SwissWatchExpo Ultimate Guide to the Rolex Day-Date

No other watch says “I’ve arrived” more than a Rolex Day-Date. Otherwise known as “The President’s Watch”, the Day-Date is not just a status symbol, but one associated with accomplishment and success.

Introduced in 1956, the Day-Date was a step above the iconic Datejust by becoming the world’s first timepiece to display the day of the week in full. Exclusively crafted in either gold or platinum, and coupled with the specially made Presidential bracelet, the Day-Date represents the crown jewel of the Rolex catalog.

From U.S. presidents to business titans and sports heavyweights, you’ll be in good company with this timepiece on your wrist. Get a crash course on the Rolex President Day-Date with SwissWatchExpo‘s Ultimate Guide.

Rolex President Day-Date White Gold Jubilee Dial and Platinum Glacier Dial Watch

About the Rolex Day-Date

Just a decade after introducing the trailblazing Rolex Datejust, Rolex again caused a sensation in 1956. Their new watch possessed the same bezel and case size as its sibling, but with a specially crafted bracelet and an important new development – the full day of the week displayed at 12 o’clock, in addition to the instantaneous date display. Dubbed the Rolex Day-Date, it symbolized the pinnacle of Rolex’s watchmaking prowess.

The Rolex Day-Date has been continuously produced since then and is available today in 26 different languages. Here are the important milestones in the Rolex Day-Date’s history.

1956: Rolex introduces the Day-Date and immediately positions it as their flagship watch. On top of the instantaneous date aperture, it features a window at 12 o’clock showing the day of the week spelled out completely.

1959: The next series of the Rolex Day-Date is introduced and the brand begins to experiment with different dial options, bezel textures, and even bracelets for the Day-Date.

1966: U.S. President Lyndon Johnson wears the Rolex Day-Date while in office. Rolex also releases an ad for the collection titled “The Presidents’ watch”, featuring an image of Johnson wearing his yellow gold Rolex.

1969: Rolex introduces the concealed Crownclasp into the President bracelet.

1972: Rolex adds the hacking seconds feature to the Day-Date, which allows the user to stop the second hand when setting the time, resulting in increased accuracy.

1977: Rolex responds to the Quartz Crisis with their very own quartz movement. The result is the Oysterquartz, which has models under the Datejust and Day-Date collections.

1978: Rolex introduces the five-digit series, the reference 180XX. This adds the “Single Quick-Set” date function which allows the wearer to adjust the date of the month independently from the time. They also replaced the acrylic crystal with more scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.

1984: Rolex releases an ad campaign with the copy “The Rolex President Day-Date Chronometer. Available in 18kt. gold, with matching bracelet.” This marks the first time that Rolex refers to the Day-Date as the “President”.

1988: Rolex adds the “Double Quick-Set” feature to the Rolex Day-Date. With it, the wearer can correct both the date and day display separately from the time.

2000: Rolex rolls out the six-digit Day-Date, the reference 118XXX. In this instance, the improvements were reserved for the bracelet and clasp.

2008: Rolex responds to market demands for larger watches with the Day-Date II, a 41mm version of the Day-Date. It also features a bulkier profile than the traditional 36mm design.

2015: Rolex introduces the Day-Date 40. With a more streamlined case, it is more akin to the traditional Day-Date except with a larger 40mm diameter, updated Caliber 3255 movement, and faceted Roman numeral hour markers.

2019: Rolex also updates the 36mm Day-Date with the new Caliber 3255. It boasts of a deviation of just −2 /+2 seconds per day and offers a 70-hour power reserve.


 

Key Features of the Rolex President Day-Date

The inaugural Rolex Day-Date came in a 36mm Oyster case made of solid 18k gold, with a double calendar functionality, and a three-piece President bracelet. The features of the Rolex President Day-Date has evolved through its history, but the following key components remain:

Rolex Day-Date Yellow Gold Diamond Watches

OYSTER CASE

The Rolex Day-Date is offered in the brand’s waterproof Oyster case, which features the Twinlock double waterproofness system. Patented by Rolex in 1953, this system includes a screw-down winding crown, two sealed zones, and the hermetically screwed caseback. Together, these elements provide optimum protection against moisture and dust.

The Rolex Day-Date’s case has been offered in four sizes throughout its life span:

Day-Date 36 and Oysterquartz: 36mm

Day-Date Masterpiece: 39mm

Day-Date 40: 40mm

Day-Date II: 41mm

All Rolex Day-Date models come only in solid 18k gold (yellow, white, and rose gold), and 950 platinum. As of 2005, the rose gold models have been replaced with Rolex’s proprietary 18k rose gold alloy called the Everose.

DAY AND DATE WINDOWS

The signature design of the Rolex Day-Date features two windows. There is a date window at 3 o’clock, and a day window at 12 o’clock with the day of the week spelled out in full.

Rolex initially produced the day wheel in 11 different languages, but with the Day-Date’s success, Rolex has expanded the selection to as many as 26. Both the day and date apertures change exactly at midnight.

