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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Day-Date 36 is currently produced under ref. 128238, featuring the updated caliber 3255 Perpetual movement. It also sports all the traditional gold Day-Date design traits, including the President bracelet, fluted bezel, and dual apertures on the dial. What makes the current-production Day-Date special, aside from the movement, are its carefully refined proportions. Next to its predecessor, ref. 118238, the current production model is slightly more elegant with less robust lugs. However, it does keep many of the same upgrades, such as an engraved “ROELX ROLEX ROLEX” rehaut and polished lugs.
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, further adding to the versatility of the Rolex Presidential collection.
Symbol of Power and Success
Because gold Rolex watches require a serious investment, they are often the go-to watch for some of the world’s most successful and influential individuals. Want a wristwatch that screams, “I’ve made it?” The gold Rolex Presidential is the watch to own. As a result, many former American Presidents have been known to wear the Day-Date, which is why the model is known as the “President” in the first place. Rolex has even referred to the Day-Date as the “President’s Watch” in past advertisements.
Lyndon B. Johnson was among the first Presidents to don the Day-Date on his wrist, followed by Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump. JFK was also rumored to have been gifted a Day-Date by none other than Marilyn Monroe. However, legend has it that he immediately rejected the watch and has never been confirmed to have worn it. Still, his rumored Day-Date has resurfaced on the secondary market, complete with the engraving, “Jack With Love As Always From Marilyn May 29th, 1962.”
The list of famous gold Day-Date wearers doesn’t stop there, either. Everyone from golfer Jack Nicklaus to hip hop mogul Jay-Z and even the Dalai Lama have been spotted with the coveted gold Rolex on their wrists. Women also adore the President’s watch. Victoria Beckham and beloved actress Jennifer Aniston have even stepped out with the gold stunner on their wrists. With so much notoriety, it’s no wonder so many collectors strive to add the gold Day-Date to their watch boxes.
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 and Explorer 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.
The Day-Date price can vary rather dramatically, depending on the reference number and the condition of the watch itself. However, you can expect to pay at least $12k for an “entry-level” model. For example, ref. 1803 resells for between $12k and $15k. Ref. 18038 averages around $15k pre-owned, and its successor, ref. 18238 trades hands for around $19k. 6-digit Day-Dates command a slightly higher premium of around $25k for ref. 118238 and upwards of $50k for the current-production ref. 128238. To compare, on the retail level, ref. 128238 is $35k, and the 41mm model, ref. 228238, is $38,500 as of 2023.
While fashion trends come and go, gold Rolex watches always stay in style. Additionally, Rolex gold tends to hold its value well, particularly long-term, which is why so many horology enthusiasts consider the gold Presidential Day-Date to be such a solid investment. There’s no better place to purchase one than at Bob’s Watches, the world’s largest and most trusted pre-owned Rolex exchange.