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Rolex Oyster Perpetual: The Best Entry-Level Model

January 30, 2020

BY Paul Altieri


Virtually all modern Rolex watches will have the worlds ‘Rolex Oyster Perpetualin their name, but Rolex’s portfolio really consists of two main collections: the Professional and the Classic. These are the timepieces with waterproof Oyster cases, as opposed to their purely dress watch Cellini series. The Professional Collection contains perhaps the most instantly recognizable names, the tool models such as the Submariner, Daytona, and GMT-Master. Each one was (and still is) designed to do a specific job, whether it is keeping track of dive times, lap times, or times in another country.

The Classic Collection also has some big hitters, the likes of the Day-Date and Datejust, the former acting as the ultimate statement of prestige and attainment, the latter an iconic all-rounder that tends to be seen as something of a bridge between the two groups. On the whole, it is the Classic watches that are the most simple, both aesthetically and in terms of complications. The Sky-Dweller’s wonderful annual calendar and GMT function not withstanding, the rest of the range are relatively conservatively styled and with fairly modest features. And coming in as the most humble, understated, and unpretentious of them all is the Rolex Oyster Perpetual.

Best Entry-Level Rolex Oyster Perpetual

Simplicity Itself

Every watch Rolex produces (again ignoring the Cellini collection) is technically an Oyster Perpetual. The name is taken from the Oyster case which gives each one a water resistance of at least 100m, and the self-winding movement the brand developed in the 1930s, which it dubbed the Perpetual. Therefore, a model we would commonly refer to as just the Sea-Dweller is actually formally called the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller.

However, there has always been a separate line of watches with everything extraneous stripped away, leaving just three hands to tell the time, without even anything as unremarkable as a date display. This is officially the Rolex Oyster Perpetual range, the brand’s least expensive and arguably most versatile offering.

Best Entry-Level Vintage Rolex Oyster Perpetual

Like its closest cousin, the Datejust, the modern Oyster Perpetual series has been created to appeal to as many people and tastes as possible. It comes in a total of five sizes, starting at 26mm, the smallest watch Rolex currently makes. After that there are 31mm, 34mm, 36mm and, a relatively recent addition (from 2015), 39mm size options.

Delving back into its long history, you will find a smattering of precious metal versions in 9k, 14k, and 18k gold, either yellow or pink. It was also among the first Rolex watches to be issued as a Rolesor piece, the brand’s own merging of gold and steel. These days, the watches are all forged from stainless steel, underlining the Oyster Perpetual’s long held standing as the entry level choice.

Best Starter Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39

The Modern Collection

That being said, an entry level Rolex is still very much a Rolex. The company doesn’t do compromise in any way and many of the elements you would find on a watch from the very top of the line are also found here. That stainless steel isn’t some cost-cutting bargain basement trade-off. It is the same 904L Oystersteel used for the rest of the catalog, forged in Rolex’s own  in-house foundry.

904L stainless steel is immensely strong, highly resistant to pitting and corrosion, and holds a polish like no other. It is the reason a steel Rolex has a unique shine, with virtually every other major player in the industry using 316L. Between the case, sapphire crystal, and Twinlock winding crown, all the Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches are water-resistant to 100m/300ft.

Best First Rolex Oyster Perpetual 34

Inside, the sizes 34mm and up are powered by movements from the legendary Cal. 313x family. The Cal. 3130 has been providing exceptional service since 1988, and is still also driving the latest no-date Submariner. The 39mm piece inherits the Cal. 3132, an engine that it shares with the latest Explorer. Similar in design, it benefits from uprated Paraflex shock absorbers. Both are given a blue Parachrom hairspring that is virtually immune to temperature variations and the effects of magnetic fields.

If anything, the smaller watches are home to even more impressive movements. The Cal. 2231 is from the series that holds the record for the highest first-time pass rate of any calibers ever tested by the COSC, the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute. However, with all its mechanisms, Rolex sets their own standards for precision and each one is also certified as a ‘Superlative Chronometer’ – meaning that they are guaranteed to maintain their timekeeping to between +2/-2 seconds a day.

Best Entry-Level Rolex Oyster Perpetual Grape Dial

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Options

Although not to the same scale as the Datejust or President, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual is issued with a fairly extensive selection of dial colors. While there is some overlap throughout the series, a few are used exclusively for certain sizes. You will only find a pink dial in the 26mm size, for example, and the white grape is just for the 34mm and 36mm models.

A number have emerged as real favorites, such as the latest trio to be fitted to the 39mm version. The dark Rhodium, a beautiful grey with an ever-changing sun-ray finish, works particularly well, as does the black. But perhaps the most popular at the moment is the white, a slightly different take on the normal Polar dials from Rolex. There is a definite warm tinge, heading towards a slight eggshell, which looks absolutely wonderful. One of those for which pictures don’t really do it justice; it is simply best to see it in the flesh.

Best First Rolex Oyster Perpetual Rhodium Dial

As for the rest of the options list, the only style of bezel available is the high polished smooth version, and each model is fitted with a satin-finished Oyster bracelet. The outcome, especially with some of the more colorful dials, is a watch that can work as both formal and casual wear, perhaps edging nearer the sporty end of the spectrum.

That gives us a clue as to just who the Rolex Oyster Perpetual is intended to appeal to the most. Although the brand is by far the most famous watch manufacturer in the world and creates some of the most collectible timepieces in existence, many Rolex buyers are still people who simply want that one good watch. It needs to be realistically priced, versatile enough to go with anything, strong enough to wear everyday, and be built reliably enough to last several lifetimes.

Rolex’s range of austerely designed, handsomely stylish time-only models emphatically ticks every box. Never under or overdressed, the classic Rolex Oyster Perpetual is simply a discreet class act.

First Starter Rolex Oyster Perpetual Blue Dial



One Response to “Rolex Oyster Perpetual: The Best Entry-Level Model”

  1. Rolex 124300 Blue Dual 2020

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