To say that some of the watches manufactured by Rolex are icons would be quite an understatement. The situation is rather clear: almost all the catalogue can be called iconic. This goes for the diving Submariner, the elegant Day-Date, the racing chronograph Daytona, the sporty Explorer or just the simple “entry-level” Oyster Perpetual. However, there’s another one, slightly more underrated but probably the one with the richest history – or at least the longest – the Datejust. We knew that Rolex was about to update its icon (see our predictions) and here it is: the new Rolex Datejust 41 from Baselworld 2016, with new case, new 3235 movement and comeback of the Jubilee bracelet (something we also predicted). Review.
Short History of the Rolex Datejust
Don’t look at the Rolex Datejust as just a 3-hand watch with a date window at 3. It’s much more than that. It is actually an historically important watch, as it was, when introduced in 1945 (for the 40th anniversary of Rolex), under the ref. 4467, the first wristwatch with date displayed in a window and quick date mechanism. This watch is actually the one that invented today’s most common feature of a watch. It might be rather random for many but it remains for collectors an extremely important fact – see our previous coverage on the Rolex Datejust for more details.
An example of the first series of the Rolex Datejust, the reference 4467 – note the full gold case / bracelet (not possible on modern editions) and the absence of date magnifier (it came later). Source: Mondani Web
The Rolex Datejust’s full name was and still is in fact the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust, meaning that even at the time of its introduction, it already featured 2 important innovations of Rolex: the Oyster case, thus being a waterproof watch, and the Perpetual winding, meaning that it was an automatic watch with 360° rotor. And it was close to the actual edition: a 3-hand watch with a date aperture at 3 o’clock that changed automatically at midnight. Thanks to an intermediate gears and a spring mechanism, the date disc was able to make an instant jump at midnight. The date was just, all the time.
As you can see, the design of the first series remains rather close to what we know now, even if two features was missing: the fluted bezel (the first ones had a coin-style bezel) and something that is an actual Rolex’ hallmark: the cyclops – the magnifier over the date window. This characteristic element of the actual Datejust only appeared in 1954, after nine years of production.
Over the years, the Rolex Datejust evolved, bringing new designs, new dials, improved movements and several other refinements. However, the concept – 3-hand watch with a date aperture at 3 – and the overall look remained rather faithful to the original, references after references. The latest evolution of this icon appeared in 2009, with an updated diameter, moving from 36mm to 41mm, with the Datejust 2.
A example of 41mm Rolex Datejust 2
The Rolex Datejust 2 was a larger edition of the Datejust… and many collectors of Rolex never really appreciated this watch, seen by some as too bulky, mainly because of large indexes and a fat bezel. The diameter itself can’t be incriminated but the proportions are. This is this watch that Rolex updates at Baselworld 2016, with the new Rolex Datejust 41.
The new Rolex Datejust 41 of Baselworld 2016
Let’s first go back to 2015, when Rolex introduced the new 40mm Day-Date. This watch marked a comeback to less bulky, more refined and slimmer watches manufactured by the “Crown”. It was also the occasion for Rolex to introduce a brand new series of movements, the 32xx (in the case of the Day-Date 40, the calibre 3255) with improved escapement, longer power reserve, updated barrel and gear train and better finish.
The Rolex Day-Date and the Rolex Datejust have always been rather linked and both were available in 41mm edition. in order to follow what the brand did with the Day-Date, we were rather sure that a same update was about to come for the Datejust. It is exactly what Rolex did at Baselworld 2016. But the situation is a bit more complex than just introducing a date-only edition of the 40mm Day-Date…
A new 41mm case, slimmer and thinner
The new Rolex Datejust 41 keeps its diameter, at 41mm, just like the older Datejust 2. We were expecting Rolex to follow the rule implemented with the 2015 Day-Date, meaning a slightly reduced diameter of 40mm. but this won’t be the case. However, if the diameter remains at 41mm, the proportions and the other dimensions change rather drastically, which is a very good point considering the somehow “fat” look of the older Datejust 2 – the bezel was seen as probably too wide for the diameter of the dial and the indexes were too thick. This watch was probably missing a bit of elegance.
Rolex applied the same recipe with the Datejust 41 as with the Day-Date 40, meaning a first a slimmer profile. The lugs are thinner than before, more tapered and pointy to the end and more curved to better follow the curvature of the wrist. The case is also thinner when seen from the sides and finally, the aperture of the dial is larger and the bezel is thinner, creating a more balanced and elegant look. The new Rolex Datejust 41 seems now smaller and visually “lighter”, while keeping the exact same diameter. Again, this is just a matter of proportions. As a result, the bezel is less “opulent” than before, especially when chosing the iconic fluted shape.
