The Comparison Series: The Rolex Datejust Vs. The Tudor Style
For this edition of our comparison series, we are going to pit a watch with one of the longest uninterrupted production runs in Rolex’s entire collection, the inimitable Datejust, against its nearest rival from sister brand Tudor, the Style.
As you would expect, the two share plenty of similarities. Both come in a wide-ranging array of sizes, designed to appeal to a unisex audience. Both are cast in a range of different metals, and are issued with a wide choice in dial color. Each can be as dressed up or down as needed, whether the wearer wants the elegantly understated or the attention-grabbing showboat. And, most of all, they can both be described as that one essential ‘good’ watch that goes with anything and lasts a lifetime.
Below, we take a look in a little more detail.
A Little Backstory
Even though there are plenty of parallels between the Datejust and the Style, one aspect where there is an enormous gulf between them is their history.
The Datejust could arguably be described as the first modern Rolex.
It debuted way back in 1945 as a celebration of the brand’s 40th year in operation. Its—by modern standards—extremely modest complication was something of a revolution on its release. Coupled with the brand’s other two groundbreaking inventions, the Perpetual automatic movement and the Oyster case, the model became the first self-winding, waterproof wristwatch ever made to have a date display.
It held the flagship position in the lineup briefly, before being usurped about a decade later by the unashamedly elitist Day-Date, and from that moment on assumed a more everyman role.
The Datejust’s classic tonneau-shaped case was simplicity itself, and the watch as a whole acted as not much more than a blank canvas. It was the legions of fans with widely differing tastes who got to imprint their own personality on it through their metal, dial, bezel and bracelet choices. The sheer number of different combinations made possible over the years leaves it as something of a surprise to ever see two Datejusts the same.
But while it may be as traditional as Stonehenge on the outside, the model has long been at the forefront of watchmaking mechanics. Any major new developments in calibers or materials from the company’s industry-leading labs usually make their way onto the Datejust first. In fact, it was even the model, along with the Day-Date, chosen for the company’s brief and somewhat lackluster foray into quartz technology.
Today, it is still consistently the biggest seller from the world’s leading manufacture. The movements driving each version remain at the pinnacle of what is possible with gears and springs, the variety of different options is still staggering and the alloys from which it is made are the finest available. In short, the Datejust is what it has always been; the only watch you would ever realistically need.
Compared to the Rolex, the Tudor Style is a virtual embryo of a series. The range launched in 2014, but in rather a discreet sort of way. There was no great fanfare for it, as there surely must have been when the very first Datejust arrived.
Like that great icon though, the Style can be rather tough to categorize. A little too casual to be described as an out-and-out dress watch, just too formal to be a tool model, it exists somewhere in-between—an all-rounder with huge versatility and heaps of panache.
The Tudor brand is actually better stocked for these sort of fusion models than Rolex. The Style lines up next to other all-day-every-day types of watches in their catalog, alongside the two Glamor series (the Double Date and the Date+Day), as well as the 1926 collection.
The Style though qualifies as something of the entry-level model, a term that doesn’t really do it justice. It carries with it notions of inferior quality or of it being lacking in some way. In truth, just as the Oyster Perpetual is the ‘entry level’ Rolex and is a beautifully crafted watch of real class, so is the Style.
The materials used are topnotch, the finishing is superb and the design timeless.
However, while there is still plenty of variety in the collection (146 in total), the watches tend to be at the more conservative end of the spectrum. There isn’t the same level of experimentation and diversity as there is with the Datejust, some of which in the contemporary roster border on the eccentric. The Style is perhaps aimed more at non-watch nerds than the average Rolex buyer, those who simply want a handsomely robust and adaptable timepiece, without all the theatre.
That being said, let’s look at how the two lineup when pitted side by side.
Both the Datejust and the Style are issued with a broad choice in size. The Rolex comes in 26mm (the Lady-Datejust that has since been retired), 28mm (the recently introduced Lady-Datejust), 31mm (another Lady-Datejust in all but name), the longtime traditional 36mm and the newly introduced 41mm.
As for the Tudor, its sizes are almost identical; 28mm, 34mm, 38mm and another 41mm. As the much younger of the two, it makes sense for the Style to have the slightly larger mid-range, with modern tastes favoring bigger watches. Tudor as a brand also has more dedicated women’s models (the Glamor Date and Clair De Rose collections), and so can afford to miss out on a 31mm Style.
The two are also closely matched on metals, but with the Rolex offering more in the way of selection. The current Datejust catalog includes the better part of 300 pieces in the brand’s own Oystersteel, spread across the five sizes, a super strong alloy which is part of the 904L family. In addition, there is the option of Rolex’s trademark Rolesor, comprising a steel case, augmented with 18k gold bezel, winding crown and central bracelet links. It has been a signature aesthetic for decades, one which tends to drop in and out of fashion every now and again. At the moment, rose gold Rolesor, with the manufacture’s patented Everose, is very much the look du jour. There are over 150 models with this setup at the moment, with a beautiful warm look that appeals widely.
The yellow Rolesor watches however, are classic Rolex and especially on the Datejust. Think Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. There are even more of these on offer, around 200 or so.
White Rolesor is a little different. Here, the gold is limited to just the bezel, and the whole watch has a decidedly neutral aspect which remains wonderfully understated. There are more than 200 of these.
So, the world is pretty well stocked for Datejusts! What you won’t find though, in the 34mm, 36mm and 41mm sizes (traditionally the men’s models) are any pure gold pieces. While that used to be a possibility, they have been phased out over the years, in keeping with the watch’s more down-to-earth role. (In the 28mm and 31mm, there are roughly 150).
