By Meor Amri Meor Ayob
I own a Rolex Datejust 1601. An old watch and based on its production number it was manufactured in the early 1960s (1962 is the best approximation).
It has a plastic crystal and its casing measures 36 x 12.3 mm. The casing is stainless steel with a 14 k yellow gold fluted bezel. Unfortunately, the original bracelet is missing and instead, I got a leather strap as a replacement.
Apart from the misfortune of not getting a complete watch, everything else about the piece is immaculate. Based on the information I got from the seller, this watch has been periodically serviced by the previous owners which kept it operating perfectly for the last 50 years.
The movement for this model is the 1575, with hacking capability. The 1575 uses 26 jewels.
Unfortunately, this movement does not have a quick setting mechanism for the date. To adjust, a rather tiring process of turning the hour and minutes hands over and over again until the correct date is displayed.
The dial itself is very clean apart from the standard notations such as the brand, logo and certification. The silvery dial surface creates the necessary contrast for the indexes as well as the hour-, minute- and hour-hands for ease of reference and visibility. There’s no artificial illumination material provided on the indexes and hands.
The screw down crown is smooth and it is easy to engage the screw thread to lock it in. The mechanism gives good feedback when winding using the crown.
The old Oyster case of the 1601 has pin holes on the outer side of the lugs. This allows quick bracelet or strap change to be done with a use of any small pin. The lugs are 20 mm wide. This gives you countless choice of straps to choose from. Like all Rolexes, the case back is clean.
I have a 7.5 in wrist. Relative to contemporary watch sizes in the 39 mm – 42 mm range, this watch is on the low side. Nevertheless, the size is sufficient enough to not make it look awkward.
Here I got to mention the acrylic crystal on this watch. Although there is a replacement sapphire crystal available for this model, the previous owners of this watch did not change the original. Although easily scratched, it is also equally easy to polish it away. Furthermore, replacing the acrylic crystal is not expensive.
I personally do not like gold on my watches. However, the yellow gold fluted bezel used in the 1601 is not overpowering. More often than not, you don’t realise that that the bezel is gold anyway.
As a fashion statement, this watch does not have the physical presence as some of the watches from Hublot, Panerai etc. However, its claim to fame is its ability to perform as advertised even after 50 years. Based on the last service of this watch, the performance is within COSC standards. Not bad for an old watch!
This watch is a “conscience statement” – it reinforce the notion that this watch can last forever if given the necessary TLC and it is directed directly to the soul of the owner.
The pleasure in wearing this watch is always to the wearer. Once you own it and appreciate its history, it starts to be a Holy Grail in your collection.
Meor Amri Meor Ayob – Contributing Editor
Meor Amri is a passionate watch collector from Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. Having bitten by the horology bug in 2010, he has written extensively about the watch scene and has assembled a large collection of watches (excessively!!) on his own free time. Read his articles here.
His blogs on the same subject are: Watch Collection Hobby & My Horological Photos