PRESIDENT BRACELET

When the Rolex Day-Date was introduced, a special three-piece bracelet with circular links was created especially for the collection. Called the “President”, it is reserved only for the Day-Date collection, and for Lady Datejust models made in precious metals. Like the Oyster case, it is crafted exclusively in 18k gold or platinum, and fitted only with the Crownclasp, Rolex’s elegantly concealed clasp.

While the vast majority of Rolex Day-Date watches come with the President bracelet, the brand has also fitted the Day-Date with other bracelet styles such as Oyster bracelets, Pearlmaster bracelets, and leather straps.

 


 

Generations of the Rolex Day-Date

When the Rolex Day-Date was introduced in 1956, it featured a 36mm Oyster case, a fluted bezel, and the now iconic President bracelet. The collection then evolved into a broader selection of metal options, dial colors, bezel types, and sizes. Movements were also updated through the decades. Below are the defining characteristics of each generation of the Rolex Day-Date:

Rolex President Day-Date and Datejust President Myriad Diamond Models

ROLEX DAY-DATE ref 6XXX (1956 – 1960)
Reference Numbers: 6510, 6511, 6611, 6612 and 6613
Movements: Caliber 1055

The first to models of the Rolex Day-Date were the ref 6510 and 6511, followed by the 6611. They inherited the same 36mm Oyster case and fluted bezel of the Rolex Datejust introduced in 1945. These models were the first watches in the world to display both the date of the month and the day of the week, spelled out in full through a window on the dial. They ran on the Caliber 1055, which had a self-winding mechanism, and required a bulkier case to house the new day disc.

In 1957, the Caliber 1055 was updated with the free sprung Micro-Stella balance, thus earning the label “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” on the dial.

ROLEX LADY PRESIDENT (1960s –)

While the President bracelet was made for the Rolex Day-Date, the brand began to offer it as an option for the Lady Datejust in the 1960s. It is paired with precious metal versions of the Lady-Datejust which were made in 26mm versions until 2015, then larger 28mm cases thereafter.

ROLEX DAY-DATE ref 180X (1959 – 1978)
Reference Numbers: 1803, 1804, 1806, 1802, 1807, 1811
Movements: Caliber 1555, later 1556

In the next series, the Rolex Day-Date was upgraded to the Caliber 1555 and later 1556, which introduced the hacking seconds feature. This allows the wearer to stop the seconds hand while setting the time, allowing for increased precision. It was also during this series that Rolex experimented with different dial options, bezel textures, and even bracelets.

ROLEX DAY-DATE ref 180XX (1977 – 1988)
Reference Numbers: 18028, 18038, 18048, 18078, 18039, 18049, 18079, 18026
Movements: Caliber 3055

The 180XX series or the five-digit Rolex Day-Dates are very much like their predecessors, but with the upgraded Caliber 3055. This introduced the Single Quickset feature to the collection, which allows the wearer to adjust the date of the month independently from the time.

ROLEX DAY-DATE OYSTERQUARTZ (1977 – 2000s)
Reference Numbers: 19018, 19019, 19028, 19038, 19048, 19049, 19068, 19148, 19168
Movements: Caliber 5055, later 5355

The Quartz Crisis hit the industry in the late 1970s, where trends shifted towards quartz powered watches, causing significant decline in the Swiss watchmaking industry. To keep up with the trend, Rolex developed their own quartz movement watches called the Oysterquartz.

The Rolex Oysterquartz was introduced in Datejust and Day-Date editions. The Day-Date Oysterquartz featured a distinctively angular case shape and an integrated President bracelet. They were produced until the early 2000s.

ROLEX DAY-DATE 182XX (1988 – late 1990s)
Reference Numbers: 18238, 18248, 18239, 18249 (183xx with diamond cases)
Movements: Caliber 3155

The 182XX series was launched in the late 1980s, bringing with it the updated Caliber 3155. It introduced the now-standard Double Quickset function, where the wearer can correct both the date and day display independently from the central time-telling hands, and without twisting the crown in full 24-hour rotations.

Rolex President Yellow Gold Meteorite Diamond Mens Watch 118208

ROLEX DAY-DATE 118XXX (2000 – )
Reference Numbers: 118208, 118238, 118348, 118138, 118239, 118389, 118139, 118205, 118235, 118135, 118206, 118346
Movements: Caliber 3155

In 2000, Rolex unveiled the Day-Date with the six-digit 118xxx series. While these watches were equipped with the same Caliber 3155 as the previous version, these had heftier bracelets, high-polished lugs, and more secure clasps.

This generation of Rolex Day-Date watches is also the most varied. There are options in 18k gold (yellow gold, white gold, and Everose gold) and in platinum. Bracelet options were expanded to include the sporty Oyster and an assortment of leather straps, on top of the standard President bracelet.

