Rolex marked a watershed moment in 1945. To commemorate the occasion, they wanted to design a timepiece that was unlike any other watch on the market at the time. As a result, the first self-winding, water-resistant wristwatch with a date window appeared on the market. Rolex created the Datejust for their 40th anniversary, and it quickly became an iconic model. Take a look at the Rolex Datejust’s history and the many firsts that the model has achieved.
The Datejust’s Beginnings
The Rolex Datejust history begins with the Jubilee Datejust, Reference 4467. Its name comes from the brand’s all-new, five-piece metal link Jubilee bracelet, which has since become a staple for Rolex. The initial reference was only available in 18-karat gold and measured 36mm. In addition, it showcased the brand’s signature water resistant Oyster case with a fluted bezel. To accommodate the larger Caliber 710 movement that powered the new date function, the model featured a domed caseback, similar to the brand’s Bubbleback. Soon, the Datejust became the flagship model for Rolex.
Rolex Datejusts History of the Early 1950’s
The Datejust remained largely unchanged for its first ten years of production. Then, just about a decade after its initial release, the model received its first major aesthetic update. In 1954, Rolex debuted their all-new Cyclops lens on the Datejust. This magnifying lens sits directly above the date window, which increases the legibility by two and a half times. Since then, the Cyclops lens has become standard on Rolex models, from the Sky-Dweller to Submariner and GMT to Yacht-Master. A year later in 1955, Rolex launched a special edition variation of the model called the Turn-O-Graph. Later, United States Air Force pilots received this unique version as a reward when returning home from combat missions. It went on to garner the nickname the Thunderbird. What distinguished it from the other models was the rotating Turn-o-Graph bezel for which the watch gets its name.
Datejusts of the Late 1950’s
Rolex made another significant update to the Datejust a few years later in 1957. This modification was more technical than aesthetic. However, the functional change necessitated a small design update. The model received its first major upgrade with the addition of the Caliber 1065 movement. This smaller, more efficient caliber in turn altered the design of the Datejust. It eliminated the need for the domed caseback and created a more streamlined design for the model. In the late 1950s, Rolex also added a ladies’ variation to the Datejust collection. The design of the Lady Datejust is nearly identical to the men’s counterpart. The primary difference is in the size, with the ladies’ version measuring smaller than the men’s.
Rolex Datejust models from the 1960s and 1970s
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, updates to the Rolex Datejust movement were made. Rolex introduced the famous Caliber 1570 into the model in 1965. The brand then added the quickset feature to the timepiece in the 1970s. As a result, it received an entirely new movement: the Caliber 3035. The introduction of the Caliber 3035 in 1977 with the Rolex 16014 increased the frequency of the model. It had more than 28,000 beats per hour as opposed to around 20,000 beats per hour. As a result, accuracy has increased significantly. Following the onset of the Quartz Crisis in the late 1970s, Rolex introduced a quartz movement into the collection with the Datejust OysterQuartz, Reference 17000.
The 1980s Rolex Refinements
Rolex updated the movement to the Caliber 3135 in the late 1980s. This movement was roughly the same size as the 3035. The addition of a sapphire crystal in place of the acrylic, however, allowed for a slightly slimmer watch. This improved on the iconic design.
The Present-Day Datejust
The Datejust is still one of the brand’s most popular and sought-after models today. It is available in three metal finishes: stainless steel, two-tone gold, and yellow gold. The Datejust has had four different bezel options over the years. Currently, the model is available with either a smooth or a gem-set bezel. In addition, in the 18-karat gold version, a fluted bezel is available. Rolex previously offered an engine-turned bezel for the Datejust. This style, however, was discontinued by the brand in the early 2000s. Furthermore, the Datejust has only two bracelet options: the original, dressier Jubilee and the sportier Oyster.
The dial is the last but not least. The Datejust is available in a wide range of colours, hour markers, and materials to suit any taste. Overall, the dial combination has the most influence on the look and feel of the watch. A model with a darker dial and stick indices, for example, will appear smaller and more conservative. A model with a white dial and Roman numeral markers, on the other hand, has a bolder, more noticeable presence. Aside from these aesthetic options, there is also the more functional option for luminescence on the indices and hands.
The Datejust II is now available.
The Datejust II was introduced nearly 65 years after the brand debuted the now-iconic Datejust. The Datejust’s second incarnation included some modern enhancements. It is, however, inspired by the classic model that launched the flagship collection.
The Datejust II’s first iteration was released in 2009. Finally, it aided in bringing the collection into the modern era. The style was more sporty than the original Datejust. It came with an Oyster bracelet and lume on the dial for better legibility. It also featured a larger size, moving from the Datejust’s standard 36mm to a more modern 41mm.
Furthermore, the Datejust II introduced a few new features. It began by highlighting the brand’s Twinlock Winding Crown. When combined with the iconic Oyster case, the water resistance was increased to 100 metres. The new in-house Caliber 3136 movement was the most noticeable upgrade for the Datejust II. It is COSC certified and has Rolex’s patented Parachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock absorbers.
The Datejust 41 ushers in a new era.
Rolex threw fans of the Datejust a curve ball in 2016. They discontinued the Datejust II and introduced the Datejust 41. The Datejust 41 is a 41mm variation of the classic Datejust, similar to the Datejust II. The movement is the most noticeable difference between the latest Datejust 41 and the Datejust II. The Rolex Caliber 3235 in-house movement, with fourteen patented parts and Superlative Chronometer certification, is housed inside the Datejust 41.
Choosing the Most Appropriate Date for You
At first glance, the Datejust and Datejust II appear to be very similar. However, once you start dissecting them, you will notice the differences. First, there’s the matter of scale. The Datejust is a smaller model, measuring 36mm, whereas the Datejust II is slightly larger, measuring 41mm. This affects not only how they look on the wrist, but also the proportions of the design. The Datejust II has a wider bezel and thicker lugs than the Datejust. It also has more space between the date window, hour markers, and the iconic Rolex crown at twelve o’clock.
Then you must look beneath the hood. Both models feature a COSC-certified chronometer movement with Rolex’s patented Parachrom hairspring. The Datejust II’s Caliber 3136, on the other hand, includes the brand’s high-performance Paraflex shock absorbers. So, how do you choose between the original Datejust, the Datejust II, and the brand-new Datejust 41?
The Datejust II is currently only available in pre-owned condition. If you’re looking for a new model, this might not be the best option. The Datejust II, on the other hand, is a great option if you want a rarer model that is no longer in production. Then there’s the matter of size. The Datejust 41 and Datejust II are both attractive watches if you prefer larger and more modern proportions. If you’re looking for a more modest size, the Datejust is the way to go. There’s also the movement to consider for watch nerds.