Everything you need to know before buying the quintessential Rolex watch, the Datejust, from key references to prices.
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.
What Makes a Datejust a Datejust?
Key Datejust References to Know
Should You Buy a Modern or Vintage Datejust?
Bezel's Datejust Picks
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.”
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Price Range: $5,500-$12,000
Price Range: $3,500-$7,000
Price Range: $5,000-$9,000
Price Range: $12,000-$17,500
Price Range: $7,900-$14,500
Price Range: $7,900-$14,500
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.
Images: Courtesy of Rolex.
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