A Brief History: The Rolex Day-Date

In 2016, Rolex landed the number one spot on the Reputation Institute’s annual rankings, up from number 4 in 2015. This is when the olive-green dial, Rolex’s signature colour was released, as shown in the header image. Credit for that picture goes to Time and Tide here and I used this picture because the green dial is one my personal favourites!

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Image Credit: Rolex.com

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date is a COSC certified, self-winding chronometer manufactured by Rolex. Patented in 1955, and initially presented in 1956, the Day-Date was the first watch to display the date and day of the week fully spelled out in a window on the dial.

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Image Credit: Rolex.com

The Day-Date is made only in solid 18k yellow gold, 18k white gold, 18k everose gold (Rolex’s version of 18k rose gold) and platinum. In 1969, the watch introduced a concealed clasp which today, forms part of a specific bracelet only available for the Day-Date line; this is known as the president bracelet. Due to the name of this bracelet, this watch is commonly referred to as “Rolex president” or “presidential Rolex”, even though the term president only really refers to the three-piece link bracelet – the term is used for any Day-Date watch irrespective of the bracelet fitted to it. The president bracelet is only manufactured in precious metals, to match the case of the watch it is fitted to.

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Image Credit: Rolex.com

Pictured above, is the first day-date – an image courtesy of Rolex.

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President Eisenhower is rumoured to have worn a day-date, but evidence suggests that he wore a Datejust. In 1950 Rolex gifted Eisenhower an 18K gold DateJust to mark the production of the 150,000th chronometer by Rolex (they had gifted the 100,000th to Churchill) and was engraved with the Eisenhower’s initials and the date 12-19-50.   Eisenhower famously wore the watch on the cover of Life Magazine in 1952 and throughout his presidency making him the first United States President to wear a Rolex. It was not until the mid-1960s, nearly 10 years after its initial introduction, that the Day-Date officially received its now legendary nickname. Then-president Lyndon Johnson had been frequently seen wearing his 18k gold Day-Date and in 1966 Rolex released a U.S. magazine ad referring to the Day-Date as “the presidents’ watch” (see above). It has also been confirmed that presidents Kennedy, Ford, Reagan, Nixon and Roosevelt were also wearers of the Day-Date. Kennedy’s was a bit of a scandal.  A gift from Marilyn Monroe, reportedly given on the night she sang “Happy Birthday Mr. President” to him at Madison Square Garden, the back was inscribed “JACK with love as always from MARILYN May 29th, 1962.” Kennedy allegedly told an aide to get rid of it, but it appeared at auction in 2005 and was sold to an anonymous bidder for $120,000.

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Image Credit: Rolex Magazine

The watch is also water-resistant; earlier models can be taken to depths of 50 meters while newer models are rated up to 100 meters deep.

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The first iteration of the Day-Date was the reference 6511 and unfortunately many of these watches experienced mechanical problems. This led Rolex to replace it after just one year with the reference 6611. While the new reference 6611 had no mechanical faults, it remained in production for just a few years and was discontinued in 1959. At this time, the 1800-series Day-Date watches were released.

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The 1800-generation was based on Rolex’s new 15XX-series of movements, which improved the reliability and performance of the watch. In 1972 Rolex added a new feature to the President Day-Date – a ‘hacking’ second hand which allowed for the second-hand to be stopped while setting the time. The 1800-series remained in production for 19 years until Rolex finally replaced it in 1978 with the introduction of the 18000-series.

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The new 18000 series marked a turning point in the Day-Date’s history, as they were built around Rolex’s new calibre 3055 movement, which added the “Quick Set” feature to allow the wearer to set the date instantly, rather than having to turn the crown over a full 24 hours to change the date. Rolex also added a scratch-resistant, synthetic sapphire crystal and a dial with an entirely flat surface (rather than downward-sloping outer edges).

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Image Credit: Danny Wilcox Frazier/Redux

Warren Buffett not only lives in the same house he purchased in 1958—he’s also worn the same Rolex President since the day he bought it decades ago. According to Forbes, Buffett once admitted that he’d like to add the company to his portfolio. “They know my number,” he said of Rolex, but they haven’t called”.

I think this watch is worthy of its accolades, and no matter which Day-Date model you manage to own, there is no denying it is a worthy piece with some illustrious Rolex history behind it!

-Faheem

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