The comeback of the Jubilee bracelet on the Rolex Datejust 41
Another very nice feature in this Rolex Datejust 41 is the comeback of the 5-link Jubilee Bracelet. This type of bracelet is directly link to the history of the Datejust, a watch that came first with such a 5-link bracelet. Its name comes from the origin of the Datejust too, which was introduced to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the brand, what some call a jubilee. However, the Datejust 2 had never been available with this bracelet and instead, it featured a sporty 3-link Oyster bracelet. And even if this Oyster bracelet will still be available on the new Rolex Datejust 41, you’ll now have the choice with an iconic Jubilee.
For those who already experienced the Jubilee bracelet, it was and still is one of the most comfortable bracelet ever created. For the new edition of the Datejust, it has been improved. Of course, all the links are now solid (and not folded like in the past). The combination of small links with the rounded shape is just pleasant, very smooth and highly flexible. The attachment is also new, as now concealed beneath the bezel, which ensures seamless visual continuity between the bracelet and case. Finally, as all modern Rolex watches, the Oyster and Jubilee bracelets are equipped with a folding Oysterclasp and also feature the Rolex-patented Easylink rapid extension system that allows the wearer to easily increase the bracelet length by approximately 5 mm.
Some will say that this is just a bracelet, but for us, it is certainly the best update of this new Rolex Datejust 41. It completely change the comfort of the watch once strapped on the wrist. Its more refined and luxurious look perfectly matches with the slimmer and thinner case. Overall, this Rolex Datejust 41 becomes dressier and more elegant, and thus emancipating from the sporty Oyster watches.
New combinations for the cases and the dials, including yellow and pink Rolesor
As usual with newly introduced watches, Rolex always starts with precious materials and the full stainless editions will follow later, in one or two years probably. Thus, the new Rolex Datejust 41 is, for the moment, only available in Rolesor, meaning a combination of stainless steel (for the case and the external links of the bracelet, whether on the Oyster or Jubilee) and 18k gold for the bezel, the crown and the internal links of the bracelet). There’s no edition with fluted 18k white gold or stainless flat bezel yet. However, the Rolex Datejust 41 will be, for the first time, available in pink Rolesor, meaning a combination of stainless steel and 18k pink gold, as well as in yellow Rolesor, a combination of stainless steel and 18k yellow gold.
The dial also slightly evolved with this new edition – but it remains mainly details. The indexes are still classical long batons filled with white luminous paint but they are now a bit slimmer, enhancing the elegance of the watch. The fonts are also slightly thinner but the hands remains equal in design to the Datejust 2.
Several options are possible for the dial, including these two we photographed (Champagne and Silver) as well as chocolate brown, black, sundust or white – all depending on the choice of metal (yellow or pink gold). Here are a few examples of combinations (with retail prices):
- Rolex Datejust 41 ref. 126303 – Yellow Rolesor, Oyster bracelet, smooth bezel, white dial – Price: 11,000 Euros
- Rolex Datejust 41 ref. 126301 – Pink Rolesor, Oyster bracelet, smooth bezel, sundust dial – Price: 11,300 Euros
- Rolex Datejust 41 ref. 126333 – Yellow Rolesor, Jubilee bracelet, fluted bezel, champagne dial (as photographed here) – Price: 11,650 Euros
- Rolex Datejust 41 ref. 126331 – Pink Rolesor, Jubilee bracelet, fluted bezel, chocolate brown dial – Price: 11,950 Euros
- Rolex Datejust 41 ref. 126303 – Yellow Rolesor, Oyster bracelet, smooth bezel, black dial with diamond indexes – Price: 12,800 Euros
- Rolex Datejust 41 ref. 126301 – Pink Rolesor, Oyster bracelet, smooth bezel, sundust dial with diamond indexes – Price: 13,100 Euros
The new calibre 3235 of the Rolex Datejust 41
The other Baselworld 2016 novelties of Rolex we showed you earlier were almost all visual updates, like for instance the Daytona with Black ceramic bezel or the Explorer. The only real novelty was the Air-King with Pilot dial, a very controversial piece (which we reviewed here – and that we loved). The new Rolex Datejust 41 is also a real novelty, as the update not only concerns the visual side but also – and this is the real improvement here – it features with a brand new movement, from the new generation developed by Rolex. The Datejust gets rid of the 3136 (a larger version of the iconic 3135, which also equips the Submariner Date, the Yacht-Master, the Deepsea or the Sea-Dweller 4000). Instead, it benefits from the recent innovations of the movement featured in the Day-Date 40 – of course without the day complication, thus becoming the Calibre 3235.
