An elegant sports-watch? A robust dress watch? A casual watch? Call it the way you want, the Rolex Datejust simply is the definition of the all-rounder, a sort of SUV among watches which covers just about all the bases, which can go everywhere and which can be worn with everything. The Rolex Datejust 41, first introduced at Baselworld 2016 in two-tone, now comes in steel versions, which means that it is now more affordable and even more versatile. This is why we had to go hands-on with the new iterations of this icon (ref. 126300 and ref. 126334), that we’ll name an SUW, a Sports Utility Watch.
There’s no need to say that the Rolex Datejust is one of the most emblematic models of the “Crown“. Slightly less coveted than the Submariner or the Daytona, yet it remains the archetypal timepiece by Rolex: simple but efficient and focussed on the essentials, it has probably inspired hundreds of watches now on the market. It remains a reference in the field of “classic watches”, it’s not too dressy, nor too sporty. Before we move on to the most recent references, the Datejust 41 in steel or Rolesor – ref. 126300 and ref. 126334 – let’s look back on the history of the model.
Background – Short history of the Datejust
The Rolex Datejust is an important watch, and in fact is a milestone in the history of watchmaking. It was when introduced in 1945 (for the 40th anniversary of Rolex), under the ref. 4467, the first self-winding waterproof chronometer wristwatch to display the date in a window on the dial. Yes, you’ve heard right: before the Datejust, this complication that is now a must for almost every single watch on the market, was not displayed in a window but mainly on sub-dials. The Datejust introduced what is the norm now in the industry: the date window at 3 o’clock. This common feature is the brainchild of Rolex… among many others.
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 perfection: a 3-hand watch with a date aperture at 3 o’clock that changed automatically at midnight. Thanks to an intermediate gear and a spring mechanism, the date disc was able to make an instant jump at exactly midnight. The date was just, all the time – and this feature is still part of the current collections.
As you can see, the design of the first series remains rather close to what we know now, even if two features have changed over the years: 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 – a 3-hand watch with a date aperture at 3 – and the overall look which has remained faithful to the original, reference after reference. The latest evolution of this icon appeared in 2009, with an updated diameter, moving from 36mm to 41mm, with the Datejust 2.
The Rolex Datejust 2, with its 41mm case and “maxi dial”
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 faulted but the proportions are. This is this watch that Rolex updated at Baselworld 2016, with the new Rolex Datejust 41. And as announced at Baselworld 2017, it now comes in steel.
The Rolex Datejust 41… in Steel
Well, first of all, don’t expect some drastic changes to the Datejust. It’s Rolex we’re talking about and every new model is typically more of an evolution of the previous one rather than a complete overhaul. Thus, the Datejust 41, the one that replaces the Datejust 2, shares many similarities, the first one being its 41mm diameter. Thus, you might think it will face the same issue: being bulky. However, you’d be wrong. Indeed, Rolex applied on the Datejust the same recipe as the Day-Date 40 launched in 2015: slimmer case, thinner bezel, and more tapered lugs. Overall, this is just about proportions, yet these new proportions make the Datejust a lot more elegant and restrained.
Seen from the side, the central container that contains the movement is slimmer, narrower and the tips of the lugs are more curved and more pointy, meaning that it both gives the watch a more slender shape and – important fact – the Datejust 41 perfectly “hugs” the wrist – even for those with smaller wrists. This watch might be 41mm across, it definitely wears smaller. Also, the slimmer case allows wearing this watch under a cuff, which is rather important considering where most of the wearers will use this watch (business environment or casual chic places). In short, the case is more elegant, more compact and the different proportions given by the larger dial/thinner bezel gives more presence to this watch.
Compared to the two-tone Rolesor version introduced in 2016, the Rolex Datejust 41 in steel presented this year is just about the difference in materials. However, it’s a bit more complex than just steel on steel… In fact, the Datejust 41 in steel can also be named Rolesor, if it comes with a fluted bezel. I know, it’s a bit complex. At Rolex, if the fluted bezel is a sort of hallmark, it also implies the use of white gold on steel watches, as the “Crown” never manufactures these fluted bezels in steel. However, when the Datejust features a flat bezel (such as the grey dial ref. 126300 above), it means that the case and the bracelet are 100% stainless steel. Follow me…?
