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rolex vs cartier brand comparison

If you are into luxury watches and say that you’ve never heard of Rolex and Cartier, you are bound to be viewed with skepticism as everyone knows these brands, whether or not they can afford them! Rolex and Cartier are premium watch brands that are synonymous for generations for their distinction, class, and aesthetic. Owning one signifies many things to many people and they are a status symbol like no other for watch aficionados. 

Maybe you’re looking to buy one of these expensive watches. Choosing which brand to use could be challenging for you as there are so many to select from, each bringing something unique to the table that is worth researching depending on your particular interests. 

Perhaps you want to know which brand is the best. Again, this lies in the eyes of the beholder and is up to a spirited debate. In this post, we will compare Rolex vs. Cartier to find which one stands out as having the finest qualities. But first, let’s start with a background check and history of both the watchmakers.

History Of Rolex

3 Rolex watches on display

Theoretically, the history of Rolex started in 1905, when creator Hans Wilsdorf founded a London business focused on the distribution of watches. To understand the complete narrative, though, you must go back to 1903, when the businessman born in Germany first packed up and traveled over the pond with nothing but a dream in mind. This dream, as well documented, became a reality in quick succession. 

Approximately two years later, he and his brother-in-law Alfred Davis established the Wilsdorf and Davis business. Little did the couple realize that fame, money, and widespread praise awaited them just three years later. Wilsdorf experienced inspiration while traveling in one of London’s well-known double-decker buses.

Wilsdorf started sourcing the production of all Rolex timepieces from the legendary Maison Aegler in Bienne, Switzerland. Although the quality was excellent, Wilsdorf insisted that every component function flawlessly together. He worked hard to achieve this goal and was the first wristwatch vendor to receive an officially validated Chronometric Certification in 1910. 

Wilsdorf relocated Rolex from London to Geneva as England imposed a hefty 33% tax on custom imports, which impacted the firm. Tragic events occurred to the Wilsdorf family just one year before Rolex celebrated its 40th anniversary. Florence, Hans’ loving wife, went away unexpectedly. Wilsdorf never had kids with Florence and was orphaned when he was 12.

The Hans Wilsdorf Foundation acquired control of the business upon Wilsdorf’s death in 1960. Initially, the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation gave its earnings to organizations involved in the watch industry, including the Swiss Watchmaking Research Facility in Neuchâtel. As the 2010s began, the Foundation extended its influence by giving $100 million to the Geneva branch of HEAD, an applied arts college.

History Of Cartier

Beautiful Cartier watch with two rings

Louis-Francois Cartier started Cartier in Paris in 1847 after taking over his master’s factory. The first Cartier store was opened in 1859, despite the significant insecurity and uncertainty caused by the unfolding French Revolution. Cartier continued to prosper and flourish over the following ten years. Alfred Cartier, the son of Louis-Francois Cartier, took control of the firm in 1874. Alfred had far better business sense and aspirations of swiftly expanding the company than his father. 

Alfred played a crucial role in exposing Cartier to the royal families of Europe and beyond; King Edward VII was a particular fan of Cartier’s creations. Cartier saw tremendous success in the late 1800s, and in 1899 they finally erected a shop in the Rue de La Paix district of Paris. This was a pivotal move that shaped the success of the company for generations to come. 

Although Alfred successfully made Cartier the preferred choice of the French aristocracy, his sons Louis, Pierre, and Jacques would make the Cartier name well-known worldwide. Eventually, the Cartier brothers developed the regionally acclaimed brand into global fame that is still around more than 150 years later through a range of fortunate international exposure, wise strategic choices, and sound marriage alliances.

From its establishment in 1847 until 1964, Cartier remained a family-owned business. Even though it is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Swiss Richemont Group, its main office is still in Paris.

Rolex vs. Cartier- Luxury Brand Name

Almost everyone is familiar with the Rolex name, and compared to the Cartier brand name, it unquestionably carries greater weight. Just consider how frequently you hear the names “Rolex” and “Cartier” compared to one another. 

