In Bezel’s official Rolex Oyster Perpetual buyer’s guide, we discuss everything you need to know when buying the water-resistant, self-winding watch.
Rolex totally revolutionized modern watchmaking when it introduced the Oyster Perpetual — and we’re not saying that flippantly. The timepiece featured both the first waterproof wristwatch case and the first self-winding movement with perpetual winding. Today, you’ll find this technology at the heart of pretty much every watch Rolex makes, but the brand still proudly produces the uncomplicated Oyster Perpetual, celebrating an approach to watchmaking that’s all about durability and reliability. Most importantly, the OP is priced far lower than most other Rolex watches, making it a more accessible collection. With so many different models and references to choose from, we’ve put together a guide including everything you need to know when buying a Rolex Oyster Perpetual.
What Makes an Oyster Perpetual an Oyster Perpetual?
Key Oyster Perpetual References to Know
Should You Buy a Modern or Vintage Oyster Perpetual?
Bezel's Oyster Perpetual Picks
Before the OP was even introduced, Rolex made history with the original Oyster in 1926, offering the world’s first waterproof and dustproof wristwatch. The groundbreaking watch featured an innovative, hermetically sealed case, kicking off Rolex’s robust collection of waterproof watches, designed to defy the elements. Other manufacturers took notice, too, creating countless other iconic, waterproof wristwatches inspired by the Oyster’s design principles.
Aside from that historic significance, the Oyster case design is also extremely useful for day-to-day use, protecting the movement from both humid environments and salt water while fully submerged. Meaning, there’s very little to worry about with a Rolex Oyster on your wrist.
In addition to its durable case, Rolex’s Oyster Perpetual has always been coveted for its self-winding, “Perpetual” movement, invented and patented by the brand in 1931. The Perpetual movement was the world’s first self-winding mechanism to function using a weighted rotor, allowing for perpetual winding, so long as the watch remained in regular motion. In comparison to manually wound watches, which required regular winding to ensure the watch kept keeping time, the Perpetual movement’s forever-replenishing power reserve was seen as a serious luxury upgrade.
Since its introduction, Rolex has integrated the Perpetual rotor into all of its watches, eliminating the need to worry about winding, and making its timepieces reliable and accurate for everyday use. In fact, this technology is now found in just about every modern automatic watch, regardless of brand, further proving just how massive Rolex’s influence on the watchmaking industry has been.
Serving as the framework for all of Rolex’s most celebrated watches, from the Datejust to the Day-Date to the Submariner and more, the time-only Oyster Perpetual is universally seen as a crucial fixture of the Rolex catalog. It’s often referred as “the essence of the Oyster” in the brand’s marketing materials, a tagline that encapsulates its unique combination of Rolex’s signature styling plus value and relative accessibility.
Since it’s complication-free, collectors are often drawn to the pure approach to watchmaking that the Oyster Perpetual represents, not to mention the price tag that ultimately yields. The cost is a bit more stomachable than more expensive sports models from the famed watchmaker, making it a great entry point into collecting Rolex watches.
Price range: $4,000-7,000
Price range: $5,000-$10,000
Price range: $5,000-$10,000
Price range: $7,000-$20,000
Price range: $8,000-$30,000
Like almost every other Rolex watch with Oyster case construction and a “Perpetual” self-winding movement, the purist favorite Oyster Perpetual has always been built to last generations. In fact, it’s now crafted to a higher standard than ever before, cased in an advanced, corrosion-resistant alloy of stainless steel, and powered by in-house calibers featuring state of the art shock absorbers and antimagnetic properties. These two advancements make the latest range of modern Oyster Perpetual watches notably more durable than those that have come before them, seemingly justifying the premium modern examples command.
Similarly, vintage examples are more than capable of holding their own through the rigors of everyday wear, though you’ll need to factor water resistance into consideration if a vintage OP is what you’re after. Unless an example has been recently overhauled, it’ll most likely require its case-sealing gaskets to be replaced and greased before it can be taken in the water to live up to its name and waterproof legacy.
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