Introduced in the early 1960s and known as the slightly smaller brother to the iconic Datejust, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date ref. 1500 is the perfect vintage Rolex watch for daily wear and use. Robust enough to stand the rigors of everyday life but classic enough to be worn with a suit and tie, the Rolex Date reference shares the same in-house, chronometer-certified Perpetual movement as its larger Datejust sibling, granting it identical performance despite its smaller case diameter and lower price point.
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Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date ref. 1500
Rolex 1500 Key Features:
Case Diameter: 34mm
Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds + Date
Materials: Stainless Steel; Stainless Steel + Gold; Yellow Gold; Rose Gold
Dial: Multiple Dial Styles and Colors Available
Bezel: Fixed; Smooth
Crystal: Acrylic w/ Cyclops Magnification Lens
Movement: Caliber 1565 (cal. 1560); Cal. 1575 (cal. 1570)
Bracelet: Oyster; Jubilee
About the Rolex Date 1500
First appearing during the 1950s, the Rolex Date offers much of the same design and functionality as the classic 36mm Datejust, but with a smaller 34mm case diameter. Although it has existed as a number of different references over the years, the reference 1500 is the quintessential example of Rolex’s smaller date-displaying wristwatch. First appearing during the early 1960s and remaining in production through the end of the 1970s, the Rolex Date ref. 1500 was produced in a number of different materials and fitted with a variety of different dials over the course of its production.
The Rolex Date 1500 could just as easily be considered a date-displaying version of the classic 34mm Oyster Perpetual as it could a 2mm smaller version of the Datejust. Although it was never offered with quite the same range of options as the Datejust collection, the Rolex Date reference 1500 does share the exact same COSC-certified movement as Rolex’s Datejust watches from the same era. Unlike some of Rolex’s other watches with 34mm case diameters, such as the Air-King and Oysterdate (which were not chronometer-certified), the Rolex Date makes absolutely zero compromises in regards to timekeeping accuracy or overall reliability.
As one of the least expensive vintage Rolex watches, the reference 1500 Rolex Date offers tremendous value for the money, and represents classic Rolex at its very best. Aside from its functional design, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date ref: 1500 is an appealing timepiece to own due to its easy-to-wear design that has remained timeless throughout the past half a century. With most examples priced between $2,500 and $5,000 on the pre-owned market, it’s also incredibly affordable for a timeless classic from the world’s most famous luxury watch manufacturer. Let’s take a look at the Rolex Date 1500 and its key features in a little more detail.
Rolex Date 1500 Key Features
Despite being similar to both the 34mm Rolex Oyster Perpetual and the 36mm Rolex Datejust, the Rolex Date ref. 1500 does have some key characteristics that define the model. When it was still in production, the reference 1500 became a bit of a catch-all for Rolex’s smaller 34mm date-displaying models. Although most Rolex Date 1500 watches you will encounter are entirely stainless steel models, Rolex also produced versions in Yellow Rolesor (stainless steel and yellow gold), along with both solid yellow gold and even rose gold models.
34mm Oyster Case
The key factor that separates the Rolex Date ref. 1500 from the standard Datejust of the same era is its slightly smaller case. While the classic size of the men’s Rolex Datejust is 36mm, the case size of Rolex Date measures 34mm, similar to the Air-King and Oyster Perpetual models that Rolex was producing at that time. However, despite being 2mm smaller than the Datejust, the Oyster case of the reference 1500 Rolex Date offers the same legendary water resistance for which Rolex watches are known.
Just like the Datejust, the water-resistance of the Rolex Date ref. 1500 is achieved due to its use of a screw-down crown and case-back. By having both the winding crown and case-back screw down against the solid middle case, the Rolex Date 1500 is able to be hermetically sealed against moisture and dirt.
Acrylic Crystal with Cyclops
Like other vintage Rolex watches, the reference 1500 Date is fitted with an acrylic crystal (plastic/plexiglass) rather than one made from synthetic sapphire like on modern Rolex watches. When the ref. 1500 was first released during the early 1960s, all Rolex watches were fitted with acrylic crystals, and even though Rolex started using sapphire on certain models near the end of the reference 1500’s production run, all Rolex Date ref. 1500 watches are fitted with acrylic crystals
Additionally, much like the majority of Rolex’s other date-displaying watches, the acrylic crystal on the reference 1500 features the brand’s signature Cyclops magnification above the date window, which magnifies the calendar display by 2.5 times for facilitated viewing. Sapphire is significantly more scratch-resistant than acrylic, but acrylic can be easily polished should it receive any minor scratches and scuffs during regular wear and use. Lastly, it’s also worth noting that Rolex no longer uses acrylic crystals on its watches, so the presence of one on the Date ref. 1500 provides the watch with an unmistakable vintage look and feel.
Although Rolex produced variations of the Date that featured different style bezels, such as the ref. 1501, ref. 1503, and ref. 1507, the classic configuration for the reference 1500 Date is with a smooth bezel, regardless of metal type. The most commonly found configuration of the watch is an entirely stainless steel model with a smooth bezel, but you will also find both two-tone and solid gold versions of the reference 1500, both of which are fitted with matching gold bezels.