Since the beginning, Rolex has been at the forefront of watch innovation. For example, Rolex was the first watch company to produce fully water-resistant watches and timepieces with an automated date change. This was a game-changer in the industry and forced any watch brand intereted in maintaining a certain cache to follow suit or fall by the wayside in terms of what is considered a top-tier brand. 

In addition, Rolex watches are among the most accurate on the market in terms of accuracy. On the other hand, Cartier was first created for pilots but has now become linked with the royal and the wealthy. In today’s world, both these brands are considered to be for the elite class. Whether you wear one or the other, what no one mistakes is that they are both signature brands of the elite and wealthy. 

Final Verdict On Luxury Brand Name

According to the above arguments and, we are sure, your personal experience, Rolex certainly enjoys a vastly more significant level of brand awareness than Cartier. Indeed, they are both well-known premium timepieces, but Rolex is the undisputed leader in the luxury watch industry.

Rolex vs. Cartier- Build Quality

Both Rolex and Cartier produce manual and quartz analog timepieces. Both of these manufacturers provide luxury timepieces built in Switzerland using premium components. Although they also offer gold and platinum casings, Rolex and Cartier’s watches tend to have stainless steel cases in most cases. 

But because Rolex uses a kind of stainless steel known as 904L stainless steel, its stainless steel casings stand out. This kind is more resistant to corrosion than others. Both brands, however, also feature sapphire crystal dial windows.

The water resistance is the component which comes next. Although the versions from each company will differ, they all have a typical water resistance of roughly 100 meters. Nevertheless, Rolex does offer versions with a maximum water resistance of 1220 meters.

Final Verdict On Build Quality

There may be some that debate this, but a fact is a fact. Rolex is superior to Cartier in terms of build quality. The stainless steel frame and rigid water resistance of its timepieces are unrivaled. On the other hand, Cartier isn’t too far behind in terms of build quality, but Rolex has the slight edge.

Rolex vs. Cartier – Style

Cartier watches typically adhere to the rules of fashion in terms of style. Cartier’s background as a jeweler before a watchmaker still has some merit despite having a few more products in other categories. The fact that Cartier watches come in a range of case designs is an advantage that many never overlook. 

Cases for Cartier watches come in a few varieties and can be round, square, or even tonneau-shaped. But Rolex tends to remain with a more rounded case style for most of its watches. Cartier’s variety of case forms is undoubtedly a bonus, but it doesn’t guarantee victory in this contest.

Most of the time, Cartier watches are more of a dress accessory. On the other hand, Rolex continues to uphold more excellent standards despite being a well-known premium brand. They can fit various themes and styles, including athletic, casual, and formal. Their stylistic adaptability partially offsets their lack of variation in case forms.

Final Verdict On Style

Both watch brands seem to have advantages and disadvantages in terms of style. Cartier will be the ideal choice if you’re seeking a genuine luxury dress watch with a selection of case shapes. However, despite the lack of choice in case forms, Rolex might be a better option if you’re searching for a premium watch that can go with various outfit styles. Therefore, we would like to call it a draw in style.

Rolex vs. Cartier – Pricing

Cartier watches are often more affordable than Rolex watches in terms of price. Cartier would be the preferable choice to consider first if you are starting in the luxury watch market, even though they are by no means inexpensive.

Many consumers that are just beginning their journey into the luxury watch game may choose one over the other and refuse to change their minds on which one should be the first to add to their coterie, but for those that are strictly going by price, then the Rolex brand offers more affordable options. 

On the other hand – and a fact that should not be forgotten or overlooked – Rolex has a higher resale value. Therefore, a Rolex can be a better choice if you don’t want to keep your fancy watch forever because you’ll receive more cash back if you decide to sell it.

