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Rolex Datejust 31 Watches: 2020 Model Buying Guide

Paul Altieri

Almost getting overlooked among Rolex’s belated 2020 releases is a quartet of new Datejust 31 watches. Technically a mid-size model, but a Lady-Datejust in all but name, the 31mm is aimed very much at a female audience and these latest join the ranks of the second smallest of the model’s five sizes.

The dimensions grant a noticeable step-up in wrist presence over the 28mm model, and the Rolex Datejust 31 is fast becoming the most popular piece in the range among women, a highly versatile watch with a vast array of options.

These most recent introductions are, in fact, really only two different references, all a part of the modern ref. 278xxx series. Three vary simply in dial color, the fourth has been given a diamond bezel, and there are two bracelet types available. Below, we take a look in a bit more detail.

Rolex Datejust 31 2020

Rolex Datejust 31 Stainless Steel Oyster Bracelet Roman Dial

Key Features:

– All Models in White Rolesor

– Dials in Aubergine, Mint Green, White Lacquer, or Dark Grey

– Aubergine dial model fitted with Diamond bezel and Oyster bracelet

– Other versions fitted with fluted bezel in 18k white gold

– White dial model on Oyster bracelet; Green & Grey models on Jubilee

– All models powered by Rolex Cal. 2236 with Syloxi hairspring

– Retail prices range from $7,800 to $16,050

Click here to learn more about the Rolex Datejust.

Rolex Datejust 31

While nowhere near as blinding as the selection of dials chosen for this year’s crop of Oyster Perpetuals, the new range of Datejust 31 models display a pleasing variety of faces, ranging from the eye-catching to the understated.

Aubergine (ref. 278384 RBR) $16,050

Undoubtedly the most striking belongs on the ref. 278384 RBR, its dial a deep aubergine with a sunray finish. Hour markers are Roman numerals, with the six (represented by VI), set with 11 diamonds. A further 46 brilliant cut stones are arranged around the bezel.

Like the others in the series, it is a white Rolesor piece, meaning that its case, crown and bracelet are forged in Rolex’s own Oystersteel, while the bezel is 18K white gold. White Rolesor differs from the yellow or Everose versions. The latter two use the precious metal to form the crown and central bracelet links as well as the bezel, to give a true two-tone visual. As a result, white Rolesor models are usually the least expensive.

Mint Green (ref. 278274) $8,050

Next is the mint green dial piece, which is again given a sunray finish, although the dial doesn’t look that ‘minty’ – it actually seems relatively close to the “olive green” color that is featured on certain Day-Date 40 watches. Nevertheless, it is fitted with a white gold fluted bezel and a Jubilee bracelet, the most intricate of Rolex’s three metal bands, with its five staggered semi-circular links. As a result, the watch has a particularly refined, sophisticated air, the dial finished off with simple baton hour markers.

White Lacquer (ref. 278274) $7,800

The white lacquer dial model is arguably the least formal of the four. Its coloring lends it a bright, relaxed look and it sits on the sporty three-link Oyster bracelet. But the combination of the elaborate fluted bezel and Roman numeral indexes mean it is still elegant enough to be worn as a dress watch.

Dark Grey (ref. 278274) $8,050

And lastly, the sunray dark grey dial piece is the most incognito, an effortlessly stylish addition for those comfortable not drawing all the attention to themselves. It too has been given the five-link Jubilee bracelet and a white gold fluted bezel.

Rolex Datejust 31 Everose Rolesor Diamond Bezel

Rolex Datejust 31 Details

As is the case across the board at Rolex in the modern era, the hands and hour markers on all four of the new Datejust 31 models are made from white gold. The two examples with baton indexes (the Dark Grey and Mint Green) have their markers filled with Chromalight, Rolex’s own luminescent material. On those versions, the hands have small lume strips too.

The two bracelet types have different fastening systems. The Oyster bracelet on the aubergine and white dial pieces feature the Oysterclasp and Easylink extension, so the bracelet length can be increased by around 5mm without tools. The Jubilee has the concealed Crownclasp, first introduced on the Day-Date’s President bracelet. It gives the impression of one seamless band, with only the Rolex coronet marking the joint.

Aside from that, all is as it should be. The date display in the three o’clock window is covered by the Cyclops lens and adjusted easily via the crown with the Quickset function. The sapphire crystal is scratch-resistant and extremely tough, and the watch is fitted with Rolex’s Twinlock system, providing a water resistance of 100m. Although the Rolex Datejust is about as traditional as a wristwatch can get, it is powered by one of the most cutting-edge calibers in production.

Datejust 31 Movement

They may not get the headlines, but the movements driving Rolex’s range of ladies’ watches are, if anything, even more impressive than those in their larger models. They have the same job to perform, and the same accuracy standards to uphold, but have to achieve it all with far smaller components and proportionately tighter tolerances.

