My week with the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39

My week with the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39

Bruce Duguay

Since the Rolex lineup is peppered with all-stars, like the perennially popular Submariner, crowd favourite GMT-Master II and boy-racer Daytona, it would be easy to overlook the basic Oyster Perpetual as simply filler for the (nowadays usually empty) display case. After spending a week with the new-for-2018 white dial variant, I advise you not to write it off because what we have here is a time-only watch that punches well above its weight class.

The formula

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39

Consumers are generally trained to think that quality increases proportionally with cost and this can be true with a lot of goods and services in our world. At its retail price, the Oyster Perpetual 39 is one of the least expensive mainstream Rolex models, yet there is no discernible difference in the way it has been constructed relative to, say, a Day-Date. Yes, the Day-Date is made of hefty gold, but aside from the materials and weight, the Oyster Perpetual 39 and Day-Date make it very clear they come from the same factory with the same manufacturing principles. As its name suggests, this watch is 39mm in size which many people now consider to be “just right” in terms of a comfortable fit and contemporary look. With this beautiful white dial (where the “white” is worth an entire paragraph alone below) and time-only functionality, the OP39 wears visually bigger on the wrist due to the expanse and cleanliness of the dial face.

That dial though

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39

Come on, it’s just another white dial watch. Not really a big deal, right? Well, it is a big deal in fact, as this is perhaps the most beautiful and thoughtfully made white dial that Rolex makes. To call it a matte white would be oversimplifying its texture. It has a near-metallic quality that, in some lighting situations, makes it appear a very light shade of silver, and in others a subtle cream colour. Leave it to Rolex to create a world of possible shades, angles and liveliness in their basic “white dial” watch. It is entirely true that photographs are not able to convey the personality of the dial. The dial is perfectly symmetrical with large hour batons stretching out to the contrasting black minute track on the edge. The batons are little white gold sarcophaguses filled with bright Chromalight luminous material, adding the right amount of texture to the expanse of the white dial. The legibility is flawless and there is a restrained amount (for Rolex) of text on the dial striving not to steal the show from the beautiful white magic going on.

Proportions matter

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39

The case has a slim enough profile and elegant lugs in order to maximise the visual impact of the dial. Created out of the highest quality Oystersteel (the re-brand of 904L steel), there is polishing only on the case sides and the domed bezel. From past experience with my own Datejust, this domed bezel slips nicely under a shirt cuff but also can be prone to scuffs. The twin-lock crown helps make the OP39 swimmable to 100 metres and is sized right for easy manipulation and aesthetics. Despite being much larger visually, I can report that the OP39 sits as comfortably on my wrist as the aforementioned 36mm Datejust I’ve enjoyed for years.

Bringing it all together is an all-brushed oyster bracelet. Renowned for comfort and fit, the oyster bracelet also seamlessly blends into the brushed case lugs to create a modest fluidity you don’t quite get on some current Rolex sports models. The brushed links are also much more forgiving to light scratches, allowing you to tick off yet another box on the favourable column of the daily-wearer scale for the OP39. Another nod to this daily driver ethos is the inset Rolex crown on the folding Oysterclasp. Typically, the crown is added additional texture above the clasp surface on other Rolex watches. While not enough to catch on things, it would be the first area to accumulate wear and tear at the bottom of the watch over time. Not so with the OP39, as it appears Rolex has anticipated the typical buyer will use this watch nearly every single day. The only item I found that could betray this watch as an “entry-level” model is the curious lack of Rolex’s clever Easylink extension which can allow the wearer some additional bracelet slack on warmer days.

The wrap up

What Rolex has done here is manufacture an extremely comfortable wristwatch that transforms a no-frills setup into a complete and thoughtfully focused product. The purpose of the Oyster Perpetual is to tell time, however the experience goes well beyond that as a study in design, finishing and consistency. All the watch journalist clichés apply: timeless, could be your one watch, iconic, last forever, versatile and wear it with anything. Next time you’re in the boutique, take a second look at that OP in the case. It might just surprise you with its seductive dial and substance for the price equation.





Oyster Perpetual

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Case Size


Case Material

Stainless Steel