The Datejust is Rolex‘s bestselling model. The watch has continuously been part of the Geneva-based brand’s line-up since its introduction in 1945. Rolex initially presented the watch in honor of the company’s 40th anniversary. It boasted a function that was exceptional at the time: an automatic date display, making it the first watch of its kind. Moreover, Rolex designed the Jubilee bracelet – a cornerstone of the collection today – specifically for the Datejust. Additional features of the watch included an Oyster case and a streamlined dial design. The 1950s saw the addition of a Cyclops lens, which magnifies the date by 2.5 times and has since become an essential feature of the collection.
All of these features have contributed to the Datejust remaining the de facto standard when it comes to sporty dress watches. The collection offers a seemingly endless variety of models, ensuring there is something to suit every taste. There is so much variation, in fact, that you can choose between five different bezel designs: classic fluted, polished, cambered, diamond-set, or special fluting reminiscent of tree bark. The dials are available in numerous color variants with both classic bar indices and Roman numerals or diamond indices. When it comes to case sizes, the range of Datejust options is more extensive than any other Rolex collection. Watches range from 26 to 41 mm in diameter and come in stainless steel, 18-karat gold, and two-tone versions.
Rolex Datejust Ref. 1601
One of the most popular Datejust models is the ref. 1601. Rolex first introduced this watch in the early 1960s and produced it until the early 1980s, making it one of the longest-lived series from the Genevan manufacturer.
The ref. 1601 measures 36 mm in diameter, a size that makes it the ideal unisex watch. It comes in stainless steel, yellow gold, or rose gold. Two-tone models feature a yellow or rose gold bezel, crown, and central bracelet links. However, even stainless steel versions incorporate some gold: The 1601 has a fluted bezel, which Rolex crafts exclusively from gold. The stainless steel versions, therefore, feature a white gold bezel.
Most variants come with dials in a classic color such as black, gold, or white silver-plated. That being said, you can also find examples with blue, green, gray, or mother-of-pearl dials out there. Moreover, Rolex’s full range of indices can also be found in the collection; from Roman and Arabic numerals to bar and diamond-set indices. The dials are protected by curved acrylic watch glass.
At the heart of the watch lies the Rolex Caliber 1560 or 1570. The latter was introduced in the mid-1960s. With a rate of 19,800 vibrations per hour (vph), it marked a slight improvement over its predecessor, which beat at 18,000 vph. Starting in 1972, the movement was equipped with a stop seconds mechanism. Both calibers are certified chronometers, but you won’t find Rolex’s quickset date function in either.
The Datejust 1601 traditionally comes on the five-link Jubilee bracelet; however, the watch can also be found on an Oyster or President bracelet or a leather strap.
Other Popular Datejust Models
A particularly popular two-tone Datejust is the ref. 16233, which dates back to the late 1980s. It also has a diameter of 36 mm and is made of stainless steel and yellow gold. The biggest differences between this watch and the ref. 1601 are the movement and watch glass. This newer model is powered by the Caliber 3135, which beats at 28,800 vph and features a stop seconds mechanism and quickset date. Furthermore, the dial is protected by scratch-resistant sapphire crystal as opposed to acrylic glass.
The Lady-Datejust ref. 69173 dates back to the same era as the ref. 16233 and offers nearly identical features, albeit in a smaller package. This two-tone watch measures just 26 mm in diameter, which necessitates a much smaller movement. Thus, you’ll find the Caliber 2135 ticking away inside these models.
The Datejust 41 ref. 126334 is a more modern version of this watch. It was first introduced in 2016 with a very modern case size of 41 mm. This particular reference is made of stainless steel and features a fluted white gold bezel. The watch is powered by the Caliber 3235, which boasts a blue Parachrom hairspring and Rolex’s Paraflex shock-protection system, offering the watch added protection against magnetic fields and jolts. The highly-efficient Chronergy escapement ensures that the watch doesn’t require winding for a full 70 hours.
Rolex offers two appealing alternatives to the Datejust with their Oyster Perpetual and Day-Date lines. The former is aimed at anyone who can do without a date display. The watch has a clean look thanks to the absence of the added display and associated Cyclops lens. The Oyster Perpetual is available in case sizes ranging from 28 to 41 mm and comes exclusively in stainless steel with a polished bezel. There have been a number of interesting dial colors added to the line-up since autumn 2020, including coral red, candy pink, and turquoise blue.
The Day-Date is considered by many to be the Datejust’s big sister. It has been part of the Rolex catalog since 1956. As its name suggests, it offers a weekday display at the 12 o’clock position in addition to the date. Another difference is that the Day-Date is offered exclusively in precious metals. You have the choice between white, yellow, or rose gold or platinum. The latter is easy to recognize by its ice-blue dial, which Rolex reserves exclusively for platinum watches.
Prices and Performance of the Rolex Datejust
Prices for the Datejust vary greatly due to the wide variety of models available. You can find well-maintained stainless steel examples of the ref. 1601 on Chrono24 for prices starting around 4,700 USD. Two-tone models typically cost a bit more at around 5,300 USD, while solid gold versions are more again at 10,800 USD. The Lady-Datejust ref. 69173 is comparatively much more affordable. Prices start around 4,800 USD for this model. However, if you’d like to purchase the more recent ref. 126334, expect to pay closer to 13,200 USD.
Regardless of which model you ultimately choose, they will all have one thing in common: outstanding performance. Over the past three years, Datejust models have appreciated in value by 20-35% on average. Thus, the Datejust isn’t just a good-looking timepiece, it’s also an attractive investment.