The Rolex Day-Date

Worn by presidents, leaders and visionaries, the Rolex Day-Date represents the ultimate in prestige, refinement and comfort.

Sitting imperiously at 12 o’clock, burning as brightly as Prometheus’s torch, cleverer than a border collie with spectacles, and capable of speaking 26 different languages, is the day-of-the-week wheel in Rolex’s legendary Day-Date model. However, regardless of which language you choose for your Rolex Day-Date, the watch will identify you as, in Mick Jagger’s perfect description, “a man of wealth and taste”. The model derives its name from its simultaneous display of a fully written day of the week displayed through the aforementioned aperture at 12 o’clock, and a date display at 3 o’clock that is viewed through a magnifying Cyclops integrated into the watch’s crystal.

Early Rolex advertisements for the Day-Date show a pair of impressively dressed guards standing outside a pair of closed stately doors. The ads refer to the type of men who wore the model. “You know their faces from a thousand newspaper photographs… You have seen them and heard their voices on newsreels and on your television screen.” Another ad reads: “It costs one thousand dollars to own the Rolex Day-Date, the watch you so often see on the wrists of presidents everywhere.” It was clear from these messages that Rolex was happily unabashed about the intended audience for this timepiece.


    The Day-Date – sometimes known as the “President” in collector vernacular, thanks to its adoption as the wrist-swag of choice by Lyndon B. Johnson and, allegedly, John F. Kennedy (the watch apparently having been gifted to him by Marilyn Monroe the same night she sang Happy Birthday to him at Madison Square Garden in 1962, and inscribed, “Jack, with love as always from Marilyn”) – was born in 1956. During its 60-plus years of existence, it has made innumerable cinematic appearances and become a symbol of success, virility, power and alpha-male cool.


    There is no better example than when, in the midst of his infamous “Always be closing” speech, pummelling a group of underperforming real-estate salesmen in David Mamet’s seminal Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), Alec Baldwin unsnaps the hidden clasp on his own yellow-gold, champagne-dial Day-Date and holds it in front of a perplexed Ed Harris saying: “You see this watch? This watch cost more than your car.” The watch is the ultimate exclamation point in this verbal smackdown. Lemmon and his beleaguered peers can only stare slack-jawed at the primal totemic symbol of success and might that is the Rolex Day-Date.


    The 1950s was an era in which Rolex had brilliantly asserted its dominance in the tool watch categories. In 1953, it launched the Submariner, which would become the most successful diving watch of all time. In 1954, the brand unveiled the incredible GMT-Master – later adopted by Pan-Am pilots to keep track of two time zones simultaneously while in flight, it was the world’s first dual-time wristwatch.

    But in 1956, Rolex wanted to create something different, a timepiece that asserted its ability in the world of ultra-elegant timepieces. Which, refracted through Rolex’s sensibilities, did not mean a small, dandy’s dress watch but a large (36mm), precious-metal-only chronometer with all its iconic robustness characterised by a screw-down crown, water resistance to 165 feet, and fitted with a precious-metal bracelet. The first references launched were the 6510 and 6511; they lasted only a year before being replaced by refs. 6611, 6612 and 6613, which featured a Calibre 1055 with an all-new free-sprung balance wheel with Microstella regulated screws. This new movement resulted in the watches receiving official certification as chronometers; the dials now read “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” (instead of “Officially Certified Chronometer”, as appeared on the 6510 and 6511).




    October 2020


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