Rolex Datejust Review: Not Just Any Date Rolex

watch to watch

Sam's vintage Rolex Datejust c. 1969

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust c. 1969

spec

  • Ref: 1601
  • Automatic chronometer movement
  • 1570 calibre
  • 36mm Oyster case
  • Solid white gold fluted bezel
  • 26 Jewels
  • 19800 A/h frequency

collect by

Model: DateJust, DateJust II, Datejust Mid-Size, Lady Datejust, Datejust Turn-O-Graph (Thunderbird), Datejust OysterQuartz

Year: 1945 to present day

Brand: Rolex

Complication: Date Aperture

Features: Oyster, Perpetual, Dial layouts,  Dial colours, Bezel types, Hour marker types

Reference: 166201, 116244, 116243, 116238, 116234, 116233, 116231, 116208, 116203, 116201, 116200, 116199, 116189, 116188, 116139, 116138, 17014, 17013, 17000, 16364, 16250, 16248, 16238, 16234, 16233, 16220, 16203, 16200, 16078, 16030, 16018, 16014, 16013, 16000, 6827, 6605, 6604, 6518, 6305, 1630, 1607, 1603, 1601, 1600 .

Here at Timeless Luxury it all started with one watch; the Rolex Datejust. It’s only fitting then that our first ‘Watch to Watch’ is a Rolex Datejust review.

Here we look at the 1601 model and, while much of the elements have been carried forward to the modern incarnations, there are differences. (For our thoughts on the modern model (reference 16200) look out for our upcoming article, Datejust: A Star is reborn.)

Size

Rolex Datejust with white dial and smooth bezel

Wrist shot: 1601 with smooth bezel

At 36mm the Datejust is small by modern standards and its size has a certain elegance. However the watch isn’t noticeably small on the wrist. As a result, what was traditionally a men’s watch is now undeniably unisex. At Timeless Luxury we’re of the view that it’s only a matter of time before the trend towards larger watches reverses, just take the relatively recent DayDate at 40mm as an example. When this happens the vintage Datejust’s size will only serve to reinforce its already strong appeal.

Dial 

Nowadays it’s easy to take the Oyster (water-proof) case, Perpetual movement and date complication for granted but they really were true innovations of their time, elemental to Datejusts’ special place in the Rolex story. These are proudly expressed with the words “OYSTER” and “PERPETUAL” which appear below “ROLEX” and above “DATEJUST” below the 12 o’clock position. The words “SUPERLATIVE CHRONOMETER OFFICIALLY CERTIFIED ” appear above the 6 o’Clock position and are also significant in marking Rolex’s consistently superior offering.

As one would expect the legendary Rolex crown logo marks 12 o’clock while the other hour markers are most commonly marked with batons or a similar indicator. The overall effect is a charmingly understated and stylish dial. The date aperture appears at 3 o’clock where the numbers are enlarged sharply by the Cyclops magnifying lens. This iconic feature was introduced in 1955 and makes any Rolex instantly recognisable as belonging to the revered brand.  Most of the elements of a Rolex dial (whether vintage or brand new) are handmade and hand-applied. Knowing this cultivates a greater appreciation of the care and expertise that has gone into its production.

The Rolex logo also appears on the shoulderless crown which is a fluted screw down cap (essential to the Oyster functionality). A drawback of the older models is that changing the date requires scrolling through all the hours and days until you reach the correct one. This has been addressed in the modern versions.

Plexi vs sapphire

The older vintage models of Rolex’s best-selling line have plexi glass (which is softer than its modern sapphire counterparts). While plexi may be more prone to scratching than sapphire, this “downside” is somewhat self-resolving as the softness makes it very easy to buff any scratches out (we recommend Brasso and a polishing cloth or some cotton wool). Plexi is also very inexpensive to replace and doing so is unlikely to affect the watch’s value.

Versatility

It’s almost impossible to list all of the diverse dial features, layout and colour variations for the Datejust series. Even the date typeface varies from piece to piece, from plain fonts to art-deco styles. The result is a watch range that caters for almost any taste. This dependably classic character combined with subtle but undeniable versatility is where the true strength of the Datejust lies.

The sunburst dial creates a sophisticated radiance without being ostentatious. Plain versions offer a clean freshness and both types are available in a wide variety of colours.

Vintage gold Rolex Datejust with dagger hour markers and roulette date wheel

Arrow-head markers & Roulette date

Like the sunburst dial, the fluted bezel adds a flash of shining brilliance. There are also smooth, milled and engine-turned bezel alternatives which are more reserved and also less dressy; ideal for those who prefer the simpler look.

