The perpetual nature of Rolex Oyster bracelet

April 10, 2019

The perpetual nature of Rolex Oyster bracelet

Every watch manufacturer has its own style when it comes to watch bands that follow their best time-tellers. But sometimes the bracelet’s fame goes together with the watch who wore it first. Today we’ll tell the story about one such watch band - the famous Rolex Oyster bracelet.

When it comes to Rolex, it’s hard to speak about such a brand as everything about it could be explained with a saying: “Rolex among watches”. Yet, when you dive into its world, its history has so many stories to tell that you get overwhelmed and you can't just pick one. So we’ll tell you a couple of them tied to the Rolex’s Oyster bracelet. But let’s start from the beginning when the Rolex crown was just formed.

Wilsdorf and Davis, image from rolexmagazine

Wilsdorf and Davis, image fromrolexmagazine

Rolex Registration 1908, image from rolexmagazine

A long time ago, in 1905 to be precise, in London, England, two guys named Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred James David (Wilsdorf's brother-in-law) is founded the company called Wilsdorf. Wilsdorf then registered Rolex as a brand name for its watches and eventually the company itself changed the name. After the World War I, the company was moved to Geneva, Switzerland, to avoid high taxes in Britain at that time – which now seems as an absurd since the most expensive watch ever sold is no other but Rolex. But the vision of the founding minds behind the idea of Rolex is what kept it going even in the hardest of times, and what kept it growing right to the throne of watches.

What these minds knew well is that, if you stream to be the best, you have to think about every detail, including the watch band accompanying the watch. And certainly, no one would like to wear its Rolex on just any bracelet out there. It has to be as special as the watch itself, plus it has to keep it safe, as no one likes even the thought of losing a Rolex watch.

But the story we’d like to tell you today starts in 1926, when Rolex made the first waterproof wristwatch in the world. It was named Oyster because its case was sealed as an oyster and was waterproof up to 100 m. And that’s exactly the reason for moving to the steel bracelets, especially the Oyster strap, because the Oyster line of watches needed a band that could survive harsh conditions its watches were made for. So in the late 1930s, Rolex started introducing its first steel bracelets, to accompany its Oyster watch.

3 generations of Vintage rolex Oyster bands

During the 30s and the 40s of the 20th century, Rolex watch bands were produced by Gay Frères, a manufacturer behind many famous bracelets out there. But as we know, Rolex likes to make every piece of the watch in-house, so in the 1945, Rolex introduced its first in-house watch band made from solid gold, called Jubilee, along with the launch of Datejust line, accompanying the Oyster Perpetual Datejust watch, to mark 40 years of its brand. But even the Jubilee got its five minutes some years later as a luxury bracelet, it was just an intro to something much resilient – the Oyster bracelet, made from stainless steel, officially patented by Rolex in 1947 and offered in 1948, as an addition to Oyster Perpetual watches.

The Oyster bracelet was special from many points, with functionality and endurance being the strongest of them, which Jubilee couldn't win. Such as tapered from 19 mm between the lugs to 12 mm on the folding clasp. It was offered in two versions: with fixed and expanding links. The Oyster watch strap stayed the same for its first decade and a half, but then it started to evolve, following new watches and perfectionism tied to everything with the Rolex name on it.

First, the Oyster bracelet started getting more mass from the 1950s, to improve its resistance. Plus, there were some other things going on.

Since Oyster bracelet is all about functionality, its evolution regarding links may be the most important. That’s why we have 4 generations of Rolex Oyster bracelets during the history, marking their end link evolution, or better said the better fit with new challenges.

1st - stretchable 'folded and rivet'

1st - most with extruded crown logo

1st- obvious rivet

2nd- added more mass

2nd - adjust via center link

2nd - sturdy folded link on two sides

3rd - well built loose endlink

3rd - side links are solid, hollow center link

3rd - Submariner clasp

The 1st generation had visible rivets on hollow links and is also called riveted Oyster. Their design had its holes with time in terms of elasticity and they were pretty much hard to adjust.

The 2nd generation had folded links created by folding a piece of metal folded around the links and pins were internal on them.

The 3rd generation of Rolex Oyster bracelets had hollow, solid links, which was an improvement, but the 4th generation was a bit closer to perfection. It is the thickest and has solid links, and this is also how the Oyster bracelet looks nowadays.

When it comes to sizes, Oyster bracelet followed many Rolexes. That’s why you can see Oyster bracelets for lugs ranging from 13 mm (Lady-Datejust) up to 22 mm (Deepsea Sea-Dweller 126660). Each generation of Rolex Oyster bracelet had its specific reference number indicating the generation and the size of its end-links. For example, the first generation was marked as 7206 (20 mm), 7205 (19 mm) and 7204 (13 mm); the second generation was marked 7834, 7835 and 7836; the third generation got an additional zero at the end: 72360 (22 mm) etc. And these references were important because they allowed the proper combination and a good fit of a bracelet’s end links and a watch.

