The Rolex Daytona and Omega Speedmaster are two of the most iconic and historically significant watches of all time. We’re taking a closer look at five key aspects of these timepieces to answer the million-dollar question: Which of these legendary chronographs is better?
1. Rolex Daytona vs. Omega Speedmaster: History
Though the Rolex Daytona is, without question, iconic and legendary in its own right, no watch can top the exciting history behind the Omega Speedmaster Professional. Originally designed as a racing chronograph, NASA selected the Omega Speedmaster as their official timepiece in 1965. The watch has played a part in every NASA space mission since and can count several major achievements to its name. When Ed White became the first American to perform a spacewalk on June 3, 1965, he was accompanied by the Omega Speedmaster. In April 1970, the chronograph played a vital role in saving the crew of the famous Apollo 13 mission. When the spacecraft’s onboard systems failed, the astronauts used a Speedmaster to help them right their course and return to Earth. NASA honored the Speedy with their Silver Snoopy award, the highest accolade for those who make significant contributions to the success of a manned space mission. However, the Speedmaster’s biggest moment occurred on July 21, 1969. On this date, Buzz Aldrin wore his Omega as he stepped onto the lunar surface, making it the first wristwatch on the Moon. Once again, the Omega chronograph proved itself a valuable tool for astronauts: The lunar module’s clock failed, so the first man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, left his watch behind as a replacement timekeeper. The Omega Speedmaster remains the only watch worn on the Moon to this day.
2. Rolex Daytona vs. Omega Speedmaster: Design
You can largely attribute the success of these chronographs to their timeless designs, which have remained mostly unchanged for decades. Both the Rolex Daytona and Omega Speedmaster are rich in tradition. Even the most modern versions stay true to their historical roots, whereby Rolex has recently deviated slightly from the course. The current stainless steel Daytona now features a black ceramic bezel. While the overall Daytona design may still be easily recognizable, its high-gloss case and bracelet components give it a luxurious look that is far from its former tool watch identity.
The current Omega Speedmaster Professional, on the other hand, can hardly be distinguished from its 1970s counterpart. Even 52 years after the Moon landing, the Speedy retains its aluminum bezel, matte black dial, and more recently, a bracelet that has strong ties to the original from the 1970s. You can even opt for a traditional hesalite crystal, which is less practical for everyday use but is the clear preference of purists and Speedmaster diehards. In contrast to the Rolex Daytona, the Omega Speedmaster Professional is a tool watch through and through. Ultimately, the question of the best design really comes down to personal preference – each collector will have to decide for themselves!
3. Rolex Daytona vs. Omega Speedmaster: Technology
The current Omega Speedmaster boasts slightly more modern technology than its Rolex counterpart. The latest “New Moon” reference released in 2021 comes with a precise Co-Axial Master Chronometer movement that can resist magnetic fields of up to 15,000 gauss. That being said, a few details make the Rolex Daytona slightly more suitable for everyday use: To start, the Rolex chronograph has an automatic movement in contrast to the manual Omega caliber. This means you won’t have to wind the Daytona manually once the power reserve runs out. It may seem minor, but it is worth noting because even if winding your watch is a beloved ritual for some watch enthusiasts, it can eventually get old. The Rolex Daytona also has an edge when it comes to water resistance. Water-resistant to 100 m (328 ft), the Daytona is well-suited to meet the demands of everyday life. The Omega’s 50 m (164 ft), on the other hand, only offers protection against splashes of water. It’s hard for me to pick a clear winner here. The Omega offers more advanced technology, but the Rolex is better suited to everyday life, even if it is slightly less complicated. Again, I guess it comes down to what is most important for you as a watch wearer.
4. Rolex Daytona vs. Omega Speedmaster: Quality
I’m a big fan of good haptics, and in my opinion, there’s no beating Rolex in this category. It is the main reason why I would personally choose a Rolex. Wearing and using a Rolex watch is an experience in and of itself. If you’ve ever worn one, you know what I’m talking about. The steel is so soft it almost feels like silk, and the clasp closes snugly with great acoustic feedback. The Omega Speedmaster is also an extremely high-quality timepiece. It is great fun to operate the chronograph push-pieces and clasp – or even just hold in your hand! However, in terms of overall quality, the Rolex Daytona is one notch higher. This not only applies to the case and bracelet but also to the dial, which is more finely finished than the Speedmaster’s matte dial.
5. Rolex Daytona vs. Omega Speedmaster: Price and Performance
Unfortunately, getting your hands on a Rolex Daytona from an authorized dealer for the MSRP is next to impossible these days. With prices approaching the $40,000 mark, buying a Daytona on the open market is likewise reserved for the lucky few. Every time I start research for a new article about the Daytona, I am shocked to see that prices have climbed yet again in just a few weeks. If this trend continues, most of us will have no choice but to go for the current Omega Speedmaster Professional. This model is available for less than $7,000 in both the hesalite and sapphire crystal versions. For that, you are getting an equally iconic watch that can hold its own against the Rolex Daytona – far from a consolation prize. While significant appreciation is unlikely in the coming years, the Speedmaster Professional holds its value well, and you will likely find a buyer if/when you feel ready to sell. I expect prices will continue to rise for the Daytona, even though it seems next to impossible. I cannot imagine what will happen if the current reference is discontinued in the next few years…
Rolex leaves every brand in the dust in terms of performance, which is why the Daytona is the winner here.
Rolex Daytona vs. Omega Speedmaster: In Summary
The Rolex Daytona and Omega Speedmaster are equal competitors in many ways. They are on par when it comes to offering timeless designs that are some of the best in the industry. I also see the two watches as equals when it comes to technology: The Speedmaster offers higher-quality technology, while the Daytona offers more practical everyday advantages. In terms of history, the Speedmaster is the clear winner, but then again, the Daytona comes out on top when it comes to quality. Nonetheless, the Rolex certainly takes a marked lead in market performance.
Personally, I still don’t think that is enough to make the Rolex Daytona the clear winner. Similarly, I struggled to find a clear winner in my Rolex Submariner vs. Omega Seamaster comparison. While the Omega Speedmaster will never reach market prices on par with the Daytona, it still offers decent value retention. At the end of the day, personal preference has to decide. Both chronographs are timeless icons that could very well co-exist in a single collection.