Launched in 1945, the Rolex Datejust broke new ground by being the world’s first automatic wristwatch with a date function. The fact that this watch was also waterproof and accurate and reliable enough to be Chronometer rated, was nothing short of sensational in 1945!
The Datejust was also one of the first popular watches to possess a central seconds hand, moving away from the more usual subsidiary seconds (small seconds dial) of the time. It was launched in the very large size for the time, of 36mm in diameter, excluding the Rolex screw-down crown. This classic design soon became an icon of style and quality, remaining in continuous production and continuous development, but changing little in design in over 70 years!
The Rolex Day-Date joined the Datejust in 1956 and both have remained Rolex’s range-topping gentlemen’s dress watches ever since. However, early Rolex Datejusts are rarer and more sought after and therefore command higher prices than the Day-Date. Incidentally, the ‘just’ in Datejust, stands for “just in time”, referring to the way the movement advances the date, exactly at midnight without any delay.
The watch seen here is an unrestored example of an early Rolex Datejust in 14ct solid gold from within the first 7 years of production. This is Rolex model reference 1601, which has the Rolex Chronometer grade Cal.1560, 26 jewel movement. It was not until around 1953 that Rolex began to promote the Datejust line by using the name ‘Datejust’ on the dial.
This original dial is the most iconic of vintage Rolex Dial designs, which in essence carries through to this day. The dial carries its original, unrestored Rolex 1950s ‘Index’ hands and applied ‘baton’ hour indices with, of course, the Rolex Coronet at the very top of the dial.
The dial is signed ‘Rolex Oyster Perpetual’ and ‘Datejust’ with ‘Swiss’ at the very bottom of the dial.
Usually, we restore the dials of our watches, but here we felt this gentle ageing adds to the character and charm of the watch. If you would like to purchase this watch with the dial fully restored, this can be arranged.
The Watch Movement
The original, high grade “Officially Certified Superlative Chronometer”, 26 Jewel, Calibre 1560 ‘butterfly’ movement is highly regarded for being very accurate, reliable and strong. As can be seen in the photographs, it is in sparkling condition and it is working perfectly following a thorough overhaul and service by our vintage Rolex specialist watchmaker. This means the movement has been completely disassembled to each of its component parts, cleaned and inspected under high magnification and then rebuilt using only original Rolex parts where required, before testing and careful calibration. The watch has just been re-tested (as it will be prior to delivery) and is running to within +7 seconds per day, which is outstanding for a vintage watch of this age! The movement also has a 48 hour power reserve when fully wound.
The Watch Case
The 14ct yellow gold case measures 36mm, excluding the Rolex Oyster screw-down crown. The case has been carefully inspected inside and out and then restored to ‘as new’ condition by very gentle cleaning and hand-polishing by our professional watch case restorer. Even though this is an early example, no definition has been lost and all the lines, including the bezel, remain well defined. It is therefore in superb condition with no scratches, dings or similar marks visible to the naked eye.
The screw-down case-back is of full-thickness, having never been inscribed. The inside of the case-back carries the Rolex model number 1601 with 14ct Swiss Geneva hallmarks and is signed ‘Montres Rolex SA Geneva Switzerland’. Very importantly, the case also carries its clearly defined serial number, 63026, between the lugs at ‘6’,. The case serial number confirms the date of manufacture of the watch, which is 1958.
Please note – although the waterproof seals have been replaced and this watch was originally specified as waterproof when new, this has not been tested and it is not guaranteed. As always, our standard advice applies: vintage watches should be kept clean and dry at all times
The Strap & Buckle
A new, brown Alligator strap has been fitted along with a gold-plated Rolex buckle.
The Box and Papers
Although there are no original papers with this watch, all the numbers and markings on the watch are correct, dating the watch to 1958.
The matching Rolex presentation box shown in the photographs will be included with this watch.
To summarise, this is an iconic, top quality, and highly practical vintage watch from horology’s most famous name. It will provide an excellent financial investment as well as be something to wear, treasure and enjoy! It will make the perfect evening wear dress watch as well as a practical, highly accurate and reliable timepiece to use on an everyday basis. Although this is one of our more expensive watches, its quality will be remembered for long after its purchase price will be forgotten.
Vintage gold Rolex ‘Datejust’ watches are highly collectable and the rarity of this watch means the value will always remain strong, meaning this watch will also make an excellent investment and family heirloom piece. Even though vintage Rolex prices have risen strongly in recent years, we feel high-quality fine examples such as this still remain undervalued. As each year goes by and the world market for vintage watches expands, availability will become more limited, so prices are surely destined to climb ever higher.