At Basel 2014, Rolex gave watch lovers more of what they wanted this year, upgraded versions of the most popular Oyster timepieces. We look at some of the highlights and history of the Rolex Oyster series.
Rolex has been synonymous with the ultimate in quality, workmanship and precision for over 100 years. Its prestige timepieces adorn some of the most powerful people in the world and as an independent company it has flourished over the last few decades expanding collections and ranges. Every year watch lovers gather with baited breath for the announcement of new models at the world’s biggest watch show, Basel in Switzerland. This year was no different, and Rolex didn’t fail to deliver.
The Oyster, was Rolex’s first ever waterproof watch, launched in 1926. Now in 2014 this collection of timepieces gets a very modern makeover. Each of the models launched this year have had a complete tune up that encompasses Rolex’s holistic form of watchmaking – from the case and bracelet to the endless mechanical movements that sit at the heart of every Rolex.
The Oyster Professional range was first embodied for professionals such as divers, pilots, racing drivers and so on and most of the collections that are still loved today debuted between 1953 and 1967. It was, what some believe, a golden age for adventure and exploration before globalisation and computer based technology made our world smaller. Rolex were the first watchmakers who recognised the need for not only precision but also a watch that could withstand extreme weather and pressures. In 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay both wore a Rolex Oyster Perpetual on their record breaking first climb of Mount Everest. So Rolex watches can literally function on top of the world! The Oyster cases have always come with a screwn down crown, bezel and caseback that offer both water and dust protection. The Oyster range today still attracts any watch lover who wants a luxury timepiece that is durable as well as attractive. All of Rolex’s Oyster models are tested at the brands workshops in Switzerland before they are shipped out.
Red and Blue GMT-Master II
Rolex introduces a world first in ceramics with its latest Oyster collection. The much adored Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II now comes with a two colour bezel insert - made in a single piece. This innovation comes after years of research into both the aesthetic and the technical application of ceramics, taking influence from the virtually scratchproof Rolex Cerachrom but remaining very clearly part of the GMT-Master family that begun in 1955. Originally the GMT-Master was created for pilots only, Rolex worked with Pan-Am to develop a watch that worked for those in the sky. The now iconic red-blue colour (sometimes lovingly referred to as Pepsi) was originally meant to make an AM/PM distinction quickly.
While all Oyster models are waterproof none have had such success under the sea as the legendary Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller 4000, which is used by professional divers. The first version of this functional classic was introduced in 1967 and this upgrade is waterproof to a depth of 1,220 metres, as a power reserve of 48 hours and still includes its most famous invention, the helium escape valve. This technology was developed with the US Navy and the French Comex divers, so that the watch can withstand the kinds of pressure at such depths and expel helium that can seep into the case during such a dive. Rolex actually maintains that each watch can withstand an extra 25% than their advertised water resistance depth, and its tested rigorously with professional dive teams.
But it’s not just divers that rely on Rolex’s Oyster range. Engineers and scientists have used its Oyster Perpetual Milgauss since the 1950s as it has a technical purpose as a paramagnetic timepiece. It has been remodeled this year with a green sapphire crystal with an intense ‘Z blue’ dial evokes a feel of lightening striking.
More patents, 14 in fact, were needed to be lodged to create three new versions of the Oyster Perpetual Sky-Dweller, Rolex calls it its most ‘innovative model’. Designed with world travellers in mind, these watches house a dual time display with an innovative annual calendar. For weary jetsetters, a simplified function setting interface, the rotatable Ring Command bezel, makes the watch a joy to use.
But it’s not just the precision movements and technical side of Rolex that have been seeing new innovations under the Oyster collection. Gem-setting is also an important marker that Rolex is know for. Its Gem-Set DateJust Pearlmaster showcases the exceptional work that the brand does using only the highest quality diamonds and sapphires on the paved dial, bezel and bracelet. The Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona features a dial entirely paved with diamonds, with the bezel is embedded with 36 baguette-cut diamonds. The Cosmograph Daytona was developed with racing drivers in mind, the name kind of gives that much away. Nowadays it is as much a fashion statement as professional accessory but the technology developed for speed demons works just as hard whether it comes with diamonds or without.
So where do you start your collection?
Buying a Rolex is an investment, but with so many to choose from how do you narrow down which one to own, or start a collection with. What will you be using it for? Business or pleasure? To show off or to wear everyday?
Rolex sports watches (which include most of the watches in the Oyster collection) are more versatile, and the Submariner is the most popular model and often a wearer’s entry point to the world of Rolex. From this you may move on to the GMT-Master II, the Sea-Dweller Deepsea or the Yachtmaster. For a less expensive entry point try the Rolex Explorer or Explorer II, to go in higher the Daytona Chronograph is the showier sister of the Submariner.
For dress watches, consider the Rolex DateJust II your ideal starting point (the Air King is also very popular but often is too small for modern male wrists). The DateJust is made from a variety of materials, from subtle steel through to much showier (and more expensive) versions.