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The Oyster Perpetual: The Cornerstone of Rolex's Success

The Oyster Perpetual is the cornerstone of Rolex's success and still remains one of the most popular luxury watches worldwide. This streamlined stainless steel watch united a waterproof case and an automatic movement with a rotor for the first time.

Highlights

  • One of the most popular luxury watches
  • Includes COSC certificate
  • First waterproof watch
  • Timeless, simple design
  • Twinlock screw-down crown

Simple Unisex Model

Rolex brings together their most important inventions in the Oyster Perpetual. The manufacturer was a trail blazer in two areas of watchmaking: in their use of a sealed case and a winding rotor. Most other Rolex watch series are based on the Oyster Perpetual.
In the 1920s, oysters served as the inspiration for the name of this Rolex series. Oysters seemed the perfect choice, as the underwater creatures' outer shells protect them and keep them dry. At the time, Rolex was a pioneer in the area of waterproof watches. The first version of the Oyster case premiered in 1926. On October 7th, 1927, English swimmer Mercedes Gleitze wore a Rolex Oyster as she attempted to be the first woman to swim the English Channel. The Oyster survived the conditions just fine, proving it to be the first waterproof watch. Gleitze had worn the watch for around eight hours in cold water.
The words "Oyster case" have become an established term in the watch world. It doesn't just signify this model, but rather all Rolexes with a similar design. Distinctive characteristics include a solid Monobloc middle case and a screw-down case back. The back has a fluted edge, which allows watchmakers to open the case for repair and maintenance using a special tool.
The base model is a simple three-hand watch with central seconds. Its name, depending on the model size, has a number added to the end corresponding to the case diameter. The sizes range from 26 to 39 mm. With such a large range of sizes, the Oyster Perpetual is perfect for women as well as men. The 34-mm and 36-mm models are suitable as unisex watches.

Buying Advice for the Oyster Perpetual

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is your introduction into the world of the most well-known Swiss luxury watch manufacturer. At the same time, it's the ultimate classic Rolex, the mother of all Rolex watches. Robust and waterproof to 100 m, halfway between sporty and elegant, the Oyster Perpetual is the perfect companion for every occasion. It looks just as great with a polo shirt as it does with an evening suit. The 26-mm and 31-mm size models were designed with women in mind.
A new Rolex Oyster Perpetual costs around 5,000 euros. If you decide on a model with diamonds and white gold, then you can expect to pay about 3,000 euros more than for a stainless steel version. Pre-owned women's models are available for only 1,000 - 2,000 euros, while pre-owned men's models start at around 2,000 euros.
Like all Rolex timepieces, the Oyster Perpetual is a solid investment. A watch with a similar design - yet much more expensive due to its gold case - is the Calatrava from Patek Philippe.

Buying Tips

  • New Oyster Perpetual models starting at 5,000 euros
  • Pre-owned women's models starting at 1,000 euros
  • Pre-owned men's models starting at 2,000 euros
  • Vintage Oyster models in white gold starting at around 10,000 euros

Revolutionary Automatic Caliber

In 1931, Rolex introduced a technological advancement: the perpetual rotor, from which the Oyster Perpetual gets the second half of its name. Rolex was the first to develop a self-winding wristwatch with a perpetual rotor. The mechanism is made up of an oscillating weight (the rotor) which has a delayed reaction to movements. This delay between the rotor and the rest of the watch winds the mainspring. The mechanism was patented in 1932, and not much has changed in the meantime. The first perpetual rotor, however, wound unidirectionally, while bidirectional self-winding movements have become the standard since the 1940s. Other manufacturers have since begun using this technology from Rolex as well.
The look of the new Oyster Perpetual is characterized by stainless steel. Rolex uses type 904L, which is considered especially corrosion and scratch proof. Rolex uses this stainless steel for the case as well as the bracelet and its three-piece links. Oyster Perpetuals from earlier decades, however, are also available in gold.
The watch features a screw-down Twinlock crown which has two gaskets to prevent water leaking in and damaging the watch. Therefore, thanks to this special crown, the Oyster Perpetual is waterproof to 100 m (10 bar).

Different Sizes, Different Calibers

Due to the many different case sizes, Rolex uses different movements in the Oyster Perpetual collection. Caliber 3132 powers the 39-mm version with reference number 114300; the 3132 also ticks away inside the Explorer. The rotor winds bidirectionally and helps the movement achieve its power reserve of approximately 48 hours. One characteristic of the 3132 is its precision; according to Rolex, it deviates no more than two seconds a day from the reference time. Therefore, it easily passed all tests from the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute and is COSC-certified. By pulling out the crown, you can set the time to the exact second.
A defining feature of the 3132 is its Parachrom hairspring made from a non-magnetic zirconium-niobium alloy. This important component is ten times less affected by shocks than conventional hairsprings. Furthermore, Rolex's Paraflex shock protection system protects the movement in extreme conditions.
Rolex also uses a movement with a Parachrom spiral in the smallest Oyster Perpetual models. Caliber 2231 powers the 26-mm version; the movement barely differs from the larger 3132 movement in terms of precision and power reserve. The 2231 also powers the next size up, the 31-mm version.
The 34-mm models are available with or without a date display. Rolex uses caliber 3135 in this watch, a very reliable, COSC-certified movement which also powers diving watches like the Sea Dweller 4000 or Deepsea. The versions without a date display are powered by the 3130.

Uncomplicated Design

The optional date display with the typical Cyclops lens is not the only extra on the 34-mm Oyster. The women's model with reference number 115234 has sparkling diamond index markers for odd hours and features a white gold and 904L stainless steel bracelet. For a further elegant touch to the watch, Rolex added the option of a fluted bezel.
All together, the watches in the Oyster Perpetual collection feature subtle, simple designs. The olive, red grape, and champagne dials stand out with their bold colors in comparison to the graphite, white, and dark blue dials. The thin, straight, no-frills hands are partially filled with luminous material, allowing you to read the time even in the dark. Hour markers are usually thin lines, although Arabic and Roman numerals are options as well. The 12 o'clock marker is represented by Rolex's logo, the five-pointed Rolex crown.
Even the bracelet has a name of its own: the Oyster bracelet. It has been in production since the late 1930s and consists of flat three-piece links. A series of these three-piece links are added together, building a full-length Oyster bracelet. However, using the patented Easylink rapid extension system, you can change the bracelet length so it's a comfortable fit for you.
Many of Rolex's most famous watches, such as the Submariner, Daytona, and Explorer, belong to the Oyster Perpetual family.

Case Material

  • Predominantly 904L stainless steel
  • Partly white gold
  • Vintage models also feature yellow gold

Further Oyster Perpetual models: Oyster Perpetual Date | Oyster Perpetual Lady | Oyster Perpetual Lady Date