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The Rolex Day-Date

By Ross Povey
7 Nov 2022
5 min read

Favored by some of the top world leaders and visionaries, the Day-Date represents the ultimate in precision, power and prestige 

One of the reasons that collectors are drawn to Rolex, is the opportunity to focus on a line of watches that has been in production for over half a century, in most cases now, and enjoy the myriad versions, variations and variants that exist. One watch that arguably trumps all others when it comes to the different faces it has worn over the years is the Day-Date. As the watch approaches its 60th birthday, we are still discovering new iterations of what is regarded as the king of the brand’s impressive catalogue. Whether you love clean and understated or like to dress up your wrist loud and proud, there will be a Day-Date for you.

Rolex於1956年春季在Baselworld上推出Day-Date 相片:Rolex

Rolex unveiled the Day-Date at Baselworld in the spring of 1956. This was 11 years after they had introduced the groundbreaking Datejust in 1945. The Datejust was the first automatic wristwatch to display the date on the dial in a small window that turned over “just” as the watch ticked over at midnight. Hans Wilsdorf was never one to rush products out, Rolex was all about evolution not revolution, and so a decade later, a watch featuring Rolex’s Datejust technology with a day window at 12 o’clock on the dial was launched. The new Day-Date kept the familiar and successful formula of a 36mm case, but the watches were only available in precious metals - yellow, white and pink gold and platinum. It is worth noting, however, that over the years, a number of Day-Dates in steel and brass have appeared at auction in prominent collections. Thought to be either prototypes or even possible training pieces for watchmakers to work on the movements, they are highly sought after.


The first references that Rolex made available were the 6510 and 6511, many of which have 1955 serial numbers. Rolex filed the patent for the Day-Date on 23rd July 1955 and would have been making the watches that year, to be ready to distribute the following spring. The second year of the Day-Date’s life saw the introduction of the second series of watches. Reference 6611 featured what collectors call a coin edge bezel and reference 6612 had a sporty smooth bezel. The first platinum Day-Date reference 6613 also came in 1957. It was with the 66xx series of watches that Rolex began adding diamonds to the dial. Whilst now, we see diamonds on Rolex’s as part of the brand’s signature, even on its most iconic sports watches. In the mid-20th century, however, diamonds were only used very sparingly on the dial of the brand’s dress watches, the Day-Date being the most prestigious of them all; a platinum Day-Date with diamond dial cost CHF 22,000 in the mid-1960s!

Day-Date Ref.6511,於1955年第四季度製造,1956年正式於Basel推出 相片:Phillips

The Day-Date is often referred to as the President. There are two reasons for this, the first being the official name for the new bracelet that Rolex launched with the Day-Date. The President bracelet has been made in 18kt gold or platinum and is very much a ‘dressy’ bracelet choice. The famous Oyster bracelet was conceived for tool watches and although the Oyster has been made in precious metals, it remains a sporty option. The Jubilee bracelet was launched with the Datejust in 1945, as a celebration of 40 years of Rolex and is a good hybrid of sports and elegance, equally at home on a Datejust as it is on a Submariner or GMT-Master. The design of the President was an amalgam of the Oyster and Jubilee bracelets, with the rounded links of the jubilee bracelet that were much larger and the bracelet’s overall construction was similar to the Oyster bracelet. 

The other reason that the watch is known as the President, is down to Wilsdorf’s wily marketing strategy. As early as the 1920s, Hans Wilsdorf was promoting his watches through association with famous people and landmark events. This started with the Mercedes Gleitz cross-channel swim and continued with the Everest Expedition in 1953 where the participants were given Rolex Oysters. Wilsdorf gifted at least two US Presidents Day-Date watches, including Dwight D Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson. Wilsdorf was careful in his advertising though and would use the word with a lowercase ‘p’, when claiming the Day-Date was “The presidents’ watch”. This ties into advertising slogans such as "Men Who Guide the Destinies of The World Wear Rolex Watches' ', implying presidents of companies and Presidents of nations.

Lyndon B. Johnson 是首位在任期間佩戴 Day-Date 腕錶的美國總統

Arguably the most seen vintage Day-Date is the reference 18xx series, which was first launched in 1960. The 1803 enjoyed a near two-decade run until the late 1970s,  when it was superseded by the sapphire glass quick-set watches. The 1803 was available in all three golds (yellow, white and pink) and had a fluted bezel. The 18xx watches are referred to by collectors as the third series of the Day-Date and also included the smooth bezel 1802 and the platinum 1804. The 1802 was also available in platinum, with a smooth bezel, and the 1804 had a diamond bezel. In fact, it wasn’t until Watches and Wonders 2022 that Rolex unveiled a commercially available fluted platinum bezel, for which it currently holds a number of patents. There were other interesting references in this series including a ‘Morellis’ engraved bezel on the 1811 and for the Italian market, a ‘bark finish’ yellow or pink gold 1807 amongst others.

Ref.1802 於1963年推出,配有拋光錶圈,有鉑金、黃金、白金和玫瑰金材質款式 相片:Sotheby’s

In 1978, Rolex unveiled the reference 180xx series which included the single-quick-set date feature. Previous Day-Dates had so-called slow-set dates, whereby to advance the date the watch had to be manually cycled through 24-hours. With the single-quick-set date, the crown had a specific position to quickly change the date. The days were not quick-set, however, until the introduction of the double-quick-set Day-Date, 182xx series, in 1988. These five-digit Day-Dates continued until 2000, with the introduction of the 118xxx series watches. These watches were virtually identical to the 182xx series, but had come with updates to the bracelet and clasps. It is worth noting that all these watches stayed true to the same recipe of the 36mm Oyster case.

The biggest changes to the Day-date came in 2008 with the introduction of the Day-Date II and then in 2015 the Day-Date 40 that were both 40mm watches. The Day-Date II was much bulkier, with Rolex streamlining the case more with the Day-Date 40. Throughout all this time, though, the Day-Date was still available in the original 36mm size. To many collectors the 36mm case is the ‘sweet spot’ for the Rolex Oyster and certainly the dimensions have been ever-popular since that case size was first introduced in the 1940s. From plain, matte black utilitarian looking watches to stone dials, pave diamond dials and gem set cases; the Day-Date is the most chameleon-esque of all the Rolex watches. Which would you choose?