When the Oyster Perpetual made its debut in 1931, it combined the brand's two most important technologies: a waterproof case and a self-winding movement. Since then, it has become one of the brand's most beloved watches, praised for its simple, refined elegance. 2020 update: the suggested retail price starts at $4,850 for the smallest model and increases with size. Shop our entire selection of certified pre-owned models by visiting our used Rolex watches page.
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The Oyster Perpetual is the entry-level collection of watches in the Rolex catalog. Available in a number of different case sizes and produced in a variety of different materials throughout its history, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual is a straightforward time-only watch and represents the core design characteristics that define all modern Rolex watches.
The Oyster Perpetual watch is the backbone to Rolex's huge portfolio of luxury wristwatches. The development of its case in 1926 marked a pivotal role in the history of watchmaking. The company set benchmarks during this period, refining their expertise in two fields – manufacturing a sealed case for improved water resistance and a winding rotor. The world’s most well-known Swiss watch manufacturer focussed on creating a wristwatch that bridged the gap between sporty and elegant. Its versatile aesthetics enabled it to be worn in the office, for travel and for leisure. Watches for both men and women can be found in the Oyster Perpetual range, as well as a number of unisex models that can be enjoyed by both. The 26mm - 31mm models are perfectly sized for a lady’s elegant wrist, whilst the broader 34mm - 36mm Oyster Perpetuals fit nicely on a gentleman’s arm. The parred down and streamlined design of the Oyster Perpetual has become a desirable look for Rolex collectors. The company dedicated a proportion of focus to the aesthetics of the watch, applying more attention to detail on the performance of its inner workings over anything else.
The model is a simple looking timepiece with a staple layout – a three handed dial design with central seconds hand. Its classic approach to watchmaking underscores the brands ability to strip a watch back to its basics whilst still retaining its strong wrist presence and a desirable style that make it perfect for every occasion. Some models are equipped with a date feature – the Date watch and the Datejust models in particular – the latter of which uses the same case construction and design as the Oyster Perpetual, just as many other collections have done in the past.
Rolex became the first watch manufacturer to create a waterproof wristwatch in 1926. The famous Oyster case design comprises a patented system that screwed the bezel, the winding crown and the caseback to fit onto a solid steel, gold or platinum middle case. It remains one of the most recognisable and most popular wristwatches in the entire history of luxury watchmaking. The fluted bezel of the collection has become a popular design feature used in Rolex watches, and the distinctive fluting that features on the caseback of the Oyster case was tailored for a special tool to fit into it, enabling Rolex watchmakers exclusive access to the movement lying within. A simple yet robust in-house made movement powers on relentlessly at the heart of every watch. Despite its basic design, the watch has stood the test of time and Rolex's younger generation of movements now fitted with the patented "paramagnetic" blue Parachrom hairspring (as well as the manufacturer's own Paraflex shock absorbers) equals the quality and reliability of other more complicated movements created by Rolex.
The "Oyster Perpetual" name is referenced in a number of other models, including the likes of the Cosmograph Daytona and the Submariner, however those named the Rolex Oyster Perpetual relate to the simplest of the company's design – the no-frills version of a very important building block of their huge success to date. Due to its unique case construction the case is technically part of nearly all Rolex models invented after this pivotal point in the company’s manufacturing history. The Oyster Perpetual 39 is powered by an in-house caliber – the 3132. The unisex model is slightly smaller and is powered by the in-house 3130 caliber which goes without the addition of the Paraflex shock protection system. Its precision is considered one of the best features of the movement, deviating no more than two seconds per day according to Rolex. Its Parachrom hairspring made from a non-magnetic zirconium-niobium alloy is an important element within the movement and is ten times less affected by shocks than other hairspirngs conventionally used in luxury wristwatches today. The even smaller 26mm and 31mm sizes are powered by the caliber 2231 which differ very slightly to the 2232 caliber.
