Last year, Rolex introduced a new 41mm size into its Oyster Perpetual family. Known as the Oyster Perpetual 41 (reference 124300), the new 41mm diameter replaces the former 39mm models. The 2020 OP 41 is available with seven different dial choices, and the so-called “Stella” coloured dials have gained impressive fame among collectors recently. Still, not everyone is willing to wear a bright yellow or red dial on a daily basis. Thankfully, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41 collection also includes these attractive “bright black” and silver with gold accents models. This straightforward, unpretentious, entry-level three-hander – just shy of its 90th birthday – is the epitome of an everyday watch designed to last a lifetime, specifically in these classic elegant versions.
Resilient yet elegant
The new Oyster Perpetual 41 is as classic as they come. Evading being pigeon-holed as either an elegant sports watch or a sporty dress watch, whichever way you want to look at it, it is quintessential Rolex. The OP is one of my favourite Rolex models. Often and mistakenly overlooked (see box), the watch has a solid utilitarian build with just the right amount of elegance to become your everyday ‘perpetual’ watch.
Some of the bright coloured models, the so-called “Stella-inspired” Oyster Perpetual 41
When it was launched in 2020, the new OP 41 appeared with a host of loud-coloured dials known as “Stella-inspired”, which first appeared on board Day-Date models in the 1970s. The black and silver models I have photographed are, in my opinion, the models that best retain the timeless, classic spirit of the OP that won’t go out of fashion overnight.
A Tale of Two Oysters
The Oyster is the most straightforward and accessible of Rolex watches. Often eclipsed by the high-speed glamour and adventurous tales of the brand’s professional models, the role of the Oyster Perpetual as the precursor of all Rolex watches cannot be overlooked. Living in London in 1905, founder Hans Wilsdorf spotted a niche in the market for reliable quality wristwatches. Dominated by the pocket watch, men were reluctant to wear what they considered feminine bracelets convinced that anything smaller than a pocket watch would result in less accuracy. Wilsdorf set out to prove them wrong. Investing in high-quality Swiss movements from Bienne, in 1914 he obtained the world’s first wristwatch chronometer rating from Switzerland and a Class A certificate of precision from London’s Kew Observatory.
The story goes that Wilsdorf’s ‘Eureka’ moment occurred at a dinner party as he was shucking an oyster. Inspired by the oyster, Wilsdorf developed the world’s first waterproof and dustproof timepiece in 1926 and put it to the test on a cross-Channel swim in 1927 pinned to Mercedes Gleitze’s bathing suit. With water-resistance and quality under his belt, it was time to create a movement that could obtain power from the wearer’s wrist movements alone leading to the development bi-directional oscillating mass, christened the Perpetual movement. Uniting all the breakthrough developments, the final product in 1931 would become known as the Rolex Oyster Perpetual.
Elegance and Sobriety
Both the “bright black” and “silver with gold accents” models feature an attractive sunray finish that creates delicate light reflections that emanate from the centre of the dial. The silver model’s silky sheen is spectacular when viewed at close quarters.
The solid symmetry that characterises the OP is consolidated with the straight hands and indices. The black dial’s hands and indices are made from 18k white gold, while those on the silver dial are made from 18k yellow gold, all treated with Rolex’s proprietary Chromalight (except for the seconds hand) that glows blue in the dark. Taking the gold theme further, you can see small golden square-shaped plots above the indices on the silver version, adding an extra dash of elegance. One of the most visible updates on this new collection is the integration of double-baton indexes at 3,6 and 9 o’clock, meant to fill the large space offered by this time-only dial.
The 41mm case has a 12mm height and the gently curved profile of the Oyster Perpetual family that sits so well on the wrist. Some watch enthusiasts pointed that this enlarged diameter was somehow exaggerated for a time-only model, thus preferring the older 39mm diameter. The watch certainly here gains in presence what it has lost in elegance and the size makes the watch more noticeable. Despite this, the redesigned case is pleasantly shaped and, if you want an extra dosage of refinement, the 36mm option will definitely bring that.
The Osytersteel used for the case (basically, 904L stainless steel) displays brushed and polished finishings. The flat sloping bezel, for example, and the sides of the case feature a bright polish while the three-link Oyster bracelet is brushed. Water-resistance is rated at 100 metres, and the crown and caseback are screwed-down.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41 joins the family of watches fitted with the latest-generation calibre 3230, including the 2020 36mm OP model and the Submariner No Date. With its Superlative Chronometer credentials (COSC-certified and internally certified after casing), the calibre 3230 offers a precision of -2/+2 seconds per day, twice that of an official chronometer. Equipped with the Chronergy escapement and a high-capacity barrel, the movement delivers a robust 70-hour power reserve, has anti-magnetic (blue Parachrom hairspring) and shock-absorbing (Paraflex) properties and is wound with a new and faster self-winding module on ball bearings.
Price & availability
Both versions of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41 – ref. 124300-0001 for the Silver dial and 124300-0002 for the Bright Black dial – retail for the same price: EUR 5,500. There was a time when Oyster Perpetuals were easy to come by on the market, but with the current fever for all things Rolex, even these three-handers might prove elusive – specifically the coloured models, which are surprisingly sought-after…
For more information, please visit Rolex.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.