Then came the GMT-Master in 1954, developed in collaboration with Pan Am. It was one of the first watches to feature a 24-hour hand, along with a 24-hour bezel to indicate a second time zone and was issued to the crews on long-haul flights. In 1967, Rolex launched the Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller Submariner 2000, a deft evolution of its renowned predecessor. It was resistant to a depth of 610m and was developed from the Submariner for industrial deep-sea diving company COMEX. The bezel on the Sea-Dweller is significantly thicker than the bezels employed in other Oyster models, due to an extra ridge on the underside to accommodate the much thicker crystal.
Another technical leap came in 2005 when Rolex patented the Cerachrom bezel, which offered an exceptional, long-lasting lustre and was virtually indestructible – scratchproof, corrosion resistant and impervious to ultra-violet rays. To inscribe the numerals and graduations on such a hard material, Rolex also patented the unique 40-hour process, which involves coating it with a thin layer of yellow gold or platinum. It first appeared on the GMT-Master II, before it was extended to the dive watches and the Yacht-Master models. It now also appears in a monobloc version on the Cosmograph Daytona.
Today, the Oyster case-middle is crafted from a solid block of 904L steel, gold or platinum. Its fluted caseback is hermetically screwed down with a special tool that allows only Rolex watchmakers to access the movement. But while it varies subtly from range to range, much like the various iterations of the lauded Porsche 911, its profile remains unmistakable.
And then, of course, there is sister brand, Tudor, which has, in the past five years, transformed into the cool, cutting-edge sibling in perfect sync with the demands of today’s market. Today, it is celebrated for its intelligent blend of adventurous designs, daring materials and, of course, the supreme reliability that comes from sharing the same case technology as Rolex. Less palpable but nevertheless significant, is the reputation and popularity of the Oyster case, which lends Tudor immediate credibility, allowing enthusiasts to recognise its broader, shared past.
Lastly, one needs to recognise the Rolex Oyster’s perfect proportions – the curved lugs are crucial to the comfort on the wrist, while framing the face of the watch and creating an unmistakable profile that flows seamlessly into the integrated Oyster, Jubilee, Pearlmaster or President bracelets. Yet, the alchemy of a Rolex Oyster remains unquantifiable.
There is a certain ease of manner that only an Oyster allows – a sense of assurance in knowing how much the watch can withstand and still retain its ability to tell true time. A Rolex Oyster will always invite debate and opinion in social circles, but its timeless dignity unites fellow enthusiasts, creating a connection and an understanding that comes from the shared experience of knowing the phenomenon that is the Oyster. But make no mistake: it is only with such an unbridgeable chasm of opinions and emotions that a watch like the Rolex Oyster achieves – for 90 long years – true and unprecedented loyalty.