ROLEX DAY-DATE II (2008 – 2015)
Reference Numbers: 218238, 218235, 218239, 218206
Movements: Caliber 3156

As bigger watches gained more popularity, Rolex responded by offering a larger and beefier version of the Rolex Day-Date. In 2008, they introduced the Rolex Day-Date II, which had a larger 41mm case and wider lugs and bracelets. It was also equipped with the Caliber 3156, which gave it a 48-hour power reserve. The Rolex Day-Date II was eventually replaced by the Day-Date 40.

ROLEX DAY-DATE 40 (2015 – present)
Reference Numbers: 228238, 228239, 228235, 228206
Movements: Caliber 3255

With the Rolex Day-Date 40, Rolex scaled back on the size and heft of the previous 41mm version. Its case measures 40mm, with tapered proportions that are closer to the traditional 36mm Datejust. Aside from its size, the Day-Date 40 is powered by the Caliber 3255 movement, which offers a power reserve of 72 hours and an accuracy rating of -2 / +2 seconds per day.

ROLEX DAY-DATE ref 1282XX (2019 – present)
Reference Numbers: 128238, 128239, 128235
Movements: Caliber 3255

The current production of Rolex Day-Date 36 was also equipped with the new Caliber 3255. It boasts of magnetic-resistant and anti-shock technology that offers a 72-hour power reserve and singularly precise reading. It is protected by a total of 14 patents.


 

Popular Rolex Day-Date Models

The Rolex President Day-Date enjoys an elite status among luxury watches with its timeless design, unparalleled accuracy, and investment potential. While one cannot go wrong with any Rolex Day-Date model, there are a few that enjoy increased popularity.

ROLEX DAY-DATE 40

In response to the growing preference for larger watches, Rolex introduced the Day-Date 40 in 2015. The company had initially launched the Day-Date II, a bigger 41mm version, but its bulky appearance didn’t fly with Rolex faithful. The Rolex Day-Date 40 answers the call for a larger case diameter, while keeping the classic proportions that fans have come to love. A sharper fluted bezel, faceted Roman numeral markers, reinforced Presidential bracelet, and new generation 3255 movement form this contemporary take on the President’s watch.

ROLEX DAY-DATE 60TH ANNIVERSARY GREEN DIAL

For its 60th anniversary in 2016, the Rolex Day-Date was given a royal treatment with two special green dial editions of the Day-Date 40. Available in 18k white gold and Everose gold, this model’s dial is a far cry from the previous anniversary models of Rolex. It comes in an olive green shade, whose rich moss hue and sunburst finish completes its modern execution.

ROLEX DAY-DATE PLATINUM

The Rolex Day-Date comes exclusively in precious metals namely 18k yellow, white, and Everose gold, as well as 950 platinum, all painstakingly blended in-house in Rolex’s own foundry. As one of the densest and heaviest materials in the world, a platinum Rolex offers  heft and substance on the wrist, while remaining understated with its silvery whiteness. Glacier blue dials also appear exclusively in platinum Rolex watches, making these models even more exclusive.


 

Common Questions About the Rolex President Day-Date

The Rolex Day-Date is highly coveted for its classical design, premium materials, and illustrious heritage. Here are some of the most common questions asked about the Rolex President Day-Date.

WHAT IS A ROLEX DAY-DATE?

The Rolex Day-Date is the flagship collection of Rolex introduced in 1956. It is composed of classically designed watches made exclusively in 18k gold (yellow, white, rose or Everose) and platinum. It is characterized by two apertures on its dial – one to display the date, and another to display the day of the week in full – plus a three-piece bracelet called the President.

WHY IS A ROLEX DAY-DATE SO EXPENSIVE?

The Rolex Day-Date has a higher price tag because of its premium materials and more complicated movement. Except for very rare vintage models, the Day-Date has never been offered in steel or two-tone configurations. They are exclusively crafted in solid 18k gold or in 950L platinum. Moreover, its movement allows for two apertures to display the date, and the day of the week in full.

HOW WILL I KNOW IF MY ROLEX DAY-DATE IS GENUINE?

With the exception of very rare vintage models, all Rolex Day-Date watches are made only from solid 18k gold or platinum, which are relatively heavy materials. If your Rolex Day-Date does not have the heft of these materials, then it is likely fake.

Moreover, each Rolex timepiece is made to the highest standards. Check the quality of its bezel, markers, and the text on the dial, date and day windows. If even a minute detail comes across as sub-standard, you can be certain that it’s not the real deal.

We always advise clients to only purchase a watch from a reputable and trusted dealer, such as SwissWatchExpo, who can provide a guarantee of authenticity on the watch.

IS THE ROLEX DAY-DATE WATERPROOF?

Rolex Day-Date watches are water resistant to a depth of 100 meters of 330 feet. The collection was not made specifically for aquatic use, but like other watches with Rolex’s Oyster cases, they come with screw-down crowns and case backs, which protect the movement from moisture and dust that can be encountered with daily use.


 

From being the choice of world leaders to becoming a must-have in any collector’s watch box, the Rolex Day-Date continues to be the ultimate watch of prestige. Explore our collection of Rolex Day-Date watches at SwissWatchExpo.com.

 

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