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The Everest Journal

by Li Wang April 18, 2021 2 min read

With the latest release of the new 36mm Rolex Explorer I ref.124270, and last year’s bump up in size of the Oyster Perpetual lineup to 41mm, there are no 39mm no-date sport watches left in the current Rolex lineup. The Air-King and Milgauss are both listed as 40mm watches. Forsaking a true caliper test of this, we can safely say that 39mm isn’t around anymore for anyone seeking a new model Rolex.

Explorer 1 Mark 1

Photo by HQ Milton

That said, now is a great time to grab the Mark I Explorer I ref. 214270. At 39mm, this version has shorter “T-Rex” hands and non-lumed white gold Arabic numerals, and can be bought for around $8K in great shape on the secondhand market. Personally, I love the white gold numbers and based on my experience the shorter hands don’t make it harder to tell time.

For those after the Oyster Perpetual 39, the best bet right now is the blue or rhodium dial version, which can be found for just above $7K. Yes, there is a markup from retail prices, but that is what the market is dictating and prices will probably only go higher. Many folks don’t like the bright accent colors at the hour markers on this generation of OP39s, but in real life they are very subtle and add a bit of spice to the rather sober OP esthetic.

Certainly 36mm works really well for a range of wrist sizes. The Oyster bracelet helps with those that want that size to wear larger. If you are in the market for a classic Datejust but afraid that it will wear small, try it on an Oyster bracelet vs. a Jubilee. Probably due to the simpler structure, the Oyster will allow a smaller watch to look larger. 

Oyster Perpetual 39 Rhodium

Photo by Time and Tide

However, 39mm has been called the Goldilocks size for most men and it’s a shame that Rolex has discontinued this size for now. None of us will ever know the reasoning behind Rolex’s decisions, but the lesson here is to seize the opportunity to buy a model from the crown that you really love. Buying pre-owned at inflated prices may not be ideal, but to obtain what you truly desire it is your only route. Fortunately there are many reputable dealers that can help guide you through the process. Prices will likely increase over time, so you don’t have much to fear as the overall interest in watches has grown significantly since the early 2000s.

What are your takes on the sweet spot for size in Rolex cases? Do you like the move for the Explorer to go back to its 36mm roots, or is the 39mm contemporary sizing here to stay as far as wristwatch looks for men? Or do you think 41mm is the new 39mm and upsizing will continue to happen with Rolex leading the way?

If you are lucky enough to own a 39mm Oyster Perpetual, we have plenty of nice strap options here.

Li Wang
Li Wang


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