As a chic everyday women’s luxury watch, a stainless steel ladies’ Datejust is pretty perfect. Luxurious yet durable, high-end yet understated, exclusive yet practical. So whether you’re looking for a fine timepiece for yourself or for an exceptional gift for a special lady in your life, then look no further than a stainless steel ladies’ Datejust. Read on to discover four generations of the Lady Datejust 26 in steel to find the one that suits you.
The stainless steel ladies’ Datejust labeled with four-digit reference numbers (ref. 69xx) were produced from the mid-1970s until the mid-1980s. There are several versions of this vintage steel Lady Datejust including the ref. 6917 with a white gold fluted bezel and the ref. 6916 with a smooth steel bezel. There’s also the ref. 6919 and the ref. 6924, each furnished with steel engine-turned bezels in different styles. They all come equipped with a 26mm water resistant Oyster case topped with an acrylic crystal to protect the face of the watch. Of course, as a Datejust model, the crystal includes the famous Cyclops magnification lens on top of the signature date window at 3 o’clock.
For versatility, these vintage stainless steel ladies’ Datejust models are available with dressy five-link Jubilee bracelets or sporty three-link Oyster bracelets. Plus, let’s not forget the abundance of dial options and index styles that are available too. Priced from as low as $2,200 in the secondary market, this is also one of the most affordable ladies’ Rolex watches out there.
The next generation stainless steel ladies’ Datejust watches are those with five-digit reference numbers, ref. 691xx, which were produced from the mid-1980s until the late 1990s. Again with 26mm Oyster cases, bezel options include white gold fluted bezels (ref. 69174), smooth steel versions (ref. 69160), and steel engine-turned bezels (ref. 69240).
While stylistically very similar to their predecessors, these stainless steel ladies’ Datejust models did come with a few notable upgrades. For one, there’s the scratch-resistant and glare-proof sapphire crystal above the dial. Additionally, this particular family of Lady Datejust watches in steel features the practical quickset date function. This allows the wearer to easily flip through the date without having to turn the hands repeatedly around the dial.
From the late 1990s onwards, Rolex added a “7” to the reference numbers of the newest generation stainless steel ladies’ Datejust watches (ref. 791xx). While most design traits remained—26mm Oyster case, sapphire crystal, Cyclops lens, two bracelet style options, and an abundance of dial styles, the automatic movement powering the watch was new—Cal. 2235.
As one of the company’s most reliable and precise in-house automatic movements, Rolex Caliber 2235 remains at the heart of many of their ladies’ watches today.
In terms of style variations, there’s the ref. 79174 with an 18k white gold fluted bezel, the ref. 79160 with a smooth steel bezel, and the ref. 79240 and ref. 79190 with engine-turned steel bezels.
Finally, in the early 2000s, Rolex released yet another newer version of the stainless steel ladies’ Datejust 26 carrying the ref. 179xxx numbers. Although Rolex retained most of the characteristic design elements, as well as the same Cal. 2235 movement, the newer ref. 179xx models did come with updated bracelets that were not only heavier, but also included enhanced clasps.
Similar to preceding models, there’s plenty of choice in the latest stainless steel ladies’ Datejust collection. For example, the ref. 179160 sports a smooth steel bezel, the ref. 179174 flaunts an 18k white gold fluted bezel, and the ref. 179384 shines bright with a diamond-set bezel.