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Interesting Rolex Day-Date Variants

Within the Rolex lineup, different models serve distinctly different purposes. For divers who require a hard-wearing timepiece, the logical answer is undoubtedly the storied Submariner or a Sea-Dweller for the more daring. Pilots that need to track multiple timezones need not look further than the GMT Master, and for a simple top tier watch suited for any given Sunday, the Datejust is your best bet. Each of these models has played a significant role in earning the brand its international reputation for quality, but when it comes to luxury-driven prestige, all eyes are on the famed Day-Date. Although the bulk of its production is made up of the more conventional variants, it’s the individual and indulgent executions that have put the model on the map. Before taking the plunge on a President, why not tempt yourself with a refresher on some of the more lavish pieces to proudly bear the Day-Date name?
Rolex Day-Date 18208 ‘Jasper/Bloodstone Dial’ Photo Courtesy: via our friends at amsterdamvintagewatches.com

Stone Dials

Though “standard” examples of the watch are nothing if not striking to begin with, Rolex routinely upped the ante through the fitting of comparably ritzy dials. Those most sought after by collectors were manufactured using semi-precious stones, yielding a face truly unique to the composition of each rock. At the more predictable end of the spectrum are those produced using lapis lazuli, bloodstone, tiger’s eye, rubellite, coral, malachite, and mother of pearl. In true Wilsdorf empire fashion, more obscure stones were used as well, including meteorite, black opal, pietersite, agate, volcanic obsidian, and historic fossils. The list goes on and on, indicating Rolex’s commitment to adorning their offerings with only the rarest and most special materials.

Rolex Day-Date 18238 ‘Jurassic Park’ Fossil Dial Photo Courtesy: via our friends at amsterdamvintagewatches.com

In addition to adding an unquestionable cool factor to an already glamorous watch, these dials demonstrate the watchmaker’s mastery of manufacturing techniques, given the fragility of certain stones. Cutting such stones for use in jewelry is a demanding process for starters, but forming them into such thinly planed profiles reflects another level of careful attention to detail on a scale that only Rolex could accomplish. As if that wasn’t enough, the brand even took matters further in special instances with the creation of stone dials featuring small pyramids on their surface.

Foreign Day and Date Wheels To feature one single language inside the Day Date’s characteristic apertures at twelve and three o’clock would’ve been to inherently limit the model’s appeal.

Foreign Day and Date Wheels

Upon taking a step back and assessing the watch world on an international scale, it’s easy to see how collecting tastes vary from nation to nation, with some countries taking a particular liking to certain watchmakers more so than others. As you’d expect, Rolex is the exception to the rule, enjoying an appeal that genuinely spans the entire globe. Though much of this can be attributed to their arguably perfectly designs, the brand also employed another trick to earn them cachet in non-English speaking markets — foreign language day and date wheels.

Rolex produced day wheels displaying 26 languages. This Rolex Day-Date 18038 features a Hebrew day wheel which is almost never seen as only a few were ever made

To feature one single language inside the Day Date’s characteristic apertures at twelve and three o’clock would’ve been to inherently limit the model’s appeal. With this in mind, Rolex offered its flagship timepiece with day and date wheels printed in twenty-six different languages. Since their introduction, Day Dates fitted these wheels have become a popular choice for native-speaking collectors of foreign nations, along with those who simply admire the international distinction of some examples.

Rolex Day-Date 18k WG (Ref. 1804) Platinum Image: www.craftandtailored.com

Rare Case Materials

In even fewer numbers, Rolex did, in fact, defy the Day Date’s reputation for being a watch produced exclusively in yellow gold which is the most common metal of the Day-Date. In limited numbers that pale in comparison to that of yellow gold, Rolex did and still does produce the Day-Date reference in other precious metals other than yellow gold. Matter of fact a very limited number of examples were actually produced in spartan stainless steel, there are an estimated 10 examples ever produced making a steel day- date the rarest metal to have ever been used by Rolex for the reference but we will save that for another article. Rolex produced the Day-Date in of course yellow gold, white gold, rose gold, platinum, and in a mixture of rose, yellow, and white gold nicknamed the “Tridor”

