Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39: Review


Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 on wrist (courtesy

Sometimes it’s hard to be a Rolex. Especially an Oyster Perpetual 39. Oh sure, demand exceeds supply. But the delivery delay’s nothing compared to the waiting list for the OP 39’s blingier brethren. Holy Grail models like the stainless steel Daytona might as well be made of unobtanium. FTS. The white-faced Rolex OP 39 is the only Rolex worth owning, bar none.

Nicholas Cage and his Rolex

Before I make my case, let me remind you of a simple fact: Rolex shout nouveau riche louder than a two-tone Rolls Royce Phantom. With spinners. And those are just Rolex’s subtle pieces. The really expensive stuff – your gilded and bedazzled bitches – belong on an obese, Speedo-wearing Russian oligarch’s wrist. And nowhere else. Dissed by arrivistes as “entry level,” the Oyster Perpetual 39 is the only truly tasteful watch in the Rolex range.

How did Michelangelo sculpt his David? He bought a block of marble and removed the bits that weren’t David. Same deal for the stainless steel OP 39. It’s Rolex’s most complicated watch with all the complications removed: chronometer, day window, date window, date cyclops, moon-phase, time zone, rotating bezel, two-tone bracelet, Mercedes-branded hands, gold and jewels.

Mind you, the OP 39 is hardly the market’s only minimalist masterpiece. The Grand Seiko SBGW231 and its stripped-down, wallet-busting bretheren spring to mind (so to speak). None can match the sheer elegance of the OP 39’s perfectly judged 18ct. white gold indices, hovering over darkened dots. Or the stark angularity of the OP’s center-creased hour and minute hands. Well, even if they can, they’re not a Rolex. Steel yourself . . .

Watch nerds know that Ball watches uses the same 904L stainless steel for select models. But Rolex’s unique blend – forged in-house – is peerless. The expression “smooth as silk” doesn’t cut it. Holding an OP 39 is a deeply sensual experience. It doesn’t matter which bit you hold (caress?) – whether it’s the brushed steel bracelet and case, or the high-polished bezel and clasp. Only puppy dogs’ tummies are as smooth.

Like the straight man in a comedy duo, Rolex’s exterior materials and construction don’t get the credit they deserve. There is nothing – nothing – cheap feeling about the OP 39. Nor, as I may have mentioned, is there anything ostentatious about it. Even the OP 39’s case knows its place, playing a near invisible supporting role with curved lugs that flow seamlessly into the bracelet.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 close-up (courtesy

The Perpetual’s “am I wearing a watch?” comfort makes it difficult to wear lesser timepieces. The OP 39 makes the Yema Navygraf Heritage – an excellent watch in every other regard – feel like a plastic trinket from Chuck E. Cheese’s prize counter. OK, no one’s complaining about the steel bracelets affixed to watches made by Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, etc. But high-priced high horology bracelets aren’t any more comfortable than the OP 39’s.

Nor is there an appreciable difference in terms of accuracy. The OP 39 is a COSC certified chronometer, accurate to -4/+6 seconds per day. Once that’s done, Rolex returns the 3132 movement to its case and subjects the OP 39 to an even more rigorous in-house testing regimen. Before it walks out the door, the OP must be accurate to -2/+2 seconds per day and capable of withstanding a 5,000 G shock. Try that with a Patek.

Rolex OP39 sizes (courtesy

Rolex sells Oyster Perpetuals in five sizes: 26mm, 31mm, 34mm, 36mm, and 39mm. Dial color-wise, OP buyers can taste the rainbow. But the Oyster Perpetual 39 in eggshell white is it – a legible timepiece suitable for any occasion, from making pancakes with the kids to a formal dinner with Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 retails for $5,700. You can spend less, but good luck finding a timepiece with so much charisma. Or a watch that holds its value better. And for good reason: the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 is one of the best watches ANY amount of money can buy. If I could give it six stars I would. Yeah, it’s that good.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39
Retail price: $5700


Case: Oystersteel (904L) monobloc middle case, screw-down case back and winding crown, domed bezel
Diameter: 39 mm
Dial: White
Winding crown: Screw-down, Twinlock double waterproofness system
Crystal: Scratch-resistant sapphire
Water resistance: 100m / 330 ft.
Movement: Rolex automatic Caliber 3132, -2/+2 sec/day
Functions: hour, minute and seconds
Power Reserve: 48 hours
Bracelet: Oystersteel, flat three-piece links, Oysterclasp

RATINGS (out of five stars)

Design * * * * *
Classic, tasteful, reserved, elegant. A design that will live in perpetuity.

Legibility * * * * *
None better.

Tactility * * * * *
Silky smooth Oystersteel makes the Perpetual 39 a perpetual delight. (Stroking it in public could be a problem.) The hacking seconds moment glides when setting.

Comfort * * * * *
A 4.6 ounce stainless steel watch so comfortable you forget you’re wearing it.

Overall * * * * *
The best Rolex money can buy.

[Considering buying a Tudor instead? Click here to read Tudor or Rolex? A Buyer’s Guide]


  1. […] Dive watch playing tennis? Cuddling up in bed? Sure, we’re deep into first world problem territory here. All I’m sayin’ is that there are more versatile watch choices, which can be an important factor if you have expensive tastes. If you’re looking for a tough, do-it-all watch at the lower end of the spectrum, I recommend (again) the Longines Conquest V.H.P. If you’ve got big bucks to spend, the world is your Oyster. […]

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