When we think of classics within the Rolex catalog, the usual suspects spring to mind: the Datejust, the Submariner, the Sea-Dweller, the GMT-Master, the Daytona, and even the Explorer. Nowadays, the cachet associated with everything ever touched by The Crown and the desperate desire of the modern consumer to get a Rolex watch online has driven prices for modern and pre-owned versions of these models through the roof. And yet for some, the lure of owning a Rolex cannot simply be quenched by fiscal unattainability. So, what then?
Thankfully, lurking in the brand’s archives is an alternative that might be the answer to many prayers. The Rolex Oysterdate Precision 6694 is a quiet classic, an unsung hero, and an affordable entry point into what often seems like the most exclusive club in watchmaking. Better still, there are a great many variations on this old, manually-wound model, so there is something for almost everyone. Black dials, silver dials, and brightly colored dials make for a smorgasbord of options, and while its diminutive sizing might scare off a lot of modern watch fans conditioned to think anything below 40mm is a woman’s watch, the 34mm diameter wears with surprising presence and unsurprising comfort.
Ask any designer – of anything – and they’ll tell you the compositions that look the simplest are usually the hardest ones to get right. With a stark, pared-down design, there’s really nowhere to hide – each minimalist element has to be perfectly proportioned and in exactly the right place, and factors such as color, material, and texture all become ever-more important. A case study in successful minimalist design, the Rolex Oysterdate ref. 6694 is often overlooked by vintage collectors, yet it offers a restrained and timeless nature that you will be hard-pressed to find in any of the brand’s contemporary models, so below we take a look at this noteworthy vintage Rolex watch in more detail.
What Are The Key Features Of A Rolex Oysterdate Precision Reference 6694?
Rolex Oysterdate 6694 Key Features:
- Reference Number: 6694
- Production Years: 1960s – 1980s
- Case Diameter: 34mm
- Materials: Stainless Steel
- Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display
- Dial: Multiple Options Available
- Bezel: Fixed, Stainless Steel, Smooth-Style
- Crystal: Acrylic (Flat w/ Cyclops Lens)
- Movement: Rolex Caliber 1225 or 1210 (Manual-Wind)
- Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet
- Approx. Price: $3,500 – $6,500 (Pre-Owned)
When Was Rolex 6694 Made?
As far as Rolex is concerned, the Oysterdate is just about as simple as it gets. The Oysterdate Precision reference 6694 began in the early 1960s and ran on with great success until it was finally discontinued at the end of the 1980s, earning it the distinction of being Rolex’s last manual-wind watch. The Daytona, which also famously relied on a hand-wound movement was upgraded to the Zenith El Primero automatic movement the year before Rolex retired the Oysterdate. Throughout that period, the Rolex Oysterdate Precision 6694 was one of the brand’s most popular models, occupying a budget-friendly option that still offered Rolex’s signature date display at 3 o’clock. These days, as collector attentions turn toward the past, the humble Oysterdate Precision looks primed for a retune to the top.
Easily confused with the Oyster Perpetual and Oyster Perpetual Date ranges, the Oysterdate is actually something of an oddity in the Rolex canon. The lack of a “Perpetual” label in its name points to the fact that it was one of the rare examples from Rolex that was not self-winding. Additionally, the lack of any chronometer certification text on its dial alludes to the fact that the watch was not chronometer certified. To gain chronometer status, a watch has to undergo some particularly unforgiving tests for accuracy and stability at the COSC, The Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute. Only those proving to keep reliable time between -4/+6 seconds a day can wear the COSC-certified badge.
Instead, the Rolex Oysterdate has “Precision” marked on its dial – a small, easily missed detail beloved by hardcore watch collectors. In fact, the cleanliness of the dial and the reduction to purity is one of the things proponents of the model point towards when discussing the watch’s unheralded brilliance. The design of the watch allows the forms used within it to do the talking. Whenever less-traditional colors are used for the dials, the watch remains classy and never goes overboard as might be the case with some of the more famous models’ more ostentatious efforts.
A Brief Rolex 6694 History
Rolex released the Oysterdate in the early 1950s, with ref. 6094 being the first of the series. It had all the usual design traits we would expect from the Oysterdate collection, including an older-style acrylic crystal, a modest 34mm Oyster case, a three-link Oyster bracelet, and a dial decorated with retro hour markers and dauphine hands. At the heart of the inaugural reference beats the 17-jewel caliber 1215 movement.
Ref. 6294 followed, bringing with it a slightly more refined and more modernized dial that replaced the elegant sword-shaped hands with straight hands. Depending on the year produced, ref. 6294 will also have a Cyclops magnifier over the date. It is possible to find examples of the Oysterdate ref. 6294 with and without Rolex’s trademark Cyclops lens at the 3-hour marker. Rolex released ref. 6494 next, giving it a wider variety of dial colors. A few years after the Oysterdate came to market in 1953, Rolex settled on the fourth and final iteration of the Oysterdate – ref. 6694.
Reference 6694 introduced the collection to the Breguet overcoil hairspring and a higher-beat movement, which upped the frequency from 18,000 bph to 21,600 bph. The Oysterdate remained essentially unchanged over the next three decades before gracefully bowing out of the Rolex portfolio in 1989.
Is Rolex 6694 A Manual-Wind Caliber?
