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Comparative Review of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Reference 116520 VS. The Omega Speedmaster Broad Arrow Model 3551.20.00

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Comparative Review of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Reference 116520
VS. The Omega Speedmaster Broad Arrow Model 3551.20.00

By: John B. Holbrook, II
December 26, 2004

It’s been almost 2 years since I last did a “shoot out” article between Rolex and Omega – back in June of 2003 I compared the Omega Seamaster to the Rolex Submariner. That article remains one of the most popular that I’ve ever written, and typically gets the most “clicks” of any on my review web sites. It was a fun piece to do, and I really enjoyed pitting those closely matched, long time rivals against one another. So it’s like going back home again as I once again examine the attributes of competing Rolex and Omega watches and ask the question, “who makes the best sports chronograph?”

Firstly, a word about the methods by which I’m using to evaluate these two watches, and my own personal biases. Firstly, I’m not weighting the categories in any way. Each category (bracelet, clasp, case, price, etc.) are an equal component of the final overall score. For some people, price, for example, is much more an important of a category than, say the clasp. Feel free to weight each of these categories with your own values to arrive at your own conclusions. On to the shootout!

CASE & BEZEL

Broad Arrow – The Broad Arrow has a polished 40mm, stainless steel case, with a screw down case back that provides 100m of water resistance. Amazingly, Omega has designed the Broad Arrow with this exceptional level of water resistance without the use of screw pusher or a screw down crown. Given the polished surface, the tachymeter is somewhat difficult to read in direct sunlight on the flat, fixed bezel, and not as scratch resistant as would be a brushed finish, but quite attractive.   RATING: 8.5

Daytona – The Daytona has a polished 40mm, stainless steel case, with a screw down case back that provides 100m of water resistance. The Daytona uses the Rolex Triplock screw down crown (note the 3 dots in the above picture) as well as screw down pushers to ensure water resistance. Despite the highly polished tachymeter bezel, it remains reasonably visible in direct sunlight as it sits on an angle.   RATING: 8

WINNER: Broad Arrow – Despite the difference in visibility, the Broad Arrow gains a big advantage thanks to the engineering feat of making a 100m water resistant case without having to sacrifice quick-chrono activation by using screw down pushers.

DIAL, MARKERS, & REGISTERS

Broad Arrow – The Broad Arrow’s cream dial is contrasted by metallic blue hands and markers which color shift in different light. The traditional 3 register layout has nice contrast, but lacks symmetry and feels busy and crowded, primarily due to the vary graduations used on each of the three registers. The dial also boasts a date display at 6 o’clock. The thick, arrow hands of the main dial are cosmetically attractive, but detract from the visibility of the registers. The dial is protected by a sapphire crystal. Small dots of Super Luminova are placed above each marker, as well as on the dials and provide modest low light visibility.   RATING: 7

Daytona – The Daytona dial is a joy. The white gold markers and stick hands are both legible and beautiful. Very traditional dial layout of the very readable silver chrono registers, with the second hand register at a sensible 6 o’clock position. The pure white dial is absolutely gorgeous. The dial is protected by a sapphire crystal, and Super Luminova is used on the markers and hands for low light visibility.   RATING: 9

WINNER: Daytona. I never truly warmed up to the off white dial color on the Broad Arrow, and the chrono registers are poorly laid out. The Daytona on the other hand, may very well have one of the world’s most beautiful watch dials ever. It’s hard to imagine a better, more sensible layout and execution of the registers. As much as I want to like the Broad Arrow better for providing the additional functionality of a date display, Rolex gets the clear nod in this category.

