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Although Germany is credited with the invention of the very first watch, it is Switzerland that has for over a century enjoyed the status of the capital of the watchmaking industry, with many of the world’s most prestigious brands headquartered here.
The country’s laws and regulations regarding watchmaking are among the strictest in the world, ensuring that only the highest-quality products bearing the “Swiss Made” label make it to market.
While the Swiss watch industry has faced challenges in recent years from the proliferation of cheaper, mass-produced timepieces from Asia, it remains a world leader in terms of quality and prestige. Swiss watches are still highly sought-after by collectors and luxury-minded consumers, and the country’s top brands continue to command high prices.
While everyone and their mother probably know about the very-best Swiss luxury brands such as Rolex or Patek Philippe, they’re often out of the reach of an average consumer.
The good news is the luxury watch sector in Switzerland also includes numerous brands offering quality timepieces at a fraction of the cost of the big names. We call them Entry-Level luxury watches.
Two of our favorite brands fitting that bill perfectly are Rado and Longines. In this article, we’ll be comparing these two excellent Swiss watchmakers in great detail, looking at their heritage, style, quality of movements, durability, and price.
For a quick peek at some of the best-selling models:
If you’re in the market for a Swiss watch but are not ready to spend five figures yet, either brand would be a great place to start your search. By the end of this article, hopefully, you’ll have a much better idea of which one is the right fit for you.
📖 Table of Contents
Rado vs Longines: Background & History
The Rado vs Longines comparison starts with a brief look at the brands’ stories.
Rado was founded in 1917 in the small village of Lengnau, Switzerland. The company started out producing watch movements for other brands but eventually began manufacturing its own timepieces in 1957.
Rado is best known for its innovative use of materials and cutting-edge design. The brand was one of the first to experiment with synthetic sapphire crystal and ceramic in watchmaking and continues to push boundaries in this area.
Some of Rado’s most notable milestones include:
- In 1957, Rado became an independent watch brand with its own collection of timepieces
- In 1962, Rado launched the world’s first scratch-resistant watch, the DiaStar 1
- In 1986, Rado introduced the Ceramica, a watch made entirely from ceramic
- In 2002, Rado launched the V10K, the world’s hardest watch
For a much more detailed look into Rado’s history, read our comprehensive Rado brand review.
Longines has a considerably longer history, with its roots dating back to as far as 1832. It was founded in Saint-Imier, Switzerland. Like many other Swiss watch brands, Longines started out as a manufacturer of components for other brands before eventually creating its own timepieces.
The company has always been focused on producing high-quality, reliable watches, and this is reflected in its slogan: “Elegance is an attitude.” Longines is also known for its partnerships with elite athletes and sports organizations and has been the official timekeeper for numerous Olympic Games and other major sporting events.
Longines too has quite a number of inventions to its name:
- In 1899, Longines supplied timekeeping equipment for the first motor race in history
- In 1905, Longines invented the Tachymetre, a device for measuring speed
- In 1926, Longines became the official timekeeper for the International Olympic Committee
Longines vs Rado: Style
Fair to say, Rado puts a greater focus on delivering head-turning and unique designs than Longines who believes in a more traditional approach.
Rado has established itself as a maker of some of the most unusual and classy-looking watches since the launching of its debut wristwatch, the Golden Horse.
Throughout its innovative history, the company has always placed a strong emphasis on how the timepieces present themselves from the outside, which has resulted in several major international design awards. Rado now works on revolutionary timepieces with top designers from across the world and sponsors international Rado Star Prize contests for emerging young designers. A great example of Rado’s original approach is their High-Tech Ceramic collection.
Longines, on the other hand, takes a more traditional approach to watch design. The brand’s timepieces are often adorned with luxurious details and elegant flourishes.
While this may not be to everyone’s taste, there’s no denying that Longines knows how to make a beautiful watch. Highlights from the brand’s collection include the Longines Master collection and the Longines Heritage Classic which both pay tribute to the vintage, elegant style.
The contrasting approaches to design mean that Rado is probably the better choice for folks looking for a more adventurous, head-turning timepiece that uses innovative materials. On the other hand, Longines is the ideal pick for those in pursuit of a more timeless design that will never go out of fashion.
Rado vs Longines: Materials & Durability
Befitting watches in the luxury Swiss sector, it’s hardly a surprise that both Longines and Rado assemble their timepieces using the very best materials.
In this respect, the two brands are quite similar. Where they differ however is in the focus of the materials that each one uses.
Longines, for example, use more common materials in a lion’s share of their watches. By more common, we mean stainless steel, titanium, and leather. This is not to say that Rado eschews these materials altogether – far from it. They just use them less frequently.
Instead, Rado watches are more likely to be made with High-Tech Ceramic which is probably their biggest selling point.
The unique material undergoes a series of transformational procedures to turn it from organic powder to a sophisticated product with distinct visual and tactile features. Color, hue, and brightness may all be fine-tuned thanks to Rado’s proprietary plasma high-tech ceramic process. This gives their watches a look that is immediately different from those offered by Longines (and most other brands).
