The Rolex Oyster Perpetual: Archetype of The Modern Watch

90 years of Rolex Oyster Perpetual innovation

By establishing the standard for the precise, reliable, self-winding wristwatch, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual became the archetype of the modern watch, the watch that would change watches. All watches today are water-resistant to some extent and most modern mechanical watches are also self-winding, almost invariably inspired by the free rotor system perfected by Rolex.

The brand has never since ceased to innovate in watchmaking and push back the limits of what is considered possible. For 90 years, Rolex has always stayed one step ahead to fulfil the vision of its founder and apply its exceptional know-how to manufacturing exceptionally high-performance wristwatches.

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Models and Versions

Over the decades Rolex has developed an extensive collection of watches based on the Rolex Oyster Perpetual, with each new model responding to specific needs and uses.

The first Oysters, and later the Rolex Oyster Perpetual, were such versatile watches that they could be worn in town as well as in extreme conditions by swimmers, racing drivers, aviators, mountaineers and explorers of every stripe, wherever essential equipment included a reliable and precise watch, capable of resisting the elements.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual


1945, Datejust                                                         1953, Oyster Perpetual                                               1953, Explorer

In 1945, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its foundation, Rolex launched the Datejust, a high-prestige Oyster Perpetual in gold, with an innovative date display in an aperture at 3 o’clock on the dial.

From then on, two categories of Oyster came into being: particularly elegant classic watches with calendar functions, such as the Datejust, the Day-Date with its day and date display (1956), and more recently the Sky-Dweller with an annual calendar and a dual time zone (2012); and a second category consisting of specialized Oysters known as “Professional” watches, veritable tool-watches with additional features or functions for specific activities. The latter were often developed based on feedback from those using the original Oyster Perpetual in their given field.

One of the first Professional Oyster watches, the Oyster Perpetual Explorer, was launched in 1953 after the first successful ascent of Everest. With its luminescent dial that was extremely legible in any circumstance and its steel bracelet, the Explorer stood out as a different kind of watch.

In 1953, Rolex also launched the Submariner, an Oyster Perpetual with reinforced waterproofness and equipped with a rotatable graduated bezel, specifically designed for deep-sea diving. In these versions of the Oyster, form followed function.

Their names frequently reflected the category of user they were designed for.

These Professional watches also introduced many innovations, responding in the most practical, functional and reliable way possible to specific needs for measuring time. Explorer, Submariner, GMT-Master, Yachtmaster and Cosmograph Daytona; each Professional model in the Oyster collection became a benchmark in its field, fully fledged archetypes of the explorers’, divers’, pilots’, skippers’ or racing drivers’ watch. In designing its various models and in their future evolution,

Rolex Oyster Perpetual

1953, Submariner                                                         1955, GMT-Master                                        1963, Cosmograph Daytona

Rolex’s strategy is to always consider the watch as a whole. Innovation concerns cases, dials, bracelets and clasps just as much as the mechanical movement, in order to offer watches with increasingly better performance from every point of view: from precision and legibility, to accomplished ergonomics, comfort, reliability, resistance to the elements and external perturbations, and also aesthetics.

This approach encouraged the vertical integration of Rolex, and the brand’s in-house mastery extends to all of the essential components of its watches, from their external habillage to the movement inside, in accordance with the most demanding quality criteria at every stage. The insistence on enhancing performance also explains the typical gradual evolution of Rolex watches; new innovative features developed for one model are subsequently rolled out on others.

This is the case, for example, of the Cerachrom bezel, a high-technology component patented by Rolex, which is virtually scratchproof, corrosion resistant and impervious to ultra-violet rays. Launched in 2005 as a bezel insert on the GMT-Master II, it was then extended to the divers’ watches, the Rolex Yacht-Master models, and now appears in a monobloc version on the Cosmograph Daytona. In the movement, the paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring, developed and patented by Rolex, has also gradually been integrated into many models since 2000.

View all Rolex Oyster Perpetual models.

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