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The Rolex Datejust Buying Guide: References, Prices & Everything Else You Need to Know

Everything you need to know before buying the quintessential Rolex watch, the Datejust, from key references to prices.


Ripley Sellers

October 21, 2022


8 min read

Rolex is easily the world’s most famous luxury watch manufacturer, and the Datejust is often considered *the* quintessential Rolex watch. First launched in 1945 and a cornerstone offering in Rolex’s catalog ever since, the Datejust was the first wristwatch ever to display the date of the month through an automatically changing window in the dial, setting the standard for virtually all modern timepieces. 

Today, the Rolex Datejust can be spotted on the wrists of countless professional athletes and celebrities. And despite being Rolex’s single most diverse collection of watches (and existing in a wide variety of different sizes in configurations), the Datejust remains instantly recognizable in all of its various forms. Basically, it’s an undisputed icon in the world of watches. But the Datejust’s extensive history and incredible assortment of models that have been produced throughout the years means that finding the right one for you can be challenging. To help, here’s a quick guide with all the essentials you’re going to want to know when shopping for this legendary Rolex model.

Shop all Rolex Datejust watches.

What Makes a Datejust a Datejust?

  • The Quintissential Rolex Watch
  • Swiss Made
  • Versatile Styling
  • Waterproof Oyster Case
  • Self-Winding Perpetual Movement
  • Date Display
  • Cyclops Magnification Lens
  • Rolex's Most Diverse Collection

Key Datejust References to Know

Should You Buy a Modern or Vintage  Datejust? 

Bezel's Datejust Picks

What Makes a Datejust a Datejust?

The two tone Rolex Datejust will forever epitomize the brand's unique brand of excellence.

The Quintessential Rolex Watch

Rolex’s catalog is packed full of instantly recognizable watch icons, yet the Datejust will always be considered the quintessential Rolex watch. While it may not be the brand’s most rare or expensive model, it holds the title of being the best-selling Rolex collection of all time, and is often the watch that first comes to mind whenever someone says the word “Rolex.”

Dials in production at Rolex's Swiss manufacture.


Rolex is one of the most vertically integrated watch manufacturers on the planet, and just like all Rolex watches, the Datejust is designed and produced entirely by the brand from within its Switzerland-based manufacturing facilities. Even the stainless steel and 18k gold alloys that get used for the individual components are produced by Rolex at its own in-house foundry to ensure the highest possible quality.  

Rolex's Datejust 41, fitted with a striking blue dial.

Versatile Styling 

Unlike some Rolex models like the Submariner or the Daytona, which were designed for specific sports or environments, the Rolex Datejust was created to be a highly versatile timepiece that you can wear every single day. Easily capable of being paired with formal attire, the Rolex Datejust is also not too formal in its overall design that it can’t easily be dressed down and look great when worn with jeans and a T-shirt.

The Datejust's Oyster case is tested by a Rolex watchmaker before leaving the factory.

Waterproof Oyster Case

Just like all modern Rolex watches outside of the Cellini collection, the Datejust features the brand’s legendary waterproof Oyster case. With a screw-down crown and caseback, Rolex’s Oyster case hermetically seals the watch against moisture and dirt, allowing all modern Rolex Datejust watches to be water resistant up to 100 meters (330 feet).

Rolex Calibers 2236 and 3235, powering the latest generation of Datejust references.

Self-Winding Perpetual Movement 

At the heart of all Rolex Datejust watches is one of the brand’s self-winding Perpetual movements. Powered by the natural motion of the wearer’s arm, the entirely mechanical calibers that reside inside every Rolex Datejust watch feature chronometer-certified timekeeping performance and they will automatically wind themselves each day as long as they remain on their owner’s wrists.

A modern Datejust's "quickset" date complication.

Date Display

As its name implies, the Datejust features a date display, which always appears as a window in the dial at the 3 o’clock location. Automatically changing each day at midnight, the date window is one of the hallmark traits of this iconic Rolex collection, and has been part of every single Datejust watch since the model first debuted in 1945.

The now iconic cyclops magnification lens, found on all Rolex Datejust models.

Cyclops Magnification Lens

Sitting on top of the surface of the Datejust’s crystal and enlarging the size of the date window is Rolex’s signature cyclops magnification lens. While this instantly recognizable bubble structure was absent from the very earliest Datejust watches, it’s since become one of the collection’s defining features, and it can even be found on other Rolex models with date displays, like the Submariner, Day-Date, and GMT-Master II collections.

Entirely covered with factory-set diamonds, the Ref. 279458RBR is a sight to behold.

Rolex’s Most Diverse Collection 

In addition to being Rolex’s best-selling collection of all time, the Datejust is also the brand’s single most diverse lineup of models. Throughout the years, Rolex Datejust watches have been produced in sizes ranging from 26mm all the way up to 41mm in diameter, and in materials spanning humble stainless steel to diamond-encrusted 18k gold, along with just about every possible combination in between.

Key Datejust References to Know  

Rolex Datejust Ref. 16233.

Rolex Datejust Ref. 16233

Shop Rolex Datejust Ref. 16233

Dates: 1988-2004

Price Range: $5,500-$12,000


  • Crafted entirely from stainless steel and 18k yellow gold, the reference 16233 is the two-tone version of the Rolex Datejust 36 that features a fluted bezel surrounding a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. 
  • In addition to introducing a sapphire crystal to the Datejust 36 lineup, this reference is also part of the generation of models that first introduced the Caliber 3135 movement to the collection, which would go on to power the 36mm version of the Rolex Datejust until it was finally replaced by the Caliber 3235 in 2018.
  • This reference can be found with either an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet, and the model can also feature a wide variety of different dial styles.
Rolex Datejust Ref. 69173.

