Editor’s note: Unless you’ve got some really juicy dirt to blackmail your authorised dealer with, buying a new stainless-steel Rolex can often feel like mission impossible. That’s why you need to think outside the box and consider the alternatives. Luckily, Thor has done the cognitive donkey-work for you with this handful of blue-dial beauties.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41 is a definite contender for “The Only Watch You’ll Ever Need” category. With its classic dark blue sunray dial, the intrinsic quality that resonates within any Rolex case is blatantly obvious in the Oyster Perpetual, even at this relatively accessible price point. Although whether the actual watch is accessible at your local AD may prove a different story …
But if you can’t get your hands on one or fancy something a little bit different, what are your alternatives that deliver the same qualities – namely that special combo of formality with everyday wearability not to mention a beguiling blue dial? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered …
Grand Seiko SBGR321
With the shapely legacy of the distinctive Grand Seiko case, the SBGR321 offers serious competition to the OP’s charms. A chunky 40mm case with the classic broad shoulders of the Grand Seiko automatics, it struts into the game with a flash of Zaratsu polishing. The striking blue dial is part of the 60th anniversary editions of Grand Seiko, so you might have to get to your nearest AD at a brisk pace. But it’ll certainly be well worth the hustle. As Nick put it so well in his full story, the eye-catching blue dial has a sunburst finish that makes the richness of the blue pop even further. Plus, have you ever laid eyes on Grand Seiko faceted indices? Each one is hand-polished with as many as eight facets to ensure they catch even the faintest hint of sunlight. Meanwhile the razor-sharp sword hands complete the picture, bringing a fresh pop of red on the seconds tip. The distinctive Grand Seiko bracelet is as intricately finished as the case, and the comfort level is close to perfection. While Grand Seiko consolidates its position as a dominant force in the luxury watch market, this is still one of the most distinctive alternatives to the Oyster Perpetual, and will equally calm you with its strong presence as it will dazzle. Oh, and believe me, the 9S65 caliber doesn’t need a COSC stamp to impress you – it’s both immensely accurate and bulletproof, with a 72-hour full-weekend power reserve.
Price: $7750 AU.
OK, you might argue that the blue dial Tissot Gentleman is very, very close to the Rolex Oyster Perpetual in the looks department. But the OP is a jack of all trades with a very classic look. And that one-for-all image is exactly what Tissot has managed with their Gentleman, including some spicy details. The blue tone is that just-perfect “go-with-everything” rich dark tone (yes, like the OP, I hear you), formal on the polished centre link bracelet, and dressed down on a brown leather strap with a fat white stitch. The case details are a serious cut above the rest of its competition in a similar price range – it’s slim of case, at 11.5mm, and offers that Goldilocks 40mm size. With applied indices filled with Super-LumiNova and the modernist sword hands, the Gentleman fits its name, with lashings of class. But the Powermatic movement, with its silicon hairspring and 80-hour power reserve, elevates this to the serious value category. Hell, this is even a contender for That First Good Watch. Price: $1250
Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150m
Omega is more than moon landings, Snoopy references and James bloody Bond, let me tell you that. This Seamaster Aqua Terra is a splendid example of the mainstay of Omega, a delicately detailed and dressy sports watch with the unbeatable precision of a co-axial movement. This is a close match to the Rolex, with its 41mm case, and offers some downright charming details like the Nautilus-like deep striations on the blue dial. The dial brings a fresh look to an intricately detailed diver with typical strong arrowhead indices and a katana-sharp polished hand set. I love the way the blunt hour hand cohesively matches the shape of the indices, while the long minute hand has a vividly shaped arrow kissing the rehaut. A look that sits on the jauntier side of formality is ensured by the crisp pop of light blue for every 15 minutes on the minute track, the Seamaster legend script and the needle tip of the seconds hand. Cool elegance, pops of blue and a deliberate maritime air – this is a very fresh alternative.
Price: $9378 AU.
Monta has been on the scene for a few years now, owned by the same company that makes the well-known Everest rubber straps for Rolex. Here they reaffirm their place as an upper-tier micro brand with quality that punches solidly above its weight class. The 38.5mm Noble packs all the right details within a superbly finished steel case with exquisite bevelling, oyster-style bracelet, and a polished bezel framing a desirable blue dial. The fumé depth of the dial has a perfect transition from deep navy to a fresh blue, with distinctive hands and polished lumed indices. The feeling is of integrity and a modern design sans homage. One of the details that sets the Noble apart from other much higher-priced sports watches is their ingenious sliding expansion within the folding clasp of the bracelet, something you won’t even find on a Swiss contender at four times the price. This represents astute value and is available for pre-order now.
Price: $1760 US.
Vintage Rolex Datejust 36mm
As is my modus operandi, I try to come in with a cheeky twist at the end of the story, and what better than another blue dial Rolex? Why not try going down from a 41mm size, to a vintage 36mm Datejust, one of the three most classic models of the Crown. Yes, this is a vintage piece, but a decent 1980s model with a service history can be found for $6000 – $7000, with a sunray blue dial and that classic fluted bezel. There is a good reason this has been a grail for many through the long production run – its balance is frankly sublime. It will most likely come on the beloved jubilee bracelet, with the whole ensemble feeling feathery light, slightly loose and super comfortable if you’re used to a more modern watch. When serviced this will keep great time (well, it is still a Rolex, mate), be less flashy, and even work brilliantly on a smooth brown Horween leather strap.