If you want just one, all-purpose watch, our watch tester says Rolex’s recently introduced entry-level model, the Oyster Perpetual, might be it. Find out more about in this in-depth review of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39.
If you are like me, you sometimes wish you owned a watch that you could wear on every occasion, something that would go well with every outfit and activity, that wouldn’t be ostentatious but would still have character. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39, introduced in 2015, would seem to fit that bill. Its design comes close to perfection. Its sportily elegant appearance goes equally well with a business suit or a polo shirt. And its new size (39 mm) is correctly proportioned for nearly every wrist, and is not overly conspicuous.
The popular Datejust was the godfather for the shapes of the hands, the indexes and the case. Little blue blocks adjacent to the hour indexes add a touch of excitement and combine with the anthracite-colored and sunburst-finished dial to create an attractive color combination that looks modern, elegant and special.
With gently curving lugs and a broad bezel, the case makes a harmonious impression. All surfaces (except the upper planes of the lugs) are polished. As is almost always the situation on a Rolex wristwatch, the flat sapphire crystal rises above the level of the case, but slopes diagonally downward along its periphery to deflect potential shocks. Proofs of authenticity include Rolex’s crown- shaped logo lasered into the sapphire crystal at 6 o’clock, the name “Rolex” engraved into the metal ring around the dial, Rolex’s crown logo as an appliqué at the 12, and the serial number at 6.
The crystal has no nonreflective coating and therefore legibility is not always ideal. Luminous material on the hands and on the indexes at 3, 6 and 9 facilitates orientation in the dark. There’s no date display. Its absence assures a tidy-looking dial, but might dissuade some from buying this model. If you’re one of them, Rolex offers the Datejust in 36-mm and 41-mm versions, each with a magnifying lens above the date display, and each at a significantly higher price.
Due to the lack of a date display, operating the Oyster Perpetual 39 is refreshingly simple. The crown, which unscrews easily, has only two extracted positions: one to wind the mainspring and another to set the hands. This model also provides a convenient stop-seconds function that halts the balance, and thus also the hands, to facilitate to-the-second time setting.
The horizontal bar under Rolex’s crown-shaped logo on the winding button stands for the Twinlock crown. With a water-resistance rating of 100 meters, the Oyster Perpetual 39 is impermeable enough for a sportily elegant watch and is well suited for daily use.
The caseback is fully threaded: underneath it is Caliber 3132. It differs from its predecessor (Caliber 3130), which powers the smaller, 36-mm and 34-mm models, in that it has a Parachrom balance spring and Paraflex shock absorption. (Parachrom is an alloy of niobium and zirconium; Paraflex is a patented, specially shaped shock-absorbing device. Both were developed in house.) Caliber 3132 is based on the familiar Caliber 3135 with date display, which ticks inside the Submariner and the Datejust.
Each of these Rolex manufacture calibers is a good choice if you want to own just one watch because watchmakers rate all of them among the best automatic movements on the market. They earn this distinction for several reasons: they’re quite robust; their architecture is designed to maximize longevity; and they can be finely adjusted with extreme precision. That’s why a sturdy balance bridge takes the place of an ordinary balance cock, which is borne on only one side. Two knurled screws can be turned to adjust the vertical play. A Breguet terminal curve on the balance spring contributes to precise timekeeping in every situation, as does the regulator-free fine adjustment mechanism via Microstella nuts on the balance. No matter which way the rotor happens to turn, red anodized wheels in the self-winding subassembly convey its kinetic energy with minimal friction.
The balance spring is unaffected by magnetic fields. This component is also reputed to be able to cope with shocks and vibrations 10 times more effectively than conventional balance springs. The Paraflex shock-absorption system also dampers shocks better than standard shock absorbers.
The movement’s engineering and decoration are equally impressive. For example, a handsome sunburst adorns the automatic bridge and the rotor. The latter boasts Rolex’s characteristic piercings. Other bridges are embellished with circular graining, also known as “perlage.” All bridges and plates are plated with rhodium and their edges are beveled and pol- ished. The polished heads of the screws look quite pretty, too. Rolex regrettably opted for a solid, not transparent, caseback. It would have offered a lovely view of the mechanisms, while simultaneously making life more difficult for would-be counterfeiters. Must you be willing to forego a visible movement if you opt for a one-and-only watch? Each potential buyer will have to answer this question himself.
The rate results clearly show which five positions Rolex used when finely adjusting the watch. The results would have been nearly perfect were it not for the rogue value posted in the uncommon “crown left” position. If you eliminate this stray number, you’ll come up with a calculated average deviation of zero seconds per day. Even if you include the “crown left” number, the final results are sufficiently precise.
But what about the price? Debiting $5,700 from your bank account will provide you with the least costly entrée into Rolex’s world of gents’ watches. You’ll have to pay significantly more ($7,150) for the 41-mm-diameter Datejust II with date display. Our tested watch offers the best cost-benefit ratio of all Rolex models.
Of course, the concept of a “one-and- only watch” is a myth. If you’re like me, you’ll always become infatuated with another watch. You’ll yearn for it and gaze longingly at it until you finally possess it. But if you were damned to a life of horological monogamy and were permitted to own just one, then the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 would be a very good choice – assuming, of course, that you’re willing to do without a date display or a transparent back. If so, then this model’s go-with-every-outfit-and-every-occasion styling, large-enough-but-not- too-large dimensions, and robustly well- engineered self-winding movement will ensure that your wrist is well equipped for whatever the day – or the night – has up its sleeve.
Manufacturer: Rolex SA, Rue François- Dussaud 3–7, CH-1211 Geneva, Switzerland
Reference number: 114300 Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Movement: Self-winding manufacture Caliber 3132, chronometer, 28,800 vph, 31 jewels, stop-seconds function, Paraflex shock absorption, Parachrom balance spring with Breguet terminal curve, Glucydur balance with Microstella nuts for fine adjustment, 48-hour power reserve, diameter = 28.5 mm, height = 5.37 mm
Case: 904L stainless steel; flat, but not nonreflective, sapphire crystal; threaded Twinlock crown; fully threaded 904L stainless-steel back; water resistant to 100 meters
Bracelet and clasp: 904L stainless-steel Oyster bracelet with folding Oysterclasp
Rate results (Deviations in seconds per 24 hours):
Dial up +2
Dial down +2
Crown up 0
Crown down -1
Crown left -5
Crown right +2
Greatest deviation of rate 7
Average deviation 0
Flat positions 293°
Hanging positions 263°
Dimensions: Diameter = 39 mm, height = 11 mm, weight = 131 grams
Bracelet and clasp (max. 10 points): The tidily crafted steel bracelet culminates in an easy-to-use folding clasp. 9
Operation (5): The crown is easy to operate; a stop-seconds function contributes to speedy, simple and accurate time setting. 5
Case (10): The well-crafted steel case has neatly polished and satin-finished sides. 9
Design (15): Sportily elegant, contemporary design 12
Legibility (5): The reflective crystal detracts somewhat from the legibility. 4
Wearing comfort (10): Nothing pinches or scratches: notwithstanding the steel bracelet, the wearing comfort is very high. 10
Movement (20): Robust, precise and handsomely decorated 18
Rate results (10): The rate is sufficiently accurate, but connoisseurs are accustomed to even better performance from a Rolex. 7
Overall value (15): The most affordable choice in a men’s-size Rolex; the cost- benefit ratio is very good. 13
TOTAL: 87 POINTS