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History of the Rolex Date

The Oyster Perpetual Collection has a long and distinguished heritage stretching back to the original Oyster model invented and patented by Rolex in 1926. It was the first waterproof wristwatch in the world and it led the way to increasingly sophisticated developments in functionality. Over the years, the Oyster became the proud bearer of many other innovations.

The Oyster Perpetual Date, first launched in the late 1950s, was one of the first watches to display the date in a window at 3 o’clock on the dial, fulfilling Rolex founder, Hans Wilsdorf’s dreams of producing timepieces that were not only beautiful to look at but were also highly useful and functional. Housed in the legendary Rolex Oyster case, the Date is 34 mm in diameter and is water-proof to 100 meters (330 feet).

The Rolex Date is 34mm like the Air-King, but it obviously includes a date function. Its production began in the late 1950s, around the time the steel Datejust was introduced which makes it very confusing. The main difference between the Rolex Date and Rolex Datejust is that the Date is a smaller 34mm compared with the 36mm Datejust. In addition to the size difference there is also a difference in bracelet width, the Date sporting a 19mm and the Datejust a 20mm. As you can tell with these small variations it can be easily confused which model is which. The surefire way to tell the difference is by looking on the dial. The Date on says ‘Date’ and as expected the Datejust only says ‘Datejust’.

Another distinguishing feature of the Rolex Date from the 1960s is the plastic crystal used, and a 26 jewel movement. The movements are either the 1565 or 1575, automatic. Available on either Oyster or jubilee bracelets.

All models such as the 1500, 1501, 1503, 1507 are non quick-set dates, ie you have to turn the crown winding the hands round 24 hours before a date change takes place. From 1983 onwards some changes had taken place with the plastic crystal still in place, the jewel count had been upped to 27 from 26 due to the use of the new calibre 3035. The size of the case and lug width all stay the same. The biggest change in these later references of the Rolex Date is the implementation of the Quick-Set feature, meaning you can adjust the date once the crown is in position 2.

2014 sees the introduction of the all new Oyster Perpetual line which replaces the old Oyster Perpetual range and the Air-King models. The new refreshed models all feature the new case and bracelet in 904L steel new colored dials and a choice of two bezels. Up-to-date, modern and simple.

1950s Beginning of the life of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date, one of the first watches with a date window at the 3 o’clock position
1960 Introduction of the Reference 1500 featuring a smooth bezel and in stainless steel. Non Quick-set date.
1983 New calibre in the refreshed Rolex Date, the 3035. Also introduction of new Quick-set date feature.
1989 Sees the end of the Rolex perpetual Date until 2014.
2014 Introduction of the Reference 115200, 34 mm Oyster Perpetual Date, only available in 904L Steel.

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