Famous GOATs of different generations have all taken to the Oyster Perpetual Datejust. Winston Churchill. Martin Luther King. One Roger Federer who donned a stainless steel Datejust II with a silver-coloured dial and blue Arabic numerals when lifting his trophy after memorably beating tennis legend Pete Sampras’s record of Grand Slam wins in 2009. But did you know that it was originally designed to be an everyday watch?
Always on the quest for excellence, Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf introduced the Oyster Perpetual Datejust in 1945 in response to how people’s relationship with time was changing. Describing it as a “masterpiece of horological science” that synthesised all that the brand had achieved up till then, he had set out to create a timepiece that allows active and modern individuals to chart the passing of time (and in turn their destiny). What this meant was it had to be comfortable, practical and elegant all at once.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust was the first self‐winding waterproof chronometer wristwatch with a date window (above) at the three o’clock position on the dial. Today, it continues to appeal as a timelessly elegant horological innovation with its wide variety of designs.
Clock the Oyster Perpetual Datejust’s Cyclops lens, which was presented for the first time in 1953 to magnify and make the date window at the three o’clock position – an emblematic feature of the Datejust – more legible. Since translated to other Rolex models as well, the Cyclops lens is these days crafted in sapphire with a double anti-reflective coating to make it even more effective and virtually impervious to scratches.
Adding to the Datejust’s robustness is its hermetically sealed Oyster case with a Twinlock winding crown and a middle case (the part that holds the dial and movement) made from a solid block of Oystersteel, a particularly corrosion-resistant alloy, or 18 ct gold. The result is a watch guaranteed to be waterproof to depths of 100 metres.
Of course, a watch that one can depend on to manage time day to day must also boast engineering excellence. All Oyster Perpetual Datejust models are fitted with self-winding mechanical movements entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex: calibre 2236 in the Datejust 31, and calibre 3235 in the Datejust 36 and Datejust 41. Awarded multiple patents, these promise outstanding performance in terms of precision, power reserve, resistance to shocks, convenience and reliability. In fact, in addition to being certified a chronometer by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute, or COSC for short, the institute responsible for verifying the precision of Swiss watches, every movement is tested a second time after casing by Rolex itself, using criteria stricter than that of the industry standard. The precision of a Datejust – and every other Rolex Superlative Chronometer – is an impressive -2/+2 seconds per day.
To match the Oyster Perpetual Datejust’s technical endurance is a look that transcends seasons. Its shapely Oyster case and Cyclops lens lend to its timeless beauty, but there’s also a lot more to it. As the Rolex model with the widest variety of design combinations, it has dials with faces in a host of materials, colours, motifs, indexes and gem settings, while its bezels come fluted, smooth, domed or set with diamonds.
Enhancing its chic are the bracelet options. Back in 1945 – in celebration of the brand’s 40th anniversary – Rolex came up with the Jubilee bracelet specially for the Datejust: an elegant and fluid five-piece-link metal bracelet. Alternatively, one can consider an Oyster bracelet, a handsome three-piece-link model with flatter surfaces, or a President, a refined three-piece-link bracelet crafted from precious metals that is best described as a cross between the Oyster and the Jubilee aesthetically.
Taking the Datejust’s distinctive style to the next level is the Rolesor, which is exclusive to the Oyster Perpetual collection. Rolex watches in a Rolesor finish have their bezels, winding crowns and centre links in yellow gold or Everose, and their middle cases and outer links in Oystersteel, creating a two-tone effect that is equal parts cool and classic.
Indeed, there is an Oyster Perpetual Datejust for every personality, taste and – true to the timepiece’s moniker – date, which only further explains its longevity. Now all that’s left to do is to seize the day.