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Why the Rolex Presidential is the Most Iconic Gold Watch

May 1, 2020

BY Paul Altieri


There is no shortage of gold luxury watches on the market, and while some come from top industry brands such as Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Omega, and Panerai, none are as universally recognizable as Rolex. While the brand produces a number of all-gold watches, it is the Rolex Presidential Day-Date that is easily the most iconic. Even if someone knows absolutely nothing about watches, chances are, they have laid their eyes upon a Day-Date at some point in their lives.

Why the Rolex Presidential is the Most Iconic Gold Watch

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A legend is Born

The Rolex Day-Date is often associated with power and success, with a long history of appearing on the wrists of some of the world’s most notable men and women. It hit the market in 1956 and is distinguished by two signature features on its dial: the day of the week (spelled out in full) at the 12 o’clock location and the automatically-changing date display at the 3-hour marker.

The Rolex Presidential is always presented in precious metal, with yellow gold being the most common and memorable. However, it has also been produced in white gold, rose gold (aka Everose), and solid platinum, along with the discontinued ‘Tridor’ finish that combines all three colors of gold on a single watch.

Rolex Presidential Most Iconic Gold Watch

In addition to the Day-Date’s signature dial, the timepiece is also well-known for its bracelet, which is officially known as the “President” bracelet – hence the watch’s ‘Rolex Presidential’ nickname. Its design is characterized by its semi-circular, three-piece links and concealed Crownclasp, although some older editions feature a more traditional clasp design.

While the Jubilee and Oyster bracelets are both highly notable in their own right, the President is Rolex’s most premium bracelet option. The notoriety of this iconic bracelet design is so great, that despite the watch being officially named the Oyster Perpetual Day-Date, it is simply known around the world as the Rolex President.

Rolex Presidential Most Famous Gold Watch

Noteworthy Rolex Presidential References

The ref. 1803 is a common variation of the early Rolex Presidential that was introduced at the beginning of the 1960s. It is one of the more commonly available vintage references within the Day-Date collection and remained in production until around 1978.

If you are in the market for a notable vintage Day-Date that won’t break the bank, the ref. 1803 is probably your best bet. It boasts the distinctive retro aesthetic that many Rolex aficionados seek with an acrylic crystal and an older-style Pie Pan dial – features you won’t find on all subsequent Day-Date references.

Vintage Rolex Presidential Best Gold Watch Pie Pan Dial

The ref. 1803 was replaced in the late 1970s by the ref. 18038. With the discontinuation of the Pie Pan dial came a flat dial variation with a slightly more contemporary appeal. The ref. 18038 also marks the first instance of a sapphire crystal and the higher-beat cal. 3055 Perpetual movement within the Day-Date portfolio.

Previously, Rolex Presidential watches were powered by either the cal. 1555 or 1556, which oscillated at a rate of 18,000bph and 19,600bph, respectively. The cal. 3055 beats at a rate of 28,800bph and introduced the Day-Date to the Single Quickset function, which allows users to adjust the date function with a simple twist of the crown.

The next major reference came in the form of the ref. 18238, which looks almost identical to its predecessor, but runs on the cal. 3155 movement with Double Quickset functionality. With this movement, the wearer can adjust both the date and day displays through the crown without disrupting the time-telling hands. Along with a few other upgrades to the movement, the Day-Date 18238 ushered in a new generation of highly precise Rolex President watches.

Rolex Presidential Most Iconic Solid Gold Watch

The ref. 118238 series marked the introduction of a slightly redesigned case and bracelet when it came to the market. The new case featured slightly thicker lugs (now with a high polish surface finish) and the bracelet included more solid links and an improved clasp.

Overall, the 6-digit series offers a more substantial weight on the wrist than its predecessors, signifying an important transition within the Rolex Presidential collection. Despite the cosmetic updates, this generation continued to use the cal. 3155, which remained the Day-Date’s go-to movement until the release of the current cal. 3255 with a longer 70-hour power reserve and a more efficient Chronergy escapement.

The last stop in our exploration of notable Day-Date models is the ref. 228238, which features a larger 40mm case. For decades, the Day-Date was produced with a 36mm case, and after briefly producing a 41mm version of the watch with altered proportions, Rolex decided on a size of 40mm with the ref. 228238, which restored the Day-Date’s classic proportions. It is also important to note that the traditional 36mm version of the yellow gold Day-Date still remains in production today alongside its larger sibling as the ref. 128238, further adding to the versatility of the Rolex Presidential collection.

Rolex Presidential Most Famous Gold Watch Diamond Dial

The Gold Rolex Price and Other Gold Rolex Watches

Regardless of the specific color, all Rolex gold is now 18 karat and produced in-house by Rolex’s own foundry. When it comes to materials, Rolex only uses the finest alloys in a tireless quest for perfection, and specifically engineers its gold for maximum longevity and brilliance.

Rolex’s foundry currently produces all of the gold that it uses for its watches, along with the specialized 904L stainless steel alloy that the brand calls Oystersteel. However, since the Rolex Day-Date is only offered in precious metals, you won’t find any Oystersteel or two-tone options in the Rolex President lineup.

In more recent years, Rolex has increased the use of gold across its various watch collections, and now even some of the brand’s most tool-like collections such as the Sea-Dweller now offer a two-tone option. At the present time, the Submariner, Daytona, GMT-Master II, Sky-Dweller, Datejust, Yacht-Master, Cellini, and Pearlmaster collections all offer solid gold models. However, despite modern trends typically favoring sports watches, it is still the Rolex President that remains the world’s most iconic gold watch.

Rolex Presidential Day-Date Most Iconic Gold Watch



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