iPhone 5 vs. Luxury Watch - Can Apple be used in the same breath as names like Panerai, Omega, Rolex and Bell & Ross?

Some analysts and media commenters have said Apple's new iPhone 5's manufacturing and design has reached the level of a Rolex. That might sound silly. Even if you think the iPhone 5 has reached luxury item status, does it really make any sense to compare it to high end watches? Is it a fair comparison? A sane one? Let's find out! With my iPhone 5's unboxed, iMore's Rene Ritchie asked me to whip up another video for a slightly unorthodox head to head comparison.

I may be the BlackBerry fan on the Mobile Nations team, but I've purchased every iPhone that Apple has released to date. Know thy competition, right? The iPhone 5 was no exception - I headed out to the mall and picked up a pair this morning. 

It seems since the iPhone 5 was unveiled, a lot of people have been comparing its design and build quality to jewellery rather than electronic gadgets. With extremely tight manufacturing tolerances, an understated and luxurious look and finely polished finishing details, I can see why the comparison would be made at first glance.

But what about at second glance? And third glance? Can you really compare compare the iPhone 5 to something like a Swiss-made mechanical watch? There's only one way to find out, and that's put them head to head! I'm no Ariel Adams or John Biggs, but I do love watches. Heck, I even bought the domain watchreviews.com a couple years back (hmm.. watches are mobile... maybe that could be a new Mobile Nations site for 2013?!). So hit the video above for a not-so-serious head to head comparison. If I wanted to be real serious we'd have to rip the watches and iPhone apart, but that's not happening today. 

The verdict? The watches win for battery life and water resistance over the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 wins for ease of texting and app catalog. Display quality was a tough call. Both the watches and iPhone 5 make use of super tough and scratch resistant sapphire crystal. While the watches use it on the face, the iPhone 5 uses it on the camera lense. The watches are always on, which makes them very user friendly for getting the time at glance, but it's hard to argue with a retina display. For night time viewing we'll have to give the edge to the iPhone 5 - the luminescence on mechanical watches can really vary.

In all seriousness though, the iPhone 5 really is a well made piece of kit. The tools that built it will no doubt be similar to some of the equipment being used by the big watch houses these days to turn out precision timepieces. But that said, I wouldn't go around comparing the iPhone 5 to a Swiss watch just yet. A statement like that will surely tick off the watch snobs out there, who can bite back even harder than Apple fans. :)

CrackBerry Kevin
  • This was an awesome post! I appreciate this considering all the serious reviews, etc today. Great work iMore! Keep it up!
  • Seriously?
  • Yeah, it was pretty hard not to laugh while reading this piece. But really, you don't have to be a metrosexual snob to like the iPhone. You do with some of the other stuff mentioned.
  • Yes. This was a fun post to look at it from a different view. Clearly it wasn't serious so I appreciate it. It's different/fun, I like that. It did have "humor" in the tag so clearly it's meant to be taken lightly.
  • This post is kind of odd.
  • If there was an alternative to the iPhone for 1% of the price that could do everything as quick and complete, I would probably choose that alternative. A Timex can do everything that a Panerai, Omega, Rolex and Bell & Ross can do, plus much more. It doesn't have the snob value, though. You can't impress your buddies at the country club with a Timex. To that extent I love my iPhone, it has the best functionality of all phones, and selling your used one for $150 every other year and pick up a new one for $200 is not a bad deal. The equivalent for an automatic movement watch in the mobile phone world is a Vertu phone, bloody expensive, heavy, and with the minimum in functionality. But maximum show-off value to people wearing mink coats.
  • Snob value? I will take that as a complement for my Submariner. And I really don't think your Timex does everything it does. When the day comes I am no longer on this earth, my son will be wearing it. Lets see that bad boy of a Timex do that.
  • "I may be the BlackBerry fan on the Mobile Nations team, but I've purchased every iPhone that Apple has released to date." - denial is the first stage of dealing with your loss. We're here for you, Kevin. *hugs*
  • Exclusivity is a large part of luxury watches. You can see that just in your limited edition Bell & Ross. iPhones are not exclusive at all... everyone has them. So even though the build quality is superb, I don’t think it can be compared to the luxury watches.
  • I'm sorry luxury watches and iphones are simply two different things. and like the guy above me said, iphones are not exclusive. $15000 watches are. But who are these people comparing it to jewelry? I think maybe the authors peer group may have brought up this idea and now he thinks everyone thinks that but sorry, nobody i know. but granted, nobody i know has even mentioned the iphone to me today. But people i know are regular people.
  • Interesting review. But the idea of a luxury timepiece goes far beyond it's technological prowess. There is history and purpose behind each one. That is why I wear a Rolex instead of a Nano Watch
  • I didn't know there were any fellow Paneristi on this site! Sweet!
  • I use the Panerai iOS app on my iPhone. It displays the standard Panerai watchface in full screen mode and makes a nice glow in the dark bed-side clock. (Double tap the center of the clockface and the menu at the bottom of the screen disappears!) Omega has a nearly as nice iOS app with a night-time Planet Ocean animation (downside is that the app shows the whole watch, so the watchface is smaller than that of the Panerai, upside is that the animation is beautiful. If you tap it once on the watch face, it will flip-over showing an animated winder weight and main spring.) I'm surprised nobody mentioned these! p.s. Given that this comparison was in the name of serious business, did you write the watch off your taxes?
  • I love this video !
  • The only problem is apples quality control on the 5 has so far been shit. We had to open 4 blacks and 3 whites before we got two acceptable phones with no marks on the metal frame. There is no chance that would happen with a premium watch.
  • Bell & Ross? Luxary watch??? Muahahaha.....
  • I can assure you that the watchmaking industry in Switzerland is not using such advance manufacturing process for the assembly of their watches. By the way, "jewels" on mechanical movements are synthetic rubies and used to limit the friction of some movement parts to a minimum.
  • I'm pretty sure that a Fossil comparison would have been more appropriate... the iPhone is NOT the "Rolex" of cell phones. You're delusional.
  • No. Just... no.
  • Are you referring to the clock that Apple decided to steal? no, it doesn't make it anywhere near as good as a luxury watch.
  • Hilarious! Kevin ROCKS! :-)
  • That Panerai caught my eye! I own several watches including a Panerai Daylight Chrono and no, iphone 5 is not in the same class. iphone does not impress anyone except maybe another iphone user?
  • I can't wait for the next Pulitzer running article/post: Comparing the iPhone 5 to your spouse.
  • Compare to a fine watch? The day the iPhone self-winds (charges) and is water proof to 1000' like my Rolex Submariner, we can talk. The phone is nice, but I don't think it takes a week to machine the case. I can't think of another PHONE that compares tho. My white 64 is a piece of art.
  • Why is everyone trying to compare the new iPhone 5 to luxury watches? Apple did NOT redesign the phone, they modified the design from the iPhone 4/4S. Don't get me wrong the iPhone 5 is a nice looking phone but there is nothing new about the design minus being slightly taller and a smidge thinner. Other than that is looks just like an iPhone 4. A 50 year old Rolex, Omega or Tag Heuer is still a beautiful watch... the iPhone design won't last another 3 years before it is obsolete.