The watch division of MotoringExposure is in New York City this week and after two days of strawling around, the number of Rolex watches we see in the flesh is beyond amazing. We would have guessed that since Wallstreet and American Psycho, the classic Rolex Date-Just would be watch of choice for many for years. However, it is the twenty-tens, and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Off-shore models should have replaced all these banker’s Date-Justs by now.
Anyway, we are pleased to have identified that Rolex is still king in New York. The bi-color Date-Justs with the worn out Jubilé bracelets are the ones on the wrists of many, probably bought from their first salaries to celebrate their upcoming careers in the city.
We thought it would be nice to give some background on – probably – the most classic Rolex there is, the Date-Just. Introduced in 1945, the Date-Just was the first wrist watch with a chronometer movement featuring an automatic calendar. Although these very first 1940s and 1950s Date-Just models still could be recognized as family from the current line-up of Rolex DateJust models, the ones that really could be considered the mother of all Date-Just (and perhaps of modern wrist watches?) is the reference 1600 model. The size of 36mm in diameter, the shape of the case, the Jubilé bracelet and the cyclops that magnifies the date-window by factor 2.5 have been unmistakeably a Rolex Date-Just and lasted until the upgraded Date-Just version in 2005 and the recently introduced Date-Just II.
In the eyes of those who dislike Rolex, only small changes and improvements have been made during the last few decades. In the eyes of classic Rolex fans world wide, every minuscule improvement has been subject to decent research & development and thorough testing. Truth is probably somewhere in between, but fact is that with every change, Rolex indeed made an improvement. A newer Rolex seems to be better in terms of quality than an older model.
Movements have been slightly improved from the first caliber 1570 classic Rolex types in the ref.1600 Date-Just models (1960s, 1970s) to the current 3135 caliber movements. The Date-Justs from the 1960s and 1970s had this caliber 1570 movement, without a quick-set for the date-feature. It wasn’t until the late 1970s that Rolex introduced a new movement for their Date-Just line of watches, caliber 3035. The Date-Just immediately received a new reference number, starting with 16000 (16014, 16030 and 16253 to name a few variations) and featured a quick-set function for changing the date on this watch and the dial of this newer type of Date-Just was flat from end-to-end whereas the non-quickset Date-Justs had a bit of a pie-pan shaped dial. The plexi crystal remained though.
In 1988, Rolex introduced a new type of movement, caliber 3135 which was quite a change construction wise, since the balance was on a ‘double’ bridge. This type of Date-Just (and movement) lasted till 2005. The model numbers also changed a bit, introducing the ref.16220 for an all stainless steel model and the ref.16234 for a combination of stainless steel and a white gold bezel. There are much more combinations possible, all with their own reference number.
In 2005, Rolex improved the bracelet design and made the Date-Just look a bit bigger by using a bit bigger lugs (or horns). This type of Date-Just looks a bit more solid in comparison to the pre-2005 models. The reference number of these Date-Just changed as well, but this time using the former coding for them, and adding a ‘1’ in front of the reference number. So the new 16234 became a 116234.
In 2008, Rolex introduced a new line of Date-Justs (keeping the post-2005 models still in production) with a larger diameter, a whopping 41mm. Not only the exterior of this watch changed, also the movement got an upgrade to caliber 3136. A movement featuring the Parachrom hairspring, an invention patented by Rolex. The Parachrom hairspring is more resistant to magnetic fields and shocks than regular hairsprings, as Rolex claims. The reference numbers didn’t change much, the 116xxx coding system is still valid.
What did change are the prices of the DJII, they are significantly higher than the 36mm Date-Just models. For our own convenience, we left out all the medium and lady sized Date-Justs for this article. 🙂
If you are new to classic Rolex and love to get your hands on a true iconic watch, search Chrono24 (a world wide market place for both dealers and private sellers) for those good ol’ 1980s Date-Justs that DO have a quickset-feature, but are still with a sexy plexi crystal and a slightly stretched (Italian style! :)) Jubilé bracelet. Approximately 1600 Euro / 1950 USD will buy you a good condition model from the 1980s with box and papers.
If you are a banker that just started out on Wallstreet and need a good watch to show that you just started a great career, try the Date-Just II!
Classic Rolex Date-Just Gallery
Pictures of the classic Rolex Date-Just watches courtesy of SubGMT. Pictures of the modern Date-Just and Date-Just II courtesy of JK Watch Store.