Currently, this band appears on the entire range of Professional watches.
Reference Lug Model
70130 13 mm Lady Oyster Perpetual
70160 16 mm Oyster Perpetual
70190 19 mm Air-King
70200 20 mm Oyster Perpetual
72130 -72131 -72133 13 mm Lady-Datejust
72160 - 72161 -72163 16 mm Datejust 31 mm
72190 19 mm Date
72210 - 72213 21 mm Datejust 41 mm
72600 - 72601 - 72603 20 mm Datejust 36 mm
73168 16 mm Datejust 31 mm
73205 - 73208 - 73209 20 mm Day-Date
Reference Lug Model
72400 20 mm Milgauss
74768 -74769 20 mm GMT-Master II
77200 20 mm Explorer
78200 - 78203 - 78208 - 78209 20 mm GMT-Master II
78218 - 78219 21 mm Yacht-Master II
78590 -78593 -78595 - 78598 -78599 20 mm Cosmograph Daytona
78730 -78733 -78738 14 mm Yacht-Master
78740 - 78743 - 78748 17 mm Yacht-Master
78750 -78753 -78758 17 mm Yacht-Master
78760 - 78763 - 78768 20 mm Yacht-Master
78790 20 mm Explorer II
93150 20 mm Submariner Date
97200 - 97203 - 97208 - 97209 20 mm Submariner Date
98210 21 mm Rolex Deepsea
Reference Lug For
72848 - 72849 17 mm DateJust "Special Edition"
74818 - 74819 17 mm DateJust "Special Edition"
74828 74829 17 mm DateJust "Special Edition"
74838 17 mm DateJust "Special Edition"
74848 17 mm DateJust "Special Edition"
74858 17 mm DateJust "Special Edition"
Reference Lug For
72746 -72748 20 mm Day-Date "Special Edition"
72748 Tridor 20 mm Day-Date "Special Edition"
74746 Bril 20 mm Day-Date "Special Edition"
Reference Lug For
74138 - 74139 13 mm Lady-Datejust

Thanks to Bob's watches for the table

When we speak about the evolution of Oyster bracelet materials, it started as a stainless steel bracelet, but nowadays you can find those made from Oystersteel, two-tone Rolesor, solid 18k gold, and even 950 platinum. Plus, the gold choices include all three colors: 18k yellow, 18k white, and 18k Everose rose gold; a two-tone options and also brushed, polished and combined finishes, which speaks a lot about the popularity of this handsome bracelet. Another thing that speaks about the durability of the Oyster bracelet is that its professional and sports variants are made from Oystersteel, which is another steel alloy, besides 904L, specific to the use by Rolex in watchmaking industry. It belongs to the same family as 904L, which means it is outstandingly resistant to corrosion.

Vintage rolex submariner clasps

Some vintage Rolex clasps

In general, Oyster is the most common Rolex bracelet, more than often accompanied with a professional watch, but also featured on some classic models such as Day-Date, Datejust and Sky-Dweller. When it comes to professional and sport timepieces, Oyster wore some great champions such as Submariner, Explorer and Daytona. It also may have something to do with the fact that it is the only Rolex bracelet compatible with all Rolex clasps.

When it comes to Rolex bracelets in general, there are only a handful of them: the leather bracelet type, plus Oyster, Jubilee, President and Pearlmaster. Each bracelet has a variety of subtypes in terms of material/metal, color etc. The Oyster, Jubilee and President bracelets (worn by many presidents) are considered standard equipment for a Rolex nowadays and all stand for perfection when it comes to balancing functionality, elegance and resistance. Yet, the Oyster stays its most robust bracelet to this day. From Mount Everest to the Mariana Trench, Oyster bracelets follow them into the adventure.

For example, Rolex Oyster bracelet accompanied Cosmograph Daytona since its release in 1963. This watch was made to endure a lot because it’s designed for professional racers and still remains one of the top picks.

Vintage rolex submariner watchbands-Oyster and jubilee

MiLTAT Super Boyer and Angus Louis Bracelet Custom made for Rolex Submariner 1680

Even better examples are Explorer and Submariner (both released in 1953), made for harsh conditions of adventurous explorations on land and under the sea. The first Rolex Explorer with an Oyster bracelet on it got its name on May 29, 1953, when Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached Mount Everest’s 8,484 m high summit with the Rolexes strapped to their wrists. Another great adventure, when Oyster line didn’t disappoint is when an Oyster watch went to the deepest point in the Pacific ocean – twice. First time in the DeepSea challenge in 1960, when Rolex made a special watch called DeepSea and attached it to the hull of Trieste, a bathyscaphe that went 10,916 meters (35,814 feet) under the sea. When it ascended, the watch still worked great. The second time was when famous DeepSea Challenge with James Cameron and National Geographic took place, in 2012. The submersible carried an experimental diver’s watch on its robotic arm and reached Challenger Deep at the depth 10,908 meters (35,787 feet). Is it necessary to say that the watch has done its job perfectly well?

From all the features of Oyster line, what speaks most profoundly about it are stories like this. But some great storyteller put it really good at the brands website and I think every human being can identify with it, whether it wears Rolex or not (everyone definitely wants one!). It is about the word that each Rolex Oyster watch has written on its dial and it certainly describes the Oyster bracelet as well: Perpetual. It explains the philosophy behind this line of watches based on “fundamental belief in unlimited human potential, in continuous improvement, in always pushing the boundaries and taking the long-term view.” And it goes further by stating that it means “...An unceasing quest for excellence, to explore and to share human knowledge to build a better world.” 

We have nothing more to add but applause. 


Written by M.H. ,Photo by Toni


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