Rolex Oyster Perpetual
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Rolex Oyster Perpetual

Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf had only requirement for the name of his company: that it be easy to pronounce in any language. He claimed that it came to him while riding a horse-drawn bus through the streets of London. To his death in 1960 he never revealed just what it was supposed to mean—if it was ever supposed to mean anything at all.

To some, the name is an onomatopoeia, with "Rolex" sounding like the noise a movement makes when a watch is being wound; others hold that it is taken from the phrase "hoROLogical EXcellence." 

Whatever its origin, the watches that the manufacture has produced throughout its century of existence are as easily recognizable as the name is easy to remember. Many of these watches bear the name Oyster Perpetual. Unlike the name of the company, the origin of the Oyster Perpetual name is easy to trace.

It all started in the 1920s, when Wilsdorf (with the help of noted case-manufacturer C.R. Spillman) secured the patent for a screw-down crown. This was instrumental in the development of the Oyster case, so-called for its being watertight like an oyster—a conceit that came to Wilsdorf when he was trying to open an oyster at a dinner party. He combined the screw-down crown with a watertight crystal and a threaded case-back created by Aaron Dennison, founder of Waltham Watches and Britain-based Dennison Watch Case Company. 

As far as the “perpetual” part of the name, that stems from Rolex’s early adoption of John Harwood’s automatic watch movements. The concept of a self-winding watch movement was not a new one—in fact, the earliest examples of automatic watch movements were produced in the 18th Century by Abraham Louis Perrelet. But the concept was not perfected until the 1920s, when Harwood filed his patent for an automatic wristwatch movement with an oscillating weight.

Wilsdorf took the basic design of Harwood’s patent and improved it, adding a rotating weight design to a èbauche produced by movement-maker Aegler. Now, the watch could be wound in both directions, ensuring the notion of “perpetual” motion. The result was revolutionary, and after Wilsdorf’s patent expired in 1948, it was picked up by the entire industry—a lasting legacy for a humble, hard-working man with innovative, world-changing ideas.

This particular watch is an Oyster Perpetual Reference 6580. Dating from the mid-1950s, it stands out amongst the crowd for its beautiful configuration featuring leaf hands, stylized markers, blued steel seconds hand, and most notably for the honeycomb texture of the dial. This finishing (also referred to as “waffle” due to its similarity to, well… you know) was often used by Rolex in the early years, even on Submariner and Turn-O-Graph models. A visual homage to the days when all parts of a watch (internal or external) were finished by hand, it gives the dial a delightfully-weathered look, perfectly in keeping with its age.   

Though the Reference 6580 isn’t a ground-breaking or common “grail” reference, it’s worthy of the name “Oyster Perpetual,” with a thoughtful, understated style that suits the fashionable man of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Details

SKU: AS02120

Stainless steel Oyster case is approximately 35mm (excluding crown). Rolex Reference 6580. Rolex Calibre 1030 Movement. Circa 1955.

Overall Condition: Case is in very good condition with minor signs of use and wear consistent with its age. Dial is in absolutely stunning condition showing a lovely even aging and creamy patina. Luminescent materials of the hour markers and hands have darkened over time. Rolex signed crown. Case back has some light signs of wear consistent with use.

Includes one 7205/57 rivet Oyster bracelet dated 1968 showing normal signs of wear from age and use.

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