SwissWatchExpo Ultimate Guide to the Rolex Datejust

The Datejust is Rolex’s best-selling model for good reason. Introduced in 1945, it remains popular to this day because of its timeless aesthetic and vast range of designs that cater to just about any taste.

While it does not have the cult following of the Rolex Daytona or Rolex Submariner, all watch collectors have immense respect for the Datejust – and that’s the beauty of the collection. Both the casual watch wearer and the seasoned collector will agree that a Rolex Datejust is definitely worth having.

In the market for a Rolex Datejust? Get to know the history of the collection and the different options available to you with the help of SwissWatchExpos ultimate guide.

Rolex Lady-Datejust, Datejust 36, and Datejust 41 in Steel and Everose Gold

About the Rolex Datejust

It’s hard to imagine it now, but the date complication was a game-changer when it was introduced to the watch world. When the Rolex Datejust was launched in 1945, it became the first wristwatch whose date automatically changed at midnight, without the need for manual adjustment. At long last, the date will be just, all the time.

Unveiled on the 40th anniversary of Rolex, the Datejust today is an industry classic, whose long and rich heritage is marked by the following events:

1945: Rolex creates the Datejust in celebration of the brand’s 40th anniversary. It introduces an automatically changing date and comes with a special five-link bracelet called the Jubilee.

1953: Rolex adds a Cyclops lens over the date to improve legibility. The lens is placed on the surface of the glass, just right above the date.

1954: The Rolex Datejust “Turn-O-Graph” is introduced. It features a rotating bezel, which back then was a new and easier way to measure elapsed time.

1957: The Rolex date complication becomes instantaneous (instead of rolling over slowly for a few hours). The Lady-Datejust is also introduced.

1960s: The Midsize Datejust is introduced. Measuring 31mm, it’s sized between the Lady-Datejust and the Men’s Datejust.

1977: The Oysterquartz Datejust is introduced. Rolex creates its very own quartz movement as an answer to the growing popularity of Japanese quartz watches.

2009: The Datejust II with a 41mm case is introduced. For the first time since 1945, the Datejust is given a case size larger than 36mm.

2015: The Lady-Datejust 28 replaces the Lady-Datejust 26, to meet modern preference for larger watches. 

2016: The Datejust 41 replaces the Datejust II. It retains the same 41mm case, but with proportions closer to the classic Datejust.


 

Key Features of the Rolex Datejust

Even with more than 70 years of history, the Rolex Datejust’s design has remained largely unchanged. In fact, it has become emblematic, with its key features adapted to the rest of the Rolex collection: the Jubilee bracelet, the Cyclops window, the two-tone metal combination dubbed Rolesor, and many more.

Rolex Datejust Steel Yellow Gold Diamond Dial Mens Watch 16233

With the vast variety of sizes, metals, dial colors and textures available, the Rolex Datejust is the brand’s most varied collection – there is certainly a Datejust for every preference. Yet, regardless of design variations, the Datejust is always instantly recognizable thanks to its iconic look. The features of the Rolex Datejust has evolved through the decades, but the following components remain:

OYSTER CASE

Created by Rolex in 1926, the Oyster was the world’s first waterproof case made for a wristwatch. Its patented system of screwing down the bezel, caseback, and winding crown against the middle case protects the movement from dust and moisture, and provides optimum water resistance. Each Rolex Datejust comes in an Oyster case, in a variety of sizes:

– Lady-Datejust – 26mm, 28mm and 31mm
– Rolex Date – 34mm
– Rolex Datejust – 36mm
– Rolex Datejust II and Datejust 41 – 41mm

DATE APERTURE WITH CYCLOPS

The distinguishing feature of the Rolex Datejust, from the very beginning, was the date aperture at 3 o’clock. With the addition of the instantaneous date mechanism, where the date instantly changes at midnight; and the Cyclops magnification lens to the surface of the crystal, the Rolex Datejust set the standard for how date complications should look and function.

