If you’re in the market to purchase your very first Rolex but are concerned about the price, fret not. There are plenty of models well suited for first-time Rolex buyers. Case in point is the Rolex Date model, also known as the Oyster Perpetual Date. Although it is sometimes confused with the Datejust, the Date is a separate collection entirely. The Rolex Date is actually in between an Air-King (previous versions not the current one) and a Datejust. Let’s find out why.
The Rolex Date 1500 with a linen dial is an affordable Rolex and a great first watch.
The Rolex Date Design
The Rolex Date made its debut in the 1950s—following the 1945 launch of the Datejust. While both models featured an Oyster case, a date window, and a Cylops lens on the crystal, there are some fundamental differences between the two.
The design of the Rolex Date 1503 is fairly simple and clean. It comes with the date, and a cyclops.
Firstly, the Rolex Date sports a 34mm case size. This is 2mm smaller than the traditional Datejust and the same size as the traditional Air-King. I say traditional, because of course today, there are several larger sizes of the Datejust, such as Datejust II and Datejust 41. Similarly, the Air-King also has a new larger size today.
In addition to the case, the bracelet width of the Rolex Date is slightly thinner at 19mm rather than the Datejust’s 20mm width. What’s more, it’s important to note that older versions of the Rolex Date—similar to other vintage Rolex models—have acrylic crystal protecting the face of the watch instead of the sapphire crystal used today.
There are several variations within the Rolex Date family, including metal options, bezel assortments, bracelet choices, and dial varieties.
The Rolex Date Calibers
Earlier versions of the Rolex Date from the 1950s, such as the ref. 6534 ran on the Rolex Caliber 1030, chronometer-certified. Later on, in the 1960s, the Rolex Date ref. 15xx models had either the Rolex Caliber 1565 or 1575. These automatic movements are non-quickset date ones, meaning the hands have to be moved around the dial to change the date.
Yellow Gold Rolex Date with fluted bezel and Jubilee bracelet.
In the 1980s, the quickset date function was finally included in the Rolex Date lineup (ref. 152xx) with the introduction of the Caliber 3035. Thus, wearers can easily change the date without having to manipulate the center hands. A practical function indeed.
Today’s versions of the Oyster Perpetual Date 34 (ref. 1152xx) have the latest generation of the Rolex automatic movement, the famous Caliber 3135. Reliable, robust, and precise, the Caliber 3135 is the brand’s workhorse, so to speak.
Rolex Date Options for First-Time Rolex Buyers
The beauty of the Rolex Date model for first-time Rolex buyers is the variety available within the collection despite its straightforward core design. Wearers can opt for smooth, fluted, or engine-turned bezels. There’s also the choice between Oyster or Jubilee bracelets. And finally, there’s a slew of dial colors and index varieties from stick to Roman numerals.
Popular vintage Date references include the stainless steel ref. 1500, stainless steel with the engine-turned bezel ref. 1501, the yellow gold ref. 1503, and the two-tone steel and gold ref. 1505. The prices of these vintage Rolex Date references are particularly attractive. Steel versions are often less than $3,000, two-tone versions are typically under $4,000, while gold models (on leather straps) are generally below $5,000.
This Date from the late 80’s has a two-tone jubilee bracelet and a quickset date. (’86-’87)
As mentioned, the newer versions of the Rolex Date from the late 1980s/1990s and early 2000s include the quickset date, thus are slightly pricier. Yet, they are still very affordable as an entry-level Rolex. In the pre-owned luxury watch market, the steel ref. 15200 models range from $3,000 to $4,000 while the two-tone ref. 15203 versions range from $3,500 to $4,500.
The latest Oyster Perpetual Date 34 that’s part of Rolex’s current catalog is offered in full stainless steel or stainless steel with an 18k white gold fluted bezel. Furthermore, there are some diamond versions too. The steel ref. 115200 retails for $6,300, the steel and white gold ref. 115234 retails for $7,450, and the diamond versions of the ref. 115234 retail for $8,350. Naturally, pre-owned versions of these current Rolex Date models are available in the secondary market at significantly lower prices.
The Oyster Perpetual Date—The Ideal Entry-Level Rolex
As a first foray into the world of Rolex watches, the Oyster Perpetual Date is a great first taste. It has everything you need from an everyday Rolex—the famous Oyster case, the date window, the Cyclops lens, the automatic mechanical movement—and nothing you don’t. It’s a great way to attain the Rolex membership without breaking the bank and makes for a great daily companion.