Rolex Datejust Ref. 69173

Shop Rolex Datejust Ref. 69173

Dates: 1983-1999

Price Range: $3,500-$7,000


  • The reference 69173 is the stainless steel and yellow gold version of the discontinued 26mm Lady-Datejust that is fitted with a fluted bezel and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.
  • Along with introducing the updated Caliber 2135 movement to the collection, this reference is also a member of the first generation of Rolex Lady-Datejust watches to feature scratch-resistant sapphire crystals.
  • Just like the full-size Datejust models, this reference can be fitted with a wide variety of dials and with either Oyster or Jubilee bracelets; however, all examples will have fluted bezels and will be crafted from stainless steel and yellow gold.  
Rolex Datejust Oysterquartz Ref. 17013.

Rolex Datejust Oysterquartz Ref. 17013

Shop Rolex Datejust Oysterquartz Ref. 17013

Dates: 1977-2001

Price Range: $5,000-$9,000


  • While all Rolex Datejust watches are now powered by self-winding mechanical movements, there was a brief period of time from the late 1970s until the early 2000s when Rolex manufactured a range of both Datejust and Day-Date models powered by its own battery-powered Oysterquartz movements.
  • The reference 17013 is the stainless steel and 18k yellow gold version of the Oysterquartz Datejust that features a 36mm case diameter and is fitted with Rolex’s signature fluted bezel.
  • Unlike the standard Rolex Datejust models that existed during the late 1970s, the various Datejust Oysterquartz models feature sapphire crystals, battery-powered quartz movements, and a unique style of angular case that includes an integrated bracelet. 
Rolex Datejust II Ref. 116333 "Wimbledon."

Rolex Datejust II Ref. 116333

Shop Rolex Datejust II Ref. 116333

Dates: 2009-2016

Price Range: $12,000-$17,500


  • Fitted with a fluted bezel and crafted from stainless steel and 18k yellow gold, the reference 116333 is the two-tone version of the Rolex Datejust II, which was the very first model from the Datejust collection to ever feature a case diameter larger than 36mm.
  • While both the discontinued Rolex Datejust II and the current-production Datejust 41 both have cases that measure 41mm, the Datejust II has slightly bulkier proportions than its successor, giving it a more bold and sporty overall appearance. 
  • Just like other Datejust models, the Rolex Datejust II ref. 116333 was produced with a number of different dial styles; however, all variations were fitted with Oyster bracelets, as the Jubilee bracelet was not made available for the larger 41mm models until the subsequent generation of Datejust 41 watches made its debut appearance in 2016.

Rolex Datejust 41 Ref. 126300.

Rolex Datejust 41 Ref. 126300

Shop Rolex Datejust 41 Ref. 126300

Dates: 2017-Present

Price Range: $7,900-$14,500


  • Crafted entirely from stainless steel and fitted with a simple smooth bezel, the reference 126300 is the current-production version of the full stainless steel Rolex Datejust 41 that first made an appearance in 2017.
  • Replacing the Datejust II but maintaining the same 41mm case diameter, arguably the single greatest update to accompany the Rolex Datejust 41 is the Caliber 3235 movement, which offers an increased power reserve of approximately 70 hours. 
  • Although all Rolex Datejust 41 ref. 126300 watches feature smooth bezels, they can be fitted with a handful of different dials, and unlike the previous generation of stainless steel Datejust II watches, the reference 126300 can be fitted with either an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet.
Rolex Datejust 36 Ref. 126231.

Rolex Datejust 36 Ref. 126231

Shop Rolex Datejust 36 Ref. 126231

Dates: 2017-Present

Price Range: $7,900-$14,500


  • Crafted from stainless steel and Everose rose gold, fitted with a fluted bezel, the reference 126300 is the current-production version of the two tone steel and pink Rolex Datejust 36 that first made an appearance in 2017.
  • Powered by Caliber 3235 movement, which offers an increased power reserve of approximately 70 hours. 
  • Offered in a number of different configurations
The earliest Rolex Datejust, alongside a modern example.

Should You Buy a Modern or Vintage Rolex Datejust?

Despite undergoing countless small updates and changes throughout the years, the overall design of the Rolex Datejust has remained remarkably unchanged. With that in mind, the range of options available within the greater Datejust collection has steadily grown over the years. When it first appeared in 1945, the Datejust was exclusively a 36mm yellow gold watch; however, additional metal options soon joined the lineup, followed by smaller mid-size and Lady-Datejust watches in the 1950s, and eventually a larger 41mm version in 2009. Today, the Rolex Datejust is available in sizes ranging from 28mm to 41mm in diameter (not including the discontinued 26mm models) and they can be found in just about every single metal combination offered in Rolex’s lineup. 

On top of that, the materials used in the construction of the Rolex Datejust have also seen a number of updates and improvements during the years since the model first made an appearance. Vintage Datejust watches feature acrylic (plexiglass) crystals protecting their dials and they typically use a radioactive luminous material known as tritium that does not glow anymore. Conversely, modern Rolex Datejust watches have crystals made from scratch-resistant synthetic sapphire, and they use the brand’s proprietary blue-glowing Chromalight luminous material, which glows in response to light and can last for up to eight continuous hours after being fully charged. 

Bezel’s Datejust Picks

Rolex Datejust 36 ref. 126234 - Palm Motif Dial

Rolex Datejust 36 ref. 16013 - Buckley Dial

Rolex Datejust II ref. 116334 - Arabic Dial

Rolex Datejust Turn-O-Graph ref. 116261 - White Dial

Rolex Datejust Pearlmaster 39 ref. 86289 - Diamond Paved Dial

Images: Courtesy of Rolex.


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