Is Rotary A Luxury Watch Brand?


Rotary makes excellent and quality timepieces and is synonymous with Britishness, thanks to its long history there. However, is Rotary a luxury watch brand?

Rotary is not a luxury brand but belongs more to the ‘affordable luxury’ watch brand. Rotary does use great materials to make their watches, such as titanium and 9K gold. However, Rotary does not use an in-house movement, and many of their watches are not Swiss Made. 

Is Rotary A Luxury Watch Brand

In this article, let’s explore the characteristics of a luxury watch brand and then compare Rotary against the criteria. After that, we explore some revolving questions about Rotary watches, such as if they are really Swiss Made and if they are worth investing in. 

We have also covered several watch brands that many might be unsure if they are luxury watches, so feel free to check them out if you are keen.

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What Makes A Watch Brand A Luxury Brand?

Before even attempting to answer the question if Rotary is a luxury watch, perhaps it is good to first look into the characteristics that made a watch brand a luxury brand.

First of all, the word ”luxury” can be very different for different people. 

If you work minimum wage, a $550 Bulova Lunar Pilot would be a luxurious purchase. 

However, if you regularly splash $500 – $1,000 to purchase watches, then perhaps you will only get that rush of luxury when you strap on a $5,000 Omega.

In general, luxury watch brands tend to stand out and be different when compared to regular or affordable watch brands:

  • Materials
  • Assembly
  • In-House Movements and Technology
  • Design
  • Homages
  • Fakes
  • Brand Image
  • Prices

Materials: Luxury watchmakers tend to use more expensive materials for their watches. These materials include bronze, titanium, and gold alloys. It is also common to see luxury watch brands use top-grain leather straps, diamonds, or mother of pearl.

Assembly: Luxury watchmakers strongly prefer to assemble their watches in-house, and they also hand-assemble their watches. For example, Rolex openly declared that they hand-assemble all their watches in-house. This allows for better quality control and better-performing watches. 

In-House Movements and Technology: Luxury watchmakers also tend to develop their own in-house movements to better control their watches’ performance. Some luxury watchmakers also introduced proprietary technology to help their watches stand out against the competition.

Design: Luxury watch brands tend to have signature watches or have a certain design language that helps them become recognizable. These luxury watches also become a de-facto benchmark for any future watch designs. For example, when everyone sees a rectangular watch, they will automatically compare it to the Cartier Tank.

Homages: Luxury watch brands tend to have homage watches over their models. This is because these luxury watches are coveted by many but also unable to afford them. As a result, some other watchmakers will make watches that look similar to the original and offer them at an affordable price. 

ALSO READ: What Are Homage Watches?

Is Rotary A Luxury Watch Brand
The Moonswatch is a homage to the Omega Speedmaster

Fakes: Luxury watch brands often suffer from clones and imitation watches. Since the selling price is high, and many want the watch but cannot afford it, fake watchmakers step in and fill the need. It is, however, illegal.

Brand Image: Luxury watch brands tend to carry a brand image of high class, exquisiteness, prestige, and of course, luxury. The image is maintained and cultivated through sponsorships with people, events, or media outlets that project the same image. 

This is why you see Rolex sponsors tennis and golf events while Breguet places ads in Wall Street Journal. 

Prices: Luxury watches tend to have a higher price, as their production costs are high. Hand assembly, more expensive materials pushed costs up. Plus, the higher price tag keeps the watches as an ‘aspirational’ piece. This helps to keep the image of prestige and exclusivity.

We covered about luxury watches and their characteristics in full detail here.

ALSO READ: What Makes A Watch A Luxury Watch?

Are Rotary Watches Luxury?

Rotary watches cannot be considered luxury, but more of an affordable watch brand, similar to Tissot. It does not use an in-house movement but uses a combination of Swiss, Japanese, and Chinese movements. It also does not hand-assemble its watches in-house.

CharacteristicsLuxury Watch BrandsRotaryPass?
MaterialsMay use 904L steel, titanium, precious metals, gemstonesTitanium, gold, diamonds, mother of pearl
AssemblyMostly hand assembledNo such claims, many are not Swiss made
MovementAlmost all have in-house movementSwiss, Japanese and Chinese movements
Proprietary TechnologyAlmost all have proprietary technologyCurrently none
DesignOften iconic, and sets trends. Value for money design, not iconic enough
HomagesHave homages made after their modelsNone. Creates homages instead
Fakes & ImitationSuffers from fakes and imitationDoes not seem to be widely counterfeited
Brand ImagePrestige, exclusivity, classCarries an ‘affordable luxury’ image
PricesAt least four-figure.Has watches as low as $159
Rotary vs characteristics of luxury watch brands

Materials

Rotary watches do use many of the materials that luxury watchmakers use. It uses mainly stainless steel, but you can also see models that use titanium and 9K gold. You can also see the usage of diamonds and mother of pearl dial. The watches also are given mostly sapphire crystal.

Is Rotary A Luxury Watch Brand
Rotary Les Originales are Swiss Made watches

Assembly

Rotary does not claim to hand-assemble their watch, nor do they claim to assemble their watches in-house. Some of Rotary’s watches are Swiss Made, but only those in the Les Originales collection. 

To qualify for the ‘Swiss Made’ label, the watch needs to:

  • Have 60% of the production in Switzerland.
  • Uses a Swiss movement
  • Be encased and inspected in Switzerland. 

This means most of Rotary’s watches are assembled elsewhere and possibly contracted to outside companies. Some investigations revealed that the watches are assembled in Japan and China. Still, there is no confirmation from Rotary about this matter.

