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The Rolex Day Date, the President’s watch

The Rolex Day Date, the President’s watch

by Gary Royston Cole

A 1950’s Rolex Day Date

Launched in 1956, the Day-Date made its debut as the first waterproof and self-winding chronometer wristwatch to offer a modern calendar with an instantaneous day display, spelt out in full in a window on the dial, in addition to the date.

Platinum and green roman dial very fitting with the Rolex brand.

Platinum and ice blue dial.
This colour of dial is unique to platinum watches only.

White gold and silver dial.
Classic dial that fits any outfit you may be wearing.

Yellow gold green dial with diamonds. Maybe not for the President of USA. His wife maybe? Ideal in 36mm.

White gold with pink opal dial and diamonds. Perfect for day and for night wear.

Yellow gold champagne dial 40mm Rolex, forever in vogue, never been out of fashion since 1956.

I can confidently say the Rolex Day Date is the most famous watch worn in the history of Rolex. It competes with no other Rolex model since its launch in 1956. It is virtually a one of one evolving wristwatch.
If asked which Rolex model is the true proven flagship of the brand? I would not have to think about it for more than 1 single second; it is the Rolex Day Date.

The Rolex Day Date started its post design journey with a patent in 1955, and arrived as a Mark I: 36mm with 18ct gold oyster bracelet case and bezel in 1956.

With full day and full date apertures it touched the watch world like possibly no other timepiece on its debut. It was aimed at both the wealthy and the powerful satisfying people like, JF Kennedy, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan (all US Presidents from 1961 to 1989).

In the day it was a sign that the wearer who purchased a Day Date was likely to be a millionaire.

Interesting facts tell us that a UK millionaire in the 1970’s qualified themselves by having assets of at least 1 million, and a sizable income of around £58k per annum. That is a lot of Day Dates bearing in mind the price for a Rolex Day Date in 1983 was £4,200. I confess to selling one as a retail watch specialist in 1983.

Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf was still heading up Rolex during the event of the launch, (he died in 1960). In testament to his reputation and meticulous detail the Day Date was and is now everything it set out to be.

Have you ever taken stock and tried to think of any Rolex model which is no longer made? The truth is that there are not many at all. Since 1926 if we take the view that because the oyster case remains much the same, Rolex evolve their original blueprint around that. Clever. Ever economic are the Swiss, this of course is my opinion only.

The first model you may think of is the fabulous Oyster Quartz. That is no doubt because the battery versus mechanical movement does not, and continues to not, fit comfortably with a 300 year old Swiss tradition. I get that!

So why buy a Rolex Day Date timepiece which starts at the price of a decent car at £26,650?

Firstly it is not just another 18ct yellow gold bracelet wristwatch. It is a Rolex timepiece which owns an incredible history. So much so that the most well known US president known to the public John Fitzgerald Kennedy decided to wear one. He was from a famous wealthy dynasty and could have chosen to wear any watch.

Interesting historical story is that it was a gift that was engraved on the back “JACK with love as always from MARILYN May 29th 1962”. Hollywood actress Marilyn Monroe was his alleged mistress. Secondly, much more important than an American scandal is that it provides the owner with everything he could practically want from a watch.

Beautifully crafted in precious metal only (gold or platinum) it is not over complicated yet contains a full day aperture, as well as a cyclops date aperture too. This achieves a concise and elegant dial without fears of looking cluttered.

The modern President bracelet is hand crafted to perfection in solid precious metal links. A seamless and continuous bracelet which does not need a conventional clasp. Instead it has a simple crown to lift open the deployment clasp.

The inclusion of the green seal; this small longstanding green tag still represents that every single Rolex produced is an officially certified chronometer. This means that it is a superlative timepiece and is guaranteed to accuracy of +2/-2 seconds per day. This Swiss COSC standard (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres) is given to Rolex more than any other watch manufacturer.

The virtually scratch resistant crystal complete with a cyclops date lens This is the only component that Rolex do not manufacture. First introduced early eighties with their Oyster Quartz range.

It is 100 metres (330ft) waterproof. What is really surprising is this… Traditionally you do not expect a watch like this to be waterproof, as it is a fully precious metal watch. The famous oyster case created by Rolex in 1926 makes this possible. And what an ingenious name ‘Oyster Case’ this was cleverly devised because when a sea oyster shuts it shell case it becomes waterproof. So by patenting a system that will screw down the bezel, case back and winding crown against the middle case you succeed in absolute, (not water resistance) but waterproofness.

A delightful black and white photo of British swimmer and first Rolex Brand Ambassador Mercedes Gleitze. Hans Wilsdorf, founder of Rolex, approached Mercedes to ask her if she would wear a Rolex waterproof oyster when she swam the English channel. Her English Channel swim was 21 miles. Crossing the channel, this Rolex Oyster case would have encountered heavy salt water, icy cold water, the lashing of high waves and the constant movement of her arms as she stroked her way to France. This oyster case was the same functional design as the Rolex Day Date we see today. One outstanding feature of the Day Date is that like all Rolex Oyster models it has a Screw-down, Twinlock double waterproofness system.

Trust me, you can swim all day long with your Day Date. The only thing that will let you down is yourself if you run out of energy with the shoreline of France now in your sight.

To conclude then, I could bore you with much more mechanical insight like the:

Perpetual, mechanical, self-winding movement.
Calibre 3255, Manufacture Rolex precision -2/+2 sec/a day
Function Centre hour, minute and seconds hands Instantaneous day and date in apertures
Unrestricted rapid-setting.
Stop-seconds for precise time setting.
Oscillator Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring for High-performance Paraflex shock absorbers.
Bidirectional self-winding
Power reserve which is approximately 70 hours


Next step is to disregard the fact that the investment value will be always lower than an 18ct professional model.
With a Day Date it is not about the investment, It is all about wearing one of the finest precious metal timepieces ever made, a companion for life