Some believe, due to its durability and early advertising association with Polo (the sport), that Rolex had intended the Datejust line as a Sportswatch (of sorts). The extent to which we agree varies depending on the dial, bezel and bracelet/strap combination in each case but the general consensus is that the Datejust falls into the dress watch category. Whatever the combination though, the DNA and durability of the Datejust design makes it a versatile everyday watch suitable for almost any occasion.

That’s a wrap

The jubilee bracelet adds a classic touch and those after a less dressy option can opt for a steel, leather or Perlon strap. All work well. A word of warning on the jubilee bracelets; the central links tend to gradually stretch over time when worn regularly (particularly when they’re yellow or white gold). At Timeless Luxury, we’re fond of Perlon straps which come in a range of colours and serve to reduce the wear-and-tear of our jubilee bracelets, which we now reserve for special or formal occasions. We love the way the Perlon’s vibrant colours give this timeless piece a fresh new look.

Rolex Datejust with orange Perlon strap Verdict

It’s difficult to review this watch without bias and in all honesty we’re not even going to try. There’s a reason the vintage Datejust was our first Rolex, our first investment piece and co-founder Sam Molloy’s very first luxury watch personally. It’s because we love them.

The fact that the Datejust’s fundamental design has remained in production for over 70 years with next to no variation says it all. While some could criticise this for lack of imagination, no one can deny that with the Datejust Rolex found the blueprint for a classic luxury watch design that has remained timeless. While admittedly some design and bracelet combinations are on the dressy side, on the whole the model is versatile and appropriate for most situations. The Datejust’s simplicity is its strength and yet at the same time it encapsulates so much of Rolex’s rich heritage. And if it’s creativity you crave there’s no shortage of dial and case colours, layouts and configurations to choose from.

From the collector’s perspective, the Datejust makes for a key member of a variety of sets and is one of the lower cost items too (depending on the spec of course). It’s probably fair to assume most second hand/vintage Datejusts will hold their value over time. Because of the volume of their production they are perhaps unlikely to increase dramatically but they are certainly one of the safer investment options.

In summary, the vintage Datejust makes an ideal everyday watch for anyone looking for something special. An essential part of horology’s history, it’s the perfect entry level piece for those collectors who are starting out. No serious watch lover can ignore them.

Whatever makes you tick, everyone needs at least one Datejust.

watch to watch

Sam's vintage Rolex Datejust c. 1969

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust c. 1969

spec

  • Ref: 1601
  • Automatic chronometer movement
  • 1570 calibre
  • 36mm Oyster case
  • Solid white gold fluted bezel
  • 26 Jewels
  • 19800 A/h frequency

collect by

Model: DateJust, DateJust II, Datejust Mid-Size, Lady Datejust, Datejust Turn-O-Graph (Thunderbird), Datejust OysterQuartz

Year: 1945 to present day

Brand: Rolex

Complication: Date Aperture

Features: Oyster, Perpetual, Dial layouts,  Dial colours, Bezel types, Hour marker types

Reference: 166201, 116244, 116243, 116238, 116234, 116233, 116231, 116208, 116203, 116201, 116200, 116199, 116189, 116188, 116139, 116138, 17014, 17013, 17000, 16364, 16250, 16248, 16238, 16234, 16233, 16220, 16203, 16200, 16078, 16030, 16018, 16014, 16013, 16000, 6827, 6605, 6604, 6518, 6305, 1630, 1607, 1603, 1601, 1600 .

rolex datejust review

Here at Timeless Luxury it all started with one watch; the Rolex Datejust. It’s only fitting then that our first ‘Watch to Watch’ is a Rolex Datejust review.

Here we look at the 1601 model and, while much of the elements have been carried forward to the modern incarnations, there are differences. (For our thoughts on the modern model (reference 16200) look out for our upcoming article, Datejust: A Star is reborn.)

Size

Rolex Datejust with white dial and smooth bezel

Wrist shot: 1601 with smooth bezel

At 36mm the Datejust is small by modern standards and its size has a certain elegance. However the watch isn’t noticeably small on the wrist. As a result, what was traditionally a men’s watch is now undeniably unisex. At Timeless Luxury we’re of the view that it’s only a matter of time before the trend towards larger watches reverses, just take the relatively recent DayDate at 40mm as an example. When this happens the vintage Datejust’s size will only serve to reinforce its already strong appeal.

