There aren’t that many rules that I apply to watch collecting, as is probably evident from the eclectic (or, less kindly, somewhat messy) assortment of watches I’ve amassed over the years and the variety of stories of how they came to be in my chosen set.
One rule that I’ve found critically important, though – and generally violated only to my regret – is that it’s crucial to handle a watch before buying it. Photos are nice, and friends’ eyewitness accounts can be helpful, but there’s nothing like building one’s own impressions of how a piece looks in the case and feels on the wrist.
Naturally, this story is about how I completely violated that rule and nonetheless came away happy with a watch that few people would have guessed I’d buy: the recently launched Oyster Perpetual 41 from Rolex with a bright turquoise blue dial.
Why – and how – I bought a Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41 and how it fits
In my friend Terry’s watch collection taxonomy, this one is a “fun” piece all the way – a watch that brings a smile anytime it’s on my wrist and whose price was sufficiently within my means so that I’m not constantly fretting about its value.
At the same time, it does have some aspects of a “foundational” watch as it’s a piece from a bedrock brand that can serve as a core element of a respectable collection for many years to come.
As regular readers might recall, my history with Rolex is pretty minimal; five years ago, I felt compelled to describe why I’d never owned one and then not that long thereafter why I’d bought my first, a GMT-Master II “Batman,” which I sold to a friend in early 2020. And I’d made pretty clear my concerns about the world of vintage Rolex collecting, including the popular frenzy associated with the Paul Newman Daytona model as well as my dislike for the phenomenon of false scarcity in the world of steel sport watches.
Along the way, though, I also spent a fair amount of time talking with my Rolex-loving friends about their interests in both contemporary and vintage Rolex pieces, and at auction previews had come across several examples of a whimsical line of Rolexes that really piqued my interest: the Stella lacquer-dial Day-Dates with their riotously colored dials.
One clear sign that you are falling in love with a watch is that you put it on, take it off, find an excuse to put it on again, and repeat the process until it becomes a bit embarrassing. I found myself doing this with some vintage Stellas but never quite got to the point of bidding on one as my level of ignorance of things vintage Rolex led me to be cautious.
That’s not to mention that the hammer prices for excellent examples were also fairly astronomical, especially for a “fun” watch: witness the CHF 200,000 price paid for a yellow gold, yellow dial Stella at Phillips in 2020.
Fast forward to September 1, 2020, when Rolex announced its new watches for 2020. My recollection, now backed up by reading articles and viewing YouTube posts from that day, was that the vast majority of attention was drawn to the re-launch of the slightly reprofiled Submariner, with much less notice (and, in many quarters, negative reactions) to the 36 mm and 41 mm Oyster Perpetual variants with brightly colored lacquered dials.
Where some self-professed Rolex authorities saw “imitation Nomos dials,” I saw what is now much more commonly accepted: a tip of the hat to the vintage Stella watches and an opportunity for fans of that look to get into the game in a much more affordable way.
After bouncing the idea off a couple of pals and asking for opinions on the 36-vs-41 debate, that night I wrote to a local Rolex authorized dealer asking for a 41 mm in turquoise blue – and found to my surprise that I was number one on the waiting list. The rest, as they say, is history.
Why I love my Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41
The core appeal of this watch to me is that it is similar and different at the same time. Similar enough to the vivid appearance of the vintage Stella pieces to be firmly rooted in the brand’s traditions, but at the same time different from both the vast sea of Rolex watches made every year and from other pieces in my collection.
I’ve included links to a couple of in-depth articles on the vintage Stella line at the end of this article and won’t repeat its full history here, other than to note that (although different sources vary in their views) it appears that the Stella name was used in Rolex marketing materials at the time and that it most likely refers to the maker of the rich-colored lacquers used on the dials.
At least so far, Rolex is not formally using the Stella name for the new Oyster Perpetual collection, so I’ll refer to them as Stella inspired or “Stella” pieces.
For me, the variations on an historical theme really work as the modernization of the new pieces, which I’d call subtle but which some Rolex purists see as radical, gives an appeal that I think a literal re-edition of the original Stella pieces would have lacked.
To start, while I fully appreciate that some folks prefer the 36 mm size, I find the 41 mm works extremely well both physically and visually on my medium-sized wrist given the way the case band curves and the bracelet drops smoothly away from the lugs.
The fairly broad, curved bezel keeps the visual size of the colored dial from being overwhelming, and the choice of the smaller Twinlock crown (as opposed to the chunkier Triplock on the GMT-Master II) adds to the harmonious look without sacrificing water resistance unduly.
I also quite like another design element that caused no shortage of wailing and gnashing of teeth among the Rolescenti: the use of (wait for it) double batons at 3, 6, and 9.