Rolex, "Tridor" Day-Date, ref. 18239B Photo Courtesy: via our friends at christies.com

There is something truly special exclusive about a Rolex Day-Date encased in material outside of yellow gold. The Rolex Day-Date is the ultimate statement of prestige and executive exclusivity but this, of course, is amplified when the reference is seen outside of the more commonly available yellow gold as examples in platinum and or in white gold tend to fly under the radar and at first glance appear to be nothing more than a steel dress watch whereas examples produced in rose gold examples fall into a category that elevates the reference and creates an elegance that stands on its own.

 

1984 Rolex Oysterquartz Day-Date (Ref. 19018) W/ Guarantee Paper Image: www.craftandtailored.com

Day-Date Oysterquartz

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, quartz timepieces were dominating the market and yes even Rolex was affected by what is now known as the “Quartz Crisis” of the late 1970s and of the early 1980s.

It would be a mistake to think that quartz watches were an afterthought for Rolex, even despite Rolex’s strong dedication to mechanical movements, Rolex began to realize that this type of product could establish itself on the market, and this was proved to be a fact in the following years to come. The Rolex Oysterquartz production range having lasted less than 3 decades makes the entire range of Rolex Oysterquartz highly sought after and extremely collectible. It has been estimated that in all less than 25,000 total Oysterquartz watches were ever produced by Rolex. Furthermore, a very small percentage of the total Oysterquartz watches produced were Day-Dates as most of the watches were steel variants.

1979 Rolex Oysterquartz Day-Date (Ref. 19018) Factory Black Diamond Dial Image: www.craftandtailored.com

The design of the Rolex Oysterquartz Day-Date is far removed from the classic Day-Date models and carries design characteristics of the period from which it hails. The angular case, an integrated presidential style bracelet is utterly unique and almost architectural in appearance. The case and integrated bracelet are unquestionably remarkable. The Rolex Cal. 5055 11 jewel quartz movement is built and finished as one would expect from Rolex and is of technical advancement but of bespoke build and finish.

Rolex Day-Date reference 18048 Diamonds and Rubies Photo Courtesy: via our friends at: www.windvintage.com

Gemset Dials, Bezels, and Cases

The most standard and stock Day-Date is work of art in itself, but Rolex, although a company that produces timepieces some of which are very much application and or purpose-built (Ex: The submariner), Rolex is also a company that has produced some of the worlds best and finest jewelry since the beginning. Rolex very early on produced Day-Date references with precious stones that in some cases could be a nice touch of elegance and in some cases perfectly define the term” bling”

*Unpolished* 1978 Rolex Day-Date (Ref. 18038) 18k YG "Diamond String Dial" Image: www.craftandtailored.com

Naturally, it makes sense for the Rolex Day-Date range of references to have precious stones as it was and still is in many cases the top of the line dress watch that Rolex produces which also had the tendency to attract the elite, or royalty whom in some cultures who look at the Day-Date as the ultimate status symbol just as one my associate precious stones with not only the monetary exclusivity but also the status that precious stones bring. Regardless there are some beautifully executed references within the Rolex Day-Date range that possess gemset dials, bezels and or cases that allow for ultimate exclusivity which may income case require an acquired taste to ultimately appreciate.

As the technical name of the Rolex Day-Date implies the Day-Date is a watch that can fill the most basic and utilitarian function of simultaneously providing the wearer with not only the time but also the day of the week as well as the date. But clearly, the Day-Date is a watch that comes in a flavor suitable for anyone making the Day-Date a true icon of design and function, some of which are the most unique and in some cases most bizarre offerings to have ever come from Rolex. Regardless if you are looking for the most basic yellow gold Day-Date or if you are looking for a gemset pice unique, the Rolex Day-Date is an icon and a legend with some interesting variants that are deserving of a place on ones wrist.

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