Company founder, Hans Wildorf always believed that a wristwatch could be as indispensable and as reliable as a pocket watch. One of the key elements in convincing the public was improving water resistance of a wristwatch. His revolutionary invention in 1926 which included a screwed down caseback, winding crown and bezel created a hermetically sealed environment for a high performance movement. The watch took its name from the mollusc which, just like the watch itself, protects the inside of the shell from water, creating a dry habitat. Demonstrating the performance and capability of this newly developed watch the model secured to the wrist of English swimmer Mercedes Gleitze, who became the first Englishwoman to swim the English Channel. She wore the watch for around 15 hours in cold water whilst she completed her record-breaking mission. The watch was found to be performing beautifully after the swim, cementing Rolex’s reputation for creating a waterproof wristwatch made from the highest quality materials and a reliable in-house movement. Just five years later, Rolex developed their first rotor for this model of which the iconic “Oyster Perpetual” takes its name from. The technological advancement was made up of an oscillating weight with a delayed reaction to movement. This delay between the rest of the watch and the rotor itself winds the mainspring. Since patenting the innovation in 1932 the only slight change to this development was the switch from a unidirectional rotating rotor to a bidirectional rotating rotor, which has now become the norm for all Rolex models developed around the 1940's and after.
The invention of the free rotor helped solve a problem for Wildorf who believed that a watch with water proof qualities was not merely enough if the crown still needed to be constantly unscrewed to wind the mechanism of the watch. The module fitted over the movement therefore, offering automatic winding, marked an important breakthrough in the evolution of waterproof watches since it meant that the wearer no longer had to unscrew the crown to wind the watch manually, which exposes a small area of the case. More recent watches in this collection are equipped with the Twinlock Crown system which features two gaskets for preventing water from leaking into the case, giving the watch a 100 meter water resistance.
This model was also worn by Sir Malcolm Campbell who wore the timepiece while breaking land speed records in the iconic Bluebell in 1935, as well as Sir Edmund Hillary, who wore one on the first ever summit of Everest in 1953. The Submariner was created for professional divers and promised an impressive 200 meter water resistance, whilst for pilot’s the GMT-Master displayed the time in different time zones and is still worn today by avid explorers and travelling businessmen. The Sea-Dweller was created in 1967, meeting the needs of extreme marine divers and providing water resistant capabilities of up to 610 meters courtesy of a patented helium escape valve. The Sky-Dweller with annual calendar and dual time functions was created in 2012. Its also featured a rotating, fluted ring command bezel to control the watch’s functions like setting the date, home time and local time.
Rolex watches from this line tend to retain their value which is good news if you are looking to swap some of your existing models with newer designs. The steel 39 model which comes on either a blue, red or rhodium colored dial, can be purchased for 5,300 USD in new condition, and a little less for pre-owned. The 36mm version is slightly cheaper at around 5,100 USD and pre-owned models can be found for a little under 4,500 USD. Smaller models like the 34mm are even less expensive, costing around 4,800 USD from new. For those looking to get top dollar on their timepiece, be sure to visit our sell Rolex watch page.
In 1945 Rolex created the first ever self-winding wristwatch with a date indicator. The Datejust featured a date aperture nestled underneath a cyclops lens and a special Jubilee bracelet in celebration of its unique design. The exclusive bracelet featured a 5-link design made from stainless steel, white gold, yellow gold or Everose - the gold designs of which were and still are crafted in-house at Rolex’s foundry where all their own gold is produced. The Datejust is a perfect companion for the wrist if you’re looking for an everyday Rolex watch. Combined with a robust case construction, a practical and well-proportioned dial and a date feature, it can pair well with both professional attire and a casual outfit. The case sizes vary from a lady's 28mm to a men’s 41mm. Watches developed from white gold, yellow gold or Everose are more luxurious, and their dials feature distinct characteristics like the Roman numeral hour markers and a fluted bezel. Today the Datejust is available on an Oyster bracelet with 3-link design and some lady’s versions have been adorned with mother of pearl dials and diamond-set bezels. Rolesor models made from stainless steel and gold are a classic option for many whereas the dials of the models from this iconic collection vary from chocolate, black, white, silver, rhodium, blue, pink, or champagne.
Several US presidents have sported the Day-Date watch, which became the first waterproof wristwatch to display the day and date fully written out on the dial at the time of its release in 1956. The watch was named the Rolex President but is also worn by many actors and celebrities. The Day-Date watch is only available in 18k gold or platinum and comes complete on the President Bracelet formed from an elegant three-piece link design made exclusively for the Day-Date line. The high quality chronometer that powers the newer models from the collection is that of the Rolex manufactured 3255 caliber. The dials of the Day-Date include green, blue, silver, ice blue, orange, black and brown as well as mother of pearl dials adorned in diamond detailing, and a choice between a fluted bezel or the more recent glossy domed bezel.