Final Verdict on Pricing

Once more, there is a situation when the two watches are somewhat comparable. A Cartier will cost less upfront, but a Rolex could be a superior investment over time. The Rolex will cost more, but you can get your money back when you sell the watch in the future.

Best Rolex Watches

Rolex Datejust 16233

The Rolex 16223 was initially made public in the late 1980s. It was the first two-tone Datejust 36 watch to have a sapphire crystal. The Datejust 16233, the most remarkable men’s Rolex watch, was the final 36mm model to provide the collection’s traditional case quality and dimensions before Rolex redesigned the Datejust to include thicker lugs with an entirely perfect look. 

The Rolex Datejust 16233, less flashy than its six-digit predecessor, has recently become popular because it combines traditional style with contemporary worry-free comforts like scratch-resistant sapphire glass and the dependable Caliber 3135 movement.

Rolex Daytona 116500LN

Rolex launched this masterpiece back in 2016, and it took the whole luxury watches market by storm. The Daytona 116500LN, made of stainless steel and features a black Cerachrom bezel, has been entirely out of stock at shops worldwide for over six years and continues to be one of the most well-liked Rolex models, both on the secondary market and at retail. 

The Rolex Daytona 116500LN is available with a black or white dial, and the white variants are frequently the most popular with consumers today. Nevertheless, each has multi-year store queues, which may be found for more than their selling value on the used watch market. 

Rolex Submariner 16610

Perhaps one of Rolex’s most iconic and well-liked timepieces is the Submariner. The Submariner is sturdy and very powerful, with an Oyster casing for maximum water resistance up to 300 meters. It was first created with deep-sea explorers in mind. The most excellent Rolex watch, the stainless steel Rolex Submariner model 16610, has a stylish black dial with luminous hour markers visible in dim or adverse lighting. 

This specific Submariner model was produced until 2010, when Rolex stopped making it and unveiled an improved version of their renowned diver’s watch with noticeably bigger lugs, more comprehensive hands, more extensive hour markings, and a Cerachrom ceramic bezel.

Best Cartier Watches

Cartier Tank MC

The Cartier Tank is a must-have on any list of Cartier watches, whether for men or women. The Tank, as its name implies, was inspired by tanks, particularly the powerful ones that swept through Europe during World War One. Today, it is considered a classic example of fine craftsmanship and is an isntant status symbol and indicator of elegance for anyone wearing one. 

Even though many of its characteristics have altered since the legendary watch originally appeared on Parisian streets in 1919, it still retains the square case that caught people’s eye immediately. Several items from the Tank line look great on both male and female wrists, and the Tank MC, however, has a very macho feel.

Drive De Cartier Extra-Flat

This iconic watch has a distinctive cushion-shaped casing that stands out in the Driveshaft. We’re discussing 6.6mm thin. Even though it is so thin, it has enough weight never to feel delicate. It is an excellent choice for men that lead active lifestyles and desire a sleeker appearance that is versatile enough to be worn to a variety of functions. 

The casing is shaped unusually, and conventional Roman numerals on its front contrast it and give it a more vintage appearance. This lovely watch dresses up nicely for formal excursions on a blue alligator strap when a satin-brushed sunburst dial is added.

This watch looks great on female wrists, much like many others in the Cartier collection. With dimensions of 39 mm broad and 38 mm high, the slightly bulky casing yells masculinity but bolder women can definitely pull off the look!

Santos De Cartier Chronograph

A prominent Brazilian pilot, Alberto Santos-Dumont, collaborated with Cartier to design the company’s first wristwatch. The Santos de Cartier Chronograph, a replica of the initial watch in design and functionality, carries on its history. 

First, the well-known square casing is now a substantial 43.3mm x 51.4mm. It has a similarly substantial 12.5mm thickness for a masculine feel. Roman numerals that are distinctive to Cartier make the dial easy to identify. This one has a bolder, diagonal design that resembles a sports watch.  This watch seems sensible to incorporate Cartier’s recognizable quick Switch band technology. The adaptable watch can easily switch between a belt clip, an alligator skin, and a steel band.


