This is the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 Ref 126000. A watch, which, if we’re honest, no one was paying much attention to a year ago. That was then. Now it’s all over my feed and there are waiting lists at authorized retailers everywhere. It seems that in less than 12 months, the Ref 126000 has become the most desired watch on the internet. What the heck happened? I know you’re screaming “colourful dials you fool!” or something similar at your screen right now. And that’s definitely played a big part. But is that the only reason, or is there more to the story? And how long can this craze last? The short answer is I don’t know. But let’s get into the detail and see what we can find out.
A (Very) Brief History Of The Rolex Oyster Perpetual
Although it doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves, the OP is the OG for Rolex. Its forebears predate the Datejust by around 20 years. Not to mention all the steel Rolex tool watches, like the Submariner and GMT-Master II. They all came much later. Building on the knowledge and expertise developed with the early Oyster models. In fact, if you ever wondered where the Oyster case got its name from, wonder no more.
In 1926, Rolex debuted a waterproof and dustproof wristwatch, christening it the “Oyster”. According to the Crown this was the very first watch of its kind. Jury is still out on that one, so I’ll settle for saying it was one of the first. In any event, this was a major turning point for the brand. The case was hermetically sealed, protecting the movement inside. And enabling Rolex watches to go where many others could not.
This was a game changer for the brand and industry as a whole. And Rolex needed a way to get the word out. Lucky for them company founder Hans Wilsdorf was a marketing genius. And never one to shy away from use of outrageous stunts to prove the quality of his products. A year later, in 1927, the perfect opportunity presented itself. An English swimmer named Mercedes Gleitze decided to cross the English Channel. The swim took her more than 10 hours, in what must have been challenging conditions. On her wrist the entire time was a Rolex Oyster. And, you guessed it, it was still keeping perfect time when she emerged from the water on the other side.
With the reputation of its Oyster case beyond repute, the ascent of Rolex had begun. A few years later it would all but seal the deal with the patenting of the Perpetual movement. The world’s first self-winding mechanism with a Perpetual rotor. And thus, the legend of the Oyster Perpetual was born.
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s many accomplished people wore a Rolex Oyster watch. Often times while they were undertaking the feats for which they became renowned. Sir Malcolm Campbell, the “king of speed”, wore one while setting most of his land speed records. Racing driver Jackie Stewart was also a fan. As was show jumper Pat Smythe. A modified Rolex Oyster watch even made it to the top of Mount Everest on the inaugural summit. An incredible feat that would later give birth to the Rolex Explorer.
Over the years Rolex has continued to evolve the Oyster Perpetual. To the point that the modern generation is less of a tool watch and more of a fashion statement. That said, it still retains many of the key hallmarks of the original.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 Ref 126000
As its name suggests, the case of the Oyster Perpetual is a modest 36mm. It’s not marketed as a unisex model per se by Rolex but it’s definitely proven attractive to both sexes. In general, smaller watches seem to be becoming more popular with men for daily wear. The Tudor Black Bay 36 for example has been a surprise hit for the brand. And this year Rolex announced that the Explorer I would be reverting to its original 36mm case size.
That said, the Oyster Perpetual 36 is not exactly a shrinking violet on the wrist. It has the solid construction and wide shoulders of the Oyster case to thank for that. This enables the watch to sit very flat against the wrist and makes it appear much broader. The new case is also thinner than its predecessors. Making it quite slim as far as steel Rolex watches go. So, what you end up with is a watch that wears a little bigger but still slides away under a cuff with ease.
Of course, the other thing that makes the Ref 126000 stand out on the wrist is its dial. Rolex has always played it a bit looser with the Oyster Perpetual range. The now discontinued 39mm version had a grape-colored dial that was a sleeper hit for example. But this year the Crown went all out with five Stella-inspired dials.
These lacquered dials come in an array of vivid colours. Choose from Yellow, Turquoise Blue (aka the ‘Tiffany’ dial), Candy Pink, Coral Red, and Green. They’re vibrant, they’re fun and they look awesome on. In short, the complete opposite of what you would expect from Rolex. Yet, the brand actually has more of a history with colourful dials than you might expect.
The Stella Dial Connection
At the start of the 1970s, Rolex wanted to give its iconic Day-Date something of a facelift. The watch was already a favourite of the powerful and ostentatious alike. Yet it was also considered quite a conservative model. Making it the ideal platform for something unexpected and outrageous. By Rolex standards at least. And so, the Crown debuted an assortment of Day-Dates with bright enamel lacquer dials. Better known as Stella dials. After the company that supplied Rolex’s dial makers with the lacquer and pigment used.
