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The Rolex Two Tone Revival

Upon mention of two-tone Rolexes, or “Rolesor” watches as the brand would prefer to call it, many younger collectors are instantly hit with a wave of cherished memories. This modern rush of nostalgia can be attributed to the fact that that the popularity of two-tone watches perhaps reached an all-time high in the 1990s, with every middle-aged parent and golf course dwelling retiree donning one on their wrist

As one might expect, the popularity of the two-tone trend later died down, but knowing the cyclical nature of aesthetic trends, two-tone was bound to bounce back into favor. Nearly three decades later, and that day has officially arrived, as two-tone Rolex watches are gaining popularity once again, with the passing of each and every day. Seeing as the days won’t stop coming any time soon, let’s get familiarized with the names and numbers to know in this corner of vintage Rolex collecting.

Rolex DateJust Ref. 1601 Two Tone/ Jubilee

Starting things off, we’ve got the most accessible entry point into the realm desirable two-tone Rolexes, which is, of course, the Datejust. As we’ve discussed before, the Datejust is without question one of the single most iconic Rolex models of all time, with a history as rich as the enthusiasm that is fervently collected with. Its quintessentially Rolex aesthetic affords it collection staple status in any form, though in two-tone, the ability to dress it up is undoubtedly easier.

Though it could be argued that examples dating back to the 1990s have grown to epitomize the two-tone Rolex in today’s market, one mustn’t ignore the Wilsdorf’s storied past of two-tone production, which dates back to the earliest days of the brand. With regards to the Datejust alone, options are plenty with several desirable references to select your fighter from, so to speak.

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Of particular note are two earlier references — the Ref. 6605, and the slightly later Ref. 1601. While the former affords an undeniably 50s aesthetic, thanks to its roulette date wheel and more ornate applied indices, the Ref. 1601 retains a vintage vibe that’s just the slightest bit more modern feeling. In other words, a watch cased like such to suit your individual tastes and needs can be decided upon with ease.

Should a smaller, 36 mm case size not fit your particular wrist or needs, you’re in luck, as the two-tone goodness doesn’t stop there. After Rolex had effectively explored all avenues of two-tone integration into smaller models throughout the lineup, the logical next step was to apply the same formula to the brand’s sports references.

This was initially accomplished through the introduction of a new variant of the Ref. 1675 GMT Master, that as you’d guess, made use of a two-tone case and bracelet. Rolex produced this reference in two key variants, one accented by a black dial and bezel insert, and another featuring a brilliant, brown dial, contrasted by a bronze and yellow tone bezel. This is now what’s referred to as a “Root Beer,” given the color scheme. Naturally, both variants of the watch have appreciated significantly over the past few years, making the purchase of a clean example a wise decision.

Although the GMT Master received the two-tone treatment as early as the 1970s, the Submariner was not subject to the same expeditious reimagining. It wasn’t until 1984 that Rolex unveiled the first Submariner to be spruced up with a touch of gold flare, which was known as the Ref. 16803. Available in either black or blue, this transitional reference was powered by the newer Cal. 3035, and fitted with a sapphire crystal. This ensured that the reference’s unmistakably luxe aesthetic was matched by the most cutting edge of horological, technical prowess.

Just recently, the uptick in popularity of such watches was only intensified by Rolex’s recent contribution to the conversation, in the form of new two-tone sports references. Though Submariners configured like so have remained in production since their introduction.

GMT Master collectors were not subject to the same treatment. Luckily, Baselworld 2018 brought the return of the Root Beer with the unveiling of the Ref. 126711 CHNR, which was certainly appreciated by collectors across the globe. If there’s one takeaway from this, along with the ever appreciating interest in desirable vintage references, it’s that two-tone watches from Rolex aren’t going anywhere, and are very much so here to stay.

Buyer's Guide Staff Selects for November 2022

The entire C + T team falls in love with the watches we sell daily. These are our the standout pieces oaur staff has selected from the current inventory for November 2022.

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Justin Couture
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