BRACELET & CLASP

Broad Arrow – It’s hard to find fault with the Broad Arrow bracelet and clasp. The adjustable links are held in place by push pins, which are somewhat difficult to size. However, thanks to the fine adjustment pin in the clasp, I was able to get a very pleasing fit. The bracelet has primarily a brushed finish, with thin polished strips running along the out edges of the center link. The two button Speedmaster clasp is secure, attractive and easy to use. The large flat surface area of the clasp will pick up scratches, but is easily buffed out by hand. The bracelet connects to the lugs via solid end links.   RATING: 9.5

Daytona – The Rolex Oyster bracelet and clasp are quite different than any other Rolex sport watch, and greatly improved. Not only does the bracelet have solid end links, but it also has solid center links (most sport Oyster bracelets have hollow center links, with the Yachtmaster being the notable exception). The bracelet is easily self-sized via the screwed in adjustable links. Normally, a Rolex Oyster bracelet is about the most durable bracelet money can buy. However, the Daytona bracelet has a polished center link running throughout. While the polished surface adds greatly to the cosmetic appeal of the watch, it will show scratches quickly and easily. The Daytona flip lock clasp is completely different from any other Rolex clasp as well as being better by an order of magnitude. Gone are the thin, stamped metal pieces, and instead we’re given a clasp that feels as substantial and high in quality as the rest of the watch. The clasp also has a fine adjustment pin. Kudos to Rolex for creating this clasp, and I hope it soon becomes standard issue on all Sport Rolex models.   RATING: 9

WINNER: Broad Arrow. I’d like to give the nod to Rolex in this category, simply because the Daytona bracelet is the best Rolex has ever made. However, the Broad Arrow bracelet is more is easier to maintain, and I’m not sure a better clasp exists on any watch.

MOVEMENT

Broad Arrow – Caliber 3303 Movement Specifications:

  • 33 jewel, self-winding (bi-directional rotor)
  • 28,800 BPH
  • 55 hr. power reserve
  • COSC Certified
  • The caliber 3303 is Omega’s first movement that can truly be considered a manufacturers movement since the Swatch Group acquisition of Omega. Based on the Frederic Piquet caliber 1185, and produced in a Piquet facility now owned by Omega, the 3303 is a fantastic movement, with not only a pedigree in “high horology” but also some very noteworthy technology – a free sprung balance, column wheel control mechanism, and lever escapement. The 3303 is also finely decorated by Omega with rhodium plating, and Geneva waves and striping throughout. Unfortunately, since the watches launch in 2001, the 3303 and it’s variants have been marred by some quality control issues. Omega has gone on record saying that the noted problems have been eliminated in the newest examples of the 3303, but examples still exist on dealer shelves that exhibit the infamous chronograph reset issue. Once the memory of the launch issues fade, the 3303 will likely be remembered as one of Omega’s greatest achievements, and a true giant among chronograph movements.   RATING: 8

    Daytona – Caliber 4130 Movement Specifications:

  • 44 jewel, self-winding (bi-directional rotor)
  • 28,800 BPH
  • 72 hr. power reserve
  • COSC Certified
  • When the new Daytona debuted in 2000 with the new 4130 chronograph movement, it was a critical milestone for Rolex – they now could make they claim that every movement of every watch they make was “in house.” Design with Rolex’s hallmark approach to pragmatic simplicity, the design of the 4130 has been labeled by some as being “idiot proof” in servicing. It employs a freely sprung balance, a Brequet balance-spring, and Kif shock absorption. The 4130 is also considered Rolex’s most finely finished movement, and is given uncharacteristic attention to cosmetic detail by Rolex. Thus far in its short service life, the 4130’s record is impeccable, and has drawn nothing but praise and admiration from the horological community. It’s already being called one of the top 10 watch movements ever made.    RATING: 9

    WINNER: Daytona. Clearly both the 3303 and 4130 are exceptionally good movements and extremely worthy competitors. No doubt, it is the movements in both of these watches which make them so coveted among the watch enthusiast community. Once the quality control issues are out of memory, the 3303 may well one day be considered an equal to the 4130, but it’s doubtful the 3303 could exceed the marvelous 4130.

