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Watch Review

Rolex Day-Date President 118238 Ultimate Buying Guide

Paul Altieri

With its own nickname, bracelet, and celebrity status, the Rolex Day-Date wristwatch – aka the popular used Rolex Presidential watch – is undoubtedly a true icon of the luxury watch industry. First released in 1956, the Day-Date changed the watch world forever by being the first timepiece to display both the date and the day of the week, spelled out in full, through windows in the dial.

Over the years, the classic 36mm Rolex Day-Date would be given some improvements, but one of the most memorable would come in the form of the reference 118238 Rolex President, which arrived just after the turn of the new millennium. The overall aesthetic of the Day-Date has remained largely unchanged throughout the years, but the generation that accompanied the ref. 118238 might represent the single greatest aesthetic departure since Rolex phased out pie-pan dials and swapped acrylic crystal for synthetic sapphire in the 1970s. For many collectors, the Day-Date 118238 represents the point in the model’s history when it first started to adopt its modern present-day form. If you’ve been thinking about adding one of these iconic Rolex watches to your collection, then read on to learn all about the Rolex reference 118238.

Rolex Day-Date 118238

Rolex 118238 Day-Date President Yellow Gold 36mm Presidential

Day-Date President 118238 Key Features:

– Reference Number: 118238

– Year of Introduction: 2000

– Case Size: 36mm

– Materials: 18k Yellow Gold

– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display, Day Display

– Dial: Multiple Options Available

– Bezel: Fixed, 18k Yellow Gold, Fluted Style

– Crystal: Sapphire (Flat w/ Cyclops Lens)

– Movement: Rolex Caliber 3155

– Water Resistance: 100 Meters / 330 Feet

– Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet or President Bracelet

– Approx. Price (USD): $24,000 – $43,000 (Pre-Owned)

 Click here for our Ultimate Buying Guide on the Rolex Day-Date.

Rolex 118238 Day-Date 36 President 18k Gold

About The Rolex Day-Date 118238

The Rolex President ref. 118238 was the first yellow gold 6-digit Day-Date watch. Making its debut in 2000, it replaced the preceding Day-Date ref. 18238. The reference 118238 has since been discontinued to make way for the current yellow gold Day-Date 36 ref. 128238. While these references are similar in design, they bring a host of different amenities to the table, from the movement powering the watch to the slight nuances of the case and bracelet. Let’s take a closer look at what makes the Rolex Day-Date 118238 so special.

The reference 118238 wears noticeably larger than older Day-Date models due to broader lugs that feature an entirely high-polished finish. It is also heavier on the wrist because it features a President bracelet that features entirely solid links and is therefore built with more gold. Additionally, the ref. 118238 has an improved concealed folding clasp (known as the Crownclasp) for better security, comfort, and on-wrist aesthetics. When Rolex released the current ref. 128238, the broader proportions of the case seen in the ref. 118238 were refined, and the watch took on an overall more subtle profile on the wrist than its predecessor. If you appreciate a slightly more sporty and robust case, then the Day-Date 118238 should suit your wrist nicely.

Like the previous Day-Date 36, the Rolex ref. 118238 comes equipped with a Twinlock screw-down winding crown for increased water resistance, a screw-down caseback, and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal above the dial, which all allow this version of the Rolex President to be water-resistant up to to 100 meters (330 feet). Also present on the 6-digit model is an engraved rehaut that reads, “ROLEX ROLEX ROLEX” (along with the watch’s unique serial number) as an additional anti-counterfeit measure. These features also carry over to the current generation ref. 128238 and is now a hallmark trait of modern Rolex watches.

Rolex 118238 Day-Date President Diamond Dial 36mm

Rolex Caliber 3155 Movement

While the Rolex Day-Date 36 ref. 118238 keeps the Caliber 3155 movement of earlier versions, those produced in 2015 and after boast Rolex’s new Superlative Chronometer accuracy rating of -2/+2 seconds per day and a five-year guarantee. The in-house Rolex Cal. 3155 drives the center hour, minute, and seconds hands, as well as the instantaneous date and day windows. The Day-Date ref. 118238 also has the Double Quickset feature and hack-seconds function.

In the earlier Rolex Day-Date references, if you wanted to change the day and date on your watch, you had to rotate your center hands past midnight manually. Then in the late 1970s, Rolex manufactured its first quickset functionality for the Day-Date 18038. However, these Single Quickset movements only allowed the date to be changed autonomously from the hands but did not allow for independent adjustment of the day of the week.

Then, with the introduction of the ref. 18238, we got the Caliber 3135 movement and the Double Quickset, allowing the wearer to change both the day and date independently from the time. This means that instead of winding the hands around the dial until the day and date windows change, you can simply rotate the winding crown in a secondary setting position. To use this feature, twist the crown towards the 12-hour marker to adjust the date or towards the 6-hour marker to change the day. Simple, elegant, and efficient, the Day-Date’s Double Quickset function is still a fixture of the Rolex catalog today.

The hacking function (also referred to as stop seconds) allows users to stop the seconds hand when the crown is pulled out to set the time. This feature has many benefits, particularly if you wish to set your watch to a precise time down to the second, such as to synchronize it with the atomic clock or with another watch.

Rolex 118238 Day-Date Yellow Gold President 36mm

A Brief Rolex Day-Date History

When Rolex introduced the Day-Date, it was the first watch to include the day of the week written out in full on the dial, rather than just an abbreviation. It was certainly an innovation of its time and speaks to Rolex’s continued influence on the luxury market because other brands have since adopted the feature for their models as well. The Rolex Day-Date collection is characterized by the day and date displays on the dial and the semi-circular, three-link President Bracelet.