In-House Movements and Technology

Rotary does not indicate that they develop any in-house movements and technology for their watches. 

Some Rotary watch owners actually opened up their watch to check the movements. Depending on the models, they discovered a combination of Swiss, Japanese, or Chinese movements in the watches. 

Therefore, if movement is something that you care about, it pays to be careful and check the movements before ordering your watch.

Design

Rotary watches are very well designed, to the point of looking very expensive compared to the price. The design is classic and straightforward, similar to how Orient approach their watch designs. 

You may see complications such as open heart, skeletons, and moon phase. You can also see their watches implementing dial designs that are more intricate such as Guilloché. 

These additional designs can only be seen on luxury watches, so to get them at the price that Rotary is offering is a great offer. 

Rotary’s issue is that its design does not seem iconic enough to stand out. It also does not have its own unique design language. 

Homages

It doesn’t seem that Rotary watches have homages made after their designs. In fact, Rotary watches are known to be producing many watch models that could be seen as a homage to many iconic luxury models.

For example, the Rotary GS02326/45 is a close homage to the Cartier Tank. The Rotary Chronospeed GS03351/19 is a close homage to the Breitling Navitimer. The Rotary Havana has a strong similarity to the Rolex Datejust.

Is Rotary A Luxury Watch Brand
The Rotary Havana looks similar to the Rolex Datejust

Fakes

It does not seem that there are fake Rotary watches, as searches online do not indicate that the watch is widely counterfeited. 

This is probably due to its affordable price and that it does not have popularity similar to Tissot or Swatch. Counterfeiters probably do not think it’s worth their time to produce fakes for Rotary watches.

Brand Image

The rotary watch brand carries a strong history, being the official watch for the British Army during World War Two. Rotary is also a member of the Federation of Swiss Watch Industry FH (FFIH), which indicates its commitment to quality.

Rotary is famous in its home market, the UK. But after becoming a part of the Citychamp Watch and Jewellery Group, it started being distributed in over 65 countries today. Citychamp Group is based in Hong Kong and owns other watch brands such as Corum, Eterna, and Rossini. 

Rotary also appeals to those that enjoy more refined timepieces that can be dressed up in suits and fits well in white-collar offices. Rotary does not offer rugged, chunky watches suitable for outdoor and hiking

Prices

When checking their offering on their website, Rotary watches are well within the affordable luxury range. None of their models are over $1,000. 

The most expensive model is the Rotary Heritage Titanium at $559. In contrast, their most affordable model is a Rotary London Expander at $159. You can buy a Rotary watch at Amazon for as low as $119.

Watch BrandUsed Price Range
Patek Philippe$8,800 – $478,087
Rolex$1,783 – $211,500
Omega$156 – $50,660
Used Watch Price Range. Source: WatchCharts

 

Compared to the prices of luxury watches such as Patek Philippe, Rolex, or Omega, Rotary is nowhere near. This also means Rotary could not be seen as luxury watch brand.

Are Rotary Watches Entry-Level Luxury?

Rotary cannot be considered an entry-level luxury watch. Entry-level luxury brands should have watches that at least use in-house movements, and have a price tag of at least four-figure. Rotary adopts third-party movements, and their most expensive model is less than $500.

Suppose we compare against brands close to Rotary, such as Tissot. In that case, Rotary lacks an ”aspirational” timepiece that signifies its intention to move into a luxury space. 

For example, Tissot has models made of 18K gold, with diamond finishings and in-house movements. 

Rotary would probably need a model like this to be considered an entry-level luxury watch brand.

Is Rotary A Swiss Made Watch?

Not all of Rotary’s watches are Swiss Made. Only some models from Rotary, such as from the Les Originales collection, are Swiss Made. As the other models may use Japanese or Chinese movements and are assembled there, they cannot be considered Swiss-made, per Swiss Law. 

To qualify for the ‘Swiss Made’ label, the watch needs to:

  • Have 60% of the production in Switzerland.
  • Uses a Swiss movement
  • Be encased and inspected in Switzerland. 

As Rotary watches are using Chinese or Japanese movements, these watches would automatically be disqualified to be able to use the label ‘Swiss Made.’ Plus, these watches are also assembled, encased, and inspected outside Switzerland.

As a rule, you can quickly tell if a Rotary watch model is Swiss Made or not by looking at the dial or the caseback. If a ‘Swiss Made’ label is printed on the watch, it is made in Switzerland. 

Are Rotary Watches An Investment?

Rotary watches might not be a great investment as the brand itself cannot generate enough demand for their watches. As a result, the watches may not appreciate in price long term. Rotary watches also do not have enough collectors in the market to help raise the prices of their vintage models.

Whether a watch appreciates in price or not long-term depends on the market forces – supply and demand. If there is more demand than supply, prices go up and vice versa.

Watches like Rolex or Grand Seiko are great for investment as the demands are always there. Many buyers become frustrated when told to wait for months, even years, to get their Rolex.

These guys go to the secondary market for watches instead. Plus, vintage Rolexes also have a strong demand. 

Rotary cannot generate such demand, as their watches do not have that number of following and reputation.

Perhaps, Rotary watches may appreciate if they are no longer in production. This happened to several Seiko models, such as SARB033 and SARB017. When Seiko stopped production, the prices went up as people continued to look for it. 

READ MORE: Do Seiko Watches Hold Value? 

Nigel Ignatius

Nigel is the principal creator of WatchPursuits.com, a website dedicated to watches. Inspired by the dedication and effort of watchmakers now and old, Nigel has a passion for watches and looks forward to share his passion with the world.

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