As the vintage watch collecting hobby has expanded and more new collectors come into the fold, so has demand for fine examples of vintage Datejusts, but it’s always been a popular piece that’s occupied a unique space in the watch collecting world as one of the only designs almost universally considered perfect. In a space as opinionated and often contentious as the watch-collecting community, that’s really saying something! But what makes the Rolex Datejust so perfect? What exactly is it about this model that has made it the great unifier of the watch world? What makes the Datejust perhaps the one watch we can all agree on?
The big answer here is that the Datejust is a design with a surprising number of points of entry, which means it can satisfy the interests of a lot of different collectors. Let’s explore the big ones.
Traditionally a 36mm watch, the Datejust hits the sizing sweet spot for vintage fans. However, between the light hues and bright dials, these watches are most frequently fitted with – silver sunbursts, white, and champagne for two-tone examples – and the eye-catching Jubilee bracelets they’re most commonly worn on, and the engine turned or fluted bezels the classic Datejust features, these watches have a lot more wrist presence than most 36mm watches. It’s a very balanced design that’s extremely comfortable to wear, and undeniably makes a statement, but doesn’t draw too much attention.
It’s also one of the most versatile watch designs of all time. There are few watches that can comfortably go from shorts and a tee shirt to a black tie formal quite like a steel Datejust, and it’s a watch that happens to look fabulous on an extremely wide variety of straps and bracelets. From the traditional Jubilee to the more rugged look of an Oyster bracelet, to a handmade leather strap, to even a nato in the warm months, the Datejust simply works with all of them.
The Datejust’s primary complication is right there in its name, and that date window is as useful a complication as anyone could want on a daily-worn watch. However, these watches are relatively carefree pieces to own and live with. They’re famously accurate, they feature automatic movements, and you won’t pay an insane amount of money to have one serviced – willing nothing catastrophic happens to the watch and you stay on top of regular service intervals.
The Datejust has been manufactured consistently since the 1950s. There aren’t many products in this world that have enjoyed such an incredibly long production run and still appear so fundamentally close to their original design. While there have been plenty of different reference numbers produced bearing the Datejust name, they all share the same essential form factor. But with a production run that spans close to 70 years, small variances in design, changes in manufacturing and finishing techniques, and different materials being used for different years, (and the unique way some of those materials have aged) have made it so there is an incredible amount of variety available in vintage Datejusts. Steel, two-tone, full yellow gold, gilt dials, “confetti” dials, “ghost” dials, “ovettone” models, “Buckley” dials, “wide boys” – the list goes on! Just because you want the versatility and wearability of a Datejust doesn’t mean you can’t have something unique!
With a 70-year production run, we have all seen Datejusts on the wrists of many, many famous folks. We’ve also seen them on the wrists of our fathers and grandfathers. Wearing a Datejust is a subtle way of connecting and aligning yourself with all of those people and with Rolex’s rich history while also adding a bit of substance and style to your accessory game. It’s the watch most of us think of when we hear the word “Rolex” and it’s something you can have forever; no small sum of Datejusts have become family heirlooms, but it can also serve as your entry into the Rolex world at large and a gateway drug for collecting. Very few things have that kind of duality in this world.
When people make the decision to buy their first high-end wrist watch these days, the Datejust is often at the front of the pack. More so than the Omega Speedmaster or any other fine Swiss-made watch in its price point, the Datejust offers versatility, functionality, and is one of the most accessible ways to add the Rolex mystique into your world. These watches are a solid investment if you buy right and buy a clean example, and while their prices have steadily risen with the rest of the vintage Rolex market, there are still plenty of bargains to be had if you’re patient and know what to look for. And as we said at the top, a Datejust could just as easily be your stepping stone into the world of vintage Rolex collecting as it could be your last Rolex ever.
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