You have read the reviews. You have seen the specifications. Here is our take on the new Rolex Oyster Perpetuals with our own photographs.
We did cover the Oyster Perpetual release on the launch day. But for a fuller analysis, we decided to allow the news to sink in, and the thoughts to develop. Rolex has always been an important brand to collectors. The branding is super strong. The demand extremely high. Almost all the watches, especially the sports watches and Oystersteel models are rare watches, even though it is estimated that Rolex’s annual production is about 1 million watches. Long wait lists exist for many, if not most models.
The Oyster Perpetual (OP) line is perhaps the so-called entry level into the world of Rolex. It has long been the best selling line, outselling all other models. The OP is the direct descendant of the original Oyster launched in 1926, the first waterproof wristwatch in the world and the foundation on which Rolex has built its reputation. It comprises the renowned Oyster case and a mechanical self-winding movement via Perpetual rotor. Certified as a Superlative Chronometer.
The retail prices are :
- OP 41 S$ 7,910
- OP 36 S$ 7,490
- OP 34 S$ 7,060
- OP 31 S$ 6,920
- OP 28 S$ 6,780
All prices inclusive of GST.
Review: Rolex Oyster Perpetual
The Oyster Perpetual (OP) is a simple, time only watch, with no date display. Time is indicated conventionally with two bar shaped hands and a needle like centrally mounted sweep seconds hand. Cased in Oystersteel and fitted with an Oyster style bracelet. As basic as it comes.
The OP now comes in 5 size families – the 41mm, the 36mm, the 34mm, the 31mm and the 28mm. The 39mm model is now discontinued and replaced with the 41mm. The entire series come in a range of lacquered dials, with many colour options. Many of the colours are bright, playful. And are reminiscent of the Stella dials of yesteryear.
Tale of the case and bracelet
The ultra strong case in Oystersteel – Rolex speak for the 904L Stainless Steel used in their watches. The shape remains the same, but the case diameters have received updates. The proportions of the case is very well thought through, and looking at the models in isolation, one is hard pressed to tell the difference between the models. Even from the discontinued OP of 39 to the new at 41, the watches look the same when on its own, and the size difference becomes only apparent when the watches are placed side by side. There are small differences between the dials as we cross case sizes, but more of that in the dial section below.
As usual, the case is extremely robust, and feature facets and curved surfaces which feature a finish which is either brushed or high polish. The Oyster bracelet is comfortable, and very sturdy. The fit and finish is superb, and this is Rolex’s almost unique ability to combine quality and precision with mass production. Every element exudes top quality – from the precision of the crystal as it fits on the bezel, to the polish of the slightly curved bezel to the brushing on the caseback. Awe inspiring.
Tale of the dials
The new OP dials are much like the older ones, with the same basic architecture. The main differences across the size families are that the 41 share the same dial as the 36, with the 34 and 28 having their own nuances. And it wouldn’t be a Rolex if not for these nuanced details.
In the 41/36, the hour markers are double bars at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, and single bars on the other hour markers surround the dial. While for the 34/28, all the markers are single bars.
Another small detail is the minute markers outside the periphery of the hour markers are different across the range. On the 41 and the 36, the five minute intervals are painted squares. The paint is rather thick, and appears raised from the base of the dial. We are not quite sure, but some of the squares may be appliqué as they have a well defined, pyramid like shape. But for the 34, the squares are replaced by Roman numerals indicating the hours. And on the 31 all the markers are lines, just shorter and thicker (bold) ones for the 5 minutes. While the 28 models do not have any markings at the 5 minute intervals.
As these models are fitted with the new movements, a small crown replaces the minute marker at 30, flanked by the words “SWISS” and “MADE” which replaces the 29 and 31 markers as well.
All dials have the Rolex crown at the 12 o’clock position. And all markers are gold appliqué infilled with Superluninova (In Rolex speak, this lume material is known as Chromalight).
The basic dial is either a silver with a sunburst pattern with gold markers and hands or in black with silver marker and hands. But the talk of the world is of course the choice of colorways offered in addition to these. The new colors offered are Bright Blue, Candy Pink (36 and 31 only), Turquoise Blue, Yellow, Coral Red and Green.
We note with interest that candy pink is offered in 36 as well as 31. The hue is a rather bright pastel, pink which is very beautiful. Rolex classifies the OP 36 as Men’s size. Some commentators might have assumed that 36 is a ladies size, and that pink is predominantly appealing only to the feminine customers, have criticized Rolex for being very stereotypical and antiquated. But we think Rolex is up to date that real men do wear pink, and have put Candy Pink in the OP 36. Of course, ladies have been also provided the option in the OP 31 model. Of the 34, 31 and 28, which Rolex classifies as Women’s watches, Candy Pink is offered only in the 31, with the 34 and 28 being available only in the more classical Pink.
The new colours are all rather bright, and applied by a lacquer process, similar to the ones developed for Rolex by Stella, a company based in Châtelaine and Geneva. In the 1970s, they supplied Rolex’s dial makers with the special lacquer with bright pigments. These became what is known as the Stella dials, and are highly sought after by collectors in the secondary market. See this article on A Collected Man for more details on this fascinating phase of Rolex history.
The rehaut is marked with the now standard laser engravings saying “ROLEX” all around, punctuated by the Coronet logo.
Tale of the movements: Caliber 3230 and Caliber 2232
The movement in the OP 41 and 36 is the Caliber 3230. This is a new Rolex movement incorporating the Rolex patented Chronergy escapement. The 3230 beats at 28,800 bph, and has a power reserve of 70 hours.
The Caliber 2232 is used in what Rolex classifies as the ladies watches – the 34, 31 and 28. This is a new in-house caliber fitted with a Syloxi (Rolex for silicon) balance spring. This is not the first Rolex movement with a silicon balance spring, but is the first in a conventional stainless steel model. The for Caliber 2236, which appeared in a diamond encrusted Pearlmaster 34 was the first in 2014. The Syloxi escapement was also used in the 37mm Yachtmaster in Everose. The new 2232 is just the non date version of 2236 and both calibers beat at 28,800 bph with a 70 hour power reserve.
The oscillator of both calibres 3230 and 2232 have a balance wheel with variable inertia regulated extremely precisely via gold Microstella nuts. It is held firmly in place by a height-adjustable traversing bridge enabling very stable positioning to increase shock resistance. The oscillator is also fitted on high-performance Paraflex shock absorbers, designed and patented by Rolex.
Both the movements meet Rolex Superlative Chronometer specifications with chronometry of +/-2 seconds a day maximum deviation.
This is Rolex’s bread and butter. And it shows. A lot of care and attention have been paid to the collection. Five model lines. Multiple colorways to choose from. The base architecture remains the same, with the Rolex Oyster DNA clearly imprinted. And yet, it is different from its predecessors and to each other in the details. Nuances which only the enthusiast will notice, yet which one has come to expect from Rolex. As they say, the Devil’s in the Details.
The watch is well designed and well built, as with all Rolex watches, and have to come to define the level of industrial quality at the highest level. This is the entry level watch to beat every entry level watch, and one to be desired by those starting out. We don’t know the supply and demand situation for these Oyster Perpetuals right now, but they are already being delivered to the market.
All photographs were taken with the Canon EOS R5 with EF 100mm/f2.8L Macro lens. And colour matched in Photoshop 2020 to the official photographs in the Rolex Press Room.