Although watchmakers are now trying to cater to female clients through original designs and an expanding range of complications, we can’t ignore the simple fact that many women’s watches are merely smaller, sparklier versions of their more famous male counterparts.
However, it is not always as patronising as you think. In the case of Rolex, women’s watches are taken just as seriously as men’s and no model is more representative of that philosophy than the Oyster Perpetual Lady-Datejust.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust is the quintessential Rolex watch, and understanding what makes the original Datejust such an icon is key to appreciating its dainty successor’s equipoise of technical prowess and femininity.
In 1945, the Datejust was unveiled as part of the brand’s 40th anniversary, and made history for being the first automatic wristwatch with a date display. It also introduced the now-famous Jubilee bracelet with five links that was created especially for the collection. Meant for everyday elegance, this easy-wearing design quickly became Rolex’s bestseller.
The Lady-Datejust arrived just a little over a decade later to appeal to a new generation of high-achieving, independent women.
Blazing trails in their respective fields, Hollywood starlet Audrey Hepburn, marine biologist Sylvia Earle, playwright Françoise Sagan and fashion designer Adèle Simpson made it clear that women were beginning to demand more from life. Rolex delivered on the horological front.
Since then, the Lady-Datejust collection has continued to grow and evolve, with aesthetic variations and technical improvements. In 2015, Rolex increased the case size to 28mm and replaced the COSC’s chronometer certification with its own, more stringent, Superlative Chronometer Certification.
The green seal proves that the movement is accurate to -2/+2 seconds per day (compared to -4/+6 seconds for COSC), and has been tested for things like power reserve and water resistance in conditions that simulate real-world, daily wear.
Current Lady-Datejust watches are equipped with the calibre 2236, a self-winding mechanical movement entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex. Made of silicon, the Syloxi hairspring in the movement provides great stability in the face of temperature variations and remains up to 10 times more precise than a traditional hairspring in case of shocks.
The movement also has Paraflex shock absorbers, a proprietary system that protects the balance wheel. The power reserve comes in at approximately 55 hours, and the watch is safe at depths of up to 100m.
The Lady-Datejust has an impressive aesthetic range, too. Dials are available in several colours and the bezels can be domed, fluted or set with diamonds. One can choose between Arabic or Roman numerals, and there are three bracelets available: a three-link Oyster with a folding Oysterclasp, the five-link Jubilee with a Crownclasp and the three-link President bracelet with a Crownclasp.
(Also read: A first look at Rolex’s new releases for 2021)
As Rolex has its own foundry, the 18 ct yellow, white or Everose gold cases are all cast, shaped and polished to the brand’s famously high standards.
While all of them are beautiful, it is the newest reference that may just represent the apex of Rolex’s glamorous expertise. More than 1,000 brilliant-cut diamonds adorn the white or yellow gold case, dial, bracelet and lugs, contrasting with black PVD-coated Roman numerals.
The Lady-Datejust may have begun as an offshoot of the men’s Datejust, but it has developed its own identity and a fierce following, both of which continue to inspire the powerful women who wear it.
This article was first published in The Peak.