Jewelry & Watches

Why Rolex Watches Have Been on Holiday Wish Lists Since 1926

Precision and protection are the hallmarks of the 91-year-old archetype of modern watches.

Can you believe that the Rolex Oyster is 91 years old? When the nonagenarian was introduced in 1926, it was considered a revolution for timekeeping as the first completely hermetic and waterproof wristwatch. At the time, Rolex, under the guidance of founder Hans Wilsdorf, had already established itself as a serious watchmaker. It had received chronometer certifications, including one reserved for marine chronometers, helping transform the wristwatch from just a fancy accessory to a considerable device for timekeeping.


What the Oyster has offered is protection, or, in Wilsdorf’s words, it guaranteed “against damage caused by dust, perspiration, water, heat, and cold.” By barring all impurities, its patented system of a screw-down bezel, case back, and twinlock winding crown has allowed the watch to maintain perfect time. It can thus be worn anywhere and always, from washing your hands to exploring the depths of the sea. “You just keep your Oyster on your wrist whatever happens and it will never fail you,” he said. With precision and protection achieved, Wilsdorf set off to conquer one last hurdle: figuring out how to wind the watch without compromising its hermetic seal. In 1931, he was able to create the self-winding mechanism we all know today as Perpetual.

But what of that other name, the Oyster? “The fact that, like an oyster, it can remain an unlimited time underwater without detriment to its parts, gave me the idea of christening it the ‘Rolex Oyster,’” said Wilsdorf in 1945. Look at any watch today and you’re sure to find the influence of the Oyster Perpetual, whether it is in their water- resistance or self-winding ability.

Wilsdorf reportedly once said, “I prophesy that the Oyster will popularize the wearing of wristwatches with men more than anything else has done.” Nine decades after its introduction, his prediction remains true. 

Iconic Rolex Styles with the Oyster Case

Datejust 41

The Datejust is the precursor to the other timeless oyster perpetual models such as the Day-Date and Sky-Dweller, and this solid gold and steel combination remains a Rolex icon.

Lady-Datejust 28

The Oyster Perpetual has catered to women since the ’50s. This year’s Lady-Datejust is available for the first time in a blush-colored dial.

Submariner 904L

The Submariner represents the class of Oyster Perpetuals that put function over form. With reinforced waterproofness and a rotatable graduated bezel, this steel model conceived for deep-sea diving is as masculine as it gets.

Bonifacio High Street Central, 556.9824;

This story was originally published in the December 2017 - January 2018 issue of Town&Country.

View More Articles About:
About The Author
Clifford Olanday
Senior Fashion Editor, Esquire Philippines
View Other Articles From Clifford
Latest Stories
It's time to update your listening library.
It's set in the tony New York City world of private-school parents.
"I feel a profound sense of obligation to protect Harry and his family from the unnecessary press intrusion that contributed to Diana’s untimely death," he said.
With a line-up as star-studded as this, performing songs from Cayabyab’s extensive body of work, the concert is guaranteed to be one of the most memorable nights in Filipino music.
Stories you wouldn't want to miss this month.
From hybrid products to just quirky couture pieces, these are some of fashion's fun and functional pieces of the moment.
Now is the time to stock up on all of your skin-saving faves.
In an interview with Stephen Colbert-who, like Cooper, lost his father at age 10-the news anchor discussed grief and loss.
A new poll reveals how favorably the royals are seen in the U.K.-from Meghan Markle to Prince Charles.
A video of the Queen's son at Epstein's New York City home was published today.
We take a look at the life and legacy the former Environment and Natural Resources Secretary has left behind.
Load More Articles