HANDS-ON: A classic in its purest form – the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 with white and black dials

HANDS-ON: A classic in its purest form – the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 with white and black dials

Felix Scholz

One of the real hits from Rolex’s 2015 collection was the Oyster Perpetual 39 (ref. 114300), a bare bones, simple steel timepiece that was still pure Rolex. Initially offered in a range of youthful, colourful dials, this year the Oyster Perpetual family expanded to include white and black dial variants, and they are, just quietly, awesome.

While the case and bracelet are unchanged, it’s worth revisiting them. Of course, the Oyster Perpetual is offered in a wide range of sizes, all the way up to this, the 39mm model, which really will suit a lot of wrists. But if you like your watches smaller, the 36mm is a solid choice, too. The case is Rolex’s classic Oyster case, which hasn’t changed too much over the decades. Made from Oystersteel, it uses Rolex’s Twinlock crown and is rated for 100m. While it might not have the same levels of deep diving capability as the professional line, it’s more than enough for everyday life. The bracelet is excellent — like all Rolex bracelets. It’s an Oyster bracelet, with brushed links. The clasp is a regular Oysterclasp, a superb (and deceptively simple) piece of mechanical engineering.

While the case and bracelet are unchanged, the dials are all new. White and black are perhaps the most classic colour choices for a watch dial, and when used on such a genuinely timeless and iconic design like the Oyster, you can’t lose. But even given that, the dials impress, managing to be subtle and interesting all at once. First up, the black. Executed in the same subtle starburst as other OP dials, the colour is rich, and the clean white printing and applied markers keep it simple in the best possible way — there’s not even a date or cyclops to mar the harmonious design. One notable change on these watches is that the hands and batons are loaded with Rolex’s legendary luminous material. The black dial is likely to be the more popular choice of the two, but, for me, the white is where it’s at. It’s a starker, higher contrast look, without being sterile. The dial finish is different, too; it’s got a more matt, almost creamy appearance that looks fresh as. Beating away inside is the cal. 3132, which, while not new, still meets the brand’s gruelling +2/-2 accuracy standards.

While the individual elements of this watch are all outstanding, where they really sing together is as a whole. There’s a reason this design has been fundamentally unchanged for the last 80-or-so years. It just works. And you can really feel that on the wrist.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 (ref. 114300) Australian Pricing

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39, white or black dials, $7150.