Ask any designer, of anything, and they’ll tell you the compositions that look the simplest are usually the hardest ones to get right.
With a stark, pared-down design, there’s really nowhere to hide—each minimalist element has to be perfectly proportioned and in the right place, and factors such as color, material and texture become ever more important.
As far as Rolex is concerned, the Rolex Oysterdate Precision is just about as simple as it gets.
The Oysterdate Precision 6694 collection began in the 1960’s.
The Oysterdate Precision 6694
The Oysterdate first appeared in the 1960s and remained one of the brand’s least well-known series until it was finally discontinued in the late 80s.
Easily confused with the Oyster Perpetual and Oyster Perpetual Date ranges, the Oysterdate is actually something of an oddity in the Rolex canon. The lack of a ‘Perpetual’ label in its name points to the fact that it was one of the incredibly rare examples from the crown that was not self-winding. Additionally the lack of any chronometer certification text on its dial alludes to the fact that the watch was not chronometer certified. To gain chronometer status, a watch has to undergo some particularly unforgiving tests for accuracy at the COSC, The Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute. Only those proving to keep reliable time between -4/+6 seconds a day can wear the badge.
Instead, the Oysterdate has ‘Precision’ marked on its dial – a small, easily missed detail beloved by hardcore watch collectors.
The manual-winding distinction really sets the Oysterdate apart from just about everything else that has passed through the Rolex gates, since it is, and was always, a manually-wound timepiece. Incredibly, for the company that invented the perpetual, self-winding movement, the Oysterdate was never fitted with an automatic caliber, even towards the end of its run in the 80s.
Instead, the Cal. 1225 purrs away inside, a 17-jewel mechanism with a 21,600bph frequency.
This Oysterdate Precision 6694 is a great entry level watch.
It is surprising that a watchmaker as progressive as Rolex kept a manually wound movement on its books until so recently. Even the Daytona, with the understandable excuse of needing a far more complicated chronograph engine, was granted the El Primero in that decade.
For the ref. 6694, needing nothing more taxing than a date function, and a non-Quickset one at that, never graduating to a Perpetual caliber gives it an air of the watch that Rolex forgot.
But, in fact, its straightforwardness only adds to the Oysterdate’s charm. In an evermore automated world, there is a real fascination in doing something as nostalgic as winding a beautifully made watch.
The Oysterdate Precision 6694 has no quick set feature.
The Universal Rolex: Oysterdate Precision 6694
With its all-steel construction and its non-chronometer, manually wound movement, the Oysterdate hits a price point that marks it at very much the entry level for a Rolex.
For the burgeoning collector of vintage watches, it can represent the first buy-in to the brand, a model that manages to be very affordable and easily found on the pre-owned market, but so unfamiliar amongst even knowledgeable enthusiasts that it’s unlikely you’ll come across many in the wild.
It appeared with a number of different color dial options over its two-decade lifespan, with blue, silver and black being by far the most prevalent. Look hard enough and you’ll come across versions set off by yellow gold accents on the indexes and hands as well as the crown logo.
Although by modern standards its 34mm case sounds particularly small, perhaps because of the austerity of the dial, it wears somewhat bigger on the wrist. With practically no text beyond the Rolex name and the single ‘Precision’ line, its largely blank surface area evokes slightly more presence.
But its most engaging aspect is in its appeal across the sexes. While it may have started out as a man’s watch, the Oysterdate looks equally at home on women’s wrists.
The Oyster Perpetual Precision is a watch with very little text on the dial.
The Essence of Rolex
When called upon, Rolex can produce watches as complicated as any other, but their name was built with the kind of eminently simple, effortlessly elegant timepieces that could be worn 100 years from now without looking outdated.
The ref. 6694 Oysterdate is one such watch. As just about as basic as a Rolex could be, it still has the brand’s faultless lineage behind it. Whereas some models in the lineup shout for attention, the Oysterdate’s sparse design barely gets above a whisper.
Modest in both size and style, it’s a watch for those who want an unassuming, reliable timepiece with an impeccable pedigree and are content with being the only ones who know it’s a Rolex.