The calibers found inside previous generations of the women’s Datejust watches, the Cal. 21xx series, still hold the record for highest first time pass rate at the COSC, the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute. The contemporary collection of the 28mm and 31mm Datejust models are all powered by the Cal. 2236, first released in 2014. Also found in the 37mm Yacht-Master and 34mm Pearlmaster, it was the first movement from Rolex to have a silicon hairspring.

Known as Syloxi, it has several advantages over traditional hairsprings. Silicon, as a material, doesn’t need lubrication and is unaffected by magnetic fields. As well as that, the spring is coated in an oxide layer, using DRIE (deep reacting ion etching), leaving it resistant to temperature changes as well. However, Rolex already had a proprietary hairspring material: Parachrom. Incredibly, it is thought that Syloxi outperforms even that, with the brand having come up with a way to make it more stable in different positions. At the moment, the Syloxi and blue Parachrom hairsprings are both in use, across various model ranges. Whether the silicon component will start to replace the older part remains to be seen.

Rolex Datejust 31 White Rolesor Diamond Dial Fluted Bezel

A History of the Rolex Datejust 31

The first Datejust, a 36mm model, was released in 1945. It would take more than a decade before the Lady-Datejust was introduced, in a tiny 26mm size. That was followed a couple of years later by the 31mm at the end of the 1950s. the 31mm model offered a welcome midway point between the especially petite smallest piece and the 34mm model which (for reasons only really known to Rolex themselves) has always been called simply the Date.

The 31mm Rolex Datejust would go on to become one of the bestselling versions of the watch among women, and still is today. In fact, there are more variations in the current catalog at this size than there are of the Lady-Datejust, which increased in size to 28mm in 2015.

The Options

Today, it is only the smallest two iterations in the Datejust range that are available in solid gold. The steel/gold mix of Rolesor is the closest the 34mm, 36mm, and 41mm pieces get. Consequently, that now leaves us with seven broad categories for the Datejust 31 model:

– Stainless Steel

– Yellow Rolesor

– Everose Rolesor

– White Rolesor

– 18k All-Yellow Gold

– 18k All-Everose Gold

– 18k All White Gold

Among that, there are three distinct bezel types (smooth, fluted, and gem-set), along with three different bracelets (Oyster, Jubilee, and President), and a total of four different types of hour markers (batons, Roman numerals, Arabic numerals, gem-set). On top of all that are the enormous number of dials, in various colors and materials (mother of pearl, malachite, etc.) as well as full pavé diamonds.

For the most part, these are all transposable. A model in one of the seven metals can be had with any of the three bezels, any of the bracelets and with a dial of a certain color with a particular set of indexes. All of which explains why the Datejust 31-specific part of the Rolex website goes on for 32 pages.

However, there are a few exceptions, most of them reserving the more luxurious Rolex options for the top of the range pieces. For example, there are no stainless steel or Rolesor watches with pavé diamond dials. Similarly, there are no stainless steel fluted bezels in the collection anywhere – that type of bezel has always been in solid gold. It is the same story with the President bracelet, which is reserved only for the all-gold models. However, you can have a gemstone encrusted bezel on a Rolesor watch, the just-released aubergine model being one example.

All in all, it is relatively confusing, and makes the Datejust 31 about the most chameleonic creation in Rolex’s entire portfolio. There are so many possible combinations it would actually be a surprise to see two the same.

Rolex Datejust 31 Stainless Steel White Roman Dial

Vintage Datejust 31

The current Rolex Datejust 31 collection starts at a little under $7,000. That’s for an all steel, smooth bezel model. At the top end, an Everose piece, on a President bracelet and swamped in diamonds on every surface will set you back north of $40,000.

However, a quick search of the pre-owned market will soon show you how affordable older generations can be. Because the watch has always been one of Rolex’s strongest sellers, and as they have never restricted the supply of them as they do with some others in the catalog, there are plenty in circulation. That keeps prices extremely reasonable.

Even for the last reference family which ran up to 2019, the ref. 178xxx powered by the Cal. 2235 (identical save for the silicon hairspring), the price drops steeply. You can have the steel model for about $5,000. A steel model topped with a white gold fluted bezel is around $6,000. If you want the luxury of gold or Rolesor, these too can be had for less than $10,000, some with diamonds on the bezel or markers (or both). In short, it is a great deal of watch for not a lot of money.

The Datejust is often people’s first thought when they hear the name Rolex. It is a pure archetype of the brand, a beautiful blank canvas of a watch, onto which can be imparted any personality the wearer wants through their selection of dial, bezel and bracelet options.

The Rolex Datejust 31 is about the most popular version for women, a bolder statement than the classic Lady-Datejust but one that doesn’t overpower. The new models released this year carry on in the same vein, a varied foursome of new alternatives, destined to be widely admired. However, pre-owned and vintage pieces offer some of the best value for money and should certainly not to be ignored.

Rolex Datejust 31 White Rolesor Diamond Bezel 31mm Diamond Dial
Paul Altieri