Rimowa is a high-end luxury luggage manufacturer. The company’s Rimowa Original and Rimowa Essential models both have distinct grooves and are luxury luggage. However, Rimowa Original luggage has an aluminium body, while the Rimowa Essential has a poly-carbonate body. There are other differences but this is the main difference.

Rimowa suitcases have qualities that people adore (the trademark grooves) and find helpful. The brand’s overall message is grandeur, and their luggage can withstand great travel.

While researching hard shell luggage, you’ve probably observed that the front and rear shells’ material is an essential element when considering durability. Consumers often ask if they should buy Rimowa Essential or Rimowa Original with durability in mind.

Many factors influence the decision between a polycarbonate body and an aluminium body. The requirements (carry-on versus check-in), frequency of travel, length of journeys, functionality, aesthetics, packing capacity, and durability are some of them.

This post compares the Rimowa Essential (plastic polycarbonate) and the Rimowa Original (aluminium) luggage pieces. You will learn the pros and cons of each, which should help you decide between the two.

Rimowa Essential product description (plastic polycarbonate)

Lightweight and functional, the RIMOWA Essential is the world’s first polycarbonate suitcase, designed and engineered in Germany with exceptional manufacturing and craft expertise.

Essential Check-In M in Matte Black

The material

Rimowa Essential is made out of tough-to-break polycarbonate plastic, which the company started using in manufacturing its luggage in the 2000s.

The high-tech material can be moulded into head-turning designs (Rimowa grooves) and coloured in a range of pop colours, elevating it to status-level luggage.

Polycarbonate is a material with outstanding strength, stiffness, and impact resistance. Polycarbonate can even be produced to be transparent which makes it ideal for applications in the automotive, medical and aviation industry. Rimowa used it’s transparent properties to make a transparent suitcase in collaboration with Off-White. Commercially a great success but not so great when when everyone can see your dirty undies through the suitcase.

Aside from helmets, you’ll find the plastic in cockpit canopies for small airplanes, safety goggles, body armour, and bulletproof glass. Its unique chemical structure allows it to withstand enormous amounts of force.

The zip

Rimowa Essential has a 360 degrees zip that goes into a TSA lock, which is very secure. The luggage is water-resistant and has two handles, one on the side and another on the top.

The wheels

The luggage stands on hard plastic 360 degrees ball-bearing wheels with cushioned axles. 

The Flex Dividers

The mesh-like compressors are velcro and detachable. So if you don’t like them, you can remove them.

These mesh compressors keep your things in place. Your clothes and personal effects won’t move around during airport transfers. A little pocket is on the side if you want to store anything. 

The logo

No high-end luggage comes without the brand’s logo. The Rimova Essential also proudly flaunts the company’s logo on all the zippers and luggage tags. 

The warranty

Rimowa Essential has a registration number on the side. You should note the registration number, go to the Rimowa website, and add your details to become eligible for the 5-year warranty. Otherwise, you’ll only get two years of warranty with your receipt.

The guarantee covers all the manufacturing defects. If the luggage breaks, they won’t cover that; it most likely will attract an extra charge. However, if any of their items needs replacement, they will send them to you.

Rimowa Original product description (Aluminium)

The Rimowa Original luggage has trademark grooves and a shining high-end anodised aluminium body. It is one of the most recognisable CEO status luggage ever made.

The commercial aircraft Junkers Ju 52  inspired its design, which debuted in 1950. Designed and engineered in Germany, the luggage withstands long-term use and protects easy-to-break items.

The material

The Rimowa Original is a high-quality luggage made of  high-end anodised aluminium with eye-catching accents such as leather handles, locks, and seal.

Rimowa’s move to aluminium luggage happened after one of their old factories burnt down. All the leather and precious materials they’d previously used burnt to ashes. Only aluminium cases survived, which means that they were tried and tested.

Rimowa Original Check-In M Quartz Pink

Apart from some dents and scuffs that could appear over time due to frequent use, the luggage is made to hold up for years. 

You can find them in black, quartz pink, silver, and titanium. It is also available with a camouflaged look (green camouflage). Now and then Rimowa has limited editions, mostly collaboration with other brand or artists.

The lock

Rimowa Original has zipperless closures, a watertight seal, and two TSA-approved locks on the side. 

It is perfect for air travel with your film and photography equipment or your laptop inside. The lock combinations keep your valuables safe and you just have to pinch the two sides of the case together to create that waterproof seal. 

The wheels

Rimowa used hard plastic (polycarbonate) to make the gliding wheels on the Rimowa Original. They are screwed tightly to the body using rivets and are easy to replace.

The handles

Rimowa Original comes with a tone-on-tone plastic handle with matte finish. There is also a telescopic main handle created to offer seamless adjustment and let travellers easily manoeuvre it.

The shape of Rimowa Original lets you add a bag on the top and extend the main handle so that you can carry both.

What’s inside

It comes with liquid bags, a luggage tag, and two flex dividers with firm compressing velcro straps.

The warranty

It has a five-year guarantee if you register the product online on the manufacturer’s website. Otherwise, you will only benefit from a standard 2-year warranty and components can be replaced at a fee.

Differences between Rimowa Essential and Rimowa Original trunks

The Original Trunk has an anodized shiny aluminium body, while the Essential Trunk Plus body is polycarbonate, but they both have signature grooves. The Essential Trunk plus comes at a hefty £954/$1115, while the Original Trunk Plus is even more expensive at £1590/$1925.

