Is it Rolex vs Apple?
No, I found it odd when Apple even bothered mentioning Rolex in their press conference; if anything only the first gen ‘Edition’ watches (the precious metal ones) could be compared Rolex’s due to their price point; but that would not be good marketing nor would it make tech headlines.
Let’s start off by saying both Rolex and Apple hide their watch sales numbers and all sales numbers are guesses.
As Apple canned the 1st generation 18ct gold Edition watches; it suggests; the market is just not there yet for precious metal smart watches whereas Rolex has been flogging high quality watches in precious metals for a significant period.
With Apple hiding sales (as do Rolex) we can’t see how badly the precious metal edition watches held up again Rolex’s in the same price bracket; a problem Apple may have had with those models is it could not target watch collectors who often appreciate the complexity, mechanical workings, craftsmanship and prestige of high end watches, often resulting in older watches holding their values well overtime with naturally some models doing better than others.
Rolex ticks off the above requirement for many watch collectors especially the submariner models; for example at the time of writing; June 2017 a 1978 steel Rolex Submariner can still set you back 5k which is impressive! More impressive is the sheer fact that the watch is still ticking over so smoothly after 39 years!; a challenge Apple’s precious metal watches would have is 39 years from now, will it still function smoothly?; will all the original parts still be functioning? (i.e. battery, software), will V1 of WatchOS still be able to be paired with an iPhone 39 years from now? We all know how painfully slow software feels and how terrible the batteries become over time which would explain a lack of attraction from watch collectors.
So back to the loop is it Rolex vs Apple? No, besides Rolex have bigger problems; ironically as corruption decreases in some of their lucrative markets, the sales of their watches are declining as a direct result.