Why I Bought a Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 with White Dial It the Day Before it was Discontinued
by Bhanu Chopra
In 2015, Rolex released the Oyster Perpetual in 39 mm (“OP39”) to a warm reception. When I tried it on at that year’s Baselworld (oh, the memories!), I was impressed that at 39 mm Rolex had chosen the perfect size for its entry-level steel sports watch, one that fit most people regardless of gender or wrist size, and (relatively) reasonably priced at $5,700.
Unlike the Rolex Daytona and Submariner models, the sporty Oyster Perpetuals were (and remain) much easier to purchase with little to no wait time from authorized dealers.
While all this sounded good, my excitement was short-lived as I did not find any of the three colors Rolex offered at the time – dark rhodium, red grape, or blue – to be very compelling. I thought that I would eventually get bored with any one of these colors.
Yet the perfect size and slim profile of the Oyster Perpetual 39 mm haunted me enough to put it on my “must buy” list.
Three years later, in 2018, Rolex surprisingly released two additional colors for the OP39: black and white. I did not get a chance to see either one of them in the metal at that time, but I heard from other journalists and bloggers that the white dial version was one of the nicest watches of the year.
One even referred to it as a grail watch. Gary Shteyngart, American novelist and noted watch collector, described the OP39 white dial as his “exit watch.”
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 mm: my winding journey
Because I wasn’t happy enough with the first dial colors offered at the launch of the Oyster Perpetual 39 mm, in my search for the ideal 39 mm Rolex, I placed the Explorer 1 (Reference 214270), which is also 39 mm in diameter, on my must-buy list.
I eventually bought an Explorer 1 from a Rolex boutique in Prague and was happy wearing it for a while. In 2019, I attended a casual get-together (oh, the memories!) with a couple of watch collectors, one of whom brought his OP39 with white dial on a nice vintage-style green leather strap.
I feel embarrassed admitting now that I did not care to see his A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk or his other indie watches as I was laser-focused on the OP39.
My first impression was that it is not exactly a white dial. Even under bright light, it is more an eggshell white. This gives the dial a warmer hue compared to the stark white dial of the Rolex Explorer 2.
Even though the Oyster Perpetual 39 mm was the least expensive Rolex sports watch, it is equipped with the same white gold hands and markers as the brand’s most expensive sports watch. The case has a slim profile and is brushed on the surface, polished on the sides, and sports a polished bezel.
The eggshell dial softens the overall appearance in contrast to the polished bezel.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 mm with white dial
It was love at first sight! I put the Oyster Perpetual 39 mm on my wrist and immediately thought it was the perfect GADA (Go Anywhere, Do Anything) watch. If I was a one-watch person (oh, the memories!), this would have been it.
I could wear it without any hesitation with smart business attire, business casual clothes, or a carefree t-shirt and jeans. I could go from office to pool with no problem since this watch is water resistant to 100 meters. During the winter, I could change the bracelet to a comfortable leather strap and it wouldn’t take anything away from being an everyday watch. It oozes versatility.
Fast forward to early summer of 2020: I contacted the Rolex boutique in Prague for a visit in August, who agreed to hold both an OP39 in white and a Submariner Reference 114060 for me.
Meanwhile, I decided to sell my Explorer 1 to a good photographer friend in Prague well below the resale value (oh, the memories!) to make room (and budget) for these two new watches. The Explorer just did not resonate with me; I considered it as something between the Oyster Perpetual and the Submariner.
On the evening of August 31, I picked up both the OP39 white and the Submariner. And less than 24 hours later Rolex discontinued both watches!
While the Submariner was upgraded with a more symmetrical design and a more robust movement, it was shocking to learn that the OP39 was discontinued after just two years in production. Relatively speaking, there were likely not that many of the white dial variations manufactured. Even so, with so much adulation from enthusiasts and insiders it was surprising that Rolex discontinued it within two years.
Rolex replaced the OP39 mm with a larger 41 mm Oyster Perpetual in a variety of colorful dials, a lightly redesigned dial layout, and a newer movement. The OP41 turned out to be wildly popular with its “Stella-inspired” dials – like the one GaryG acquired in Why I Bought It: Rolex Stella-Inspired Oyster Perpetual 41 With Turquoise Blue Dial – as it offered more of a playful style of sports watch that can be worn by anyone.
Even with the success of the slightly larger new Oyster Perpetual models, the OP39 is sorely missed as many social media posts and articles attest. Rolex had created a perfect everyday watch, and many watch enthusiasts who had it on their short lists missed out on the opportunity.
Due to the short run, second-hand prices have skyrocketed north of $9,000 and likely will only go higher as supply diminishes and demand rises.
I can well understand why Mr. Shteyngart called the OP39 an “exit watch.” I can picture just wearing my OP39 well into my retirement until it becomes known as “Dad’s watch.”
My wife doesn’t care for most of the watches my collection, but this Rolex is one we both agree on and share. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 mm White Dial will also be a fond memory of our lucky visit to the Prague Rolex boutique, not knowing the bombshell news that would drop the very next day.
Quick Facts Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 White Dial (Reference 114300)
Case: 39 x 11.5 mm, Oystersteel (904L stainless steel)
Movement: automatic Caliber 3132, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 48-hour power reserve, Parachrom anti-magnetic hairspring
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price at introduction in 2015: $5,700; current pre-owned prices range up to and beyond $9,000
* This article was first published on March 5, 2021 at Why I Bought It (The Day Before It Was Discontinued): Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 With White Dial Reference 114300.
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