What changed on the Rolex Datejust 41 is not so much about the dial, with the exception of the slightly slimmer applied indexes. Then again, it’s no revolution, however, this befits quite well the new case. In terms of colours, the choice is wide, yet highly classical: blue, white, black, silver, anthracite. If you’re looking for more colourful options, take a look at the Oyster Perpetual 39mm ref. 114300. The Datejust is a classic among the classics… However, there was very good news too: the comeback of the Jubilee bracelet, in addition to the 3-link Oyster bracelet. Its iconic 5-link profile, as well as its legendary comfort, will be more than welcome by some on the Datejust 41. It now features a seamless integration to the case (hidden under the bezel). Both the Jubilee and the Oyster bracelet feature the folding Oysterclasp with Easylink 5 mm comfort extension link.
The other novelty concerns the movement, as inside the new generation of the Datejust 41 is the calibre 3235, offering improvements in terms of precision, resistance to shocks and magnetic fields, upgraded power reserve (now 70 hours) and winding efficiency. This movement, based on the new architecture launched on the Day-Date 40, will slowly replace the iconic but quite old calibre 3135 and 3136 (as seen in the Submariner or the previous Sea-Dweller and of course in the Datejust 2). It is not just an evolution of the existing 3135 / 3136 movements, as over 90% of the parts are new. Several fields of research have been implemented in the 32xx series, including the consumption of energy, its renewing and its storage and finally the precision. It features the new Chronergy escapement and the balance wheel is fitted with the Parachrom hairspring, a paramagnetic alloy exclusive to Rolex. It is regulated within tolerances of −2/+2 seconds per day or more than twice that required of an official chronometer.
Finally, there’s the overall quality of the watch, which is simply unbeatable in this price range – it’s quite difficult to find a watch priced below 10,000 Euro with such a level of precision in the adjustments or such delicate finishings. Whether you look at the case, the bezel or the bracelet, all surfaces are perfectly polished or brushed and no gap is visible between the parts. Same goes for the dials, with superb printings and sharp hands and indexes… Rolex’s quality does not need to be proven anymore, and this Datejust 41 is another example of the Crown’s mastery.
Prices for the new Rolex Datejust 41 range from 6,750 Euro (polished steel bezel, on Oyster bracelet), to 6,850 Euro (polished steel bezel, on Jubilee bracelet). As said, the fluted bezel implies 18k white gold, thus prices are higher: 8,600 Euro on Oyster bracelet and 8,700 Euro on Jubilee bracelet. Available in stores now.
Why is the Datejust such a versatile watch?
Very good question we have here… Indeed, we have always considered this watch as the epitome of the “classic casual watch“. By that understand a watch that can be the one-and-only, the one that you can wear every day, everywhere, with everything. In fact, the Datejust is a rather weird combination of features from dress watches and sports watches. And while this could have simply failed to be balanced, in the case of Datejust, it happens to be a perfect recipe.
- From a dress watch, you’ll get the slim profile, the thin fluted bezel, the rather simple display (time-and-date), the small crown, the delicate touches such as the baton hands or the applied markers, the classic colours (blue and silver, anthracite)
- From a sports watch, you’ll get the strong steel case, the 100m water resistance, the luminous hands and markers and the full metallic attire
As simple as it is, it makes the Datejust a watch that is complete. It’s thin and restrained enough to be worn with a suit and to fit under a cuff, the colours available are easy to match with dark blue, black or grey (the holy trinity of suit colours), it flies under the radar enough to never be shocking during a business meeting. Also, the 41mm diameter makes it sportier and more modern than the classical 36mm version. The case is solid as a rock, the full metallic look will be great on weekends too and the 100m water resistance is more than enough for a jump in the sea… Just like an Audi Q5 that can take the kids to school before going to a meeting and ride comfortably some clients, as well as handling a bit of mud during the weekends. This is it, the Datejust is an all-rounder that will never look inappropriate (except maybe with a tuxedo…), making it the ultimate SUW – Sports Utility Watch.
Technical Specifications – Rolex Datejust 41 in Steel
- Case: 41mm diameter – Steel (flat polished bezel) or white Rolesor (steel and 18k white gold for the fluted bezel) – sapphire crystal with AR coating, cyclops lens over the date – water resistant to 100m –
- Movement: Calibre 3235 – mechanical with automatic winding – 70h power reserve – 28,800 vibrations/h – 31 jewels – hours, minutes, seconds and instantaneous date
- Bracelet: Oyster 3-piece bracelet or Jubilee 5-piece bracelet – Rolex-patented Easylink rapid extension system
- Reference: 126300 (anthracite dial with polished steel bezel and Jubilee bracelet) – 126334 (blue dial with 18k white gold fluted bezel and Oyster bracelet)
- Price: from 6,750 Euro to 8,700 Euro