The very first iterations were the ref. 6510 and ref. 6511. However, Rolex quickly replaced them in 1959 with the more recognizable 18xx series, which remained in production until well into the 1970s. The 4-digit series is often distinguished by an acrylic crystal, 36mm case, President bracelet, and a handsome Pie Pan dial with sloped edges. In 1972, the hacking-seconds feature we mentioned above was introduced with the arrival of the cal. 1556 movement.

The 5-digit series debuted in the late 1970s via the 180xx collection, which introduced the Day-Date to the higher-beat Cal. 3055 movement. Of course, this movement also brought with it the Single Quickset function. The 182xx series followed shortly after that in 1988, complete with an even better movement in the form of the Cal. 3155, which featured the Double Quickset function. Despite its increased functionality, it keeps the same 36mm diameter and iconic President bracelet as its predecessors.

That brings us to the 2000s and the release of the star of this review, the reference 118238. Again, at this point in its history, the Day-Date is still 36mm in diameter, powered by the Caliber 3155 movement, and traditionally paired with the iconic President bracelet with curved links, although it is also offered on the classic Oyster bracelet.

From there, Rolex began to experiment with case sizes, releasing the Day-Date II with a 41mm case in 2008. However, this larger model was short-lived, ending production in 2015 to make way for the Day-Date 40 with a slightly more refined case that clocks in 1mm smaller with a 40mm case diameter. The Cal. 3255 made its grand debut alongside the Day-Date 40, replacing the long-running cal. 3155 and bringing with it a longer 70-hour power reserve. It wasn’t until 2019 that this new and improved movement integrated to the Day-Date 36 when the ref. 118238 was discontinued to make way for the current generation ref. 128238.

Rolex 118238 Day-Date President 18k Gold 36mm

The Appeal of the Rolex President

The day and date apertures are high on the list of the Day-Date’s most defining characteristics. However, many collectors argue that what makes this model so appealing to its large and diverse following is its opulent and iconic design. Utilizing only precious metals (in this case solid 18k yellow gold), the Rolex Day-Date ref. 118238 is on par with some of the world’s most lavish timepieces and will surely leave a lasting impression on all who gaze upon it.

With that in mind, despite its opulent solid-gold construction and universally recognized statement-piece reputation, the Rolex Day-Date President remains a watch that is durable enough to be worn all day, every day. Thanks to Rolex’s notoriously tough Oyster Case design, which includes a waterproof screw-down crown and a protective sapphire crystal over the dial, the ref. 118238 will hold its value well and last a lifetime in your watch box.

Today, the Rolex President is a favorite among professional athletes and celebrities, and the 36mm size of the Day-Date ref. 118238 makes it the perfect luxury watch for both men and women. We’ve spotted Jennifer Aniston, Victoria Beckham, Reese Witherspoon, and Rihanna all rocking a yellow gold 36mm Rolex President. Plus, Justin Theroux, Adam Levine, and Eddie Murphy are also fans of the elegant 36mm Rolex Day-Date President in 18k yellow gold.

Rolex 118238 Day-Date Presidential 36mm Yellow Gold

Why is the Day-Date Called the President’s Watch?

It isn’t unusual for many of Rolex’s most popular watches to have charming nicknames to match, and the Day-Date is no exception. When it hit the market in 1956, it was simply referred to by the brand as the “Oyster Perpetual Day-Date.” It was also accompanied by the very first instance of the President Bracelet, complete with semi-circular links. The nickname “President” actually referred to the bracelet before the entire watch took on the prestigious moniker, and although Rolex now formally recognized the “President” name for bracelet style, it remains an unofficial nickname for the watch itself.

Its sole use of precious metal and the exclusivity of the Day-Date eventually attracted numerous American Presidents, including 36th President Lyndon B. Johnson. He was photographed with the iconic gold Rolex on his wrist on numerous occasions during his presidency. Ever the marketing geniuses, Rolex took advantage of Johnson’s love for the Day-Date, releasing marketing materials referring to the Day-Date for the first time as the “President’s Watch.”

From this point forward, the Rolex Day-Date’s fate as a powerful status symbol was sealed. The watch would eventually grace the wrists of many American Presidents, including Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan. It’s even rumored that John F. Kennedy was gifted one of these iconic watches by none other than Marilyn Monroe, although he was never seen wearing it. A universal symbol for success and influence, the Rolex Day-Date President has since become the watch of choice by some of the world’s most notable dignitaries, celebrities, and successful businessmen and women.

Rolex 118238 Day-Date 36mm President Yellow Gold

Rolex 118238 Price

Forged entirely out of solid 18k yellow gold that is produced by Rolex’s own in-house foundry, this watch will hold its value very well. Its style is universally recognized as one of the most exclusive watches on this planet and its classic yet statement-worthy aesthetic is entirely timeless. However, it’s the legacy and heritage of the Rolex Day-Date that will make it an invaluable addition to any luxury watch collection. That’s why if you’re shopping for a Rolex President or just a luxury dress watch, the ref. 118238 is a great model to consider.

The Rolex Day-Date price will vary, depending on the feature set, dial style, and overall condition. Options glittering with diamonds will command a higher price than those without gems. Additionally, the condition of the watch itself and accompanying box and paperwork will also impact the price. Examples without diamonds average around $24k used, while those including gems on the bezel or dial cost anywhere between $25k and $30k on average.

Since its inception in 1956, no watch has come close to making a grand statement like the Rolex President. And the Day-Date 36 ref. 118238 is a contemporary approach to the quintessential classic luxury dress watch.

Rolex 118238 Day-Date 36 President Solid Gold

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Paul Altieri