We’ve seen the Daytona, the Submariner, the Explorer, and even Oyster Perpetual everywhere. Are there really still under-the-radar midcentury Rolex models?
If you’re an anti-Rolex watch guy, the answer is no, because all Rolex models are overrated. If you’re a Rolex fanboy, the answer might be no again, because every Rolex is great. I like to believe I’m in between those two camps, insofar that I like vintage Rolex but could never wear their modern sports models (not least because my wrists are too small). To me, in comparison to the well-known and infinitely talked-about models that we all know, maybe one watch can be so far below the radar that it’s truly underrated. So here’s my play — that watch is the Oyster Precision 6426.
Before I go on, some quick caveats: First, in the world of Rolex, I’d be considered “new”. I’ve held some vintage Subs, I’ve read some books, I’ve owned some pieces, but I’m by no means an expert. And second, yes. It’s a small watch. But hear me out. The Oyster Precision line was the absolute entry-level for Rolex from the early 1960s to mid-1970s and represents the quintessential purity of Rolex DNA.
The reference 6426 is a no-date, 34mm stainless steel Oyster case watch that was originally offered on a folded link Oyster bracelet. It notably features a manually wound movement — being the most “affordable” Rolex of the day (I believe it retailed originally for $99), it skipped the famous perpetual rotor, which also made for a thinner case, among the thinnest Oyster cases in Rolex history. This manual movement may be a turn-off for many who know Rolex for their perpetual movements, but I’m of the firm belief that it adds to the charm of this piece.
Movement aside, this watch exemplifies everything that makes Rolex Rolex. It’s shock-resisting, antimagnetic, originally waterproof up to 165 feet, and built with the clean, crisp lines that defined an era for Rolex that’s maintained to this day. When complete with its Oyster bracelet, its outline is that of a pure Rolex sports watch. Add that to the human-material connection of winding this watch every morning and the simplicity of a dateless dial, you begin to see its appeal. This was then the everyman’s Rolex, now it can still be worn the same way.
So, why is this watch underrated? It’s not particularly rare, it’s not particularly expensive, and it’s a stunning example of midcentury Rolex simplicity — but we don’t see it much out in the world. I suspect it’s a combination of it not being a desirable reference and is still considered “small” by modern standards, it hides easily under the piles of amazing and popular models from the same era.
It’s anyone’s guess. But my two cents is that the Oyster Precision reference 6426 deserves some love and far greater recognition than it currently has as a pillar of Rolex design sensibility.