When asked what the most significant model is in the Rolex catalog, many Rolex fans are likely to point the iconic Submariner, or perhaps the Daytona, or even the flagship Day Date. But the history of Rolex Datejust watches shows that no model has proven to be more pivotal to Rolex’s enduring global success than the Rolex Datejust.
Rolex released the first example of the Datejust in 1945 in 18k gold as the model 4467. Today, many collectors know this as the “Big Bubbleback”. The original “Bubbleback” Rolex models were named for the bulging caseback needed to house the classic caliber 10 ½ Hunter. A modified variant of this movement ended up in the first Rolex Datejust. It featured a sweep seconds hand and a date wheel which was visible through a dial aperture at the 3 o’clock position. The additional components added even more thickness to the movement and in turn the case back, leading to the “Big Bubbleback” nickname.
In 1954 Rolex introduced the cyclops over the date window. Then, in 1957, they introduced the stainless steel version of the Datejust. Consequently, it began outselling the gold version. As a result, It was 1962 when Rolex introduced a stainless and gold version.
They initially launched the Datejust to celebrate Rolex’s Jubilee 40 year anniversary. Also, to further mark the occasion and new model launch, Rolex designed a new, special bracelet for the Datejust which was called the Jubilee bracelet. The Datejust became the Rolex flagship model, and remained so until 1956 when Rolex introduced the Day-Date as its premier model
Fast forward to the late 1970’s. The Datejust would see several updates which significantly alter the model from its original design. Rolex began using their caliber 3035 with its “quick set date” feature. No longer did users have to make the hour hand spin around 12 o’clock 2 times to advance the date wheel one day. The Rolex caliber 3035 also had a thinner profile. This in turn allowed the Datejust case to be correspondingly thinner, and the old “pie pan” dial was also replaced. Finally, in 1988 Rolex did away with the classic plastic crystal and replaced it with a scratch resistant sapphire crystal.
|1945||Rolex introduces the first Datejust model 4467 – a modified Bubbleback which included a date wheel. The first Datejust was 36mm, but later they introduced a 2mm smaller version called the Oyster Date.|
|1954||Rolex adds the instantly recognizable date magnifying cyclops to the crystal of the Datejust.|
|1956||Rolex releases Datejust Thunderbird model with a Turn-O-Graph Bezel.|
|1977||The quickset date feature was introduced on the Datejust.|
|1988||Rolex introduces a sapphire crystal for the Datejust, replacing the venerable plastic crystal.|
|1994||Rolex removes the holes on the case lugs of the Datejust.|
|2005||The Rolex hidden clasp is introduced on the men’s Datejust Jubilee bracelet.|
|2009||Rolex introduces the Rolex Datejust II at Baselworld – a full 5mm larger in diameter at 41mm than the traditional 36mm Datejust.|