Rolex celebrated their 40th anniversary in the year 1945, and the Oyster Perpetual Datejust was launched to commemorate the event. It was a watch that found its place in the annals of horology as the world’s first self-winding waterproof chronometer wristwatch to display the date in a window at 3 o’clock on the dial. It made a mark on the history of watches, and was a major influence on the timepieces that followed.
Nearly eight decades later, the Datejust remains a cornerstone in the Rolex stable. Its expert balance between form and function has made it a classic that promises excellent performance, reliability and timeless elegance. The collection (which has been in constant production since its launch) has kept pace with the times through design reinterpretations and technical innovations that have seen it become a modern classic — all without ever losing sight of its original purpose: to be “a masterpiece of horological science” as Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf declared on the watch’s debut.
It’s no surprise that the Datejust is the watch of choice of many renowned leaders, including Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King and Caroline Wozniacki. The watch was designed to be a timepiece that would last a lifetime, with performance and prestige.
Elegance at all Occasions
One could say that the Datejust’s popularity lies in the continuity of its design, which makes it instantly recognisable at a glance. It is also important to note that this timepiece was one of the first that featured several design elements that have become trademarks for the brand.
Consider the Jubilee band, which is now available in all Rolex collections. The fluid five-piece link bracelet was specially designed for the original Datejust Collection of 1945. Though the watch now also comes with the three-link Oyster or President bracelets, the supple Jubilee — available with an Oysterclasp or hidden Crownclasp — is integral to the Datejust’s identity.
The large range of dials produced in-house ensures that there is a Datejust to suit every taste and personality. The dials are available in a variety of colours and materials, and come with a sophisticated sunray finish or pattern. Hour markers come in diamonds or roman or Arabic numerals. They are surrounded by a bezel with a smooth finish, a domed surface, rounded edges, or diamonds. The Datejust collection is the most diverse Rolex watch collection because of its wide range of features. Fans of the Lady Datejust collection were particularly drawn to diamonds. This collection combines all the best features of the male counterpart with a 28mm size case that is only two millimetres wider than the original 1957 design.
Rolex’s date-function watches are now distinguished by the Cyclops lens. The lens, which was named after the Greek one-eyed giant of mythology, was originally fitted to the Datejust in 1952 in order magnify the numerals on the date aperture. Originally made from plexiglass (as in the 1970s), the sapphire lens has now been treated with double anti-reflective treatment for improved legibility.
The Ages of Movement
The watch’s external beauty is matched with internal perfection. Equipped with Rolex’s calibre 2236 (for the Datejust 31) or calibre 3235 (for the Datejust 36 and Datejust 41), the automatic movements are developed and manufactured entirely by Rolex for an exceptional performance in terms of precision, power reserve, resistance to shocks, convenience and reliability.
The calibres are also covered by numerous patents. The Calibre 2233, for instance, has a patented Syloxi silicon hairspring that is highly resistant to magnetic fields and temperature changes. With its patented geometries, the movement is stable and regular in any position.
Meanwhile, calibre 3235 incorporates Rolex’s patented Chronergy nickel-phosphorus escapement, promising high energy efficiency and excellent dependability. The Rolex-overcoil fitted to its blue Parachrom, a paramagnetic hairspring made from a paramagnetic material, provides high resistance against magnetic fields and shocks.
The oscillators of both calibres are also mounted on Rolex’s patented high-performance Paraflex shock absorbers for enhanced shock resistance. Their Perpetual Rotors also ensure that the mainspring is continuously wound with each wrist movement, ensuring constant energy. Calibre 2236 offers a power reserve of approximately 55 hours, while calibre 3235 offers 70 hours thanks to its barrel architecture and the escapement’s superior efficiency.
As with all Rolex timepieces, the Datejust is a testament to the brand’s rigorous standards, not least as defined by its Superlative Chronometer certification which goes above and beyond industry standards for an exceptional timekeeper. The certification, symbolised by Rolex’s honoured green seal, assures that the timepiece has successfully undergone a strict series of tests in the Rolex laboratories to guarantee a superlative performance on the wrist regarding precision, waterproofness, self-winding and power reserve.
Each Rolex watch movement is subjected to two tests. First, it’s tested by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute for Chronometer certification. Then, the movement is placed in a case and put through another test by Rolex. This is to ensure that the precision is above accepted norms. Rolex’s Superlative Chronometers offer a precision of approximately −2/+2 seconds per day, a deviation rate far superior to the −4/+6 seconds per day requirement of the COSC certification.
All this is sealed in Rolex’s Oyster case with a case back that has been hermetically screwed down with a special Rolex tool. Its Twinlock crown, which screws securely against the solid center case, is fitted with a dual waterproofness system to ensure 100m waterproofness.
The Oyster Perpetual Datejust is the ideal wrist companion. It offers precision, prestige, and reliability all in one. What more can one ask?
This article was originally published in World of Watches #69: The Summer Special.
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