With that in mind, it’s important to note that a fair number of the reference 1500 Rolex Date watches out there are fitted with other styles of bezels such as fluted or engine-turned. Some of these bezels are later-era replacements; but some were even sold that way, often at the request of the buyers. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Rolex did not keep nearly as tight a control over its watches or retail partners, and there are numerous documented instances of certain older Rolex models having their bezels or bracelets swapped for different styles at the point of sale, as the retailer would try its best to accommodate the wishes of the customer.
COSC Chronometer Certified Movement
Another key feature of the Rolex Date reference 1500 is its chronometer-certified Perpetual movement. Just like the 36mm Datejust watches that Rolex was producing during the same era, the ref. 1500 features an automatic self-winding movement, designed and manufactured entirely in-house by Rolex and tested and certified as an official chronometer by the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).
Depending on the year of production, Rolex Date ref. 1500 watches can either be powered by the Caliber 1565 or Caliber 1575 movements. Rolex updated the movement in the reference 1500 Date from the Cal. 1565 to the Cal. 1575 around the mid-1960s. The updated movement brought with it a higher frequency of 19,800bph (compared to the 18,000 offered by the Cal. 1565) and a slightly longer power reserve (48 hours compared to 42 hours). Around 1972, the Caliber 1575 received an update, giving users the ability to “hack” the seconds, where the seconds hand comes to a complete stop when the crown is pulled out for more precise time setting. Despite the slight difference in movements, both the Caliber 1565 and Caliber 1575 (in all their forms) are COSC-certified chronometers and will promise real-world timekeeping performance that is virtually identical.
Lastly, it’s also worth noting that you will not find “1565” or “1575” engraved on the bridges of the movements for the Rolex Date ref. 1500. Just like with its larger Datejust sibling (and all other Rolex watches that rely on these calibers), the movements will all be engraved with either “1560” or “1570” as both calibers are simply the date-displaying versions of the Caliber 1560 and Caliber 1570. The bridges are the same for both the date and no-date versions of these movements, and so Rolex only made a single part for the base calibers, rather than two identical parts with different markings.
Oyster or Jubilee Bracelets
The classic configuration for the Rolex Date reference 1500 is for it to be paired with the brand’s signature three-link Oyster bracelet, but you will also find ref. 1500 watches fitted with the dressier 5-link Jubilee. Although the Jubilee bracelet was originally designed specifically for the launch of the Datejust collection in 1945, Rolex has made it available on a number of other watches over the years. Given the numerous similarities between the Rolex Date and Datejust, the Jubilee is a natural fit for the reference 1500 and it provides it with a noticeably more dressy overall appearance.
It is also worth noting that although the Rolex Date has a case that measures just 2mm smaller than the standard-size Datejust, the two watches actually have different lug width measurements and consequently use different bracelets. While the classic 36mm Datejust has a lug width of 20mm, the 34mm Rolex Date has a lug width of 19mm. While the bracelet itself is thinner, the difference is most notable at the claps, as the bracelet fitted to the ref. 1500 has a thinner clasp than the ones found on Rolex’s Datejust watches.
Rolex Date ref. 1500 Price and Availability
The 34mm Rolex Date has always been slightly less expensive than the 36mm Datejust; however, the difference in price becomes even greater on the pre-owned market. Although performance will be virtually identical between the reference 1500 Rolex Date and its larger Datejust siblings from the 4-digit reference number generation, you can typically find the 34mm ref. 1500 available for a significant discount compared to their 36mm Datejust counterparts.
While you might expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $4,000 to $5,000 for a stainless steel Datejust from this era, most stainless steel Rolex Date reference 1500 watches can be found for anywhere between $2,500 and $3,500. This only represents a minor step up in price compared to other 34mm vintage Rolex models, such as the Air-King ref. 5500, but the reference 1500 also offers chronometer-certification in addition to the additional date complication. Although two-tone and solid gold examples can easily sell for over $5,000, the classic stainless steel Rolex Date ref. 1500 is one of the least expensive vintage Rolex watches available, making it an excellent point of entry for those looking to start a vintage Rolex collection.
Best Value Vintage Rolex
Often overlooked in favor of Rolex’s various vintage sports watch references, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date reference 1500 is one of the last affordable vintage Rolex models out there. Simpler in price to a 34mm Oyster Perpetual or Air-King from the same era, the Rolex Date ref. 1500 arguably offers more bang-for-buck than either, boasting a movement that is both chronometer-certified and date-displaying.
Furthermore, while the Rolex Date 1500 offers the exact same COSC-certified movement as its larger Datejust siblings, it is significantly less expensive than any of the 36mm Datejust watches that make up the 4-digit reference generation. Lastly, with the addition of the Cyclops magnification lens on the crystal – an inherently-Rolex design trait – the reference 1500 Date offers all of the same classic and timeless styling that defines vintage Rolex watches.
The classic and timeless design of the Rolex Date ref. 1500 is as relevant today as it was when it first appeared back in the early 1960s. With features like an incredibly versatile case size, a reliable chronometer-certified movement, and an inherently-retro acrylic crystal, the Rolex 1500 offers near-unparalleled value among the various vintage Rolex watches out there. Additionally, due to the wide range of dials and materials, there are countless variations out there, making the Rolex reference 1500 an excellent option for first-time buyers and seasoned collectors alike.