The manual-winding distinction really sets the Oysterdate apart from just about everything else that has passed through the Rolex gates since the dawn of its automatic winding caliber, and the Rolex Oysterdate Precision was always a manually-wound timepiece. Incredibly, for the company that invented the Perpetual, self-winding movement, the Rolex Oysterdate was never fitted with an automatic caliber – even towards the end of its run in the late 1980s when the technology was affordable, ubiquitous, and fitted to virtually every single other model outside the Cellini range. This unusual quirk adds to the model’s cult status among collectors and helps set it apart from models like the Oyster Perpetual and Date.
Inside, the Caliber 1225 movement purrs away (or the Cal. 1210 on some older examples). The Cal. 1225 is a 17-jewel mechanism with a 21,600vph frequency. As good as this movement’s performance is, it is still surprising that a watchmaker as progressive as Rolex kept a manually wound caliber on its books until so recently. Even the Daytona, with the understandable excuse of needing a far more complicated chronograph movement, was granted the self-winding El Primero while the Oysterdate Precision retained its manual-wind caliber.
For the reference 6694, needing nothing more taxing than a date function (and a non-Quickset one at that), never graduating to a self-winding Perpetual caliber gives it an air of the watch that Rolex forgot. However, one thing wearers should not forget is that the Oysterdate Precision 6694 lacks a quick-set date function, so adjusting the calendar display multiple values does involve a slightly longer setting process. With that in mind, this straightforwardness only adds to the Oysterdate’s charm. In an ever-more automated world, there is a real fascination in doing something as nostalgic as winding a beautifully made watch – and especially one from Rolex.
Is the Rolex 6694 Waterproof?
While the Oysterdate doesn’t take advantage of Rolex’s innovative Perpetual movement, it does sport the waterproof Oyster case included with nearly every model produced by the brand since the 1920s. Oyster cases are hermetically sealed, hence the name “Oyster,” protecting the movement within from moderate wear.
Even well-loved watches can still read true decades later because of the Oyster case’s armor-like exterior. However, vintage watches, including the ref. 6694 might not be as waterproof as they once were, and many owners opt to keep theirs away from water to preserve their integrity.
Is The Oysterdate Precision 6694 A Great Entry-Level Rolex?
With its all-steel construction and its non-chronometer, manually-wound movement, the Oysterdate Precision 6694 occupies an attractive price bracket that classifies it as an entry-level Rolex (at least for now). For the burgeoning collector of vintage watches, it can represent the first buy-in to the brand, and a fantastic one at that. It is a model that manages to be very affordable and easily found on the pre-owned market, but so overlooked among even knowledgeable enthusiasts that it’s unlikely you’ll come across many in the wild.
It appeared with a number of different dial color options over its incredibly long lifespan of almost three decades, with blue, silver, and black being by far the most prevalent. Look hard enough and you’ll come across versions set off by yellow gold accents on the indexes and hands, along with some that feature champagne-colored dials that offer a two-tone aesthetic without any of the price premiums that accompany a steel and gold Rolex watch.
Although by modern standards its 34mm case sounds particularly small, it wears somewhat bigger on the wrist, likely due to its thinner, flatter case design and the austerity of the dial itself. With practically no text beyond the Rolex name and the single “Precision” line on the lower half, the largely blank surface area evokes slightly more presence. However, perhaps the most engaging aspect of the Oysterdate Precision ref. 6694 is its appeal across the sexes. While it may have started out as a man’s watch, the Rolex Oysterdate Precision 6694 looks equally at home on women’s wrists, especially given the modern trend towards women wearing larger watches.
Rolex 6694 Price
It’s clear that the Oysterdate is an attractive introductory Rolex, but what, exactly, is its price point? Even the most affordable Rolex watches require a serious investment of at least a few thousand dollars. Ref. 6694 is near the bottom of the price tier, with a typical entry point between $3,500 and $4,000.
That’s not a bad price tag for an exclusive Rolex watch, especially considering most Rolex watches hold their value well. In fact, it wouldn’t be unheard of to sell the Oysterdate a few years from now for at least what you paid for it should you choose to.
Where Is the Best Place to Buy the Rolex 6694?
The Oysterdate ref. 6694 was discontinued decades ago. The secondary market is your only option if you’re keen on adding one to your watch box. While there are several online platforms to turn to, Bob’s Watches is one of the most trusted. We are in good standing with the luxury watch community and guarantee the authenticity of each watch we sell. Additionally, every timepiece listed in our inventory is in stock and ready to ship and boasts a competitive pre-owned price.
Buying a pre-owned luxury watch can be nerve-wracking because of the issue of counterfeit watches and inflated prices. Bob’s Watches takes the guesswork out of shopping pre-owned by having every watch certified by third-party company Watch CSA and offering the best prices on the market.
Is Rolex 6694 Worth Buying?
When called upon, Rolex can produce watches as lavish and complex as any other manufacturer. However, the brand’s reputation was built upon eminently simple, effortlessly elegant timepieces that could be worn for 100 years without ever once looking outdated – and for many collectors, it is here where Rolex is truly at its best.
The Rolex Oysterdate Precision 6694 is one such watch. It is just about as basic as a Rolex can be, yet it still has the brand’s faultless lineage behind it and also offers the iconic Cyclops lens-magnified date display that has become emblematic of Rolex watches. While some models in the lineup shout for attention or boast about their capabilities, the Oysterdate’s sparse design barely gets above a whisper and for those who appreciate the model, this is exactly why it is so brilliant.
Modest in both size and style, the Rolex Oysterdate Precision 6694 is a watch for those who want an unassuming and reliable timepiece with an impeccable pedigree, and appreciate the understated nature of having a Rolex that does not overtly advertise that it is a Rolex. The reference 6694 Oysterdate is a thinking man or woman’s watch, and it is most certainly one for the ages.