Review: The Rolex Lady-Datejust ref. 6916
Rolex’s all-time bestselling range of watches, the Lady-Datejust first emerged in 1957, some 12-years after the men’s version.
The original had been such a resounding success it had left the brand without much to do except to make it smaller to better suit a more slender wrist. In all other respects—everything from its feature set to its general styling to its exhaustive options list—the two ranges were pretty much identical.
Of course, the men’s model had already benefitted from over a decade of Rolex’s typically relentless upgrades by the time the first of the lady’s models made their debut. The lessons learned from that period of trial and error meant the women’s watches had a far less turbulent early life and each generation tended to stay in production far longer.
The first iteration, for example, lasted all the way up to 1970, when it was replaced by the ref. 69XX series; ostensibly the same on the outside, but with an improved movement.
Similarly, those references lasted another 13-years, finally retiring in 1983 and being superseded by the first of the five-digit models.
During their tenure, the ref. 69XX range carried on where the previous one had left off, offering enough variety in dial, metal, bezel and bracelet that they were able to appeal to just about any taste.
One especially popular option was the ref. 6916, and we will take a closer look at it below.
Rolex Lady-Datejust ref. 6916 Metal and Bezels
The modern Datejust series is available in a total of five sizes, the smallest (and the only one now officially called a Lady-Datejust) coming in at 28mm.
That is a quite recent introduction. During the ref. 69XX’s run, 26mm was the only size on offer.
Ref. 6916 was the reference number given to several different versions of both the Lady-Datejust and the Lady-Date. They were each issued in fully stainless steel, as well as in yellow and rose gold, along with both yellow and rose Rolesor (Rolex’s name for half steel and half gold).
As for the bezels, all were fitted with highly polished, smooth surrounds, as opposed to the fluted type of the ref. 6917.
Incidentally, if you are wondering what the difference between the Lady-Datejust and Lady-Date is, there really isn’t one in this instance. The pair share the exact same case and functionality.
Rolex Lady-Datejust ref. 6916 Movements
Rolex issued the new ref. 69XX generation of the Lady-Datejust mostly because of their development of a new caliber. The previous models had been powered by the Cal. 1161, a continuation of the Cal. 1000 series, the first bi-directional self-winding movements the brand had built in-house.
The mechanism inside the ref. 6916, and the rest of the 69XX range, contained the Cal. 2035. While it carried over much of what had worked best in its predecessor, such as the Nivarox hairspring with its Breguet overcoil and a Microstella regulated balance wheel, it had a major and crucial difference.
It was the movement which debuted the high beat 28,800vph frequency we now associate with Rolex, and it arrived inside the Lady-Datejust a full seven years before it made it into the first caliber destined for a men’s model, the Cal. 3035.
The increase, over the 19,800vph of the outgoing Cal. 1161, not only gave a smoother, eight ticks per second glide to the seconds hand, but also promised a greater timekeeping accuracy and better resistance to shocks.
Measuring just 20mm by 5.4mm, the COSC-certified unit somehow managed to pack in a 42-hour reserve as well. However, the brand had yet to introduce the Quickset function which allowed for the date to be advanced by winding the crown. That one convenient innovation would have to wait until the next generation came along.
Sometimes overlooked next to the movements working away inside the larger, men’s watches, Rolex’s range of diminutive calibers driving their women’s models have long been massively impressive machines.
Rolex Lady-Datejust ref. 6916 Dials
The different metals used for the cases of the ref. 6916 Lady-Datejust and Lady-Date lent each one its own specific character, and as such, tended to be offered with a different range of dials.
On the stainless steel pieces, they had a somewhat conservative edge, such as champagne, black and slate grey, while the solid gold and Rolesor models were given some of the more outlandish colorings of the time.
It meant the same watch could be subtle and low-key, or else flamboyant and glamorous.
Indexes could be either Roman numerals or simple stick batons, with Arabic numerals rarely an option.
One factor common to this particular reference you will tend to see plenty of on the preowned market are pieces with customized dials. It is not unusual to find a standard watch with the dial either replaced completely in favor of a more colorful option, or else with diamond accents added to the hour markers, and often to the bezel as well. The quality of these modified pieces obviously depends on where the work was done, but the ones that get it right add a great deal to an already superb watch.
Over the top of the dial, as with the rest of the models from the era, is a Plexiglass crystal.
Rolex Lady-Datejust ref. 6916 Bracelets
With its toned-down, less flamboyant nature, the ref. 6916 came with a choice of two of Rolex’s three metal bracelets; the Oyster and the Jubilee. The third option, the three semi-circular link President, tended to be reserved for gold examples of the Lady-Datejust.
The Jubilee, made up of five rounded links, is the brand’s most intricate band and looks especially well with the model, which is to be expected as it was originally made for the very first of the Datejust range in 1945.
The three flat links of the Oyster have been used on just about every watch Rolex has made at one time or another, everything from the more formal pieces through to the sports collection. It is perhaps the best loved of the trio, and is the one with arguably the most versatility.
During the ref. 6916’s term, Rolex was moving away from riveted and folded links to the solid outer link style, adding a welcome strength to the bracelet overall. The central links were still hollow though, which reduced the weight compared to the modern solid type, but meant they were still susceptible to a certain amount of stretch over the years.
Both are held in place with the Oysterclasp, a relatively straightforward folding catch with the Rolex coronet embossed on the surface.
And finally, the cases all the way through the model’s long run had lug holes, making swapping bracelets a fairly simple task.
The ref. 6916 Lady-Datejust and Lady Date are two of the most affordable examples of Rolex’s best-selling watch ever. Like the rest of the collection, they have a restrained elegance which matches just about any outfit and any situation.
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— Featured Photo Credit: BeckerTime’s Archive.