It seems the plan didn’t work too well though. The Stella models were not strong sellers for Rolex. Clients preferred more muted tones for their Day-Dates. The classic silver or white, for example. Rumour has it that Rolex even destroyed several batches of Stella dials.
In one of those classic Rolex twists, Stella dial Day-Dates are now sought after by collectors. Which might go some way to explaining the popularity of the Oyster Perpetual 36. It’s also possible Rolex was 50 years ahead of its time with the colored dial trend. Wouldn’t be the first time the brand was more forward thinking than people gave it credit for.
Fade To Black (Or Silver)
All that said, if you like the look and size of the Ref 126000 but don’t fancy a colorful dial, fear not. It’s also available in more traditional dial tones. Including black, silver and a bright navy blue. One colour that is absent though is white. I find that a little surprising given the popularity of the ‘Polar’ version of the Ref 114300. That was the preceding 39mm model that is now discontinued. A 41mm version instead takes its place, although still sans a white dial option.
Framed by a fixed, polished bezel, the displays the time only. Three hands for hours, minutes and seconds, and that’s it. If you want a date display, you’re going to have to spring for the Datejust. It’s this clean aesthetic though that makes the Oyster Perpetual 36 so popular. And versatile. This is a watch you can wear on a daily basis or break out for special occasions when you want to turn heads.
Inside the new Ref 126000 is an upgraded movement in the form of the calibre 3230. That’s the same movement Rolex put in in the new Submariner. It’s equipped with all the latest bells and whistles from Rolex. These include a Chronergy escapement and efficient gear train architecture. Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring and high-performance Paraflex shock absorbers. Which is a fancy way of saying the movement resistant to shocks and magnetic fields. And a high-capacity barrel that can store up to 70 hours of power.
Like all Rolex models, the Oyster Perpetual 36 bears the Superlative Chronometer designation. Testifying that is has passed the rigorous testing performed by Rolex. As well as the necessary requirements to get COSC chronometer certification. Its rate accuracy is -2/+2 seconds a day.
The Oyster Perpetual 36 is worn on the classic Oyster bracelet in matching steel. And uses the brand’s folding Oysterclasp with Easylink 5 mm comfort extension link. This allows you micro-adjust the length of the bracelet for the perfect fit. Last but not least, a screw-down, Twinlock crown helps ensure the 100m water resistance.
Price & Availability
The official retail price of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 Ref 126000 is US$5,600. Which makes the OP36 a great entry-level watch into Rolex. The only problem is they have become a victim of their own success. They are so popular that finding one in stock at an authorized retailer is out of the question. At least in any of the popular dial colors. You can put your name down on some fictitious list and wait for “the call”. Or you can try your luck on the secondary market. Although fair warning, prices for these have gone well over double retail already. Much to the disappointment of genuine watch lovers.
That said, Rolex has been making the Oyster Perpetual for years and years. So there are other good options out there from previous references. Our retail partner WatchBox has a varied selection you can check out here. (Affiliate link.)
All told, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 Ref 126000 is a cool watch that delivers on the quality front as well. And at a reasonable price (if you can get it). It’s not hard to see then why it might be the most popular watch on the internet right now. How long it’s reign at the top will last though is anyone’s guess.
Technical Specifications: Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36 Ref 126000
- Case: Oyster – 36 mm – Oystersteel – monobloc middle case, screw-down case back and winding crown – fixed, polished bezel – twin-lock double waterproof crown – waterproof to 100 metres / 330 feet.
- Dial: bright black, coral red, bright blue, turquoise blue, green, candy pink, yellow and silver – hour markers and hands in yellow or white gold, all filled with Chromalight material.
- Movement: Calibre 3230, in-house – Superlative Chronometer (COSC + Rolex certification after casing) – automatic with bidirectional winding – 31 jewels – 28,800 vibrations/hours – Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring – balance wheel with variable inertia, regulating via four gold Microstella nuts – Paraflex shock absorbers – Chronergy escapement – Paramagnetic pallet fork and escape wheel – 70h power reserve – −2 /+2 sec/day accuracy – hours, minutes, seconds
- Price: USD 5,600
This article by TheWatchLounge has been sponsored by our partner WatchBox.