By Harlan Chapman-Green
Picture the most iconic Rolex watch. No, not that one. Both the Submariner and the Daytona really are magnificent watches when new and prime examples of how Rolex cares about its heritage. But there is one other model that symbolises the company even more so than the most recognisable diving watch in the world, the DateJust.
The year was 1945, Rolex’ 40th anniversary of operation after its founding by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis in London in the year 1905. With the exception of the chronograph and some calendar complications, the watch market was flooded mostly with three-handed watches, three really was the magic number for most. Who needed or could afford a watch which can be complicated and difficult to read when one could have a simple timepiece that they could proudly wear and then pass on?
Rolex identified a way to add a pseudo-calendar function, a date wheel, which would automatically advance forward at midnight, making the new Rolex watch a piece where the date was always just. Rolex also decided that this wasn’t enough for their new watch, so then they added in their Oyster waterproof case and their automatic movement which used a rotor to wind the mechanism as opposed to the traditional method. This made the Rolex DateJust the first automatic winding watch to use a date wheel.
They didn’t stop there, though. The DateJust came in yellow gold with a coin style applied to it, as opposed to the usual fluted design that we know and love today. Another signature touch of the DateJust, and indeed other Rolex watches too, is the cyclops magnifying lens over the date, this was introduced to the DateJust watch in 1954, 9 years after the watch was launched. Along with the cyclops came new editions of the DateJust, made of rose gold, two tone metals and all steel.
Rolex also introduced a new type of bracelet which can still be bought today, one that offers flexibility, reliability and, most importantly, looks stunning, the Jubilee bracelet. The newly designed flat caseback kept the water out, the bracelet made it comfortable and the date made it more useful, so it’s really no surprise that when the new DateJust which was powered by the 1065 calibre was released it took off surprisingly well. You could pick up a genuine two-tone Rolex wrist watch which came with functional additions galore on for the low sum of $360, and that’s low even for the 1950s.
The watch received a new movement, the calibre 1570, in the mid-1960s, 1965 to be precise, the 1570 became heralded as a jewel in the watch industry thanks to its solid accuracy and reliability. This movement was updated again in 1972 with a hacking seconds mechanism built into the movement, meaning that the setting of the time was now more accurate than ever before for a DateJust. In 1974, Rolex also added a sapphire crystal to the piece.
They didn’t stop there either. In 1977, the Rolex OysterQuartz came along. 15 years previously a group of 16 watch companies all banded together and created the first quartz movement. Rolex wasn’t that interested at the start, but they did eventually see the potential of the battery powered movement, however, they did eventually change their minds as now almost all of the range uses a mechanical movement.
The watch then improved again a while later to make it into the Rolex DateJust we know and love today. You’ll also find the new DateJust II line to be very appealing if you like a larger sized watch with a slightly more sporty look to it as well.
The DateJust is well known for coming in an almost unlimited variety of designs with the most popular being the steel/yellow gold variant. I still believe the 36mm DateJust is a better-looking watch and the Jubilee bracelet is unbelievable, but a lot of us like our dress/sports watches to be a bit more sporty. With a 100m water resistant case, a screw down crown and a choice of a Jubilee or Oyster bracelet, the Rolex DateJust was and always will be the quintessential daily wear. For more info, please visit rolex.com
HARLAN CHAPMAN-GREEN – CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
A keen bass guitar player, Harlan enjoys all the perks modern watchmaking technologies the industry has to offer. Although you might catch him sampling Omegas or the odd Rolex, Harlan loves all things Haute Horology, with his three favourite brands being Breguet, A.Lange & Söhne and Vacheron Constantin. He hopes to study timekeeping more in depth someday and will never be able to thank his father enough for introducing him to the industry. You can follow him on Instagram Read his articles here