Dial 

Nowadays it’s easy to take the Oyster (water-proof) case, Perpetual movement and date complication for granted but they really were true innovations of their time, elemental to Datejusts’ special place in the Rolex story. These are proudly expressed with the words “OYSTER” and “PERPETUAL” which appear below “ROLEX” and above “DATEJUST” below the 12 o’clock position. The words “SUPERLATIVE CHRONOMETER OFFICIALLY CERTIFIED ” appear above the 6 o’Clock position and are also significant in marking Rolex’s consistently superior offering.

As one would expect the legendary Rolex crown logo marks 12 o’clock while the other hour markers are most commonly marked with batons or a similar indicator. The overall effect is a charmingly understated and stylish dial. The date aperture appears at 3 o’clock where the numbers are enlarged sharply by the Cyclops magnifying lens. This iconic feature was introduced in 1955 and makes any Rolex instantly recognisable as belonging to the revered brand.  Most of the elements of a Rolex dial (whether vintage or brand new) are handmade and hand-applied. Knowing this cultivates a greater appreciation of the care and expertise that has gone into its production.

The Rolex logo also appears on the shoulderless crown which is a fluted screw down cap (essential to the Oyster functionality). A drawback of the older models is that changing the date requires scrolling through all the hours and days until you reach the correct one. This has been addressed in the modern versions.

Plexi vs sapphire

The older vintage models of Rolex’s best-selling line have plexi glass (which is softer than its modern sapphire counterparts). While plexi may be more prone to scratching than sapphire, this “downside” is somewhat self-resolving as the softness makes it very easy to buff any scratches out (we recommend Brasso and a polishing cloth or some cotton wool). Plexi is also very inexpensive to replace and doing so is unlikely to affect the watch’s value.

Versatility

It’s almost impossible to list all of the diverse dial features, layout and colour variations for the Datejust series. Even the date typeface varies from piece to piece, from plain fonts to art-deco styles. The result is a watch range that caters for almost any taste. This dependably classic character combined with subtle but undeniable versatility is where the true strength of the Datejust lies.

The sunburst dial creates a sophisticated radiance without being ostentatious. Plain versions offer a clean freshness and both types are available in a wide variety of colours.

Vintage gold Rolex Datejust with dagger hour markers and roulette date wheel

Arrow-head markers & Roulette date

Like the sunburst dial, the fluted bezel adds a flash of shining brilliance. There are also smooth, milled and engine-turned bezel alternatives which are more reserved and also less dressy; ideal for those who prefer the simpler look.

Some believe, due to its durability and early advertising association with Polo (the sport), that Rolex had intended the Datejust line as a Sportswatch (of sorts). The extent to which we agree varies depending on the dial, bezel and bracelet/strap combination in each case but the general consensus is that the Datejust falls into the dress watch category. Whatever the combination though, the DNA and durability of the Datejust design makes it a versatile everyday watch suitable for almost any occasion.

That’s a wrap

The jubilee bracelet adds a classic touch and those after a less dressy option can opt for a steel, leather or Perlon strap. All work well. A word of warning on the jubilee bracelets; the central links tend to be either white or yellow gold which is a soft metal and over time the bracelets gradually stretch. At Timeless Luxury, we’re fond of Perlon straps which come in a range of colours and serve to reduce the wear-and-tear of our jubilee bracelets, which we now reserve for special or formal occasions. We love the way the Perlon’s vibrant colours give this timeless piece a fresh new look.

Rolex Datejust with orange Perlon strap Verdict

It’s difficult to review this watch without bias and in all honesty we’re not even going to try. There’s a reason the vintage Datejust was our first Rolex, our first investment piece and co-founder Sam Molloy’s very first luxury watch personally. It’s because we love them.

The fact that the Datejust’s fundamental design has remained in production for over 70 years with next to no variation says it all. While some could criticise this for lack of imagination, no one can deny that with the Datejust Rolex found the blueprint for a classic luxury watch design that has remained timeless. While admittedly some design and bracelet combinations are on the dressy side, on the whole the model is versatile and appropriate for most situations. The Datejust’s simplicity is its strength and yet at the same time it encapsulates so much of Rolex’s rich heritage. And if it’s creativity you crave there’s no shortage of dial and case colours, layouts and configurations to choose from.

From the collector’s perspective, the Datejust makes for a key member of a variety of sets and is one of the lower cost items too (depending on the spec of course). It’s probably fair to assume most second hand/vintage Datejusts will hold their value over time. Because of the volume of their production they are perhaps unlikely to increase dramatically but they are certainly one of the safer investment options.

In summary, the vintage Datejust makes an ideal everyday watch for anyone looking for something special. An essential part of horology’s history, it’s the perfect entry level piece for those collectors who are starting out. No serious watch lover can ignore them.

Whatever makes you tick, everyone needs at least one Datejust.