The Oysterflex Bible – every Rolex Oysterflex reference, named and ratedThor Svaboe
We all know only too well how a Rolex Oyster or Jubilee bracelet embraces the wrist unlike any other assembly of steel parts available. It’s a watch bracelet with the feel of silk. Lesser common an experience is the sampling of an Oysterflex bracelet, Rolex’s version of a rubber strap. At the time it was released, the brand stridently avoided that description, by the way. We must mention neither the war, nor rubber.
Back then, it seemed like typical watch industry doublespeak – where every commoner material is granted a loftier title. That is, until it was in the hand; Rolex was perfectly right . Through typical – and utterly masterful – over-engineering, the brand succeeded in elevating the whole concept of rubber strap to another level. Since then, it’s become a ‘Flex by name, and a flex by nature – this is every current Rolex Oysterflex reference, in one handy place.
The beginning of the Oysterflex story
With its debut in 2015 on the 40mm and 37mm Yacht-Master, it made Rolex fun, dare we say it, even ‘urban’ and thereby captured a younger audience in the process. This was at the very dawn of ‘Athleisure’, and the tracksuited, Yeezy set happily spent double the price of a classic Submariner on a large gold sports watch on soft rubber.
I’m happy to admit I was of the staunch belief that while rubber was comfortable on my divers, when spending more than $20,000, the mere mention of it would make me laugh … it’s not premium, is it? Well, think again. The Oysterflex bracelet made me raise an eyebrow from day one, when Rolex insisted this was a bracelet and not a strap, unexpectedly not the point of contention it may seem. The material is a flexible high-density elastomer, which is commonly utilised for high performance bushings in sports cars. The raised eyebrow is back up — now raised out of interest. This sets the bar, revealing the years of research behind a mere strap (sorry, bracelet).
This is why it’s a ‘bracelet’, not a strap
The Oysterflex is, in 2020, by far the best example available of a rubber bracelet on the market, offering the durability of metal, the assurance and class of a deployant mechanism, and the comfort of rubber. Encased within the elastomer is a titanium-nickel core, giving it shape and structural integrity on or off the wrist. The bracelet itself features a patented tiered design and gives you a hitherto unknown feeling of comfort even on warmer days, as the shape lifts the bracelet up from your wrist with wing-like curved cushions.
This lends the Oysterflex a very different feeling to the lint-magnet clingy silicone you associated with the first raised eyebrow. A raised upper section creates a well-needed depth to the design, tapering discreetly to the brilliant solid gold Oysterlock deployant. The Oysterlock in itself is a detail good enough to spend an hour locking and unlocking if only to appreciate the haptics of the clasp. And yes, the genius of Easylink, allowing you an easy extension of the bracelet by around 5mm for a more relaxed fit in the summer heat when your wrist might expand by a millimetre or two.
They could not have made a bigger splash in 2015 than launching the Oysterflex on the sharply redesigned black dial Yacht-Master. The Everose gold, in its warm tone, was the perfect counterpoint to the matt black rubber strap, with the totally un-Rolex move of glossy black details on a matt black Cerachrom bezel. In an instant, Rolex went from your dad’s Sunday best, to out-customising the customisers with a dark take on cutting-edge luxury sports. Mic dropped, and AD stocks instantly depleted.
Rolex Yacht-Master 40mm ref.116655, the Origin of the Species
Yes, this watch is still the best of both worlds, with the warm glow of Everose gold and matt black looking at once tough yet precious on its black elastomer bracelet.
The sharpest applied indices this side of a surgeon’s scalpel is paired with the brilliant touch of a gold print logo under 12 o’clock, while the fresh red Yacht-Master logo is a touch of fresh genius. Read Andrew’s original, sharp in-depth piece here. RRP: The Rolex Yacht-Master 40mm ref. 116655 was $31,600AUD at time of launch and is now $38,600AUD. A pavè diamond dial version is available as ref.126655
Rating: The OG, and still the King.