It is a similar story with the Style. There are no solid gold models here either, not even in the smallest sizes, but there are plenty with the steel and gold mix—around 65 in total.
The Rolesor versions they do have (it’s not actually called Rolesor over at Tudor, sister brand or not, but you know what I mean) are all accented with yellow gold. There is no rose or white gold anywhere.
The remainder are all 316L steel, the industry standard grade of stainless steel, with Rolex having the virtual monopoly on 904L. In the real world, and particularly with non-dive models like the DJ and Style, the benefits of one type of steel over the other are negligible. Both are outstandingly strong and hardwearing, although the 904L does hold a polish better.
Bezels & Dials
Another fairly large disparity between the two ranges shows itself in their respective bezel and dial options.
Both can be had with either a smooth or fluted bezel, with the latter the real archetypal visual, for the Rolex especially. It offers just the right amount of eye-catching flamboyance to get the watch noticed without overpowering.
But if overpowering is your thing, a surround flooded with diamonds can be had.
As for the dials, it is a bit of a no contest. The sheer number of Datejust dials is a little overwhelming, ranging from simple monochrome black and white, through characteristic metallic shades such as the champagne, all the way up to mother of pearl, novelties like the Wimbledon (slate grey with green indexes) or the Jubilee dial, with its repeated ‘ROLEX’ monogram across the entire surface.
On top of all that, precious stones abound, either subtly highlighting hour markers or completely paving the whole thing. In short, if you can’t find exactly the dial you’re looking for, chances are you’re not trying hard enough.
With the Style, the choice is far more limited. There are six colors; gold, silver, burgundy, black, blue and a small handful of mother of pearl.
Diamonds are also used, but you have to look pretty closely to see them. At most, they take the place of the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock markers and are far smaller than on the Datejust.
Those indexes are uniformly simple stick batons across the range as well, whereas on the Rolex they can be batons or Roman or Arabic numerals.
One thing to bear in mind though when it comes to dials is the lack of a Cyclops on the Tudor. This magnifying lens was invented by Rolex in the 1950s and has been a bone of contention ever since. Some like it for making it easier to read the date, others hate it for affecting the symmetry of the dial as a whole.
I always keep my opinion to myself, but it is something to think about.
It is on the inside where, traditionally, the most telling differences lie between Tudor and Rolex.
Tudor was set up originally as the lower price alternative to its bigger brother, for those who weren’t able or didn’t want to fork out for a Rolex.
Really the only way the brand was able to keep manufacturing costs down to allow them to sell their watches cheaper was to buy-in outsourced movements, rather than going to the expense of designing, fabricating, testing and building calibers themselves.
In more recent years though, that has begun to change, with Tudor starting to develop some excellent in-house engines, giving customers a genuine alternative to buying a full-blooded Rolex.
With the Style, entry level that it is, the movements are still third party however—the ETA 2671 in the smaller models and the ETA 2824 in the larger.
Some people get sniffy about ETA calibers and it is hard to see why. For a start, the company has been making them for a very long time, having existed in one form or another since 1793. In addition, building movements is all they have ever done and so, with more than 200-years of expertise behind them, you can be relatively confident they know what they are doing by now.
The calibers inside the Style watches are extremely capable and robust mechanisms, automatically winding, beating at 28,800vph and with a 38-hour reserve.
With the Datejust, the larger two models, the 36mm and 41mm, are powered by Rolex’s own Cal. 3235, from their newest generation of movements. If you were wondering where the sizeable discrepancy in price between the Rolex and the Tudor comes from, you can find it here.
The Cal. 3235 is possibly the finest mass produced time-and-date caliber ever made. The replacement for the legendary Cal. 3135, it contains around 90% new components, most significantly the Chronergy escapement, a reworking of the conventional Swiss lever system which is reportedly around 15% more efficient.
Rolex invests inordinate amounts of money on keeping their calibers right at the top of the game, even developing their own testing regimen for Superlative Chronometer status. All of their movements are now guaranteed accurate down to -2/+2 seconds a day.
So while the ETA inside the Tudor is a fine everyday mechanism, it is the Rolex that wins the day here, and by a wide margin.
Price & Investment
When talking about Rolex in terms of price, it is never a black and white issue.
Yes, the Datejust is more expensive to buy than the Style. If we take a like for like as much as possible, a steel 36mm Datejust starts at roughly $7,500. For a similar Style, a 38mm in steel, you’ll pay about $2,500.
On the surface, that is a huge saving. But if you look at how the two hold their value, all of a sudden the decision isn’t quite as clear cut.
Rolexes have never been more in demand than they are right now, and there is no reason to think that is going to change any time soon. While a Datejust might not appreciate like some models do, they can be relied on to perform better than the Tudor as a future financial asset.
Of course, that might all be irrelevant. As we said at the beginning, both of these tend to be bought for no other reason than the need for one very good watch to wear forever, with no thought of investments or such. In truth, that is how it should be, and buying timepieces in the sole hopes of making money on them is a very risky strategy indeed.
Datejust or Style?
In the end, the decision is down to you. The Rolex offers greater variety, with practically limitless possibilities—but you have to pay for it.
The Tudor is a superb watch, quiet and classy and far less expensive up front.
Both will serve for a very long time and look good all the while. We’d advise checking them both out in the flesh and choosing the one that feels right.
Featured Photo Credits: BeckerTime’s Archive.