Rolex and Apple find themselves in hot water Rolex and Apple find themselves in hot water

Rolex and Apple find themselves in hot water

Jamie Weiss

For the non-watch-obsessed crowd, two brands represent “nice watches” above all else: Rolex and Apple (yes, most normal people think of Apple Watches as nice watches, don’t be a snob). Perhaps it’s not surprising, too, that these two brands absolutely dominate the watch industry: Apple Watches outsell the entire mechanical watch industry by some margin and is easily the best-selling smartwatch on the market, while Rolex has long been the biggest mechanical watch brand in the world. In short, Apple and Rolex are both titans – but they do occasionally put a foot wrong, with both brands being slapped on the wrist by the courts as we head into 2024.

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Firstly, Rolex has been fined US$100 million by France’s anti-trust agency for what they’ve ruled is an illegal ban on distributors selling online. Rolex has long resisted e-commerce, even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw many brands and dealers finally bite the bullet and start selling their watches online. So far, they’ve been able to get away with it because they’re, you know, Rolex.

Rolex has long justified its ban on online sales as a way to combat counterfeiting and parallel trade – but the French Autorité de la concurrence has rejected that argument, hitting Rolex with a fine that would be substantial to most other businesses… But for Rolex, represents but a slap on the wrist. Zach wrote a great article covering this, which you should give a read. He makes the point that the implications of this ruling could be massive: could this force Rolex to start offering online sales in France, and then will they start offering online sales elsewhere?

Image courtesy of Kennedy

He also points out that there could be a parallel between this Rolex case and Apple’s move to USB-C. Last year, the European Union decided that all mobile phones, tablets, and cameras sold in the EU must be equipped with the same USB-C charging port for wired charging. This forced Apple to abandon its proprietary Lightning port and switch to the more universal USB-C – but Apple did not just make this change in the EU, they made this change globally. Could the same happen to Rolex with e-commerce?

Speaking of Apple, the American tech giant has also coincidentally been before the courts, with the brand halting US sales of two of its latest Apple Watch models just before Christmas – one of the biggest shopping periods of the year – after losing a patent infringement case.

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L-R: The Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Series 9. Image courtesy PCMag Australia

Earlier this year, a US judge found that a headline feature of the new Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2, a blood oxygen sensor, infringed patents owned by medical device maker Masimo. Then, in October, the US International Trade Commission issued a “limited exclusion order” against the smartwatches, threatening a ban on imports of the devices, Financial Times reports. Apple has now said they’ll “pre-emptively” halt US sales of those two Apple Watch models on December 21 through its website and after December 24 in physical stores in response to the ITC ruling.

This isn’t the first time Apple’s been caught infringing patents – they’re currently fighting another legal battle over smartwatch patents with yet another medical device maker, AliveCor -but pulling their products from shelves like this during such a big shopping period demonstrates they’re really in hot water now.

Watch O2
What the blood oyxgen feature looks like on the Apple Watch Series 6.

Apple is appealing the ITC ruling as it awaits the outcome of a presidential review by Joe Biden, who has the power to veto the ban, FT relates. My take? This is yet another reason to avoid smartwatches and wear mechanical watches…

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend and Merry Christmas for Monday!


Watch meme of the week: they’ll never know


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This one’s for any of you who’ve had to lie to your significant other about your watch-buying habits. “It’s not a new watch! I just put an old one on a different strap…”

Wrist shot of the week: who said Aquaman wasn’t cool?

Jason Momoa Aquaman DC's fan screening

We broke the news earlier this week that IWC has created exclusive prop watches for the villains in the upcoming DC superhero film Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom – as well as real-world versions of the props you can purchase now – but Black Manta (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Dr. Stephen Shin (played by Randall Park) aren’t the only members of the Aquaman cast rocking IWCs. Aquaman himself, Jason Momoa, was spotted wearing an IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar ref. IW503302 from his own personal collection during a fan screening of the film in LA on the 18th. Flexing the Trident of Neptune as well as a big gold IWC? That’s a mood.

Time+Tide Shop pick of the week: Tropic Straps

tropic straps range

The term ‘tropic strap’ gets thrown around a watch in the watch world, but did you know that it’s not just a generic term – it refers to a specific brand and product? Iconic, often imitated but rarely replicated, Tropic was one of the first Swiss firms in the 1960s to manufacture rubber watch straps, with the brand becoming popular both as an aftermarket choice and as an OEM.

Since the 60s, the design has been somewhat genericised, but genuine Tropic straps are a cut above your average ‘tropic’ or ‘tropical’ strap. These soft yet durable rubber straps come in a wide range of colours and are a great last-minute Christmas present for the watch lover in your life. The best bit? They even smell like vanilla, thanks to the natural rubber they use. How very Christmassy.

Order now from the Time+Tide Shop or at the Melbourne Discovery StudioPrice: A$110

Our favourite Time+Tide coverage of the week

VIDEO: Vacheron Constantin explores the world’s styles with Les Cabinotiers Récits de Voyages

Of the three brands considered to be the Holy Trinity of Swiss watchmaking, Vacheron Constantin probably receives the least attention. But that’s not necessarily a negative, as their efforts are far more focused on quality, artistry and exploration rather than hype and celebrity endorsements. The Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers collection is made up of approximately 50 watches per year, each one unique and finished to the highest standards possible. This most recent batch is known as Récits de Voyages, or Travel Stories, as they take on evocative decorations from all around the world. Andrew went on a wild journey with VC for the release of Les Cabinotiers Récits de Voyages, going falconing in the UAE and diving deep into this extraordinary collection of watches. Watch above and read more here.

INTERVIEW: We asked the Breitling boss to admit what his favourite is, and he told us

How would you go about choosing your favourite child? Well, that’s pretty much what Andrew made Breitling’s CEO do immediately after meeting him. Georges Kern took over the Breitling brand in 2017 and has since helped remind the watch world why it is one of the most legendary and respected names in watchmaking. After a time when Breitling, like many other brands in the ’90s and early 2000s, was moving towards bigger and louder designs, the throughline to Breitling’s heritage and roots became more and more vague. As with any good mechanical watch, eventually, an overhaul is needed. So, yes, Andrew got Mr. Kern to pick his favourites, but along the way the duo explore how Kern turned the tides, returning to the roots of the brand in a manner where we have a modern Breitling better informed by the brand’s past. Read the full report here.

OPINION: I just bought my exit watch… WTF do I do now?

Credor Eichi II feature

Our editor Zach has just bought what he claims is his “exit watch” (even though I’m not sure I really believe him – I know what he’s like): a beautiful Credor Eichi II, which by anyone’s standards is total grail material. But now he’s found himself in a dilemma: “once you arrive at the top of the mountain, the only thing left is to go down… WTF do I do now?” Read his entertaining philosophical pondering of this very enviable problem here.