The picture below shows the Essential Trunk Plus and Original Trunk Plus side by side. Both are the same size but in different colours.

Let’s have a look at some other differences aside from the price.

Original Trunk Plus in TitaniumEssential Trunk Plus in Azure Blue

Exterior design

The grooves are similar, almost identical, and so are the edges. Both have two plastic handles, one on the side and another at the top. They both have a telescopic main handle which is super comfortable and easy to use.

However, the Rimowa Original Trunk Plus has a better locking system than the Rimowa Essential Trunk Plus. It is zipperless and has secure 2 TSA locks at the side.

Its front and back are hard aluminium shells joined by hinges.

On the other hand,  the Essential Trunk Plus exterior is polycarbonate and closes with a zip joined to a TSA-approved lock. 

It is water-resistant, unlike the Rimowa Original, which is waterproof due to the plastic grip around the case.

Both have hard plastic 360 degrees ball-bearing wheels with cushioned axles. 

The robust aluminium shell design of Rimowa Original Trunk Plus is best for air travel with valuable items that could easily break. However, it is heavier than the Essential Trunk Plus by 2.2 lbs (0.997 kg).

Additionally, the Original Trunk Plus has a bag holder, while the Essential Trunk Plus doesn’t. In its place, there is a plastic engraved Rimowa.

The guarantee for both is five years when registered on the Rimowa site and two years if not registered.

In terms of aesthetics and making a statement, the Original Trunk Plus is more appealing with a luxe look and feel.

Interior design

The Original Trunk Plus has slightly more room than the Essential Trunk Plus.

Both have divider/compressors, but the Original Trunk Plus dividers and interior are cotton, while the Essential Trunk Plus inside and dividers are poly jacquard.

Specifications 

Deciding between buying the polycarbonate Essential Trunk Plus or the Original Trunk Plus is not easy. They both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Original Trunk PlusEssential Trunk Plus
Price€1510
$1925
€920
$1155
Measurements31.5 inches/80.01 cm width
14.8 inches/37.6 cm depth 
17 inches/43.2 cm height
31.5 inches/80.01 cm width 
14.6 inches/37.1 cm depth
16.1 inches/40.89 cm height
Volume26.5 gallons/ 100 litres26.7 gallons/ 101 litres
InsideCottonPolyjacquard
OutsideAluminiumPolycarbonate
Locking System2 TSA approved locksZippers into 1 TSA approved lock on the side
Colours
ProsProtective case
Luxe look and feel
Durable
Waterproof
Sturdy wheels
Lightweight
Water-resistant
Durable
Scratches and dents don’t show as much
Elasticity when packing
ConsHefty price
Heavier than Essential
Scratches and dents are easy to spot
Noticeable and attention-seeking
Wobbly
Zipper has to go around the entire suitcase in order to close
Easily overpack and exceed the maximum weight

Pros and cons of Rimowa Essential (plastic polycarbonate)

If you don’t want scratches or dents to show and are not a fan of patina, then the Rimowa Essential series is your best bet. You could also go with the darker colours of the Rimowa Original, but scratches would still be noticeable.

Rimowa Essential Pros

  • It is super light. 
  • It is functional and low-key. 
  • The polycarbonate material on the hard shell is durable.
  • It has a scratch-resistant body; any scuffs on your luggage will not be easy to identify. 
  • You can also easily replace wheels if they break. 
  • It is possible to customize Rimowa Essential luggage to your liking.
  • The luggage has an elasticity element, accommodating poor packers or people carrying more luggage.

Rimowa Essential Cons

  • The price is also too high.
  • Zipper is less convenient then the locks on the Original
  • Locking the suitcase is also not as smooth as on the Original
  • Doesn’t age well

Pros and cons of Rimowa Original

Rimowa Original luggage are iconic for aesthetics and trademarks ribs (grooves). But the luggage draws too much attention from other travelers and disgruntled baggage handlers. Dents and scuffs are also easy to spot.

Rimowa Original Pros

  • It accommodates valuables with no fear of them getting wet or breaking.
  • The aluminium casing is durable and can withstand heavy usage.
  • It ages well with personality. 
  • The clothes compressors (Flex Dividers) make sure everything stays intact.
  • Easy to use locks
  • Easy to close the suitcase

Rimowa Original Cons 

  • Rimowa Original luggage tends to attract the wrong attention. Disgruntled baggage handlers can add some dents to luggage. You may also be a theft victim.
  • The luggage is heavier than lightweight Essential, especially if it’s a carry-on. You will have a hard time putting it away in the overhead compartment.
  • Its colour choice is limited.
  • It bends, gets dented, scratches easily, and it shows, especially on the silver Rimowa.
  • The patina is also an issue for some travelers.
  • There is no space for the over-packer. If any fabric around the rim is peeping from the shell, the luggage won’t close. That’s unlike the Essential, which bulges to accommodate more.
  • The prices are exceptionally high.

Conclusion

Rimowa makes suitcases to withstand the rigours of travel. But you have no control over the pattern of destruction inflicted on them since baggage handlers will not take care of luggage the same way you do. 

While both Rimowa Original and Rimowa Essential are durable, polycarbonate luggage will cover scuffs and dents better than aluminium. On the other hand, the aluminium body better protects easy-to-break valuables and has a better lock system.

Still, aluminium luggage is flashy, noticeable, deluxe, and the embodiment of the Rimowa style.