SMOOTH or FLUTED BEZEL

Unlike the Rolex Submariner, GMT-Master, or Explorer which are tool watches, the Rolex Datejust has a decorative bezel over a functional one, with the exception of the Rolex Turnograph bezels. Its classic models come with either a smooth domed bezel, or a fluted bezel made of gold, for its two-tone designs. Meanwhile, there are also bezels decorated with diamonds and sapphires. The Rolex Datejust has been offered with the following bezel types:

– Smooth
– Fluted
– Gem-set
– Engine-turned (discontinued)
– Rotating Turn-O-Graph (discontinued)

OYSTER or JUBILEE BRACELET

The now iconic Jubilee bracelet was originally designed for the Rolex Datejust in 1945, and remains an option for the collection today. The Oyster bracelet features flat, three-piece links and is paired with the Oysterclasp; while the Jubilee has rounded five-piece links, and is fitted with a concealed Crownclasp. These two are the most commonly seen bracelets on the collection, however, other bracelet designs have been paired with sub-collections of the Rolex Datejust:

– Three-link Oyster
– Five-link Jubilee
– Three-link President (exclusive to Lady-Datejust and midsize Datejust models)
– Leather straps (discontinued)
– Integrated Jubilee and Oyster (exclusive to Oysterquartz and discontinued)

 


 

Generations of the Rolex Datejust

The Datejust has received a number of movement and aesthetic upgrades throughout its history and Rolex continuously improves upon its iconic design. Here are the different generations of Rolex Datejust watches and their distinct features.

Rolex Datejust Ladies Models

FOUR DIGIT ROLEX DATEJUST REFERENCES

1940s – 1950s
Reference numbers: 4XXX, 5XXX, 61XX, 63XX

The earliest models of the Rolex Datejust had domed case backs to accommodate the movement, which are dubbed “bubble backs”. They also did not bear the DATEJUST name on the dial until 1957. 

1960s
Reference numbers: 66XX 
Movements: Caliber 1065 automatic movement

This generation ushered in the flat case back and thinner silhouette of the Datejust still seen today. The DATEJUST text also began appearing on the dial. The acrylic crystal was also equipped with the Cyclops lens, which magnifies the date up to 2.5 times for better legibility. 

1959 – 1977
Reference numbers: 16XX 
Movements: Caliber 1560 or 1570 automatic movement

Equipped with a new movement, this generation of Datejust watches have the hacking function, where one can set a watch’s second hand together with the minutes and hours. The markers now have luminescence for better readability. Earlier examples have radium lume, before Rolex switched to tritium in 1963.

FIVE DIGIT ROLEX DATEJUST REFERENCES

1977 – 1987
Reference numbers: 160XX 
Movements: Caliber 3035 automatic movement

This generation features the quickset date function, where the user can independently adjust the date display without adjusting the hands that display the time. 

1977 – 2000s / Rolex Datejust Oysterquartz
Reference numbers: 17XXX, 190XX, 191XX 
Movements: Caliber 5035 quartz movement

This sub-collection of Datejust watches feature Rolex’s 5035 quartz movement. This was the only instance of quartz watches from Rolex, who had to adapt to the Quartz Revolution. These watches also feature more angular cases, and integrated Oyster and Jubilee bracelets. 

1988 – mid 2000s / Five Digit Rolex Datejust Models
Reference numbers: 162XX
Movements: Caliber 3135 automatic movement

Along with the new Caliber 3135, the Rolex Datejust now had scratch-resistant sapphire crystals to protect the dial. Rolex also began using higher-grade 904L steel for select references. By the late 1990s, the tritium luminescence was replaced with LumiNova, and again upgraded to Super-LumiNova in the 2000s.

Rolex Datejust 41 Models

SIX DIGIT ROLEX DATEJUST REFERENCES

2000s – 2009 / Six Digit Rolex Datejust Models
Reference numbers: 1162XX
Movements: Caliber 3135 automatic movement

The mid-2000s marked the arrival of redesigned Datejust cases. These contemporary styles feature thicker lugs and updated bracelets with polished center links, solid end-links, and Easylink clasps. 

2009 – 2015 / Rolex Datejust II
Reference numbers: 1163XX
Movements: Caliber 3136 automatic movement

To adapt to the growing popularity of larger watches, Rolex introduced the Datejust II In 2009. With its 41mm case, this marked the first time that Rolex offered a men’s size aside from the original 36mm. Aside from the larger case, it also featured thicker lugs and a wider bezel. 

2016 – present / Rolex Datejust 41
Reference numbers: 1263XX
Movements: Caliber 3235 automatic movement

In 2016, Rolex discontinued the Datejust II in favor of the Datejust 41. While it kept the 41mm case size, the new Datejust 41 had proportions similar to the classic Datejust, and was fitted with a new-generation movement. The Datejust 41 is considered a more elegant take than the robust and sporty Datejust II. Additionally, the Datejust 41 offers an option between the Oyster and Jubilee bracelet. 

