The Rolex Oyster was first introduced in 1926. Beginning as the first waterproof and dust-proof wristwatch designed specifically for professional use. The watch famously crossed the English Channel in 1927, around the neck of English swimmer Mercedes Gleitze, surviving the 10-hour long swim unstirred. A front page newspaper advertisement followed, testifying “ten hours of submersion under the most trying conditions” failing to adversely affect its perfect timekeeping, whilst pioneering the modern concept of sports celebrity marketing. In 1931, Rolex patented the world's first self-winding mechanism with a perpetual rotor, today at the heart of every modern automatic watch.
The innovation which led to the creation of the “Oyster” case was a screw down, moisture-proof winding crown, patented by Swiss inventors Perregaux and Perret in 1925. Exposure of the winding stem had always been a clear vulnerability and combined with Rolex’s development of the two-piece, screw-down case with a rubber gasket, the hermetically sealed case became a reality. The “Oyster” name is often associated with a particular style bracelet accompanying many Rolex Oyster watches.
The dial of this Rolex Oyster Date is in exceptionally good condition, has a matte dark-grey finish, applied white gold index markers, with classic 'ROLEX’ and ‘OYSTER PERPETUAL DATE' text referenced on it. The tritium index plots and baton hands have aged to a beautiful yellow patina. It also has its Rolex crown and comes equipped with its Rolex Oyster bracelet and clasp. This particular case dates to 1979 (serial 637 XXXX).
With this example, the index markers are manufactured from white gold, indicated by the lower case Greek letter ‘sigma’ at the bottom of the dial. These small round symbols were displayed to emphasize the inherent value and investment potential of a high-quality mechanical watch, over more competitively priced quartz rivals of the period. The ‘sigma’ signature was a visual declaration of the use of precious materials, and was adopted by a number of manufactures throughout the 70’s.
Inside the watch, it houses Rolex’s calibre 1570 ‘Officially Certified Superlative Chronometer’ grade automatic movement. The mechanism features a lever escapement, 26 jewels, mono-metallic balance and KIF shock-absorber, beating at a rate of 19,800 BPH. A distinctive characteristic of Rolex’s Cal. 1570 is the use of brightly-colored, pink reverser gears in the automatic winding module. The unique colouration is created using Teflon, a branded form of Polytetrafluoroethylene, as a coating, resulting in far less friction.
The evolution of the Rolex Oyster inspired some of the most historically important wristwatches, surviving the harshest of conditions. From 35,000 ft. below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, to the summit of Mount Everest, without losing a beat. There aren’t many mechanical timepieces that have contributed more to the advancement of horological design, nor clearer defined Rolex’s reputation for excellence. Many have tried to replicate its success, but no manufacturer since, has consistently produced mechanical timepieces that endure everyday wear as well as a Rolex, owing much of their success to a unique market niche that the Oyster case helped define.
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