Review: The Rolex Datejust ref. 16013
The Rolex Datejust series was well into its stride when the first of the five-digit references hit the stands. In fact, it had more than proved itself to be among Rolex’s most popular creations, dating right back to its original entrance in the 1940s.
The ref. 16XXX range started to emerge in 1977, the same year Rolex finally gave in and brought out their two, and only, quartz-powered Datejust models—the Oysterquartz.
With the Datejust having been in unceasing production for more than thirty years, this fourth generation had their aesthetics wholeheartedly established. The biggest difference, by far, between them and the outgoing and legendary ref. 16XX was the movement. The new watches were to debut Rolex’s first high beat caliber, ticking away at 28,800vph. It has since become the standard frequency across the whole of the brand’s portfolio and, as usual, it was the Datejust that was used to introduce it.
Apart from the engine, there was obviously very little Rolex felt they needed to do with their hugely admired stalwart. It remained at its accepted 36mm, and was still offered in the typically exhaustive selection of different dials, bezels, metals and bracelets, all designed to offer the most amount of flexibility to the widest cross section of the watch buying public. Basically, if you couldn’t find the Datejust that perfectly appealed to all your sensibilities, chances are you just weren’t looking hard enough.
The ref. 16013 was perhaps the one with the most iconic Rolex look of all, a two-tone livery easily identifiable from across any crowded room.
Below, we take a closer look.
Rolex Datejust ref. 16013 Metals and Bezels
In the same manner as the Paul Newman Daytonas and the Steve McQueen Explorers, there seems to be a movement afoot to nickname the ref. 16013 as the American PsychoRolex, after it found a certain amount of fame on the wrist of the movie’s appalling Patrick Bateman.
I’m not sure it’s going to catch on, but it gives you a good visual. The watch is forged from what is known as yellow Rolesor, a combination of yellow gold and stainless steel the brand first patented as far back as the 1930s.
Yellow Rolesor Rolexes, and the Datejust in particular, definitely have an ‘of their time’ look; that time being during the worst yuppie excesses of the 80s. However, with these things always being cyclical, the last 12 months or so have seen them roaring back into fashion again.
The gold, which could be either 14k or 18k on the ref. 16013, makes up the bracelet center links and the fluted bezel.
There were other variations released around the same time and, as with all of Rolex’s five digit references, it is the fourth and fifth numbers which tell us the bezel type and metal respectively.
So, the ref. 16003 was identical except for its smooth bezel. The ref. 16008 and 16018 were the solid yellow gold pieces (smooth and fluted surrounds). Likewise with the white gold models, the 16009 and 16019.
The stainless steel versions are slightly different. The ref. 16000 is all steel, with a smooth bezel. The ref. 16014 has a steel case with a fluted white gold surround, while the ref. 16030 is also exclusively in steel, but with an engine turned bezel. If you are not familiar with the term, and it has been out of the rotation for a while now, engine turned is where the metal is engraved with a decorative pattern. Rolex finally retired it as an option in 2005.
Rolex Datejust ref. 16013 Movements
The 1970s were a busy time to be working in the Rolex movements factory. As well as building a replacement for the much loved Cal. 1500 series of calibers, the brand’s first entirely in-house made mechanisms, the higher-ups were also demanding all-new quartz calibers as well.
Fortunately, despite their very different energy sources, the mechanical and battery-powered movements were able to share the vast majority of components. In fact, other than the pulse motor and electronics, the Cal. 50XX in the quartz models and the Cal. 30XX in the traditional were practically identical.
The Datejust ref. 16013 debuted the Cal. 3035, the base caliber around which the rest of the family would be centered. It introduced the 28,800vph frequency to Rolex’s men’s collection (the Cal. 2035 having sat inside the Lady Datejust ref. 6917 for a few years already by then). The high beat produced the silky smooth glide to the seconds hand that shouts of Rolex engineering.
It was also the movement that brought the first Quickset function to the range, enabling wearers to advance the date in its three o’clock window by turning the crown one and a half times per digit rather than by having to spin the main hands through 24-hours.