Apart from giving Rado watches a distinctive feel, High-Tech Ceramic is also extremely lightweight and hypoallergenic.
In terms of durability, both Longines and Rado are at the top of their game. All of their watches are put through rigorous testing before they leave the factory.
For example, absolutely all Longines and Rado watches guarantee the best possible protection against cracks and scratches thanks to sapphire crystal. It’s easily the most durable glass type out there, used by the very best in the industry. Furthermore, these crystals come with an anti-reflective coating which ensures excellent legibility in any light. At times, you might actually forget it’s there!
Naturally, all models are water-resistant to some degree. Typical dress watches are likely to boast a water resistance rating between 30m and 100m. On the other hand, sportier collections, particularly dive watches, can be used for professional marine activity as some of them are water-resistant up to 300m. The protection against water is further aided with screw-down casebacks and crowns.
Rado vs Longines: Movements
Although both brands deliver lasting and accurate Swiss movements, when it comes to their complexity, Longines holds the cards.
This shouldn’t come as surprise considering the average watch price across brands’ collections, as well as the fact that Rado is one of those unique Swiss brands that focus more on the unique exterior than on the technology that goes on the inside.
So, if you’re looking for a Rado watch with a superbly intricate movement, you might be disappointed – most of their watches use, albeit extremely reliable, simpler quartz or automatic calibers.
With that said, the brand does offer some ceramic watches with interesting skeletonized designs that give you a glimpse into the inner workings of the watch.
Longines, on the other hand, offers a wide variety of both men’s and women’s watches with different types of movements.
You can find everything from basic quartz models to highly complicated minute repeaters and perpetual calendars.
Granted, the latter is usually reserved for their Haute Horlogerie collections, but even their more affordable timepieces often feature interesting complications like moon phase indicators or power reserve displays.
So, if you’re looking for a watch with a bit more than just the timekeeping function, Longines is definitely the way to go.
On the whole, Longines movements tend to score higher in the accuracy tests and have more features than Rado’s.
For example, Longines’ Caliber L888 is a movement certified by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC), meaning that it has passed even stricter tests for accuracy and precision. This movement also has a power reserve of 65 hours, meaning that it can run for nearly three days without being wound. In contrast, only a small portion of Rado’s watches are COSC-certified and on average they have shorter power reserves.
Another example of Longines’ superiority in the field is the brand’s L889.5 self-winding movement. It uses a silicon balance spring, which is more resistant to temperature changes and shocks than the traditional metal balance springs used by Rado.
While Rado focuses on simpler solutions, Longines uses more innovative technologies to create their movements. As a result, Longines’ movements are more reliable and durable and are also less likely to need repairs or replacements over time.
Rado vs Longines: Affordability
Rado watches are generally more affordable than Longines watches, with prices starting at around $600. The brand’s Swiss-made quartz watches are naturally more affordable while you will have to dig deeper into your pockets if you plan to get an automatic model.
Rado’s ceramic and diamond-set watches are by far the most expensive, with prices starting at around $3,000 and going all the way up to the $8,000 mark.
Longines watches are generally more expensive than Rado watches, with prices starting at around $1,000. Like in the case of Rado, the more affordable sector of Longines models consists mainly of quartz-powered timepieces.
Longines’ diamond-set and gold watches are the most expensive, with prices starting at around $5,000 and approaching the $10,000 price basket. Currently, Longines’s most pricey collection seems to be the 18k-gold Master line.
Rado vs Longines: Warranty
Rado offers a 2-year warranty period on all its watches. It’s not spectacularly long but it’s also not shorter than the average length offered by many competitors in the same sector.
The international Rado warranty covers material and manufacturing problems that exist at the time the bought Rado watch is delivered. You have the right to have any problem fixed free of charge throughout the warranty term by providing a valid warranty certificate.
Longines offers a 2-year warranty on all of its watches against all manufacturing defects. However, if you’re after an automatic timepiece, Longines warranty lasts for additional 3 years. In all honesty, that’s quite an incentive!
Longines or Rado: Which Is Better? Summary
When it comes to choosing between Rado and Longines, it ultimately comes down to personal preference – and your budget. Fair to say, both are excellent Swiss watchmakers with a long history of producing high-quality timepieces.
If you’re looking for an affordable watch with a modern design, Rado is a good option. If you’re looking for a more traditional watch with classic styling, Longines is probably the way to go.
When making the decision on the purchase, you also need to ask yourself the following question: “how much do I prioritize the quality and complexity of the movement?”. While both brands deliver excellent value in this field, more often than not, Longines watches tend to utilize more sophisticated complications.
If you’ve been struggling to decide on which brand to go for, we hope that today’s Rado vs Longines comparison has made that choice at least a bit easier.
If you have any further questions on the subject, let us know in the comments below! Alternatively, feel free to share your own experience with either of these two excellent brands.