The beloved 1800 family of watches was introduced in 1959. Of these, the 1803 is arguably the most famous. These
watches were initially fitted with the Calibre 1555, replaced in the mid-1960s by the Calibre 1556, which featured a
faster vibrational speed. In 1959, according to Rolex mythology, a total number of just six steel 6611 watches were
made. Although other steel models are known, the tiny number from 1959 makes these the holy grail of Day-Dates. It
is not clear whether they were commercially produced models or prototype watches made for internal use that
eventually found their way to the market. I’m inclined towards the latter, but there is no definitive answer. In
1969, the Day-Date added a “concealed clasp” to its distinct bracelet, known as the President bracelet.
The 1970s was a period of strong technical advancement for the Day-Date. In 1972, the Calibre 1556 in the Day-Date
became equipped with a hacking feature that meant the seconds hand would stop when the crown was pulled out. The
watch was also fitted with a sapphire crystal around this time. In 1977, a new Calibre 3055 was fitted to the
Day-Date, and the reference numbers for the watches grew by one additional digit: 18xxx. The key advantages to the
Calibre 3055 were a 4 Hz vibrational speed for better autonomy from micro-shocks, and an all-important quickset
function for the date. Before this, the date and days of the week could be adjusted only by turning the central hour
and minute hands through the entire calendar cycle.
In 1988, Rolex unveiled the new Calibre 3155 for the Day-Date, which was something of a revelation, because for the
first time the model had a double-quickset. This meant that both the days of the week and date could rapidly be set
using the crown, independent of the hour and minute hands. Reference numbers for the model became 182xx and 183xx
(for models with diamond-set cases).
In 2000, reference numbers changed again to encompass six digits: 118xxx. Improvements related mostly to bracelet and
clasps. To this day, the Rolex Day-Date 36mm is one of the most stunning watches in modern horology. My favourites
from this collection of watches are those bearing particularly evocative coloured dials: a yellow-gold model with a
green dial, a yellow-gold model with a cognac dial, a white-gold model with a ravishing cherry dial, and a
lust-inducing Everose (Rolex’s proprietary rose gold, which does not fade over time) model with chocolate dial.
The current collection Day-Date 36 coloured dials were introduced in 2013. These modern Day-Date 36mm watches are
each fitted on alligator straps of complementary hues and these charming watches offer infinite chromatic expressive
possibilities. It should be noted that one of the world’s ultimate rakes, the style panjandrum Nick Foulkes, wears
the 36mm yellow-gold model with antique wood dial with unabashed aplomb.
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