If you desire a Rolex Datejust but aren’t ready for its hefty price tag, you might like to know that there are some great affordable watches that are strikingly similar.
But first, let’s consider why you want a Rolex Datejust in the first place. Well, it doesn’t get more iconic than the classic timepiece. It made a groundbreaking debut in 1945 as the first water-resistant, self-winding watch with a date window on its dial. It made waves with an elegant Jubilee bracelet that’s become a hallmark of the brand. While there have been changes over the decades, its versatility has remained an unflinching constant. Almost inexplicably, the Rolex Datejust wears equally well with a tailored suit as it does with a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.
While it’s nearly impossible to capture the style and quality of a Rolex Datejust in a lesser watch, here are some alternatives that get pretty darn close.
1: Seiko DateJust 5
Call it what you want, but either way, Seiko makes no apologies for crafting a watch that mirrors the Rolex Datejust. As with most other Seiko offerings, it’s a good quality watch at an affordable price. Okay, fine, a Rolex purist may scoff that its fluted bezel is trying too hard to be a Rolex (and in truth at 50 yards most people might think you are wearing a Rolex Datejust). But who cares? Inside the stainless steel case, there’s the ever-reliable Seiko 7S26 mechanical movement, which you can view through a transparent case back. True, the Seiko has a lesser mineral crystal, but the Seiko crystal is scratch-resistant Hardlex that’s plenty durable. And, to be honest, the bracelet probably won’t last the 30 years you can expect from Seiko’s movement. But for reliability and looks at that price, it’s easy to overlook these shortcomings.
2: Orient President Classic Automatic
Again we have the fluted bezel that makes the Rolex Datejust instantly recognizable. We also have colors that mimic the Rolex. We have reliable Seiko-based quality in what some might call a “knock off.” Though, as you can probably tell by its name, the Orient President is just as much an homage to the Rolex Day-Date President.
It’s worth briefly noting the glaring similarities with the Rolex Datejust and Rolex Day-Date. They both offer fluted bezels, standard 36mm cases and date displays at the three o’clock position that’s visible under a magnifying Cyclops lens. They’re also both waterproof with 31-jewel chronometer movement and the two watches both offer choices of Jubilee or Oyster bracelets.
So, when you look at the Orient President with a three o’clock date window, and 36mm case on a Jubilee bracelet, it’s hard not to think of a Rolex. And that’s just fine. Enjoy the savings and wear this Orient with pride!
3: BUREI Automatic Datejust
So, here again, we have the Datejust name in an unapologetic recreation of the classic Rolex. We have the fluted bezel. We have the date window with a Cyclops lens at the three o’clock position. But there are some notable differences between the Burei and the Rolex. While similar in style, the Burei bracelet doesn’t have the quality of the Rolex Jubilee or Oyster bracelets. And with a case of 40mm, it wears a bit larger, but its 12mm thickness does lessen its heft. While you aren’t likely to be impressed by the Japanese automatic self-winding movement of undetermined origin, you might be surprised to hear it has a sapphire crystal. Yes, a watch you can pick up for about $130 with sapphire is almost unheard of. And yes, this might be a bargain of a Rolex look-alike, but it’s a darn good bargain.
4: Citizen Two-Tone Stainless Steel
Citizen has a lot of two-tone offerings. Look around online and you can find a stainless steel model with a gold fluted bezel and 36mm case that is strikingly similar to the Rolex Datejust. The Citizen Two-Tone also has a date window on the dial at the three o’clock position, though not under a Cyclops lens. And while it lacks the high-end movement of a Rolex, the Japanese quartz movement is reliable and powered by light with Citizen’s famous Eco-Drive (so no batteries!). With a champagne dial and brick-link bracelet, at a distance, you’ll look like you’re wearing a Rolex.
5: IWC Mark XVIII
We now take a departure from affordable watches that mirror the looks and functions of the Rolex Datejust. While a pilot watch, the IWC Mark series does the same job in terms of style as the Rolex. True, with a brushed finish the IWC does present a more subdued presence than the Datejust’s high-polished finishing. But the clean dial and elegant bracelet make the IWC perfect for dressing up or down in the same way the Datejust does. The Mark XVIII is not in the affordable range like those above and could even set you back as much as a Rolex Datejust. But the IWC makes a nice alternative for those wishing to make an investment.
So whether you’re looking for affordable watches that mirror the style of the Rolex Datejust, or in the market for a more high-end alternative to Rolex, know that you can put a bit of Rolex on your wrist without actually having to buy a Rolex.