Rolex celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1945 and commemorated the occasion with the launch of the Oyster Perpetual Datejust. It was a watch that found its place in the annals of horology as the world’s first self-winding waterproof chronometer wristwatch to display the date in a window at 3 o’clock on the dial. It left its mark on watchmaking history, setting the path for the future and heavily influencing timepieces of the ilk that were to follow.
Almost eight decades on and the Datejust continues to be a cornerstone of the Rolex stable. With its expert balance of form and function, it remains famed for its promise of excellent performance and reliability, delivered with timeless elegance. The collection (which has been in constant production since its launch) has kept pace with the times through design reinterpretations and technical innovations that have seen it become a modern classic — all without ever losing sight of its original purpose: to be “a masterpiece of horological science” as Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf declared on the watch’s debut.
Little wonder then that the Datejust has been the timepiece of choice for a long list of storied leaders including Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King; and celebrated athletes Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki. After all, the watch was made to be an unparalleled time-keeping companion with performance and prestige to last beyond a lifetime; a visual announcement that one has arrived.
Elegance for all Occasions
One could say that the Datejust’s popularity lies in the continuity of its design, which makes it instantly recognisable at a glance. Even more pertinent is that the timepiece was the first to be graced with several design features that have since become brand hallmarks.
Take, for instance, the Jubilee bracelet now found across Rolex collections. The fluid, five-piece link metal bracelet was specifically designed for the original Datejust collection of 1945. Though the watch now also comes with the three-link Oyster or President bracelets, the supple Jubilee — available with an Oysterclasp or hidden Crownclasp — is integral to the Datejust’s identity.
A large selection of in-house dials further ensures a Datejust for every style preference and personality. Luxurious diamond and mother-of-pearl options are complemented with sophisticated sunray or pattern-finished dials in various colours and materials. Hour markers are available as indexes, diamonds, Roman or Arabic numerals, encircled within a bezel that is either smooth, domed, fluted or lined with diamonds. This diversity of features is what makes the Datejust the most varied collection of watches from Rolex. Diamonds, in particular, proved appealing to fans of the Lady-Datejust collection which encapsulates all the winning attributes of its masculine counterpart in a 28mm case just two millimetres larger than the original model of 1957, perfect for slender wrists.
Then, there is the famed Cyclops lens that now distinguishes every date-function timepiece from Rolex. Named after the one-eyed giant in Greek mythology, the patented lens was first fitted on the Datejust in 1953 to magnify the numerals of the date aperture. Initially crafted from plexiglass, the lens is now found in sapphire (as it has been since the 1970s) that has been treated with a double anti-reflective coating for even better legibility.
Movements for the Ages
The watch’s external beauty is matched with internal perfection. Equipped with Rolex’s calibre 2236 (for the Datejust 31) or calibre 3235 (for the Datejust 36 and Datejust 41), the automatic movements are developed and manufactured entirely by Rolex for an exceptional performance in terms of precision, power reserve, resistance to shocks, convenience and reliability.
The calibres also carry numerous patents between them. Calibre 2236, for example, is fitted with the patented Syloxi hairspring in silicon that offers high resistance to strong magnetic fields, temperature variations and shocks. Coupled with its patented geometry, you have a movement that ensures regularity and stability in any position.
Meanwhile, calibre 3235 incorporates Rolex’s patented Chronergy nickel-phosphorus escapement, promising high energy efficiency and excellent dependability. Its blue Parachrom hairspring, manufactured in a paramagnetic alloy and fitted with a Rolex overcoil, lends high resistance to strong magnetic fields and shocks, great stability in the face of temperature variations and regularity in any position.
The oscillators of both calibres are also mounted on Rolex’s patented high-performance Paraflex shock absorbers for enhanced shock resistance. At the same time, their Perpetual rotors ensure continuous winding of the mainspring with every movement of the wrist for constant energy. Calibre 2236 offers a power reserve of approximately 55 hours, while calibre 3235 offers 70 hours thanks to its barrel architecture and the escapement’s superior efficiency.
As with all Rolex timepieces, the Datejust is a testament to the brand’s rigorous standards, not least as defined by its Superlative Chronometer certification which goes above and beyond industry standards for an exceptional timekeeper. The certification, symbolised by Rolex’s honoured green seal, assures that the timepiece has successfully undergone a strict series of tests in the Rolex laboratories to guarantee a superlative performance on the wrist regarding precision, waterproofness, self-winding and power reserve.
Each Rolex movement undergoes two sets of tests. The first is by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC) for the Chronometer certification, before it is put in a watch case and run through another course by Rolex to ensure a precision above the accepted norms. Rolex’s Superlative Chronometers offer a precision of approximately −2/+2 seconds per day, a deviation rate far superior to the −4/+6 seconds per day requirement of the COSC certification.
All this is sealed in Rolex’s Oyster case with a case back that has been hermetically screwed down with a special Rolex tool. Its Twinlock winding crown, which screws down securely against the solid middle case, is also fitted with a double waterproofness system for a guaranteed waterproofness of 100m depth and optimal protection.
Promising precision as it does prestige and robustness as it does reliability, the Oyster Perpetual Datejust was made as the perfect wrist companion for life. What more could one ask?
This story was first published on World of Watches #69, The Summer Special.
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