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A Time-Tested Timepiece, Renewed With Vibrant Hues

By Lynette Kee

Ching, styled by Lynette KeeHoused beneath the brightly lacquered dials of these Oyster Perpetual 36 watches is a new in-house calibre 3230 serving an extended power reserve of approximately 70 hours.
Housed beneath the brightly lacquered dials of these Oyster Perpetual 36 watches is a new in-house calibre 3230 serving an extended power reserve of approximately 70 hours.

The Rolex Oyster case has been the symbol of waterproofness ever since its introduction in 1926. Its appearance at the time subverted the conventional idea of wristwatches as simple time-telling dress watches, and its sterling reputation was sealed a year later when it accompanied the English swimmer Mercedes Gleitze on her successful quest to swim across the English Channel. To this day, the word “Oyster” on the dial of any Rolex watch stands as a testament of its ability to perform in the toughest physical conditions and its deep involvement with exploration — the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer has scaled the highest mountains while the Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea has dived the deepest oceans.

Over the years, Rolex has released countless of celebrated, more complicated timepieces fitted with the Oyster case. But the watches from the Oyster Perpetual range are recognised as the direct descendants of the original 1926 Rolex Oyster, and make up a time-honoured, staple line that still retains the brand’s quintessential technology and design. This year, the new generation Oyster Perpetual collection adds a slightly larger model to the range, the Oyster Perpetual 41, as well as punchier versions with quirky vibrant dials: candy pink, turquoise blue, yellow, coral red and green — a great departure from the typical conservative style of Oyster Perpetual watches.

Courtesy of RolexThe luminescent material in all of the new generation Rolex Oyster Perpetual models feature a blue Chromalight display in dark conditions.
The luminescent material in all of the new generation Rolex Oyster Perpetual models feature a blue Chromalight display in dark conditions.

Watch dials, being the central link between its wearer and the watch mechanisms, are the main body of expression for timepieces. With the bold new range of colours, Rolex has swiftly transformed the identity of the Oyster Perpetual while letting in on some of the most hidden yet integral parts of its design.

At the heart of a Rolex laboratory in Geneva, where colour palettes made out of large metal sheets enliven its staid, grey and white surroundings, spatulas of paint form the starting point of the search for new colours. Alchemy is practised to achieve a near infinite spectrum of colours and shades before they are translated onto brass discs (used as the base for most of the watch faces), applied with various techniques — from classic enamelling and lacquering to modern electroplating — for different finishes.

Courtesy of RolexFully kitted out with all the brand’s pioneering functions and design, the latest coloured offerings also come with two metallic dial finishes in silver and black.
Fully kitted out with all the brand’s pioneering functions and design, the latest coloured offerings also come with two metallic dial finishes in silver and black.

It is true to say that each coloured Rolex watch dial bears testament to the sheer skill and manual dexterity of a craftsman. For its pure black and white dials, the brand has often employed the traditional technique of lacquering to achieve an even, solid coating on the watch face. Using the same technique, Rolex tapped into the depths of its creativity to create the playful effects in its latest Oyster Perpetual range. The brand worked with a team of its in-house chemists and physicists — over the course of months — to conjure up with a whole new colour. Each shade is carefully referenced and coated on the dial in opaque lacquer while meeting all of the brand’s proprietary aesthetic and legibility requirements.

Within the new releases, subtler, nuanced tones of metallic silver and black are also available. Of which, Rolex uses the method of electroplating to amplify their natural radiance. The silver dial, in particular, hints at the complexity of the technique, where a champagne hue washes the silver as a result of the temperature of the electroplating baths, intensity of the electric current and other variables. Together with its gilded hands and indices, the metallic silver model renders just as mesmerising as its colourful counterparts.

While the reputation of Rolex watches has always rested on its pioneering functions and mechanics, it is clear the watchmaker devotes less time and attention to its designs. Dial creation is considered an artform in and of itself and one of the most crucial features when it comes to the appearance of a timepiece. With the newly updated Oyster Perpetual models, Rolex underlines its craftsmanship in all aspects of its creations, inside and out.