2018 – present / New generation Rolex Datejust 36
Reference numbers: 1262XX
Movements: Caliber 3235 automatic movement

In 2018, Rolex updated the Datejust 36 collection with the new-generation Caliber 3235 movement. The in-house automatic movement offers a longer 70 hour power reserve, and is two times more precise than an officially certified chronometer, with an accuracy of -2/+2 seconds per day.


 

Popular Rolex Datejust Models

There is a broad range of Rolex Datejust watches available, but there are a few that have earned cult status. Here are the most popular Rolex Datejust models of today.

ROLEX DATEJUST TWO-TONE

If someone says “Rolex Datejust” you likely have a picture of a two-tone, steel and gold watch in your head. The design has become so ubiquitous and well-known in the previous decades, particularly in the 1980s, when it became a staple among Wall Street traders – a sign that someone has made it.  It was seen as a retro design choice by many until recently, when Rolex provided modern iterations like the larger Rolex Datejust 41 and redesigned Rolex Datejust 36.

ROLEX DATEJUST WIMBLEDON

Introduced in 2009 with the Rolex Datejust II, and later on adapted to the Datejust 41, the ‘Wimbledon’ dial comes with a slate grey face and Roman markers outlined with a forest green color. The two-tone version has been closely promoted together with the Wimbledon tennis tournament, and it strikes a resemblance to the court clocks used during the games, thus many have seen this as a nod to the tournament.

Roger Federer has also been spotted wearing the Rolex Datejust ‘Wimbledon’ several times, most notably in 2017, when he won his record eighth Wimbledon title.

The ‘Wimbledon’ dial can be seen in various Rolex Datejust 41 styles, whether in full stainless steel, white Rolesor, yellow gold Rolesor, and Everose Rolesor.

ROLEX DATEJUST DIAMOND AND MOTHER OF PEARL

Rolex is a leader in the use of mother of pearl in their dials. Not only have they used the natural material on ladies watches, but in Rolex men’s watches, as well. In particular, the material has provided a luxurious feel to the larger and sportier Datejust 41 collection. Often paired with brilliant-cut diamond hour markers, this design makes for a bold statement piece for casual, business, or formal occasions.


 

Common Questions About the Rolex Datejust

The Rolex Datejust was the first self-winding wristwatch to have a date window aperture. Because of its classic style and wide variety of options, it is one of Rolex’s best-selling models. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Rolex Datejust.

WHAT IS A ROLEX DATEJUST?

The Rolex Datejust is a classically-designed self-winding chronometer wristwatch introduced by Rolex in 1945. It is characterized by an Oyster case and a date display at 3 o’clock.

HOW CAN I TELL IF MY ROLEX DATEJUST IS REAL?

The illustrious status of the Rolex Datejust makes it a target of many counterfeiters. Being a Rolex, the Datejust is made to the highest standards and using the highest-quality materials. Before buying your watch, look for any signs of sub-standard manufacturing. For example, check for any missing or misaligned text, see if the Cyclops lens is perfectly centered over the date, and lookout for a seconds hand that jumps from one second to the next, instead of a sweeping motion. If even the smallest detail comes across as shoddy, you can be certain that it’s not a real Rolex.

When buying a luxury watch, it is essential to do research on your chosen model and reference. Becoming familiar with your chosen watch’s details will help you more easily spot a fake. As we always advise clients, your best defense against buying a fake timepiece is to get your watch from a reputable and trusted dealer, like SwissWatchExpo, who can provide a guarantee of authenticity on the watch.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD A ROLEX DATEJUST BE SERVICED?

Rolex generally recommends for professional servicing every 10 years to maintain your watch’s accuracy and waterproofness. However, this would all depend on how your watch is used and stored. There may be signs that your watch needs a service sooner rather than later. Here are Signs It’s Time for Watch Maintenance.

HOW DO I WIND A ROLEX DATEJUST?

You would have to wind your watch if it is being worn for the first time, or if it has stopped. To do this, unscrew the winding crown until it loosens free from the threads holding it onto the case. Then, turn it several times away from you (clockwise). We recommend at least 25 turns for adequate winding. The watch will stay wound automatically as long as it is worn regularly.


 

The Rolex Datejust’s simple, elegant design and its ability to adapt to changes in trends and taste has elevated it to an iconic status. Explore our collection of Rolex Datejust watches at SwissWatchExpo.com.

 

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