While a fantastic watch, the Datejust Turn-O-Graph never enjoyed the popularity of other Rolex models. Part tool watch, part dress watch, the Datejust Turn-O-Graph underwent several modifications throughout its history. Although Rolex doesn’t produce the Datejust Turn-O-Graph anymore, it’s readily available in the secondary market. Let’s have a closer look at the Datejust Turn-O-Graph and examine what makes it so unique.
The Origins of the Datejust Turn-O-Graph
The inaugural Rolex Turn-O-Graph ref. 6202 made its debut in 1953 as the first serially produced Rolex with a rotating bezel. Early Turn-O-Graph models looked strikingly similar to the Submariner watches of the era thanks to the bezel style. However, the time-only Turn-O-Graph eventually joined the Datejust collection. Thus the Datejust Turn-O-Graph ref. 6309 included a date window whilst also retaining its characteristic rotating bezel. The bezel was now a metal bezel with raised numerals and markings.
As a Datejust Turn-O-Graph, the 36mm watch offered a mix of sporty and dressy looks, along with the functionality of the “time recorder” rotating bezel. In the late 1950s, the Datejust Turn-O-Graph became the official watch of the US Air Force’s Demonstration Squadron a.k.a the Thunderbirds—complete with the squadron’s insignia on the dial. This special military variant was the Datejust Turn-O-Graph ref. 6609. Rolex aggressively advertised this relationship and the Datejust Turn-O-Graph eventually picked up the Thunderbird nickname in the US market.
As was typical of the era, Rolex made the early Turn-O-Graph models in a range of metals including steel, yellow gold, and even two-tone steel and yellow gold. Dial options were also varied, ranging from solid colored ones to intricate honeycomb pattern ones, along with different index options.
The Datejust Turn-O-Graph from the 1960s and 1970s
1959 saw the birth of the Datejust Turn-O-Graph ref. 1625 and Rolex continue to produce this reference until 1977. There are two main variants of the Datejust Turn-O-Graph ref. 1625—one in steel with a white gold bezel and one in two-tone steel and yellow gold. Of course, both editions sport the signature bi-directional rotating bezel.
Rolex offered the Datejust Turn-O-Graph ref. 1625 with Jubilee bracelets, yet it’s not unusual to find some models in the secondary market with after-market leather straps. The vintage Datejust Turn-O-Graph ref. 1625 runs on the Rolex Cal. 1575.
The 5-digit Datejust Turn-O-Graph References
In 1977, Rolex launched the five-digit Datejust Turn-O-Graph models, equipped with the updated Rolex Cal. 3035 beating within and sapphire crystal protecting the face of the watch. The Datejust Turn-O-Graph ref. 16253 and ref. 16263 are the two-tone yellow gold and steel versions while the Datejust Turn-O-Graph ref. 16264 is the steel edition with a white gold bezel.
These particular Turn-O-Graph references were part of the Rolex catalog until 2000.
The Final Datejust Turn-O-Graph References
In 2000, Rolex unveiled the six-digit Datejust Turn-O-Graph references with some notable changes. Firstly, the “TURN-O-GRAPH” name is back on the dial in bright red, which matches up nicely with the red seconds hand. Furthermore, the date window features a roulette date wheel with alternating red and black numbers. Also, the Oyster bracelet became an option with the newest Rolex Thunderbird watches. Finally, the characteristic rotating bezel is now fluted. So while on paper the Turn-O-Graph retains its 36mm case size, it wears bigger due to the wider fluted bezel.
The six-digit Datejust Turn-O-Graph includes the ref. 116264 in steel with a white gold bezel, the ref. 116263 in two-tone steel and yellow gold, and the ref. 116261 in two-tone steel and rose gold. Rolex discontinued the Datejust Turn-O-Graph model in 2011.
Although the Turn-O-Graph never really carved out its own solid identity, those in the know understand that it’s a distinct way to wear the ubiquitous Rolex Datejust. With its unique rotating bezel, the Datejust Turn-O-Graph offers classic dress watch aesthetics with a touch of sporty appeal.