The Rolex Datejust is just about as close to an indisputable classic as one can get in the watch industry. That isn’t to say it is to everyone’s tastes, or that everyone has to agree that its design is particularly contemporary, but it would be very hard to argue against the impact the Datejust has had on the consciousness and subconsciousness of those who don’t buy watches as much as it has had on those who do.
What the Rolex Datejust has done, thanks in large part to a fluke of history (being in the right place at the right time can never be underestimated when it comes to the reasons behind the birth of a classic), is implant an archetypal luxury watch in the minds of those who have nothing to do with the industry.
The power to communicate wealth and status that this boundary-breaking icon possesses is perhaps the most defining trait of the collection, simply because it speaks louder and to a wider audience than pretty much any other wristwatch. As an informed industry insider, you may well be sitting there thinking that the Patek Philippe Calatrava or Nautilus are just as well known, or that the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak could give the Rolex Datejust a run for its money in the arena of popular opinion, but I’d beg to differ.
You don’t have to spend long in the watch industry to become very obviously affected by these “industry classics” but their presence is not as ubiquitous, and far less understood outside the inner circle than it seems from the inside looking out. The Rolex Datejust is a wordless expression of class and timelessness, even if (ironically) some within the industry find it a bit anachronistic.
But what are the physical traits that define the very heart of this collection? It is true that with a growing number of available configurations, the essence of the model can be diluted, but in all honesty, Rolex has done an excellent job of limiting the scope for customer creativity while giving the impression of the absolute opposite. Yes, it is possible to add diamond bezels; yes, it is possible to go with a smooth bezel, but somehow the core vibe remains.
If, however, I was to choose the quintessential Rolex Datejust, the one that defines the collection, it would be the model listed under reference 126233. So what is it about this model in particular that makes it the ideal standard-bearer for not just the Datejust family, nor the Rolex brand, but perhaps the whole concept of luxury watches?
The modern Datejust is available in multiple sizes ranging from 28mm up to 41mm. Such a selection provides significant scope to restyle what is essentially the same watch and is a gift horse that shouldn’t be looked in the mouth if you’re ever in search of a pair of his and hers watches. The sweet spot is undoubtedly the classic 36mm. While that sounds small by modern standards, the current Datejust has pretty boxy lugs, which add a bit of heft to the watch on the wrist. Moreover, the fact the watch comes on a bracelet adds just enough presence to make 36mm wear closer to around 40mm on almost any wrist.
And anyway, there’s a kind of quiet strength is taking a smaller watch and showing it can be worn with just as much panache in 2019 as it was in 1980.
There are quite a few dial combinations available these days, but the quintessential Datejust dial has to be the champagne option. Not only does it continue the yellow gold theme on the inside of the case, but it also has a warmth and applicability like few other shades. The champagne doesn’t clash with any item of clothing, or so it seems, era. What should be yet another dated element of this watch continues to look fresh in this frequently updated package.
The fluted bezel
The best aesthetic elements in watch design tend to come about for practical reasons. The fluted bezel on the Rolex Datejust is no exception. Originally conceived as a way to clamp down the glass to prevent water ingress, its purpose is now purely aesthetic; however, it is just as essential to the look and feel of the collection as it once was to keeping water out of the inner workings. It is possible to buy a Datejust without this feature, but why would you? If you don’t like the fluted bezel, skip this collection entirely.
The Jubilee bracelet
One of the most beautiful things in the world is a box-fresh Rolesor steel and gold Jubilee made by Rolex itself. As handsome as the Rolex Datejust watch head looks on a leather strap, it loses so much of its character when separated from the Jubilee bracelet. My advice? Don’t ever do that. Wear it as the brand intended for it to be worn. It won’t let you down.
And it is probably worth mentioning that each of these fantastic timepieces is powered by a Swiss-made in-house movement capable of chronometric performance. The ref. 126233 is powered by the Rolex Caliber 3235, featuring the new, patented Chronergy escapement. It is highly efficient, extremely reliable, and unaffected by magnetic fields.