The Rolex Day Date is to watches as Ferrari is to cars. True enough, a lot of people choose to wear it on the wrist as a way of saying that they’ve made it far in life.
“A Rolex will never change the world. We leave that to the people who wear them.” These are the exact words from a vintage Rolex ad. And indeed, they live up to their words. To illustrate, influential people like presidents and celebrities choose the Day Date as their main timepiece.
The evolution of the Rolex Day Date is nothing short of interesting. Here are the different versions of the Rolex Day Date and the story behind them. If you’re a Rolex fan, then this will help you better understand why the Day Date is the way it is. And if you’re in the market for a new grail, this guide will arm you with the knowledge needed when searching for the right model.
The Rolex Day Date is Multilingual
Rolex tries to be inclusive. Which is why their watches aren’t just available in the English language. In fact, the Rolex Day Date can tell you the date in 26 different languages. Here are the languages that the Day Date is available in:
It is Also Available in Different Faces
While the Rolex Day Date is commonly seen as a formal watch that should stay simple, it didn’t stop watchmakers from being creative through the dials. The President is available from mild (a plain white dial) to wild (with diamonds set all around the bezel).
To give you an overview, here are some of our favourite Rolex Day Date dial configurations:
The President watch is commonly seen with the champagne dial. If you want an all-out gold watch, this dial is the way to go. This is as classic as you can get.
If you thought Rolex cannot add any more bling to their watches, then you’re mistaken. Wait until you see their Rainbow dial. The whole dial including the bezel is studded with diamonds!
Aside from that, the hour markers are all made up of sapphires of various colours, from the purple at 1 o’clock to the blue at 11 o’clock. Rolex’s gem-setters definitely outdid themselves again.
Wood is yet another unusual material that Rolex used for its watch dial. In the 70s, Rolex introduced their wood dials, with each model featuring its own unique grain. Thus, no two wood dials are exactly alike. Rolex watches with this dial are considered rare.
What better way to celebrate a birthday than to launch something unique? For the Rolex Day Date’s diamond jubilee in 2016, they introduced a new dial design.
The Anniversary dial came in a dark green colour. This was to no surprise as green is an important colour for the brand.
People expect the Day Date to be conservative. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun. The Stella dial adds a pop of colour to your timekeeper.
These dials are made from lacquered, multi-layered enamel available in blue, green, orange, and other fun hues.
As previously stated, the Rolex Day Date can tell the day and date in 26 various languages. However, I failed to mention another thing — it can also tell the hours and minutes in Arabic.
The target market of Rolex for this dial are the Middle-Easterns and those who live in an Islamic culture where men were forbidden to wear gold. Luckily, they’re allowed to wear platinum, thus saving Rolex from breaking their rule of making the Day Date using only precious metals.
Lapis Lazuli Dial
Lapis Lazuli, or Lapis for short, is a metamorphic rock and is known for its deep-blue colour. In fact, it is one of the most sought-after stones.
The colour and patterns of the stone are naturally occurring. This means that each dial is unique. Like those with the wood dial, Rolexes with the Lapis Lazuli are very rare.
The Evolution of the Rolex Day Date Watches
Over a decade after the Rolex Datejust’s launch, the Swiss brand decided to take it a step further. Instead of just the date, they wanted something that can also tell the day of the week spelt out in full. This new project gave birth to the Day Date.
Rolex Day Date Ref. 65XX
The first models were the Ref. 6510 and 6511 and were almost identical to the Rolex Datejust. They inherited the same fluted bezel and the 36mm oyster case of the previous watch.
Aside from the additional day complication, what’s unique about this model is the bracelet. It is called the President bracelet and is known for its semi-circular links. This bracelet is so highly revered that purists and hardcore fans would say that the Day Date should only be worn with the President bracelet. Any other strap is an abomination.
Rolex Day Date Ref. 180X
In 1959, Rolex launched the 180X series of the Day Date line. It was in this series where the brand experimented with different dial options, bezel textures, and bracelets. These models were also available in different precious metals. Namely, white gold, yellow gold, and rose gold.
Rolex Day Date Ref. 180XX
The 180XX series, A.K.A. the “five-digit Day Dates”, was very much like their predecessors. That is aesthetically speaking. However, the new models were fitted with an upgraded movement called the 3055 calibre.
The new movement introduced the Quick-Set feature. If you’re an owner of a modern watch, setting the day and date seems like a very simple task. But it wasn’t the case back then. When Quick-Set watches were not yet invented, people had to rotate the hands over and over until you reach the correct date.
To further illustrate, non-Quick-Set watches only change dates when the hands reach 12 midnight. Let’s say the watch is set on the 20th but in reality, it is the 25th. To get it right, you’d have to wind the crown until the hands make five full cycles on the dial.
The 180XX series was available in different materials and bezel options like the typical fluted bezel, smooth bezel, and diamond-set bezel among others.
