a reputation for their craftsmanship. Rolex, as a luxury brand, is known for its meticulous craftsmanship and hand-finished movements. The level of craftsmanship may vary between specific models, but both brands take pride in their watchmaking.

7. Can I rely on a Seiko watch for accurate timekeeping like a Rolex?

Seiko is recognized for its accurate timekeeping, with many models featuring reliable automatic or quartz movements. Rolex watches are also known for their precision. Both brands prioritize accurate timekeeping in their watch designs.

8. Are Seiko watches suitable for formal occasions like Rolex watches?

Seiko offers a wide variety of watch designs, including dress watches suitable for formal occasions. Rolex watches are often associated with luxury and are favored for formal events. Your choice between the two brands for formal wear will depend on your personal style and preferences.

9. Is it worth buying a Seiko watch instead of a Rolex?

Whether it’s worth buying a Seiko or Rolex watch depends on your budget, style preferences, and intended use. Seiko provides excellent value for the price and offers a wide range of options, while Rolex offers prestige and luxury. Consider your priorities when making a choice.

10. Can I get a warranty on both Seiko and Rolex watches?

Yes, both Seiko and Rolex offer warranties for their watches. The duration and terms of the warranties may vary between models and regions, so it’s important to check with an authorized dealer or the respective brand’s website for specific warranty information.


In conclusion, Seiko and Rolex are both capable of producing excellent timepieces but excel in different ways. Rolex makes watches with unmatched quality, brand prestige, and investment value. But Seiko dominates when it comes to technology, innovation, affordability, and overall value.

Here’s a quick summary comparing the two brands:

Reasons to choose Rolex:

  • Superior quality and attention to detail
  • Strong brand prestige and resale value
  • Classic, timeless watch designs

Reasons to choose Seiko:

  • Cutting-edge quartz and mechanical technology
  • Affordable prices across all budgets
  • Easier to acquire and better value retention

The best watch ultimately depends on your budget, preferences, and needs. If you desire a luxury status symbol that will last generations, Rolex is probably the right choice. But if you want innovative technology, everyday wearability, and good value, Seiko models make excellent watches too. Both Seiko and Rolex produce some of the finest watches at their respective price points.

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