Introduction to the Rolex Datejust
A mainstay of the Rolex catalog since 1945, the Datejust watch collection offers an appealing combination of iconic design and plenty of variation. From sporty stainless steel versions to classic two-tone editions to luxurious gold models, pre-owned Rolex Datejust watches are available in an array of styles for both men and women.
Rolex Datejust History
To commemorate the brand’s 40th anniversary, Rolex introduced a new watch model in 1945 called the Datejust. To create the Oyster Perpetual Datejust, Rolex combined the case structure of the water-resistant Oyster watch from 1926 with the Perpetual automatic movement from 1931 and furnished the dial with a date window. The Datejust was the world’s first self‑winding chronometer-certified wristwatch to display the date in a window on the dial.
The inaugural Datejust also debuted a brand new bracelet style, aptly called the Jubilee bracelet. The Jubilee bracelet, which features semi-circular links in a five-piece configuration, grew to become one of Rolex’s most famed bracelet styles, available not only with the Datejust but with other models too.
In 1953, Rolex added a magnification lens called the Cyclops above the date window for better legibility. Since then, the protruding Cyclops has become an essential component of the Datejust design. Two years later, Rolex modified the Datejust to have the date change instantly at midnight rather than a slow roll over a few hours.
In 1957, the Lady-Datejust joined the Rolex catalog. Over the following decades, it has become one of the best selling women’s luxury watches of all time. For a larger ladies’ Rolex Datejust, there’s also the midsize Datejust 31 with, as its name suggests, a 31mm case.
Throughout the history of the Datejust, Rolex has systematically improved the watch while maintaining its iconic style. In 2008, Rolex introduced the Datejust II, which came equipped with a much larger 41mm case. Before then, the men’s Datejust watch was only ever offered with a 36mm case. The Datejust 41 then replaced the short-lived Datejust II collection in 2016. Although the Datejust II and the Datejust 41 have identical case measurements, the newer model runs on the latest generation Caliber 3235 and features slightly slimmer lugs and bezel.
Rolex Datejust Timeline
- 1945 – Datejust introduced to mark Rolex’s 40th anniversary
- 1953 – Cyclops date magnification lens added
- 1955 – Date window modified to change instantaneously at midnight
- 1957 – Lady-Datejust for women introduced
- 1977 – Datejust 36 updated with Caliber 3035 (quickset)
- 1988 – Datejust 36 updated with Caliber 3135 and sapphire crystal
- 2009 – Larger Datejust II introduced
- 2015 – Lady-Datejust size increases from 26mm to 28mm
- 2016 – Datejust II replaced with Datejust 41
- 2019 – Datejust 36 updated with Caliber 3235
Rolex Datejust Fun Fact
In the early-1950s, Rolex gifted General Dwight D. Eisenhower (who would later become the 34th president of the United States) the company’s 150,000th officially certified chronometer. The watch was an 18k yellow gold Datejust ref. 6305 with a Jubilee bracelet.
Datejust Design, Features and Maintenance
Except for the earliest vintage Datejust models made pre-1955, all Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust watches have the following features:
- Round Oyster case with screw-down winding crown
- Date window at 3 o’clock with instantaneous date
- Cyclops lens to magnify the date 2.5 times
- Automatic movement
The Datejust is Rolex’s most varied watch collection, offered in countless styles thanks to the numerous size, material, bezel, bracelet and dial options available. Choosing which Datejust to buy is a matter of deciding which of the following design options suits you best.
- Datejust 41
- Datejust II (41mm, discontinued)
- Datejust 36
- Datejust 31
- Lady-Datejust 28
- Lady-Datejust 26 (discontinued)
- Stainless steel
- Stainless steel with white gold bezel (aka white Rolesor)
- Two-tone stainless steel and yellow gold (aka yellow Rolesor)
- Two-tone stainless steel and Everose gold (aka Everose Rolesor)
- Yellow gold
- White gold
- Everose gold
- Smooth domed (steel, gold, or platinum)
- Fluted (18k gold)
- Engine-turned (steel)
- Rotating (discontinued)
- Five-link Jubilee
- Three-link Oyster
- Three-link President (exclusive to Datejust 31 and Lady-Datejust editions)
Rolex Datejust Price and Collectability
Depending on the material, age and condition, used Rolex Datejust price points can vary dramatically from the low thousands to tens of thousands. Generally speaking, older and smaller used Datejust watches in steel are the least expensive option, with prices quickly increasing with newer versions and gold Datejust watches.
It’s important to determine the reference families of the Rolex Datejust for sale to better understand its features and price range. While there have been thousands of Datejust references made over the last seven decades, below is an overview of some popular pre-owned Datejust watches in the secondary market.
Vintage Rolex Datejust ref. 16xx (1960s – 1977) and ref. 160xx (1977 – 1988)
- 36mm case
- Acrylic crystal
- Tritium luminescence
- Prices starting at around $2,700
Discontinued Rolex Datejust ref. 162xx (1988 – 2004) and ref. 1162xx (2004 – 2018)
- 36mm case
- Sapphire crystal
- Luminova/SuperLuminova luminescence
- Prices starting at around $3,500 for ref. 162xx and $5,000 for ref. 1162xx
Discontinued Rolex Datejust II ref. 1163xx (2008 – 2016)
- 41mm case
- Sapphire Crystal
- Superluminova luminescence
- Prices starting at around $6,700
Current Rolex Datejust ref. 1262xx (2018 – present)
- Sapphire crystal
- Chromalight luminescence
- Prices starting at around $6,000
Current Rolex Datejust ref. 1263xx (2016 – present)
- 41mm case
- Chromalight luminescence
- Prices starting at around $7,000
Rolex recommends that its watches be serviced at least every 10 years. However, older models may require more frequent servicing. Modern Rolex Datejust watches are water-resistant to 100 meters, making them safe to swim with. Always make sure that the winding crown is securely screwed into the case before taking it underwater, to prevent any moisture from seeping into the watch. On the other hand, it is never advisable to submerge a vintage Rolex watch underwater as its water-resistance is no longer guaranteed.
In 2016, Rolex introduced their Oyster Perpetual Datejust 41, with the new Caliber 3235 movement. The Caliber 3235 includes an improved "Chronergy" escapement, manufactured using a novel technique called LIGA. LIGA is a German acronym of the words Lithographie, Galvanoformung, Abformung (Lithography, Electroplating, and Molding). In the LIGA technique, ultra-precise parts are grown inside micro molds rather than cut from solid pieces of metal. The molds are made using high-aspect ratio stereolithography, similar to how silicon microprocessors for computers and smartphones are manufactured. The technique was initially developed in the early 1980s by a research group at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany.
LIGA allows for precision and geometries that are nearly impossible to replicate using traditional manufacturing techniques. An example of this is the skeletonized escape wheel, which has interior portions of each tooth removed to reduce mass. The reduced mass results in a more efficient escapement, as less energy is wasted when the escape wheel starts and stops its movement at every vibration of the balance wheel. This space age manufacturing method enables the watchmakers at Rolex to turn what were once impossible dreams into reality, as seen in the Oyster Perpetual Datejust 41 Chronergy escapement.