Review – The Rolex Oyster Perpetual’s Stella Moment

by Ross Povey - Oct 01 2020
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm Oystersteel 2020 Yellow Review

There are few things more exciting for the watch collecting community than a Rolex launch. The speculation builds over the preceding weeks and months whilst forums and social media communities share best-guesses and if-only-they-woulds.  This month was no different, with unconfirmed reports of an impending Submariner reboot that were eventually confirmed via the usual Rolex teaser videos on Instagram. And sure enough on the 1st of September we were treated to a remodeled Submariner family, featuring the updated movement, new bigger yet visually smaller case profile and some new colourways. The Submariner was the flagship launch and yet it has been, in some ways, overshadowed by another release. No, we’re not talking about the Sky Dweller on rubber Oysterflex bracelet (although this is a cool looking watch), but rather a new range of Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches. It’s often said in watch collecting that it’s all about the dials. Never has this been truer…

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm Oystersteel 2020 Coral Red
All About The Dial
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm Oystersteel 2020 Coral Red Review

Stella Style

The watches actually launched a little before 11pm UK time on 31st of August, as the watches launched in the Far East at 6.00am. I have to admit that when pictures emerged on Instagram of journalists attending press events, my eyes were immediately drawn to display cabinets filled with watches with colourful dials. My initial thoughts were that Rolex were launching a new Day-Date model and were presenting vintage white gold Day-Dates fitted with so-called Stella dials. What became apparent was that the watches were actually new models…and they were steel!

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm Oystersteel 2020 Coral Red and Yellow
Steeling the Limelight – the new Oyster Perpetuals in steel

In the 1970s Rolex began offering their most prestigious watch, the Day-Date, with vibrant coloured dials. The dials were available in a kaleidoscope of colours, that had a highly polished deep lacquered finish. These dials were surprising  for a couple of reasons. Firstly, these dials were far away from the normal somewhat conservative form that Rolex enjoyed. This was years before the Rainbow Daytonas, SARU GMT-Masters and other eye-catching Rolex designs, although this was arguably the beginning of this move for the brand.

The Rolex Day-Date - King of Versatility
Seafoam Green with Diamond Hours Stella

Secondly, at the beginning of the 1970s the watch industry was in the midst of the Quartz Crisis. Whilst most brands were in freefall panic about the future of the industry, Rolex decided to go fully left-field and keep innovating and developing new ideas and innovations. The Stella dials get their name from the company that provided the pigment and lacquer that was used in these dials. The dials were used from the early 1970s until the 1990s and have now become incredibly desirable and command rocketing prices as such.

The Rolex Day-Date - King of Versatility
Vintage Turquoise Stella Style

A Modern Moment

And so Rolex unveiled the new Oyster Perpetual line and to use and overused colloquialism, it ‘broke the internet’. Whether by accident or design, all the attention was taken by Rolex’s entry level steel watch. But even entry-level for Rolex is hugely impressive. The case and bracelet are made from 904L, which far superior to the more commonly used 316L steel used by a lot of other brands. These watches also house the new in-house 3230 movement, the same as in the new non-date Submariner. This is about as good as it gets in terms of Rolex’s incredible movement technologies including the Chronergy escapement, Parachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock absorbers. This movement can withstand almost anything you can throw at it or yourself!

Ready for Action – the new Yellow OP36
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm Oystersteel 2020 Yellow Review

There is nothing not to love about a classic steel Oyster. We talk about this a lot, but it’s one of the coolest and most versatile watches you can own. Maybe the perfect one-watch-collection if one was forced to make such a decision. Most collectors that we know have a clean Oyster in their watch box for those days when classic is the only way.

The new Oyster Perpetual, however, is more than just a classic watch. Yes, it can be supplied with a classic soleil-finish dial in silver, blue or black. In fact, the new silver dial is interesting as it is fitted with yellow gold fixings which is a very 1950s look on a steel watch. What caused such a stir were the bright coloured dials that were added to the collection, comprising Coral red, Candy pink, Turquoise blue, Green and Yellow. These colours have so much more than a passing resemblance to the Stella dials – they really are modern interpretations of those iconic dials.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm Oystersteel 2020 Coral Red and Yellow
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm Oystersteel 2020 Turquoise Blue
The Turquoise Blue Dial Oyster is hot.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm Oystersteel 2020 Coral Red Review
Doing it cool since the ’40s
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm Oystersteel 2020 Coral Red Review Rolex Crown
Classic Oyster Style – time that never fades

BB On OP

I love these new pieces. For me it’s all about the details in these new watches and honestly, I believe they are the best bang for your buck in Rolex watches at the moment. At 36mm the size is perfect; Rolex has been making watches at this size sine the 1940s and it is the classic diameter for me. Aesthetically the watches have that wonderful depth in them that you see on vintage Stella dials and the thick, almost dimensional printing is awesome! If I were to buy a modern watch today, it would be one of these in the 36mm size…no question. The only question for me is which dial colour I’d choose…

Bernhard Bulang – Founder

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm Oystersteel 2020 Coral Red Detail
The famous Oyster lines.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm Oystersteel 2020 Yellow and Yellowfins Dial Stella Day Date
Vintage vs Modern – A hyper-rare white gold 1803 with yellow Stella dial next to a new yellow Oyster Perpetual (Pic: Eric Ku)

The coloured dials are finished in a smooth high-gloss lacquer. The text is then richly applied in black and the outer minute track has black plots at the hour markers, which are reminiscent of old lume plots. The applied and hour markers have Chromalight filling and Rolex have introduced double-markers at the quarters (Bulang and Sons Watch Manager Danny likens them to Bugs Bunny’s teeth LOL!).

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm Oystersteel 2020 Coral Red Review
Depth – the lacquer finish and black text is stunning…and those hour plots!
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm Oystersteel 2020 Coral Red Review
Chromalight lume
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm Oystersteel 2020 Coral Red Review
See the cool effect of the 2 tone between the yellow dial and blueish markers in the twilight.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36mm Oystersteel 2020 Coral Red Review
Bugs Bunny – and the tiny coronet signifying the new movement is present.

The overall impression is very cool and we know that these watches are and will continue to be a big hit with collectors of both modern and vintage watches. We’ve always loved the Day-Date at Bulang and Sons, as we wrote about here. The Stella dials have always been intriguing and yet as prices rise, wearing them is not as easy. That’s why we love the new Rolex Oyster Perpetual line – you can wear a Stella as a daily beater. Who wouldn’t love that?

Wear and Tear – the perfect daily watch?
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