Thus, according to the research, Rolex is the superior watch overall. But in the end, since each person is unique, it depends on personal preferences. It all comes down to your financial capacity and the goals you have for the watch when you purchase it. But in the end, both Rolex and Cartier are excellent options for luxury watches! If the prices for these brands are out of your price range, you could want to check into other high-end alternatives that have the same design as a luxury watch but are less expensive!

Cartier watches

In a time when every watch company is churning out endless numbers of stainless steel sports watches, there is one brand that transcends the trend and focuses on timeless and elegant designs often housed in luxurious materials. That brand is Cartier and not only have they remained a popular choice among the fashion forward clientele, but they have also grabbed the attention of the everyday watch enthusiasts.

Cartier watches have always been a respected brand within the watch community, but in the last several years they have exploded in popularity. This explosion in popularity draws parallels to that of other prestigious brands such as Rolex and Patek Philippe. It’s clear to see the similarities in quality and popularity, but how about investment potential? Do Cartier watches appreciate in value?

One of the hottest topics in watches these days is value retention. There are some people who feel that you should not concern yourself with the monetary value of your watch after you buy it as it’s a luxury item and there are others that will only consider a watch purchase if it appreciates exponentially after purchasing.

Most watch enthusiasts fall somewhere in the middle to varying degrees. Perhaps it’s a consequence of having a more limited budget compared to some other collectors but value is moderately important to my enjoyment of watches. Not the most important aspect by any means, but if I decide It’s time to move along from a watch, I can’t stomach the idea of losing a serious amount of money.

As much as I would like to believe that my viewpoint is unique, I’d be willing to bet that most watch enthusiasts, except maybe the uber-rich, feel the same way. What makes our collecting strategy and idea of value different, however, is the subjective parts of this mindset. What is a serious amount of money? What is a reasonable amount of money to lose on a watch? 

It’s this dread of losing value on a luxury watch like a Cartier, that keeps me up at night. The quality and design may be breathtaking but I still find myself grabbing my phone and searching the question we’ve all asked; What is my Cartier watch worth? If you’ve been here before, don’t worry, you’re just as crazy as the rest of us! If you found this article by asking this very question, you can relax, you’re among friends.

Let’s take a closer look at some iconic models from Cartier, including the Santos and the Tank, to see how well they retain their value. We will look at new and pre owned examples and will even investigate some examples that might cross the threshold into investment grade pieces.

Do Cartier Tank watches hold their value?

Cartier Tank

Designed all the way back in 1917 and modeled after the Renault FT-17 French Tank used during World War 1, the Cartier Tank has a history that other watch manufacturers would kill for. The rectangular shape, white dial, and Roman numerals are so synonymous with this design that other brands that use these features refer to it as “Tank” style.

There is something to be said for being the original. The Tank range with Cartier has splintered off into several subsets, including the Tank Americaine and the budget friendly Tank Must. For this deeper dive, let’s focus on the classic, the Tank Louise. The Tank Louis, Ref WGTA0011, is a true luxury watch. The warm rose gold luster compliments the crispiness of the white dial and contrasting black Roman numerals.

This watch oozes sophistication and class. When viewed next to the competition of a Rolex Datejust or Day Date, there is no comparison. One of these is very clearly a dress watch, and the other a jack-of-all trades. This Tank Louis measures in at 33.7mm x 25.5mm with a thickness of 6.6mm and is constructed of 18k rose gold.Keep in mind the sub 34mm case dimension is based on rectangular case shape and will wear much larger than those dimensions would suggest.

Powering this watch is the manual winding manufacture caliber 8971 MC. This movement is based on the Jaeger- LeCoultre Cal. 846 and comes in with a 38 hour power reserve. Not necessarily anything to write home about by todays standards, but if its a movement made by JLC, it’s a good movement. They’re the watchmakers watchmaker for crying out loud, enough said.

