To commemorate the company’s 40th anniversary, Rolex unveiled the Datejust in 1945. The then-new watch was crafted in yellow gold, sported a 36mm Oyster case, and was presented on a brand new bracelet style dubbed the Jubilee. But most importantly, the model was named after the characteristic date window at 3 o’clock. In fact, the Rolex Datejust was the first automatic chronometer wristwatch to display the date on the dial. Fast-forward to over seven decades later, the Datejust remains as Rolex’s signature dress watch, now available in an almost-infinite assortment of material, dial, bezel, and bracelet configurations.
However, in honor of that first yellow gold Datejust, we take a look at two important men’s yellow gold Datejust references: Datejust ref. 16018 and Datejust ref. 16238. Although these two older models are no longer in production, they remain popular options in the secondary market. Read on to examine the similarities and differences between these two men’s yellow gold Datejust models.
The men’s yellow gold Datejust ref. 16018 was in production from 1977 until 1988 when it was replaced by the Datejust ref. 16238. Rolex manufactured the yellow gold Datejust ref. 16238 until the mid-2000s. Aesthetically, both watches are extremely similar—almost identical. Both models sport the classic 36mm Oyster case in 18k yellow gold, complete with yellow gold fluted bezels. Upon closer inspection, the bezel of the newer ref. 16238 is ever so slightly wider.
Both references also come equipped with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal protecting the faces of the watches. While the inaugural yellow gold Datejust did not come with a magnification lens above the date window, Rolex added the now-iconic Cyclops to the Datejust collection in 1954. Since then, the Cyclops sitting on top of the crystal has become a fundamental design trait of the Datejust watch.
Dial wise, as expected both Datejust models offer a wide range of color, style, and index choices. The stone dial options of the Datejust ref. 16018 and the Datejust ref. 16238 are particularly stunning and include semi-precious stones such as lapis lazuli, onyx, malachite, tiger’s eye, and others.
In terms of luminescent materials, the older yellow gold Datejust ref. 16018 exclusively uses tritium as indicated by the “T SWISS T” label on the bottom portion of the dial under 6 o’clock. Rolex switched to Luminova as a luminescent material in 1998. So Datejust ref. 16238 watches made prior to that use tritium, while models that were manufactured post-1998, use Luminova to glow in the dark.
A five-link Jubilee bracelet is a classic choice for a men’s yellow gold Datejust—it is after all the bracelet that the Datejust was first paired with. However, both the Datejust ref. 16018 and the ref. 16238 offer the choice of the sportier three-link Oyster bracelet too. In the secondary market, it’s common to find both models on leather straps as well, which is an elegant way to wear a men’s yellow gold Datejust.
Although the Datejust ref. 16018 and the Datejust ref. 16238 have similar designs, they run on different movements. The men’s yellow gold Datejust ref. 16018 runs on the Rolex Cal. 3035 while powering the Datejust ref. 16238 is Rolex Cal. 3135.
Both are COSC-certified in-house automatic movements, both operate at 28,800 beats per hour, and both have the quickset date feature. However, Cal. 3035 has 21 jewels and a power reserve of about 42 hours while Cal. 3135 has 31 jewels and a power reserve of 50 hours.
To purchase a pre-owned men’s yellow gold Datejust ref. 16018, prices typically range from $6,000 to $13,000 depending on date and condition. On the other hand, the newer Datejust ref. 16238 generally ranges from $7,500 to $20,000. Naturally, Datejust watches with leather bracelets will cost significantly less than those that come with a full solid 18k yellow gold bracelet.
While the Datejust ref. 16018 and the Datejust ref. 16238 are from different eras of Rolex’s history, they both offer a great way to wear an updated version of the inaugural men’s yellow gold Datejust from 1945.