    PRICE

    Broad Arrow – The Broad Arrow currently retails for $4495. This price point has been criticized by Omega fans as being $1000.00 over other sport chronos that Omega sells, including ones equipped with virtually the same 33xx movement. However, when you survey the field of luxury sport chronographs with similar horological pedigrees, one quickly discovers the Broad Arrow is not over priced relative to the competition. Unfortunately, the Broad Arrow seems to experience a sharp depreciation, with examples showing up in secondary markets for as little as $2000.00. RATING:   7.5

    Daytona – What is the true price of the stainless steel Daytona?   Sure, the current retail price of the a new SS Daytona is $6550.00. But each Rolex dealer is given by Rolex one, perhaps two SS Daytonas per year. As a result, nearly every Rolex dealer in the world maintains a waiting list of rabid customers, and Daytonas in the secondary markets at nearly twice the retail price. I personally looked for a white dial Daytona for 2 years, and spent a year on the waiting lists of three different dealers before lightning struck and I purchased my F Series Daytona at retail from an authorized dealer. Such is the problem when you try to acquire what is widely considered the most highly sought after watch in the world – expect a high price.  RATING:   6.0

    WINNER: Broad Arrow. Scarcity and secondary market considerations aside, the cost of ownership is definitely lower in the case of the Broad Arrow. This is especially true given that it’s not difficult to purchase the Broad Arrow at a discount from an authorized dealer – something not likely to ever be the case with a SS Daytona.

    PRESTIGE

    Broad Arrow – Among watch enthusiasts, the Broad Arrow is a very well respected watch, and deserves to be. Combining the lineage of the Speedmaster line, as well as the horological pedigree it’s movement provides, the Broad Arrow is a shinning star in the Omega watch catalog, and a great source of pride for any collector. Unfortunately, the above mentioned quality control issues have given Omega and the Broad Arrow something of a black eye, and hampered the watch’s overall reputation. Outside of well informed watch collectors, the Broad Arrow isn’t likely to be recognized, in the same way as say, a “Bond” Seamaster would.   RATING:  6.5

    Daytona – The Rolex brand name is one of the most prestigious and well recognized marquees in the word. Due to its extreme scarcity, the Daytona is widely considered a “holy grail” among Rolex fans and watch collectors. To most in the general public, the Daytona doesn’t look like a typical Rolex, so the recognition factor isn’t as high as would be other Rolexes. Still, the Daytona has been building upon it’s reputation among both race fans and watch collectors for several decades. RATING:  9.5

    WINNER: Daytona. It is difficult to conceive of a watch that carries with it more prestige than the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona.

    RESULTS

    TOTAL POSSIBLE POINTS: 60 (10 points in each of six categories)

    Broad Arrow Total: 47.0

    Daytona Total: 50.5

    TOTAL CATEGORIES WON:

    Broad Arrow Total: 3

    Daytona Total: 3

    In many respects, the Omega Speedmaster Broad Arrow is every bit as good a watch as the Rolex Daytona, and in some cases better. However, there’s no denying that the Daytona is king among luxury sport chronographs, and perhaps ever one of the top 10 watches in the world. For those asking themselves “which one do I get?” the answer may come down to availability. Being able to purchase a Broad Arrow now, vs. months, perhaps years of waiting for a Daytona is not an insignificant factor.

    In terms of my personal non-objective opinion, I prefer the Daytona. The layout and color of the Broad Arrow dial lost it’s appeal over time, and I eventually sold it. The Daytona is, to my eye, just prettier to look at, and even though I could sell my Daytona and make enough profit to buy another Broad Arrow, I intend to keep the Daytona for the foreseeable future. Perhaps one day Omega will make a Broad Arrow variant more to my liking cosmetically speaking, and give the watch a display back to that the gorgeous 3303 movement can be easily viewed.

    You can discuss this article in the Omega Forum of my online luxury watch discussion forum community WATCH TALK FORUMS.

    *All text and images contained in this review are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.

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