The Canadian Rolex market Oyster watches date back to the late 1930’s and are some of the most affordable vintage Rolex watches available on the used watch market today.
They differ from Swiss marketed Rolex’s in that they used a Rolex modified ebauche movement made by Fontmelon, their caliber FF30 subsequently renamed the Rolex caliber 59. The movements were stamped Rolex Geneve on the top plate and were not engraved or stamped Rolex on the bridge. On some variations of the movement, the bridges were engraved with the name Oyster Watch Ltd.
The Rolex Canadian Oysters used a Rolex Oyster watch case with a Rolex Oyster Patent crown.
The various models marketed included names such as Oyster Centregraph, Oyster Lipton, Oyster Junior Sport, Oyster Raleigh, Oyster Commander, Oyster Recorda, Oyster Edison, Oyster Grenfell, Oyster Standard and Oyster Shipmate. These watches were most frequently sold in gold-filled and stainless steel Oyster cases.
These watches are frequently seen with 24-hour military dials and as such, many were given as gifts to soldiers departing for active service in Europe during World War 2. Many of the watches returning to Canada came back with the serviceman’s registration numbers engraved on the rear of the case back.
Another variation of the Canadian Oysters were Rolex models sold by the famous former Canadian icon department store Eatons. The watches were renamed, as Solar Aqua’s or King of Wing’s and the name Rolex or Oyster were never visible on the watch dials. Eatons also has a particular arrangement with Rolex which allowed them to provide as long service awards, a Rolex watch that only had the words:
1/4 C E N T U R Y C L U B
spelled out on the dial, which was simply signed Eaton’s. There was no mention of Rolex or Rolex Oyster on the dial’s of the Eaton’s 1/4 Century Rolex watches. Some of these watches were manual wind Rolex Oyster or automatic Oyster Perpetual models. Earlier watches given out in the 30’s through to the 1950’s, were famed Rolex Prince models. Women were given a unique Rolex model as their 1/4 Century watch.
The other variation of the Canadian Oyster isn’t actually Canadian, but American. The American retailer Zell Brothers sold Canadian Oysters under their store name Zell Brothers and the model name Turtle Timer, These watches usually had the movements marked Oyster Watch Ltd. And are highly sought after today.