When we think of classics within the Rolex catalog, the usual suspects spring to mind: the Datejust, the Submariner, the Sea-Dweller, the GMT-Master, the Daytona, and even the Explorer. Nowadays, the cachet associated with everything ever touched by The Crown and the desperate desire of the modern consumer to get a Rolex watch on their wrist has driven prices for modern and pre-owned versions of these models through the roof. And yet for some, the lure of owning a Rolex cannot simply be quenched by fiscal unattainability. So, what then?
Thankfully, lurking in the brand’s archives is an alternative that might be the answer to many prayers. The Rolex Oysterdate Precision 6694 is a quiet classic, an unsung hero, and an affordable entry point into what often seems like the most exclusive club in watchmaking. Better still, there are a great many variations on this old, manually-wound model, so there is something for almost everyone. Black dials, silver dials, and brightly colored dials make for a smorgasbord of options, and while its diminutive sizing might scare off a lot of modern watch fans conditioned to think anything below 40mm is a woman’s watch, the 34mm diameter wears with surprising presence and unsurprising comfort.
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 exactly the right place, and factors such as color, material, and texture all become ever-more important. A case study in successful minimalist design, the Rolex Oysterdate ref. 6694 is often overlooked by vintage collectors, yet it offers a restrained and timeless nature that you will be hard-pressed to find in any of the brand’s contemporary models, so below we take a look at this noteworthy vintage Rolex watch in more detail.
Rolex Oysterdate Precision Reference 6694
Rolex Oysterdate 6694 Key Features:
– Reference Number: 6694
– Production Years: 1960s – 1980s
– Case Diameter: 34mm
– Materials: Stainless Steel
– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display
– Dial: Multiple Options Available
– Bezel: Fixed, Stainless Steel, Smooth-Style
– Crystal: Acrylic (Flat w/ Cyclops Lens)
– Movement: Rolex Caliber 1225 or 1210 (Manual-Wind)
– Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet
– Approx. Price: $3,500 – $6,500 (Pre-Owned)
Click here to learn more about the differences between the Rolex Datejust, Date, and Oysterdate.
Simplicity Is Perfection
As far as Rolex is concerned, the Oysterdate is just about as simple as it gets. The Oysterdate Precision reference 6694 began in the early 1960s and ran on with great success until it was finally discontinued at the end of the 19o80s, earning it the distinction of being Rolex’s last manual-wind watch. Throughout that period, the Rolex Oysterdate Precision 6694 was one of the brand’s most popular models, occupying a budget-friendly option that still offered Rolex’s signature date display at 3 o’clock. These days, as collector attentions turn toward the past, the humble Oysterdate Precision looks primed for a retune to the top.
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 rare examples from Rolex 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 and stability at the COSC, The Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute. Only those proving to keep reliable time between -4/+6 seconds a day can wear the COSC-certified badge.
Instead, the Rolex Oysterdate has “Precision” marked on its dial – a small, easily missed detail beloved by hardcore watch collectors. In fact, the cleanliness of the dial and the reduction to purity is one of the things proponents of the model point towards when discussing the watch’s unheralded brilliance. The design of the watch allows the forms used within it to do the talking. Whenever less-traditional colors are used for the dials, the watch remains classy and never goes overboard as might be the case with some of the more famous models’ more ostentatious efforts.
A Manual-Wind Caliber
The manual-winding distinction really sets the Oysterdate apart from just about everything else that has passed through the Rolex gates since the dawn of its automatic winding caliber, and the Rolex Oysterdate Precision was always a manually-wound timepiece. Incredibly, for the company that invented the Perpetual, self-winding movement, the Rolex Oysterdate was never fitted with an automatic caliber – even towards the end of its run in the late 1980s when the technology was affordable, ubiquitous, and fitted to virtually every single other model outside the Cellini range. This unusual quirk adds to the model’s cult status among collectors and helps set it apart from models like the Oyster Perpetual and Date.
Inside, the Caliber 1225 movement purrs away (or the Cal. 1210 on some older examples). The Cal. 1225 is a 17-jewel mechanism with a 21,600vph frequency. As good as this movement’s performance is, it is still surprising that a watchmaker as progressive as Rolex kept a manually wound caliber on its books until so recently. Even the Daytona, with the understandable excuse of needing a far more complicated chronograph movement, was granted the self-winding El Primero while the Oysterdate Precision retained its manual-wind caliber.
For the reference 6694, needing nothing more taxing than a date function (and a non-Quickset one at that), never graduating to a self-winding Perpetual caliber gives it an air of the watch that Rolex forgot. However, one thing wearers should not forget is that the Oysterdate Precision 6694 lacks a quick-set date function, so adjusting the calendar display multiple values does involve a slightly longer setting process. With that in mind, this straightforwardness only adds to the Oysterdate’s charm. In an ever-more automated world, there is a real fascination in doing something as nostalgic as winding a beautifully made watch – and especially one from Rolex.
Oysterdate Precision 6694: A Great Entry-Level Rolex
With its all-steel construction and its non-chronometer, manually-wound movement, the Oysterdate Precision 6694 occupies an attractive price bracket that classifies it as an entry-level Rolex (at least for now). For the burgeoning collector of vintage watches, it can represent the first buy-in to the brand, and a fantastic one at that. It is a model that manages to be very affordable and easily found on the pre-owned market, but so overlooked among even knowledgeable enthusiasts that it’s unlikely you’ll come across many in the wild.
It appeared with a number of different dial color options over its incredibly long lifespan of almost three decades, 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, along with some that feature champagne-colored dials that offer a two-tone aesthetic without any of the price premiums that accompany a steel and gold Rolex watch.
Although by modern standards its 34mm case sounds particularly small, it wears somewhat bigger on the wrist, likely due to its thinner, flatter case design and the austerity of the dial itself. With practically no text beyond the Rolex name and the single “Precision” line on the lower half, the largely blank surface area evokes slightly more presence. However, perhaps the most engaging aspect of the Oysterdate Precision ref. 6694 is its appeal across the sexes. While it may have started out as a man’s watch, the Rolex Oysterdate Precision 6694 looks equally at home on women’s wrists, especially given the modern trend towards women wearing larger watches.
Rolex 6694: A Timeless Watch
When called upon, Rolex can produce watches as lavish and complex as any other manufacturer. However, the brand’s reputation was built upon eminently simple, effortlessly elegant timepieces that could be worn for 100 years without ever once looking outdated – and for many collectors, it is here where Rolex is truly at its best.
The Rolex Oysterdate Precision 6694 is one such watch. It is just about as basic as a Rolex can be, yet it still has the brand’s faultless lineage behind it and also offers the iconic Cyclops lens-magnified date display that has become emblematic of Rolex watches. While some models in the lineup shout for attention or boast about their capabilities, the Oysterdate’s sparse design barely gets above a whisper and for those who appreciate the model, this is exactly why it is so brilliant.
Modest in both size and style, the Rolex Oysterdate Precision 6694 is a watch for those who want an unassuming and reliable timepiece with an impeccable pedigree, and appreciate the understated nature of having a Rolex that does not overtly advertise that it is a Rolex. The reference 6694 Oysterdate is a thinking man or woman’s watch, and it is most certainly one for the ages.