Borro Benchmarks: The Collectability of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual

The Backstory

They say that history is written by the victors. In the world watchmaking wars, Rolex might well have razed their competitors’ forces to dust on the proverbial battlefield with the 1926 release of the Oyster case – the first truly water resistant watch, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual.

These days, in an attempt to synthesize what Rolex grew organically, many other brands attempt to breathe life into defunct marques in the hope they will be able to instantly conjure the notion of heritage that can rival that of the crown.

You just can’t fake it, which is why every beach seller from Bondi to Barcelona has been peddling cheap imitations of the real McCoy for years and years.

Which Models to Watch

Imitation is supposed to be the sincerest form of flattery, so what is it about Rolex’s forms that captures the imagination so? In layman’s terms it’s down to the fact they follow function.

The modern day Rolex Oyster Perpetual (see left) is not that far removed from the first iteration launched almost 100 years ago (see below). That’s because both are designed to do something we now take for granted, and that’s keep water out!

When it comes to collectability and long-term desirability, these are the kinds of pieces you want to go for. Sure, the grape dial variant with the hot red five-minute markers is cool in 2018, but will it still look as smart in 2068?

Or 2019, for that matter…

Under the Hammer

So, what’s the investment value of a Rolex Oyster Perpetual?

Historically, the Oyster Perpetual line has always been one of the easiest to pick up on the second hand market simply because there are a lot of them, and it’s been around for almost 100 years.

The most expensive model ever sold was the uncommonly ostentatious nautical-themed Oyster Perpetual from 1949. It was sold this year for just over $1.2 million. But this is an outlier. Uncommon in style, and valuable for it’s rarity more than its desirability in 2018.

From an investment perspective, the modern iterations of this model are at the lower end of appreciative potential, mostly because they’re so relatively attainable. That said, I do think it’s hard to beat the classic look offered by this family, and for me, it’s a great introduction to high-end horology, and a fine place to stop if you only need one watch in your life.

About the Author:

Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.