The History of the Rolex Datejust
After more than 50 years, the Rolex Datejust remains one of the brand’s most emblematic watches. The timepiece contains the essence of Rolex: simple, timeless, reliable and well-made. The characteristic date display has made it the watch of choice for everybody from Winston Churchill to Martin Luther King. Unlike any of its predecessors, the Datejust embodies a timeless elegance. The understated watch has captivated generations of enthusiasts and collectors and it’s become recognized as a Rolex standard. The Swiss brand has only slightly altered the Datejust throughout its existence, making it a true icon of style.
Rolex Datejust Origins
As one of the oldest Rolex models, the Datejust belongs to the core of the Oyster Perpetual collection. Rolex released the Oyster in 1926 as the watch industry’s first waterproof case. This revolutionary concept and name are still used to this day.
However, the story of the Datejust begins in 1945 as Rolex was celebrating their 40th anniversary. The brand wanted to create a special timepiece that was different from any other on the market. They came up with the Reference 4467, which featured a fluted bezel and the iconic Oyster bracelet fitted for the occasion as the all-new Jubilee. It was available in 18-karat gold and fitted with the caliber 710 movement.
A Rolex Legend
The Datejust was truly groundbreaking upon its release. It was the first officially certified self-winding waterproof chronometer with a date window on the dial. The timepiece displayed this added layer of practicality in a small window at the 3 o’clock on the dial. This 3-hand gold watch underwent a date change at the stroke of midnight instantly, allowing the wearer to read the exact time and date without a moment’s hesitation.
While this defining feature may seem simple now, it was certainly a monumental step forward in the development of watches. It was able to do this because of its intermediate gears and spring mechanism, showcasing the Rolex precision to detail. The brand debuted this new technology to their watch line in 1945.
Upon its initial release, the Rolex Datejust was a spontaneous success. The automatic winding, high accuracy and date display made the timepiece an excellent and practical watch. The now-iconic design was equally brilliant in its simplicity and sophistication. It was a universal timepiece that was suited for every occasion and went well with a variety of ensembles. Housed in the all-new case, the Datejust was robust with its water-resistant and dust-tight properties.
Nearly a decade later came the first major update to the Rolex Datejust. Although it’s now a defining feature, Rolex added the now iconic Cyclops eye in 1954. The unique lens lays directly above the date window and increased legibility by two-and-a-half times. This feature allowed for easy visibility of the date. It was the first major aesthetic change in the Rolex Datejust. From this point forward, the Datejust was at the forefront of the Rolex collection.
In 1957, Rolex introduced a brand new caliber 1065 movement. This technical update was smaller and more efficient than the past movement and eliminated the need for a dome caseback. This technical update allowed Rolex to create a more streamlined and minimal aesthetic with a slimmer design. In turn, this led to the introduction of a ladies version before the end of the decade. This version was nearly identical to its men’s counterpart with the primary difference being the size and proportions.
Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Rolex continually introduced new caliber movements to keep the Datejust up-to-date and on the cutting-edge. The design, however, remains largely unchanged with only changes being smaller profile and slight updates to the case and dial design. Not long after, Rolex replaced the plastic acrylic crystal with a sapphire one. The epitome of timeless and elegant even in its modern form. The original Datejust was only available in Yellow Gold. Before long, Rolex introduced Rose Gold, Steel and Two-Tone editions.