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The Rolex Oyster Perpetual represents the quintessential Rolex watch. Featuring pioneering means of water resistance with its hermetically sealed Oyster case, and powered by one of the world’s first self-winding movements through its Perpetual rotor, the Oyster Perpetual laid the groundwork for many of the Rolex watches we’ve come to love.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches come in sophisticated finish, and provide the fundamentals – excellent chronometric precision, and legible reading of hours, minutes, and seconds.
While its models and materials have varied over the decades, Rolex has remained steadfast about the Oyster Perpetual. Without functional bezels, complications, and embellishments, the sole purpose of Rolex’s Non-Date watch has always been to tell time. With its simple, no frills design, the range has become a symbol of classic style while offering useful function.
Today, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual is available in a wide range of sizes – from 28mm to 41mm – and in a multitude of dial colors, from muted to striking. Its universal design makes it the choice of many for their first Rolex watch or a daily go-to accessory.
Explore our selection of Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches at SwissWatchExpo.com.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual was introduced in 1950, but its beginnings can be traced back to the 1920s.
In 1926, Rolex created the original Oyster watch – the first mass-produced and commercially available water-resistant watch ever made. With the Oyster, the public had access to a manually wound watch that could do anything. It was even famously worn by swimmer Mercedes Gleitze when she swam across the English Channel.
In 1931, Rolex patented their self-winding Perpetual watch movement – the world’s first self-winding mechanism with a “Perpetual” rotor. With the natural movement of the wearer providing energy for the watch, it winds itself automatically, and is at the heart of every modern watch today.
By 1950, both technologies would come together in a timepiece called the Rolex Oyster Perpetual. The combined water resistance and automatic winding meant that the wearer almost never had to unscrew the crown, which often caused leaks.
The original Rolex Oyster Perpetual was only available in a 36mm case size. Over the years, different size models were released, and different metals and dial colors were introduced. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual’s fundamentals remained through each version – a stainless steel Oyster case with a screw-down, twinlock double waterproof winding crown and case back that makes the watch waterproof to 100 meters, and a time-only dial.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual has been known as a classic, no-frills watch, but today’s collection has shown the brand’s willingness to experiment. In 2020, Rolex introduced a vibrant array of Oyster Perpetual models featuring a series of brightly colored lacquer dials as a subtle homage to the iconic “Stella” dials from the 1970s.
Available in three of the five different sizes – 41mm, 36mm, and 31mm – the lacquered dials were made available in stunning yellow, green, coral red, turquoise “Tiffany” blue and light pink (only for ref. 126000).
With the combination of timeless design, new generation technology, and striking colors the latest Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches have become one of the most sought-after Rolex models in recent times.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is loved for its minimal yet elegant design. Its designs and features have evolved through the decades, but its fundamentals remain the same – a reliable self-winding movement, time-only dial, and sophisticated finishing.
Here are the key features of each generation of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual.
The first Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches were introduced in 1950, powered by the caliber 645 and 1030. These had “Bubbleback” cases whose steel backing bulged because of the size of the movement, where Rolex added an automatic rotor.
By 1959, Rolex Oyster Perpetual Non-Date watches have featured automatic movements which allowed for screw-down case backs and screw-down crowns. These Non-Date models always came in 36mm, with plastic crystals and 26-jewel calibers.
From reference 1002 to 1038, these were equipped with either fluted or milled bezels. Models were available in solid yellow and rose gold, two-tone steel and gold models, and stainless steel. During this era, there were models available with Jubilee bracelets, aside from the standard Oyster bracelet.
The two calibers that feature within this generation of the Oyster Perpetual are the 1560 and the 1570. The production for this Oyster Perpetual ended in the early to mid – 1980s.
In 1964, the first Rolex Oyster Perpetual for ladies was introduced, with a small case measuring 24.6mm diameter and available with Oyster or Jubilee bracelets. It was powered by the Caliber 1130.