A new 41mm stainless steel Datejust can be purchased for around 7,200 USD – the bi-colour stainless steel with gold versions cost more at around 11,200 USD or pre-owned versions for a couple of hundred dollars less. A pre-owned steel model can also be purchased for a few hundred dollars less. A 36mm Datejust model is perfect as a unisex design and can be purchased for around 26,200 USD in 18k yellow gold. Pre-owned models of this kind can sell for around 20,000 USD. The lady’s versions of the Datejust come in a variety of gold, stainless steel and bi-colour versions. Compared to a stainless steel model which can be purchased for around 6,400 USD, a platinum model is much more expensive and can set you back around 38,000 USD.
Popular models like the 18-karat yellow gold Day-Date 36 can be bought for around 27-28,000 USD from new, whilst a pre-owned model will cost you around 18,000 USD. The watch is now available either on the President bracelet or the Oyster bracelet, along with fluted bezel, smooth domed bezel or diamond-studded bezel options, which vary in price accordingly. If you are in search of a larger model, the 40mm Day-Date watch is a universally appealing timepiece which can set you back around 29,300 USD for a model in mint condition. This timepiece positioned in the mid-to-higher price bracket makes for a good beginner’s wristwatch for starting a Rolex collection. Pre-owned watches like the 41-mm Day-Date II is just 1mm larger and costs around 32,000 USD. Watches made from platinum from the Day-Date collection are rare and can cost considerably more, some starting at 57,600 USD from new. The platinum Day-Date II model is a few thousand USD cheaper and will cost you around 50,000 USD new or 44,500 USD for a pre-owned version.
Retail prices for Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches start out at $4,850 for the smallest 26mm version in stainless steel. The Oyster Perpetual lineup is the least expensive Rolex collection and consists of time-only watches (no date displays) that are available in a variety of different sizes. The price of a Rolex Oyster Perpetual watch generally increases with its case size; however, solid gold vintage Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches are the most expensive due to their use of premium materials.
In Rolex terminology, the word “Oyster” means that the caseback screws down for water resistance, and the word “Perpetual” means that the movement is self-winding. Today, nearly all Rolex watches are technically considered Oyster Perpetual models; however, Rolex’s entry-level watch collection is actually just called the Oyster Perpetual as an expression of these two defining Rolex technologies.
There are a number of ways to tell whether or not a Rolex Oyster Perpetual is real; however, what to look for when verifying the authenticity of an Oyster Perpetual watch will differ from one generation to the next. Counterfeiters are getting better and better each day and copying Rolex’s designs, and sometimes the only way to truly confirm that a Rolex Oyster Perpetual is genuine is to open it up and inspect it with high-powered magnification.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches are powered by mechanical movements, rather than quartz movements, which means that they do not "tick" once every second like most watches. In reality, an Oyster Perpetual watch still ticks, but it ticks multiple times per second, which means that the seconds hand appears to glide smoothly around the dial, rather than jumping forward once every second.
When considering purchasing a Rolex Oyster Perpetual watch, decide firstly on whether you want to invest your money in a new model or aim for something higher with a pre-owned model. Whilst the Oyster Perpetual in its simplest form will provide you with a daily companion and a straightforward three-handed design, models like the modern Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller will allow you to travel with a sophisticated timepiece that combines the fundamental elements of the iconic Oyster case with technical features for keeping on track of a busy business trip schedule. As with all Rolex watches, new or Pre-owned, it is always important to ensure you are purchasing from a reputable dealer. As an official pre-owned Rolex stockist here at Bob’s watches, all our Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches are assessed, serviced and authenticated by our in-house experts.
The Oyster Perpetual is one of Rolex's longest-running models. Most of its immense success can be attributed to a timeless and straightforward design that tends to meet most budgets. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual also notably utilizes the brand's innovative waterproof Oyster case and Perpetual automatic-winding movement, creating an everyday watch that is both sophisticated and reliable. While the collection is incredibly varied when it comes to vintage and discontinued references, more modern versions of the Oyster Perpetual tend to take on a more modest feature set that often includes a smooth bezel and a simple, three-hand dial.
The 6-digit generation is currently trending on the retail and secondary market, with current production stainless steel editions, such as the 116000, 114200, and 114300, being among the most popular. Each of these variations brings their own characteristics to the table while maintaining the core design that makes the Oyster Perpetual so timeless and versatile. As one of the oldest models in the Rolex catalog, vintage editions of the Oyster Perpetual are also often sought-after, with such models as the stunning Bubbleback early-model ref. 3131 and gold ref. 1024 capturing the attention of many collectors in-the-know.