Other than that, the updated caliber carried over much of the internals of the retiring Cal. 1575 from the previous generation of Datejusts. It kept the Microstella-regulated balance wheel and the Breguet overcoil on the free sprung balance, but Rolex did switch to a fast rotating barrel to improve the stability of the drive train and increase the power reserve from 42 to 50-hours.
In all, the Cal. 3035 would stick around until 1988 when it was replaced by the Cal. 3135—not so much a substitution as an evolution. Apart from including a full balance bridge and a larger balance wheel, there was very little to choose between them.
Rolex Datejust ref. 16013 Dials
By this point in the Rolex Datejust life cycle, perhaps its main draw was its seemingly endless versatility, and nowhere more so than in its choice of dials. Whatever your personal style, whether elegantly understated or grandstanding showman, there would be a model available to cater to it.
The two-tone coloring of the ref. 16013’s case and bezel arguably lent itself to some dial colors more than others. The champagne face had always been a well received option in the range, and was the one which gave the watch that archetypal Bateman look.
Elsewhere, black, white and silver kept everything suitably low-key, but for those wanting to stand out just a little more, you could pretty much name a color and there would be an example in the catalog for you.
In addition, exotic and unusual materials like mother of pearl, malachite, lapis lazuli, polished wood and even slivers of meteorite were all used.
Hour indexes ran the gamut of Roman or Arabic numerals, simple stick batons or, for some added indulgence, diamonds. Lume, used sparingly, was tritium.
Interestingly, Rolex started offering dial options clearly designed to appeal to a female audience towards the latter half of the reference’s run. Feminine shades of pinks and lilacs, including some with delicate floral patterns, emerged and proved extremely popular. It was a measure of the trends at the time, with the 80s marking the point where more women began wearing bigger pieces originally designed, size-wise, for men. Rolex were among the first brands to cater to the fashion, which is still continuing today, some 30-years later.
One small but significant difference the dials in the five-digit references have over their predecessors is that they are completely flat. Earlier models had what are known as ‘pie-pan’ dials, where the outer edge is sunken and looks like an upturned plate. It was thought that style made the watch as a whole appear smaller, which is the probable reason they were swapped, with customers of the era now looking for ever larger pieces.
And one other change which was introduced gradually throughout the ref. 160XX’s tenure was the dial covering crystal. Initial versions retained the slightly domed Plexiglass (acrylic), but by the end of the series’ production in 1988, they had been replaced by scratch resistant sapphire.
Rolex Datejust ref. 16013 Bracelets
The ref. 16013 was presented on a choice of two of Rolex’s metal bracelets.
The Oyster band gave the model an altogether more utilitarian appearance, its simple and sturdy three-link construction normally associated with the tool watch collection.
The five-link Jubilee, created specifically for the Datejust in 1945, was a far more intricate affair and lent the watch a dressier aspect. Commonly thought of as the most comfortable of the brand’s bracelet options, including the President, the smaller links on the Jubilee means it is the one which best conforms to the shape of the wrist.
On both bands, the center links themselves were hollow, with solid outer links, and they were not folded or riveted. It gave the watch a little extra weight compared to previous generation Jubilee bands, but bracelet stretch was still a familiar complaint.
And as with previous generations, the ref. 160XX references still had lug holes present, one of the very few things that can help identify the watch as vintage—in most other respects, there is very little aesthetic difference between them and the latest iteration.
By 1977, the Rolex Datejust range was already an institution in the world of horology. What had once been revolutionary had matured over the years into an elder statesman, but still maintained its position as possibly the only watch you would ever realistically need.
The ref. 16013 had the quintessential image of how a Rolex should be, the steel and gold Rolesor practically a brand trademark, and its new engine ensured it still performed at the highest level.
It is a look which has drifted in and out of fashion, and today is making a real comeback. The good news is, as with many of the Datejust range, they were built in such vast numbers that they are now extremely affordable on the preowned market.
As either your first or next Rolex watch, they make a tasteful and accomplished purchase.
— Featured Photo Credits: BeckerTime’s Archive.