Review: The Rolex Date ref. 1505
The Rolex Datejust series has always had a massively wide-ranging variety of styles. It has been made available in an almost countless number of different metal, bezel type, dial color and bracelet connotations over the years, with the aim of appealing to as broad a potential audience as possible.
However in the past, the 34mm version, called simply the Date, has often lagged behind a little in terms of selection, its appeal lessened by its reduced size which has traditionally been seen as too small for a man’s watch and a bit too big as a ladies. Recently however, changing tastes have given the piece a new role—as the ideal unisex wear.
With more restraint favored by a male audience these days, and women wearing larger watches, the Date has been given fresh legs and vintage models are becoming evermore popular.
The ref. 15XX range is a perfect example. Launched in 1962, it is only the second generation of the 34mm type—identical in almost every way to the 36mm Datejust as far as aesthetics, functionality and engineering are concerned.
It was also one of the most enduring series in the Date’s history, lasting right up until the 1980s. During that time, it would go through a number of upgrades itself, including a change of movements soon into its run.
The ref. 1505 has some real vintage nuances. Its makeup includes several elements you won’t find on any modern day Rolex, charming nostalgic touches much loved by collectors and connoisseurs.
It also represents a definite bargain as a preowned purchase, a wonderful gateway into brand ownership that won’t break the bank, at least for now.
Read on below for more details.
Rolex Date ref. 1505 Metals and Bezels
The ref. 1505 comes in that most Rolex-esque of visuals, the brand’s own Rolesor. Originally patented in the 1930s, and in use since the 50s, the combination of a stainless steel case with gold making up the bezel, winding crown and central bracelet links is emblematic of the Swiss giant.
It has long been a feature across the majority of the catalog, with the Datejust perhaps its most suitable home. The implied strength of steel and the luxury of precious metal paired together is the perfect symbol of the watch—a dress model you can wear everyday.
On the Date ref. 1505, the inclusion of 14k yellow gold brings back a little of the attention-grabbing pull lost by its smaller size—by no means a grandstander, but one that still catches the eye.
No longer used by Rolex, 14k gold is a less pure alloy than the now-standard 18k of the contemporary lineup. Blended with more durable metals such as zinc, nickel and copper, it has 58.3% pure gold, as opposed to some 75% for the 18k. However, both types look almost the same, and the 14k is actually both cheaper and sturdier, an ideal material for a hardworking watch.
Around the dial is another element no longer in use by the brand, an engine-turned bezel.
Relatively similar in style to the more common fluted type, an engine-turned surround consists of an intricate and repetitive pattern engraved into the metal’s surface, sometimes known by the French term, guilloché.
Its resemblance to the fluted design is the most likely reason it is no longer employed by Rolex, and it was, in fact, the Date model which was the last to have it as an option, right up until 2006.
There were other variations in the ref. 15XX family released at the same time, with a choice of different bezels.
Some examples are the ref. 1503 and 1507 were in all gold, 14k and 18k respectively, while the ref. 1500 offered an entry level piece, in stainless steel with a steel smooth surround.
And two especially rare versions emerged in the late 60s; the ref. 1502 had a Florentine finish, with its intersecting sets of lines, and the ref. 1504 had a unique random geometric composition.
Rolex Date ref. 1505 Movements
The ref. 1505 started life with Rolex’s new Cal. 1565 movement, an upgrade over the previous Cal. 1035 which had been in the first generation model.
Although it had only a short lived run, the Cal. 1565 did manage to introduce two features that are still in use today.
Firstly, the cam and jewel system, which is responsible for the watch’s instantaneous date change. Before it was adopted, the switchover started before midnight and would take several hours to complete.
And it was also the first caliber to have Rolex’s Microstella regulator, an arrangement of two pairs of weighted bolts on the inner rim of the balance wheel which could be adjusted to vary its rate.
Other than that, the movement retained the usual set up of a free sprung balance, stone lever escapement and Breguet overcoil on the hairspring.
As good as it was, the Cal. 1565 only beat at 18,000vph, a relatively slow speed that gives a five-ticks-per-second sweep to the seconds hand.
It was replaced in 1965 by the Cal. 1575, a highly celebrated Rolex engine which was identical in many ways, but had a faster frequency of 19,800vph. The increase granted a better timekeeping accuracy as well as more shock protection.
A hacking function was introduced in 1972, which stops the seconds hand when the crown is pulled out to make setting the time easier.
While each of the ref. 1505’s movements are highly thought of in the collector community, both being extremely reliable and COSC-rated, neither had a Quickset, the feature that allows for the date to be advanced using just the crown. With this watch, the numeral could only be forwarded by winding the main hands through 24-hours. It would take until the Cal. 1575’s replacement in 1983, the Cal. 3035, before that little piece of extra convenience showed up.
Rolex Date ref. 1505 Dials
The Date has always had a smaller variety of different dial colors and types than the full-size Datejust. Those it has been issued with have tended to remain on the conservative end, without some of the more eccentric and quirky examples given to its bigger brother.
Rolex dress watches with any hint of yellow gold, either all over or in the Rolesor half-and-half livery, are most often found with the champagne dial.
The tone matches the gold elements of the bezel and bracelet perfectly and gives a nicely cohesive whole.
Other popular choices include black, white and silver, along with a slate grey which mirrors the stainless steel case of the watch.
As for indexes, you will find examples with plain stick batons and Roman numerals (mainly on the white dial versions). There are also many pieces with a particularly unusual type of hour marker. The ‘doorstop’ type are small cubes, again cast in yellow gold. Because they are actually fairly deep, models with these indexes have a shorter handset—the minute hand is reduced in length to avoid coming into contact with the marker because there is not enough clearance for it to go over the top, and the hour hand is shortened to maintain the ratio between the two.
There were no officially released models with any diamond accents, but you are likely to come across some during a search of the preowned market. These are customized pieces, with the gemstones added by a third party. Watches modified in this way can give you a lot more for your money, but they are considered inauthentic by Rolex themselves and as such you will have to find an independent service center to look after it when the time comes.
Luminescence during this period was tritium, a far safer alternative to the former radium, but still faintly radioactive. On the Date however, any lume is usually confined to thin strips on the hands and the occasional small dot above an hour marker.
Covering the dial is every vintage fan’s favorite, an acrylic crystal, complete with its Cyclops magnifying lens. The sapphire replacement would make its entrance in the next generation.
Rolex Date ref. 1505 Bracelets
Just as with the 36mm Datejust, the bracelets most often found on the Date are the three-link Oyster and the five-link Jubilee.
Each awards the watch a different character; the former being the more sporty and workmanlike and the latter lending a sense of formality.
The center links on both are hollow and formed from 14k yellow gold, this being before the days of all solid link Rolex bracelets. As such, you will notice they are far lighter than their later equivalents, and older examples may be starting to show signs of stretch.
And one other welcome retro touch, this is the last series of the Date to all have lug holes, making changing bracelets that much easier. They were phased out with the following generation.
The Date ref. 1505 has a number of interesting facets that make it a tempting choice, for either a collector or someone looking for their first piece from the brand.
The engine-turned bezel, plexiglass domed crystal and Rolesor construction are all beautiful Rolex visuals, giving the watch a real nostalgic air. The movements are wholly dependable and the slightly smaller size is now definitely on trend for both men and women.
— Featured & Body Photo Credits: BeckerTime’s Archive.