If you’re reading this article, I probably don’t need to work too hard to convince you of the merits of this watch. Quality aside, how well does the Cartier Tank Louis hold its value? This watch referenced here sells for roughly $12,800 at the time of writing. The ever volatile second hand market estimates the value of this watch at roughly $9000-$10000 dollars. I may not be great at math, but it looks like you’re losing roughly 20-30% of the value of your watch.

I know what you’re thinking, how could a Cartier Tank possibly be a good value watch? Im just going to buy a Ro…STOP right there! Let me explain! This watch inherently has a few things working against it when it comes to value retention. First, its’ a dress watch. Whether you agree with the sports watch craze right now or not, the fact is resale value for any non sports watch is going to be impacted by the decreased demand.

The other factor impacting the resale value of this Tank Louis is the fact that it is 18K rose gold. It is a luxurious material and therefor marked up appropriately when pricing out a new timepiece. The secondary market often caters to those of us who tend to hold a tighter grip on their discretionary income.

Not always, but a majority of the time, us cheapskates (what a hilarious term to use when discussing luxury watches) are drawn to the lowest point of entry into a watch, which is often a stainless steel model.

Are Pre Owned Cartier Tank Watches a Good Value?

With this 20-30% price depreciation in mind, lets search for that ever present silver lining. What if you are not the one to pop the champagne and give that Cartier Tank Louis its first incredibly painful scratch? If you’re able to find a reputable pre owned dealer, such as Exquisite Timepieces, you can let someone else take that initial depreciation.

You will still end up with a timeless 18k rose gold case and white dial Cartier Tank, powered by a JLC movement that is sure to be the classiest watch at any formal event, or Zoom meeting. The extra bonus you receive when purchasing this model pre owned, is the peace of mind that your money is safe. Is this watch going to explode in value and make you pass out on Antiques Roadshow?

Probably not, but you’re going to own one of the most iconic designs in watchmaking with real historical significance and if you choose to move it along to its next owner, your money will be relatively safe.

Does the Cartier Santos Hold its Value?

Cartier Santos

So what if you love the Cartier design language, but find yourself lusting after something a little sportier? Lucky for us, Cartier has you covered with another early 1900’s design in the form of the Cartier Santos. This watch was originally designed by Louis Cartier for his friend and Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont as he attempted to be the first person to pilot an aircraft.

Although the design holds onto many of the traits we love about Cartier, this watch does feature some changes that will help satisfy the wants and needs of those in search of something a little more robust. The Cartier Santos, Ref. WSSA0018, is a modern take on the original 1906 design. Along with the history, it carries the timeless design identity of what makes a Cartier a Cartier watch.

This particular model is the large variant and carries a dimension of 39.88mm with a case thickness of 9.8mm all crafted out of 316L stainless steel.. This watch is powered by the in house automatic caliber 1847 MC, which offers 42 hours of power reserve. The design of this watch is more brutalist than the Tank, featuring a rounded square case shape as opposed to the more tradition rectangle of the more formal Tank, but it still wears its Cartier aesthetic proudly.

Where things get more interesting is when it comes to everyday wearability. This watch trades out the traditional leather strap for a stainless steel bracelet with a few party tricks. This bracelet features a unique QuickSwitch feature that allows for tool free strap swaps as well as SmartLink allowing you to resize your bracelet painlessly.

Add to these features the 100 Meters of water resistance and you now have a Cartier watch, that looks like a Cartier, but can hold its own against any everyday watch from the likes of Rolex or Omega. Now that we have a stainless steel sports watch from Cartier, is the Cartier Santos a good investment? Investment, may be a stretch at this point. The retail price of this watch is about $7800 and the pre owned value of this watch is between $7000 and $7600. 

All things considered, you can purchase this watch new and have your money be relatively safe, dropping in value roughly 10%. When a watch holds it value this strongly, I would say it is a “no brainer” to purchase at retail. This high residual value does have one unfavorable inverse reaction. The current models may not be as value packed pre owned as they otherwise would be if they depreciated more.

