NOTE: For a detailed look at the 2020 Oyster Perpetual make sure to view our latest coverage right here.
As of Baselworld 2018, Rolex gained several new great watches in its family of stainless steel watches. There was indeed more than just the Rolex Pepsi GMT, much more. These new stainless steel watches come in various sizes, and either with a soft white dial or a black sunburst dial. I’m talking of course, about the Oyster Perpetual Black & White dial variations. Click below to have a video overview:
In this hands-on, we’ll go over the 34mm and the 36mm models of these dial variations. For the 39mm hands-on, you can of course head to our previous write-up where we compared it against its similarly sized cousin, the Explorer.
First up, let me point out one detail, as I’ve been getting more than a few questions on that since my last write-up on the Oyster Perpetual 39. It is somewhat of a curse for the Oyster Perpetual range that they are labeled the ‘entry level’ Rolex. Purely for this reason, I’m sure they get glossed over a bit more easily than other Rolex watches. I’d argue it is quite difficult to find a similar quality time-only watch from an established watchmaker that’ll last you a lifetime and then some. Not to mention, these babies come with a 5 year warranty and in practice don’t really need anything other than attention for the first 10 years of ownership. That’s all pretty impressive and in no way an ‘entry-level’ watch. It just happens to be one of the better priced watches out there from Rolex. Better priced in Rolex speak, is of course still several thousands of dollars. So let’s see what this’ll get you.
Oyster Perpetual 34
The 34mm has rapidly gained a following for being more like the vintage 36mm Rolex watches. The gentleman’s choice who spends his evenings in front of the fireplace, scotch in hand, reminiscing about the Mad Men era. I’m a bit of a closet Don Draper as well (minus the alcoholism & good looks), so I went to try this one on fully expecting to love it (I like a smaller watch and have a 6.5″ wrist so I can get away with it). As you’ll see on the pictures, the dial is super clean, very well proportioned, and everything just works in my opinion. Except, on my 6.5″ wrist it’s quite a bit too small:
The dial layout of the 34mm is very smilar to the 39mm OP (taking into account that they have different proportions). Everything you need, nothing you don’t. It is a classic layout, timeless, and no cyclops (hooray). There is no reason why a 34mm “for sure” won’t look or feel right on your wrist, I strongly encourage you to try it out before making a decision. Its overall proportions are excellent and the built quality obviously just as much (I’d take this over a vintage 36mm Datejust any day of the week).
Oyster Perpetual 36 Black Dial
One size up, you’re looking at the 36mm Oyster Perpetual. As you will see on the next picture, the 2mm is not a lot but it makes for a pretty big overall difference.
For an OP type of watch, the 36mm felt just right on my wrist. But then, looking closer, do you see what just happened? The dial has a different design. The 3-6-9 markers are now doubled up, and the 5 minute markers are numbered along the edge.
I’m pointing this out, not because one is better than the other. Simply, so you keep that in mind. Should you really want a super clean layout, perhaps the 34 or 39mm are a better choice for you. On the other hand, if you like the added noise-factor on the 36mm dial, then this is good news for you.
Both the 34mm and 36mm share that same sunburst effect though. And that is very interesting and a feature which looks excellent. I’ve made a partly successful attempt at capturing this effect on the picture below, you have to check it out in real life :
Everything on the Oyster Perpetuals has a nicely satin brushed finish. With a few exceptions being the round bezel and the sides of the case & links. The fact that it doesn’t sparkle too much, is of solid construction and has a 100m water resistance, makes the OP a perfect GADA watch in my book. In fact, if you’d want to buy only one watch and wear it for the rest of your life (and then some), the OP would be a very valid option to look at:
Oyster Perpetual 36 White Dial
Last but not least, the white dial version. It is perhaps my favorite dial in the OP line-up today. It is not a perfect white, it has a hint of champagne in there, adding some interest. Particularly on the 36mm version, I also prefer that the 5-minute numbers are a bit less in your face. Then again, ask me tomorrow, and perhaps the black sunburst has the edge. Check the below mock-up to see the difference in contrast:
The matte white-ish color gives it a bit of a more oldschool vibe to my taste. The white dial does wear a hint bigger, as white dials tend to do.
Details are the same as on the black dial, and check out the lovely applied markers on the dial:
Overall, what you get with an OP is a Rolex quality time-only watch, with a legacy of being the true Explorer’s watch. In today’s version this is a fantastic oyster-case, worn on a perfectly fitting oyster bracelet with a non-locking oysterclasp. In addition, with its screw-down crown and design, it is 100m waterproof. Easy to wear for most occassions, be it on jeans or more formal attire.
Special thanks to George Joailliers, Rolex AD in Leuven (Belgium), for letting us play with the various OP models. Very much appreciated!