- 18028 – Yellow Gold Day-Date Smooth Bezel
- 18038 – Yellow Gold Day-Date Fluted Bezel
- 18048 – Yellow Gold Day-Date Diamond Bezel
- 18078 – Yellow Gold Day-Date Bark Accents
- 18039 – White Gold Day-Date Fluted Bezel
- 18049 – White Gold Day-Date Diamond Bezel
- 18079 – White Gold Day-Date Bark Accents
- 18026 – Platinum Day-Date Smooth Bezel
Rolex Oysterquartz Day Date
Even Rolex wasn’t spared from the Quartz Crisis. To stay on top of the game, our favourite Swiss brand was forced to release a lineup of Oysterquartz watches. The collection includes the quartz version of the Datejust and the Day Date.
Rolex produced these watches in a limited amount and after a few years, they ceased production of their quartz watches. This is the reason why an Oysterquartz is rare these days and why very few people know that Rolexes with a quartz movement exist.
- 19018 – Yellow Gold Day-Date
- 19019 – White Gold Day-Date
- 19028 – Yellow Gold Day-Date with pyramid bracelet and bezel
- 19038 – Yellow Gold Day-Date with pyramid bracelet and bezel with 12 brilliants
- 19048 – Yellow Gold Day-Date with 44 brilliants on the bezel, 8 brilliants and 2 baguettes on the dial
- 19049 – White Gold Day-Date with 44 brilliants on the bezel, 8 brilliants and 2 baguettes on the dial
- 19068 – Yellow Gold Day-Date with 44 brilliants on the bezel, 8 brilliants and 2 baguettes on the dial and a pyramid bracelet
- 19148 – Yellow Gold Day-Date with 44 brilliants on the bezel, 8 brilliants and 2 baguettes on the dial, bracelet set with 308 brilliants
- 19168 – Yellow Gold Day-Date set with gems on the dial, bracelet, and bezel
Rolex Day Date 18XXX
In 1988, Rolex debuted their new Calibre 3155 movement. This marked the new generation of 182XX and 183XX (with diamond cases) Rolex Day Dates.
The series introduced the Double Quick-Set feature. With this, the user can now quickly adjust both the day and date instead of just the date with the Quick-Set feature from the 180XX series.
- 18238 – Yellow Gold Day-Date Fluted Bezel
- 18248 – Yellow Gold Day-Date Bark Bezel
- 18239 – White Gold (including Tridor) Day-Date Fluted Bezel
- 18249 – White Gold Day-Date Bark Bezel
Rolex Day Date 118XXX
In 2000, the first six-digit Rolex Day Dates appeared. The movement inside did not have any kind of upgrade. It features the same Calibre 3155 used in the previous models.
However, the upgrade was in the bracelet and clasp. They were more polished and more secured. The 118XXX series also came in plenty of dial and bezel options.
- 118208 – Yellow Gold Day-Date Smooth Bezel
- 118238 – Yellow Gold Day-Date Fluted Bezel
- 118348 – Yellow Gold Day-Date Diamond Bezel
- 118138 – Yellow Gold Day-Date Leather Strap
- 118239 – White Gold Day-Date Fluted Bezel
- 118389 – White Gold Day-Date Diamond Bezel
- 118139 – White Gold Day-Date Leather Strap
- 118205 – Everose Gold Day-Date Smooth Bezel
- 118235 – Everose Gold Day-Date Fluted Bezel
- 118135 – Everose Gold Day-Date Leather Strap
- 118206 – Platinum Day-Date Smooth Bezel
- 118346 – Platinum Day-Date Diamond Bezel
Rolex Day Date II
It was common back then for watches to be small. Which is why the original Day Date came in a 36mm case. However, by today’s standards, bigger is better (or more visually pleasing).
If you’re one of the people who prefer their watches chunky and big, you will adore the Day Date II which was released in 2008. Instead of 36mm, it has a large 41mm case. This was the Swiss brand’s answer to the looming big watch trend.
Like its predecessors, it’s available only in precious metals. Among the choices were yellow gold, white gold, rose gold, and platinum.
Rolex Day Date 40
If you think Rolex went overboard with the Day Date II’s size, the Day Date 40 is a good middle ground. As its name suggests, its case is only at 40mm. Although it is just 1mm short of its predecessor, some enthusiasts swear that it is a perfect size.
Aside from its size, the Day Date 40 is powered by the Calibre 3255 movement. It has a power reserve of 72 hours and an accuracy rating of -2/+2 seconds per day.
Indeed, there is a reason why the Rolex Day Date has withstood the test of time. Its countless evolutions and variations are proof that Rolex is striving to make it the best timepiece that it can be. There’s a Rolex Day Date for everyone. But whichever version you choose, there’s no denying that the Day Date will always be an iconic piece.
Interested in another cult favourite? Check out our writeup on the Seiko Alpinist!