The Saga of vintage Rolex Day-Date : A signature model in the Rolex range

This non-comprehensive article on the Rolex Day-Date focuses on its vintage period, i.e. pre-2000. Written by Fabrice Guéroux.

The first Rolex "Day-Date" was introduced by the brand in 1965 under the full name "Oyster Perpetual Day-Date".

First Series of Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date

Rolex's intention at that time was to offer a "status" luxury watch with the special feature of displaying the day in addition to the date. Looking back to the 1960s, it is important to understand that this complication represented a revolution in the world of watchmaking at that time. While many watches at the time gave the date, very few still indicated the day of the week. A further feature for this innovative brand was that the date was displayed in no less than 11 languages! It just goes to show that the manufacture has always been aware of its success on a worldwide level.

The Day-Date's automatic movement makes it quite thick for a 36 mm watch with a rounded caseback on the first models just like the brand's latest "Bubbleback" production.

Rolex's first model reference was the 6510, a hard-to-find model nowadays...

Image of Rolex Ref 6510 © Phillips

It is worth pointing out that the fluted bezel wasn't yet available in the catalog. It was only one year later that Rolex came out with the fluted version on reference 6611, followed by two different versions: the 6612 with a return to the smooth bezel and the 6613 equipped with a diamond set bezel.

On these three watch models, it is worth mentioning the arrival of a new movement equipped with a new microstatic balance adjustment system, which allowed Rolex to successfully pass COSC certification checks. This was a point in time when Rolex was looking to innovate and innovation at the time was mainly based on changing the movements. Lastly, model reference 6611B came into the picture, an extremely rare reference that is now highly sought after.

Series 1800 Day-Date (& 180x)

Although the above-mentioned references are very little known to the general public, there is one that didn't go unnoticed and which played a major role in the brand's notoriety, the famous 1800 series... the most worn luxury watch to date, and one of the most prestigious...

This model reference was declined in countless different versions, especially when it comes to dials. It was produced in champagne "Stella", precious wood, lapis lazuli, "Buckley", "WideBoy", etc. dials, as well as in white and yellow gold versions. There are also versions set with different precious stones.

In terms of movement, the watch was fitted with the 1555 caliber, a movement clocked at 18,000 beats per hour at the beginning and then increased to 19,800 beats per hour in 1965.

Image of Rolex Day-Date ref 1803 "Stella Vermillon" ©Phillips
Image of Rolex Day-Date bracelet « Maillons Briques » ©Phillips
Image of Rolex Day-Date 1803 in white gold ©Phillips
Imageof Rolex Day-Date 1803 « Stella Dial » diamond index & diamond bezel ©Phillips

This timepiece was an international success and it was not only the President of the United States who made it an undisputed luxury watch icon. Countless celebrities made it one of the most important "most wanted watches" in the history of watchmaking.

Organizing the new references : 5-digits Rolex Day-Date

With all these differences in materials, dials, stones, etc, Rolex had to bring some order to it all. This decision was made in 1977, introducing the new 5-digit references. Each material the watch is made of now corresponds to a specific number. In addition to the new references, the sapphire crystal and the 3055 movement with quickset date were introduced. The quickset date change was a real innovation for the public to set the watch in seconds instead of having to make countless revolutions on the counter to set the day and date correctly.

During the same year, Rolex introduced its quartz version, the Day-Date Oysterquartz, equipped with a quartz movement 5055 caliber. This watch is available in yellow and white gold and is immediately recognizable by its case and strap as well as its jumping seconds hand.

Some perspectives about the Rolex Day-Date

The Day-Date's legacy goes on still to this day, with a 36mm version and now a 40mm version. The Day-Date is a real "Must Have" in the world of collector's watches. Knowing that there are still quite a few watches in very good condition on the market today, it is worthwhile accumulating them and selecting only the most intact specimens. The trend in prices over the years speaks for itself. There is a persistent obsession for exotic dials.

I've been looking into this reference with 41Watch and we offer four and five digit references that I think have real appeal, and a lot of character. Feel free to contact us for more information on this iconic watch. We will be able to give you more insight on this timepiece and help you create a watch portfolio that suits your needs and desires.

Some famous Day-Date owners...

The American President Lyndon Johnson
James Gandolfini in "The Sopranos"
The legendary golf player Jack Nicklaus (his personal watch was sold for 1,2M$ in 2019)
Tom Cruise in Rain Man
Jean-Paul Belmondo was wearing a Day-Date in "Le Guignolo"

Available Rolex Day-Date at 41Watch

Rolex Day-Date 18238 Champagne Dial

Rolex Day-Date 18038 Wooden Dial

Rolex Day-Date 1803 Tropical Dial "Sparkle"

Rolex Day-Date 18238 Onyx Dial

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