I shouldn’t make too much fun as I’m sure there are visual cues on watches from my favorite brands that I’d complain about if changed; but then again, as friend and super watch sleuth Nick Gould pointed out in a post, double markers have appeared on certain Rolex models since the 1950s, including many examples of the Oyster Perpetual Reference 6567.
The double batons at 6 o’clock are visible in the image above along with a couple of other bits that I appreciate about this watch: the “secret” signature and the “Superlative Chronometer” indication of timekeeping performance.
Like the single-bar code on the winding crown that signifies a Twinlock steel case, the laser-etched Rolex crown you can just barely see between the batons and the printed black crown is one of those “inside baseball” items that makes learning about watches fun.
And as a fan of good timekeeping, I applaud that Rolex now specifies that its fully cased-up watches are certified to a tolerance of minus to plus two seconds per day, making the use of the term “Superlative” more than marketing fluff.
In everyday use with my personal wearing pattern, my watch has consistently run at plus three, which is well within my desired margin of being able to wear a watch from Monday through Friday without having to adjust the position of the hands.
The Oyster bracelet is both solid and comfortable, and (note to A. Lange & Söhne) the rounded link profiles don’t present any jarring edges to see as the bracelet curves around the wrist.
While the provided Oysterclasp lacks the Oysterlock safety device and Oysterglide micro-adjustment mechanism (somehow I’ve now lost my appetite for oysters, but that’s a different matter), it is extendable by 5 mm by using the Easylink incorporated into the clasp, which does help with fit on warm or cold days.
On the wrist, the Oyster Perpetual is as legible as it is striking; I really can’t fault the quality of the hands and indices in catching and throwing the light and presenting a crisp appearance.
The blue-hued Chromalight lume on hands and markers also passes muster, both in throwing a prodigious amount of light and complementing the blue color of the dial in dim light conditions when both are visible.
And perhaps some of the Rolex aficionados can enlighten me (pun intended): does the lume actually cast light from the underside of the hands as well or is that a reflection from the crystal?
My online searches didn’t yield any information and I quit waving my UV light around to test this question just prior to causing permanent vision damage.
Is it right for you?
For me and for my collection, this watch – purchased at its retail price – is a great addition. I also feel that it’s a winner for Rolex from a business perspective, enabling the brand to turn a somewhat unappreciated entry-level watch line into one of the hot commodities of the year. It might be just the thing for you if:
- Like me, the lacquered “Stella” look and accompanying lore appeal to you.
- Your personal style extends to wearing bright colors and accents.
- This watch is at an accessible price point for you and you think it’s more fun than other “fun” watches you might buy.
- You appreciate the robust quality and good timekeeping that is front and center with Rolex.
- You have a good enough relationship with your authorized dealer to get an allocation at this point.
On the other hand, you might pass if:
- You have a yacht moored off Capri or a mansion in the Hamptons and can full well afford an original vintage Stella.
- Rolex tradition or no, you see these bright dials as a gimmick (remember, the original Stellas did not sell well at the time they were launched in the 1970s).
- You just aren’t drawn to Rolex as a brand given its scale.
In my eclectic watch box, the Oyster Perpetual 41 fits right in: witness the quick shot below of my set of “steel sport” pieces, ranging across brands and decades.
I’m also not bashful about wearing bright colors, and for me the turquoise of the Oyster Perpetual 41 is a great complement for some of the pieces of Native jewelry that I wear on a daily basis (more about those, by the way, in Collecting Obsessions: GaryG’s Journey With Native American Jewelry).
And from a photographer’s perspective, this watch is a treat: its legibility to the eye translates into ease of shooting, and the combination of brushed finishes, lacquer dial, and curved bright surfaces reduce issues with blown-out highlights and unwanted reflections.
Is the Oyster Perpetual 41 a long-term keeper for me or will it move to another loving home at some point? Time will tell!
For more information on the Rolex Oyster Perpetual, please visit www.rolex.com/watches/oyster-perpetual.
For more on vintage Rolex Stella watches see www.acollectedman.com/blogs/journal/the-colourful-world-of-rolex-stella-dials and/or www.watchtime.me/life-style/vintage/article/1410/a-brief-history-of-rolex-stella-dial-timepieces.
Quick Facts Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41
Case: 41 mm, steel with monobloc middle case, screwed-down crown and solid case back; sapphire crystal front crystal; waterproof to 100 m
Dial: Stella-style lacquer dials in yellow, green, turquoise blue, and coral red; metallic dials in bright black, bright blue, and silver; applied gold batons and crown logo; printed indices and markings; batons, hour, and minute hands with luminous blue Chromalight
Movement: automatic Caliber 3230, 70-hour power reserve; 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency; precision +/- 2 seconds per day after casing
Functions: hours, minutes, (hacking) seconds
Price: $5,900 / €5,500
Remark: five-year warranty
* This article was first published on January 16, 2021 at Why I Bought It: Rolex Stella-Inspired Oyster Perpetual 41 With Turquoise Blue Dial