Let’s be a bit cheeky here and look at the smaller brother of this warm-hued beauty. This is a perfect smaller edition of the original 40mm Yacht-Master, here in 37mm and still marketed as a ladies’ watch. Personally, I have both 36 and 38mm watches that are some of my absolute favourites in terms of wearability, so let’s open this one up to both sexes, shall we? The insider’s tip is that this one will be easier to get hold of at your local AD, and boy does it wear comfortably on the wrist, effortlessly slipping under a cuff and just as full of delightful gold and black elastomer contrast as its larger 40mm brother. RRP: The Rolex Yacht-Master 37mm ref. 268655 is $32,750AUD – Also available is a pavè diamond dial version like its 40mm brother has the ref.126655
Rating: I rate this model as unisex, and more likely than every other Oysterflex model to be available.
Rolex Yacht-Master 42mm ref.226659, in white gold
Well, what can we say? The ref.226659 is simply more of a good thing, keeping the matt black Cerachrom bezel of the original, though here in solid 18k white gold — an example of stealth irony, which appeals tremendously to me. This Yacht-Master is ironically safer to wear on the street than a ’90s bi-colour GMT, thanks to its monochrome look, black Oysterflex and dark bezel, giving it a distinct tool watch vibe.
The contrasts work brilliantly, with the crisp white print and dazzle of the 18k white gold case being a sharp contrast to the black elastomer bracelet. Stealth Wealth is a term of ever-increasing popularity in 2020, and this would be the perfect choice. Read our story from 2019 here, and have a look at our reaction when it was unveiled at Baselworld here. Price: The Rolex Yacht-Master 42mm ref. 226659 is $40,750AUD
Rating: One of the greatest stealth wealth watches of all time
2017: The Daytona chronograph enters the ring
A year after the phenomenal reception of the steel and Cerachrom Daytona with its added strength and lustre to the bezel, Rolex introduced all three precious metal iconic chronographs with what was by now the talk of the town, the Oysterflex. All leather options on Daytonas are now replaced by the brilliance of titanium-nickel encased in elastomer, and gives the already sporty Daytona a tougher vibe. Should you want to bling it up there are plenty of exquisite diamond set and mother of pearl dials to choose from.
We covered this release in 2017, and already then posed a question that will end this Oysterflex piece by yours truly … no points for guessing what we wanted to see. The Daytona models available on Oysterflex are the white gold reference 116519LN, the Everose gold reference 116515, and the yellow gold reference 116518LN you will find covered in our story here. Prices: The Rolex Daytona ref. 116519LN is $41,850AUD, the Rolex Daytona ref. 116515LN is $41,850AUD and the Rolex Daytona ref. 116518LN is $40,150AUD
Rating: Less lit than Lil Yachty, but a nice way to twist a classic
New for 2020, the Rolex Sky-Dweller joins the Oysterflex family
The Rolex Sky-Dweller will never be a discreet timepiece or a tool watch; it owns its own rarefied air as the most complicated wristwatch in the Big Crown’s catalogue, and it is expressly for the wrist of business class travellers and beyond. Even with our sub-40mm focus today, 42mm is not large when you consider the inherent ergonomics of any Rolex case from 37 to 42mm, and why not enjoy some of the world’s most perfect bevels and dial details on a slightly larger canvas. The Sky-Dweller is the last reference to make you enjoy the soft embrace of the Oysterflex, and we covered this latest release in our story here.
Rating: The biggest ‘Flex yet, literally (because this model is 42mm)
Yes, we have an even stronger dial to give maximum effect and more flex than the bracelet can ever muster (sorry!), and that is the full dazzling shock value of a full pavè diamond dial on a matt black soft elastomer bracelet. Enjoy the comfort only an Oysterflex can bring to the party, and mix up your Haute Horlogerie with a healthy dose of pizzazz. And should you go searching on the pre-loved scene, there is also a rainbow bezel reference 116695 to be found should the pavè not be dazzling enough for Sir..
Price: The Rolex Yacht-Master 40mm ref.126655 is available. Price on request. As they say, if you don’t think you can afford it, don’t ask.
To conclude, Rolex rocks with the Oysterflex
It’s as simple as that. The group of staunch supporters of The Crown with eyebrows raised in shock at the mere notion of rubber touching the precious metal of a Rolex case is still there … all of four people. This was the contemporary boost that Rolex needed, and on that blessed day when they decide to fit the Oysterflex on a 41mm Submariner, well, may God help us all.