The new Rolex Calibre 3235 – still not visible from the caseback but with an improved finishing
The new Calibre 3235 featured in the Rolex Datejust 41 benefits fro the same innovations than the Calibre 3255 of the Day-Date 40, meaning that it comes with a long list of improvements. It is not just an evolution of the existing 3135 / 3136 movements, as over 90% of the parts are new. Several fields of researches have been implemented in the 32xx series, including the consumption of energy, its renewing and its storage and finally the precision.
- A new type of escapement, the Chronergy escapement – an optimized version of the Swiss lever escapement, the standard escapement used in mechanical watches. The thickness of the pallet stones has been reduced by half while the contact surfaces of the escape wheel teeth have been doubled. The escapement system is no longer in alignment but slightly offset, thus multiplying the lever effect. The escape wheel has a cut-out design to make it lighter and reduce its inertia. Together, these modifications to the geometry have increased the efficiency of the escapement by 15%, contributing to almost half of the gain in the power reserve.
- An efficient gear train (the series of wheels transmitting the energy from the barrel to the escapement) – The efficiency of the gear train has been optimized. Rolex has also developed, and synthesizes in-house, exclusive new high-performance lubricants with a longer useful life and greater stability over time – As a result, less frictions (which could potentially slow the movement) and a greater reliability over the years.
- A high-capacity barrel – Without increasing the size of barrel, Rolex achieved to insert a longer mainspring (for 10h more power reserve). This was obtained by making the walls of the barrels thinner – possible with modern production processes.
- A new self-winding module, for a for more rapid winding of the new high-capacity mainspring. The rotor is now rotating on ball-bearings and its new monobloc shape enhanced its speed and thus the energy transmitted to the barrel.
Overall, the Calibre 3235 consumes approximately 30% less energy and combined with the larger mainspring, it boasts 70 hours of power reserve. Apart from these new elements, the 3235 features the usual delicacies of the brand: blue Parachrom hairspring (resistant to magnetic fields), in-house high-performance Paraflex shock absorbers, large balance wheel with variable inertia fitted with four gold Microstella nuts and attached to a transversal bridge instead of a traditional cock bridge (more resistant to shocks). Finally, the overall finishing has been improved, with bevelled bridges, circular graining, jewels in gold chatons and other details that make this movement better looking (even it can been seen, as usual with the “Crown“).
The Superlative Chronometer certification
Finally comes the new Superlative Chronometer certification. The control process of Rolex has been redefined in 2015. Note that the watches produced by Rolex still undergo the COSC process but as of now, the watches are tested a second time by Rolex after being cased, in the brand’s own laboratories, according to Rolex own criteria, which are more stringent than watchmaking norms and standards (understand COSC). These tests are carried out on each fully assembled watch, after casing the movement, in order to guarantee performance on the wrist.
The tolerance for the average rate of the Superlative Chronometer certification is of the order of −2/+2 seconds per day. This series of tests also checks the waterproofness, the self-winding capacity and the power reserve of the finished watches. In addition to this improved precision, the Superlative Chronometer certification also implies a new 5-year guarantee on your Rolex.
Concluding words about the new Rolex Datejust 41
Without entirely renewing the concept of the “large Datejust”, Rolex brings with this new Datejust 41 a deep recast of its iconic casual watch – placed right in the middle between dress and sports watches, as being wearable in every single situation. If the overall look remains extremely close to the Datejust 2, this 2016 edition is entirely new. All the faults of the previous editions have been corrected – a slimmer / thinner case, a larger dial and a slimmer bezel, more refined dials – and it has now the required elegance of a Datejust. The comeback of the Jubilee bracelet is also great, whether for the comfort or the look, as being entirely part of the success of this watch in its 71-year career.
The new Calibre 3235 is of course more than welcome and considering all the improvements it features, it finally brings Rolex into modern ages – the 3135 is an excellent and reliable movement but its conception was rather old. The best comes when talking about price. Considering the new movement, you’d probably except Rolex to increase drastically the prices… which is not the case, as a Datejust 2 ref. 116333 (Yellow Rolesor, fluted bezel and oyster bracelet) was priced at 10,700 Euros vs. 11,650 Euros for the Rolex Datejust 41 ref. 126333 (Yellow Rolesor, fluted bezel BUT with the expensive Jubilee bracelet). The new edition of the perfect daily watch has quite a strong package…
For more information, please visit Rolex.com