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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.
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 model and represents the core design characteristics that define all modern Rolex watches.
The Oyster Perpetual is the backbone to Rolex's huge portfolio of luxury wristwatches. The development of the brand's first waterproof 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 later, an automatic winding rotor.
Rolex 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. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual 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 while still retaining its strong wrist presence and a desirable style that make it perfect for every occasion.
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, while 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.
Rolex founder, Hans Wilsdorf 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 the water resistance of a wristwatch, which up until that point had been something that manufacturers had been able to reliably achieve. His revolutionary invention - the Rolex Oyster Case - came about in 1926 and included a screwed down caseback, winding crown, and bezel to create a hermetically sealed environment for a reliable, high performance movement.
The watch took its name from the mollusk 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 English woman to swim the English Channel. She wore the watch for around 15 hours in cold water while 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.
Rolex became the first watch manufacturer to create a waterproof wristwatch in 1926. The famous Oyster case design features 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 recognizable and most popular wristwatches in the entire history of luxury watchmaking, and its basic design serves as the foundation for countless modern waters from a wide variety of brands.
With the exception of certain vintage models, most watches in the Rolex Oyster Perpetual collection are equipped with the Twinlock Crown system, which features two separate sealed gaskets zones to prevent water from leaking into the case. This system helps provide these watches a 100-meter water resistance rating, despite not being specifically designed for underwater use.
Just five years after pioneering the revolutionary waterproof Oyster case, Rolex developed a rotor-based self-winding mechanism for the Oyster model, which pre-dates the self-winding Rolex Oyster Perpetual models. The technological advancement was made up of an oscillating weight (rotor) that would rotate with the natural motion of the wearer's arm, winding the mainspring in the process.
The invention of the automatic-winding rotor helped solve a problem for Wildorf who believed that a watch with waterproof qualities was not merely enough if the crown still needed to be constantly unscrewed to wind the mechanism of the watch. Automatic winding movements 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 on a daily basis, which increases the amount of wear and tear on the gaskets that help to keep water out.
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 Daytona, GMT-Master, and the Submariner: however those actually just named the 'Rolex Oyster Perpetual' relate to the simplest of the company's design – the no-frills version that has served as the foundation of virtually every watch that Rolex has ever put forward.
All of Rolex's legendary purpose-built sport and tool watches are built upon the foundation of the original Oyster Perpetual model, and before the very first Rolex sports watch - the Explorer - was first introduced, it was Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches that were being used in some of the most demanding conditions on this planet. A Rolex Oyster Perpetual watch was worn by Sir Malcolm Campbell while breaking land speed records in the iconic Bluebell in 1935; and Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay wore Oyster Perpetual watches on the first ever summit of Mount Everest in 1953.
All modern Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches are crafted from 904L stainless steel (known as Oystersteel); however the cost of a Rolex Oyster Perpetual watch depends on its size. Prices for Oyster Perpetual watches start our at $4,850 for the smallest 26mm version, and go up to $5,700 for the largest model with a 39mm case diameter.
|Model||Retail Price||Second-Hand Price||Size||Materials|
|from $2,995||26mm||Stainless Steel|
In more recent years, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual has been a collection of exclusively stainless steel models, which all feature smooth bezels, and matching steel Oyster bracelets. However, Rolex previously offered the Oyster Perpetual in both two-tone and solid gold variations, along with the options of fluted bezels and Jubilee bracelets. In most instances, it will be the modern Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches that will be accompanied by the highest price tags, but solid gold models and rare or collectable vintage references can both sometimes cost significantly more than many brand-new Oyster Perpetual watches.
Among the current-production Rolex Oyster Perpetual models, the price is typically correlated with the case size of the watch. Generally speaking, the least expensive models will be the smallest 26mm versions, while the most expensive are the largest models with 39mm cases. This price trend also holds true for used Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches on the secondary market; however a slight discount can often be found compared to retail, when shopping for a pre-owned Rolex Oyster Perpetual watch.
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. While 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. We offer the industry's best selection of pre-owned Rolex watches, all our Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches are assessed, serviced, and authenticated by our team of in-house experts.
Due to their different size cases, modern Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches run on different movement. However, despite a handful of different calibers, they all offer virtually identical functionality. Additionally, despite their different sizes and slight variations in their construction, they are all guaranteed to the exact same 'Superlative Chronometer' standards of +/-2 seconds per day of timekeeping accuracy.
The 39mm Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 is powered by the in-house Cal. 3132 movement, which it shares with the current 39mm Rolex Explorer, and is the only size variant to feature Rolex's Paraflex shock protection system (all the smaller models feature movements fitted with the previous style of shock absorbers).
Both the 36mm and 34mm models (the Oyster Perpetual 36 and Oyster Perpetual 34, respectively) are powered by the same Cal. 3130. Similarly, both of the two smallest models - the 26mm Rolex Oyster Perpetual 26 and the 31mm Rolex Oyster Perpetual 31 - are powered by the Cal. 2231. Despite their different sizes, all of the different modern Rolex Oyster Perpetual movements promise the same timekeeping accuracy, and like all Rolex calibers, they are singularly reliable.
Technically speaking, all of the modern Rolex watches outside the Cellini collection are Oyster Perpetual models, even though the vast majority of them fall outside the actual 'Oyster Perpetual' collection. With that in mind, Rolex offers a number of models that offer all the hallmark traits of the iconic Oyster Perpetual watch and a similar overall aesthetic, but with the added functionality of a date display.
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 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. Additionally there are many other rare dial variants, such as the 'stella dials' that feature brightly colored lacquered surfaces.
As one of Rolex's longest-produced and most iconic models, the Oyster Perpetual always seems to be on-trend. It’s sophisticated, reliable, and versatile. The Oyster Perpetual collection is also remarkably diverse, offering a handful of case sizes, metal options, and dial colors. Currently trending is the modern stainless steel collection. Oystersteel is Rolex’s own blend of 904L stainless steel and it is forged entirely in-house, offering superior corrosion resistance.
Most popular among collectors in-the-know is the current generation stainless steel Oyster Perpetual, which is sold under references 114200 (34mm), 116000 (36mm), and 114300 (39mm). They feature COSC-rated self-winding movements with sapphire crystals over the dial, and a water-resistance rating of 330 feet. The collection also includes ladies and mid-size options in the form of references 176200 (26mm) and 177200 (31mm). For those looking to get top dollar on their timepiece, be sure to visit our sell Rolex watch page.