As you’re likely aware by now, last week saw the introduction of a new line of Rolex Submariners. The Submariner is possibly the most iconic watch that’s ever been made. Yes, “iconic” is used too liberally in writing about watches, but if there’s a timepiece that deserves the title, it’s the Sub. For decades, it’s been carving out an increasingly important space in watch history, as a tool watch, a luxury item, and the flagship product for the watch industry’s flagship brand. The fact that one watch can be all of these things simultaneously really says all that needs to be said about the Sub.
But that, of course, wasn’t the only watch that Rolex unveiled last week, in a September release that many in the watch world didn’t think would happen in this year of a brutal global pandemic. The other big announcement, fighting for attention with the Submariner, but with growing interest among social media posters in the days since the release, is a new line of Oyster Perpetuals, the current entry point into the Rolex line up, at least in terms of price.
The Oyster Perpetual is a rigorously simple design, boiling key Rolex attributes down to their bare essence. The key feature is the Oyster case, waterproof to 100 meters, and cut to roughly the same shape as every other Rolex sports model, if not the same proportions. The OP is an easy wearing, everyday watch that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle in the constant discussion of waitlists for Subs, GMT Masters, and Daytonas, but it has its own unique appeal as a slightly more under the radar and value oriented offering from Rolex.
The Submariner release has been discussed at length for the controversial move to increase the size of the case by 1 millimeter. The Oyster Perpetual has been upsized as well, to the same 41mm diameter as the Sub, leaving the 39mm Oyster Perpetual in the proverbial dust. As has been the case for some time with the Oyster Perpetual, it’s also available in other sizes, and the current lineup includes a midsize 36mm variant that has classic Datejust like proportions, and a smaller 31mm size that’s seemingly geared towards women. All are available in a new slate of colors. Thirty-four millimeter and 28mm OPs are still available as well, but don’t have new dial variants.
And the colors of this crop of OPs is what makes them interesting, and, in my opinion, a little bit special. Here’s how it breaks down: the 41mm size can be had with dials in black, red, blue, turquoise, green, yellow, or silver; the midsize 36mm Oyster Perpetual will be available in black, red, pink, blue, turquoise, green, yellow, and silver; and the 28mm has the same options as the 36mm, but with an additional shade of pink.
Beyond the sheer variety, I think what makes these new Oyster Perpetuals worth discussing is the color choices that Rolex has made. These are bright, spring-like pastels for the most part, and remind me (and many others commenting on the forums and social media) of the highly coveted and very beautiful Stella dial Day-Dates that Rolex made in the 70s and 80s. These lacquered dials (sometimes with diamond hour markers) are colorful in a way that is somewhat uncommon for Rolex. And as the story goes, these colored dials were notoriously difficult to produce, leading to many that had to be discarded. That makes them genuinely rare and sought after by collectors, and they’ve surged in value in recent years as some look outside the realm of the traditional sports watch market for pieces that had been historically undervalued.
The Stella dials fly in the face of the image of Rolex as an ultra conservative brand, and it’s this notion that they’re a bit different and out of step with what most people think about Rolex that has always been appealing to me. Unfortunately, even if we could time-travel to a point where Stellas could be had at a so-called “undervalued” price, the fact that they’re Day-Dates, and thus only made in precious metals, still has them at a prohibitively high price tag. Now, with the new lineup of stainless steel OPs, enthusiasts have a chance to go after a similar aesthetic that’s still every bit the counter to the more staid image Rolex maintains to this day in their sports watch lineup.
In the 41mm and 36mm OPs, Rolex is outfitting the new models with their most modern movement tech. These watches are powered by the same caliber 3230 that is found in the new Submariner, and thus has the same Chronergy escapement, magnetic resistant Parachrom hairspring, and 70 hour power reserve. With the 41mm priced at $ 5,900 and the 36mm at $ 5,600, these represent something of a value in the world of Rolex and offer style that the more traditional sports models simply don’t. These colors aren’t for everybody, but I have a feeling that for the people they speak to, they’ll be very drawn to them.
It’s worth pointing out that much of the debate around the additional millimeter that’s been added to the case of the Submariner has followed to the talk around the new OP. The 39mm case that’s now discontinued was, and is, beloved by those who have worn and owned it. The 41mm cases are making their way to dealers now, so it will be interesting to see how people respond to the increased size once they actually strap them to their wrists. Early indication is that the Submariner case has been very well thought through and the additional millimeter isn’t immediately noticeable because the lugs have been thinned, but the OP had thin lugs to begin with. As with all things, time will tell, but we’re looking forward to seeing these in the metal.
What are your thoughts on the new Oyster Perpetual? Any favorite dial colors? Be sure to leave your impressions in the comments below. Rolex