By mid-1970s, Rolex introduced various upgrades to the ladies’ Rolex Oyster Perpetual. First was the upgrade to the newer Caliber 2030 which had 28 jewels and featured the Hacking seconds function. Ten years after, the movement would again be upgraded to the 2130 which has 29 jewels and tolerances of just -4/+6 seconds a day. However, collectors would say the biggest difference for this era is the switch from plastic crystals to sapphire crystals.
In 1999, Rolex would make the final changes to the five-digit references. Aside from the Caliber 2230 with 31 jewels and general updates on all the bracelets, everything is the same.
In 2014, Rolex introduced four different sizes to the Oyster Perpetual range - 26mm, 31mm, 34mm, and 36mm. The following year, the collection would get its biggest size yet, the 39mm. This range of sizes made the Rolex Oyster Perpetual the most flexible in comparison to other Rolex collections.
According to its size, this generation of the Oyster Perpetual is equipped with self-winding mechanical movements made in-house by Rolex – Caliber 3132 (for the 39 mm size), Caliber 3130 (for the 36 and 34 mm sizes), or Caliber 2231 (for the 31 and 26 mm sizes).
These have been equipped with the Bleu Parachrom hairspring which offers stability from temperature fluctuations and is 10 times more precise than a traditional hairspring.
In 2021, Rolex introduced a wider range of colors for the Rolex Oyster Perpetual line – from versatile blue, silver and black, to candy-colored pink, green, yellow, coral and turquioise dials inspired by the “Stella” Rolex Dials from the 1970s.
The 39mm size has been discontinued and replaced with a larger 41mm size, bringing the options to five sizes - 28, 31, 34, 36, and 41mm.
Every one of these watches now has a fully brushed Oystersteel bracelet equipped with Rolex's patented Easylink extension system. The Easylink allows for quick adjustment of the bracelet in 5mm increments.
Inside the current Rolex Oyster Perpetual is the Caliber 3230, a self-winding COSC-certified in-house movement, which offers a 70-hour power reserve. Like the previous calibers, it features Rolex's patented Bleu Parachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock protection system. Together, these provide accuracy to +/-2 seconds per day.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual models come in a wide range of reference numbers due to its almost 100-year-old history. Below are the most popular vintage models and current production models.
|36mm, Stainless steel with fluted or milled bezels
|34mm, Yellow gold or stainless steel with gold shell
|34mm, Yellow gold, two-tone, and stainless steel
|671XX / 672XX / 761XX
|24 or 26mm, Yellow gold, two-tone, and stainless steel
|31mm, Stainless steel with smooth bezel, 3-6-9 Arabic numerals on dial
|36mm, Stainless steel with smooth bezel, 3-6-9 Arabic numerals on dial
|28mm, Stainless steel with smooth bezel
|28mm, Stainless steel with smooth bezel
|31mm, Stainless steel with smooth bezel
|34mm, Stainless steel with smooth bezel
|36mm, Stainless steel with smooth bezel
|41mm, Stainless steel with smooth bezel
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is considered the quintessential Rolex, one that models the fundamentals of what a Rolex watch should be. The perfect companion for any occasion, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual is an undisputed classic. Here are some common questions about the Rolex Oyster Perpetual collection.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is the simplest Rolex watch available – it has everything that makes a Rolex, a Rolex.
It starts with the Oyster case and bracelet made of Oystersteel with an Oysterclasp; a simple dial with three hands, baton markers and no date window; and a Twinlock screw-down crown.
Vintage models may come in solid gold or two-tone steel and yellow gold finish, but since 2014 the Oyster Perpetual has been offered exclusively in stainless steel with a smooth domed bezel, further emphasizing its place as the entry point to the Rolex brand.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches have a water resistance rating of 100 meters (330 feet), thanks to its Oyster case, screw down case back, and Oyster crown that secures them together.
With this level of water resistance, it is possible to swim or snorkel with the watch on, but it is not recommended for diving.
In general, Rolex recommends a service every 3-5 years, but one must note that a watch’s water resistance and accuracy are not permanent and are subject to wear and tear.
There can be signs that your watch needs a service sooner rather than later. Check out Signs It’s Time for Watch Maintenance.