The Beckertime Comparison Series: The Rolex President Versus the Rolex Lady President
There has always been a certain amount of confusion over the Rolex President, and the blame, for the most part, can be laid at the feet of the brand’s fandom.
Put simply, there is no Rolex watch officially called the President. Or the Presidential. Or even El Presidente. Those are all nicknames foisted on the model correctly known as the Day-Date.
Ever since its debut in 1956, the Day-Date has been Rolex’s flagship offering and has long been associated with all manner of the great and powerful, up to and including genuine leaders of nations.
Half a century ago, one such commander-in-chief, going by the name of Lyndon B Johnson, became the first U.S. President to wear the watch—and its informal moniker has been used ever since.
So far, it’s not confusing at all. But wait!
The President’s Rolex
Rolex was, and still is, the watchmaker of choice for the majority of American presidents.
It started with Eisenhower, who was presented with the 150,000th piece to roll off the brand’s assembly line way back in 1951. Some people mistakenly believe this watch was also a Day-Date, whereas in reality it was actually a Datejust (what with it being five years before the Day-Date was launched).
But that gift does throw out one particularly interesting piece of Rolex trivia. Much of the bafflement over the President being the formal name for the Day-Date stems from its bracelet. The three semi-circular linked band was created expressly for the watch’s debut and is, in fact, called the ‘President Bracelet’ by Rolex. (It was much the same story with the Datejust’s Jubilee bracelet a decade before).
However, the name wasn’t formally adopted for the band until the mid-sixties, because Eisenhower made Rolex promise they wouldn’t commercialize the office of the U.S. president, or the fact that he himself wore one, by using the name as a publicity tool.
So it is thought the brand only gave the bracelet the name after they saw LBJ wearing his Day-Date, sometime around 1967. Rolex advertisements started to refer to ‘The President Bracelet’ from roughly then onwards, only about two years or so before Eisenhower died.
From there, it is an easy leap to imagine enough people getting the name mixed up with the watch itself for it to have stuck. Either that, or it is just such a perfectly apt title for such an elite creation that it didn’t need fixing.
Rolex, for their part, never an entity behind the curve should a marketing opportunity rear its head, has remained typically tight-lipped about it, content as always to let their fan base do much of the heavy lifting for them. Today, it is likely more people know the watch as the President than as the Day-Date.
So, What is the Lady President?
Ok, so that’s that straightened out. The Rolex Day-Date watch is known only colloquially as the President. The Day-Date’s dedicated three-link bracelet is legitimately called the President.
It stands to reason then, taking our cue from the Lady-Datejust, that the Lady President is simply a scaled-down Day-Date. Right?
The Rolex Lady President is another unofficial nickname, this time simply describing one of the smaller models of the Datejust, fitted with a President bracelet.
Just a second though, I’m not through with the perplexity. There has only ever been one size of Datejust issued at any one time that has actually been called the Lady-Datejust. The original debuted in 1957 and was a 26mm piece.
At around the same time as Rolex renamed their Day-Date’s bracelet, they also started fitting it to the tiny women’s watch, and those versions became known as the Lady Presidents.
The 26mm piece lasted right up until 2015, when Rolex retired it and replaced it with a 28mm model, still the only size to officially be called the Lady-Datejust. Again, if the watch had the three crescent-shaped link bracelet (as opposed to the five-link Jubilee or the three-flat link Oyster) they would be christened a Lady President by the watch buying public—but not by Rolex.
However, there has long been a 31mm Datejust as well, which the brand describes as a mid-size. Nevertheless, so small a model is only ever seen on women’s wrists even though it is not technically called a Lady-Datejust. But even the 31mm pieces on President bracelets are known as Lady Presidents.
Clear as Mud
On the face of it then, the President and the Lady President have just a bracelet type in common. There is one other similarity though.
From the outset, the Day-Date (and its bracelet) have only ever been crafted in precious metals—that is, one of the three flavors of gold used by Rolex (yellow, white and rose) or platinum.
And the same is true for the Lady President. You won’t find any examples in either steel or two-tone Rolesor with a President bracelet, unless it has been swapped after the fact.
As well as that, the current collection doesn’t contain any 31mm watches in platinum, only the 28mm Lady-Datejust range gets the king of metals—and again, only those with a President bracelet.
It is clear then that the band is reserved exclusively for the very best that Rolex puts out into the world. No Datejust bigger than the 31mm (so the 34mm, 36mm and 41mm) sits on the bracelet, and neither does any other of the company’s models.
It is the ideal statement for the top-of-the-line offering from the world’s leading watchmaker. The band takes the best elements from Rolex’s other two metal bracelets, and combines them to end up with a whole that doesn’t so much scream luxury as whispers it.
The men’s and women’s Presidents remain among the brand’s best sellers of all time, so it can come as a surprise at just how affordable preowned and vintage versions can be.
— Featured Cover Photo: BeckerTime’s Archive.