The good news for my fellow thrifty watch enthusiasts is that if you are willing to go back a model or 2, you will find a Santos at the bottom of its depreciation curve. The design of the Santos has been around for a while and models exist with varying levels of features that will dictate the purchase price. If you find an example that is in great cosmetic condition and offers the features you deem most important, you can still score yourself a tremendous value.

What Cartier Watches are Best for Investment?

Cartier watches styles

What if I want a watch that can exponentially grow in value? Does Cartier have any investment grade watches? Absolutely they do! There are 2 different ways that a watch can be a great investment opportunity. The first is to be an exceptionally rare timepiece with history and provenance and the other is to be an undervalued example poised for an increase in popularity. I will give you an example of both of these that I feel represent great options for investment watches by Cartier.

For those of us wearing a top hat and monocle, I present the Cartier Crash. Cartier has released this limited production model a few different times within its history. They are quirky, hard to read, and downright cool! They are, in fact, so rare that pinning down their exact appreciation is no small feat. The last time this watch was listed on their website it was selling for about $36,500.

Pricing for an item like this is generally only available upon request, but one would expect to pay well north of $100,000. If you were lucky enough to score one of these from an AD, chances are you’re not really looking to try and flip this watch. But if you were, you would do just fine on it! What if you are the type of person who likes to trade in the top hat for a baseball hat?

Is there something for the everyday watch enthusiast? Lucky for us, there certainly is. The Must De Cartier Tank. This model was the budget friendly offering from Cartier to help introduce people into the brand. Let’s be clear, it is not the luxury experience that you are getting from any of the watches we have described earlier, but it looks like one. With these models you are generally getting a quartz movement and a gold plated case. Not exactly haute horology, but they’re still pretty nice looking dress watches.

The real value in these Must De Cartier models is the price point. They can be purchased for under $1000 all day long on everyones favorite online marketplace. It is definitely a riskier purchase when you start looking into these dark corners of the vintage watch market. There are Frankenwatches, fakes, and poor condition models a plenty available for you to waste your hard earned money on.

But if you are patient and do your research, you can end up with a very classy dress watch, that is hard for watch manufacturers to achieve at multiples of this price. So, will a Cartier watch last a lifetime? If the last 100+ years are any indication, not only will a Cartier watch last well beyond the average lifespan mechanically when properly maintained, but the style will outlast almost any other timepiece.

There is a design language you get when you purchase a Cartier timepiece and it looks as classic today as it did in 1906 when Alberto Santos-Dumont adorned his watch on a 21 second flight. Are Cartier watches a good investment? This gets a little trickier to answer. Just because a watch will last for ever,  doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great investment. It is a great investment if what you are looking for is an iconic timepiece from one of the OG watchmakers, with a distinctive style and personality.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to flip this watch to immediately fund your next, Cartier may not be for you. Your money, is relatively safe if you chose to move one of their pieces along, but unless you score one of their ultra rare pieces or end up on the winning side of a risky vintage purchase you shouldn’t expect your money to grow exponentially.

“What is my Cartier watch worth?” In most cases about what you paid for it. In the world of luxury purchases that is a very elite level of value retention. Sure there may be other watch brands that exceed their value once purchased, but good luck trying to find one available to purchase. Cartier has a history that rivals any other watch brand and the quality and design to help you stand out of the pack.

Andy Warhol famously wore a Cartier watch and even commented that he wore a Cartier  “because it is the watch to wear!” No mention of value retention or investment potential. He just knew that it was a cool watch to wear, even if he didn’t take the time to wind it. That off the cuff statement sums up Cartier.

The greatest value of a Cartier watch is not in its investment potential, it’s in the way it makes you feel when you put it on the wrist. At the end of the day if it’s cool enough for Andy Warhol, I would guess that it is cool enough for the rest of us!

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