The Only Way People Could Get A Rolex Datejust When It Was First Introduced
Ever wonder about the backstory of your favorite Rolex? Well, stick with us. This is the first of a series of posts featuring histories of significant Rolex models. You’ll find all the reference numbers connected with each model here. In all, Rolex has introduced nearly three dozen models since 1950. Over the next few months, we’ll touch on each of them.
First up, let’s take a look at the venerable Datejust and its brethren. The Datejust is arguably THE iconic Rolex dress watch – and probably number two on the Rolex roster behind the Submariner.
You might say the Datejust comes in four flavors, not counting the Lady and Oysterquartz versions. But we’ll cover those in future posts. The four we’ll discuss here are the Datejust, the Datejust Midsize, the Datejust Turn-O-Graph, and the recently introduced Datejust II.
The 36mm Datejust was introduced in 1945, as the Jubilee Datejust, in celebration of Rolex’s 40th anniversary. That first version, a ref. 4467, was a bubble back and was only available in 18K gold.
An interesting side story – when that watch was first introduced, Rolex took out an ad in the Tribune de Geneve, announcing the watch. But the first 100 pieces were not available from Rolex retailers. The only way people could get one was by participating in a lottery, which they entered by mailing in a coupon from the newspaper ad.
In 1954, Rolex introduced the cyclops over the date window. The stainless steel version of the Datejust was introduced in 1957. When it began outselling the gold version, Rolex introduced a stainless and gold version in 1962.
It was a gold Datejust, not a Day-Date, that was given to future President Dwight Eisenhower on Dec. 19, 1950. It was the 150,000th certified chronometer that Rolex produced. Now, you may have seen photos of Ike wearing his Datejust and noticed it has a cyclops crystal – even though he received his watch in 1950, before the cyclops was introduced. That’s because Rolex retrofitted his watch with the newer crystal during a routine maintenance.
And now a few words about each of the other models. The Datejust II is a larger, 41mm version of the Datejust. It was introduced in 2009 as a nod to the general trend in larger watches.
The Datejust Midsize is the 31mm version of the Datejust. As of 2014, it’s also known as the Datejust Lady 31. In that guise it features Roman numerals or jewels for hour markers on the dial, and is available in wide a variety of metals, bezels, and dials.
The Datejust Turn-O-Graph was also called the Thunderbird. It was originally favored by pilots in the 1950s due to its rotating bezel with minute indication. The Thunderbird was introduced in 1955 and discontinued in the late 1970s, due to lagging sales. A modern version was introduced in the early 2000s, but was shortly discontinued, again due to lack of consumer interest.
That’s the skinny on the history of the Datejust. Keep your eye here on the Beckertime blog for future posts on the Day-Date, the Submariner, the Explorer, the Milgauss, the GMT, and other watches Rolex has produced over the last several decades.