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History of the Rolex Datejust

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 no model has proved to be more pivotal to Rolex’s enduring global success than the Datejust.

The first example of the Datejust was released in 1945 in 18k gold as the model 4467 – known now by many collectors as the “Big Bubbleback”. The original “Bubbleback” Rolex models were so 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, which 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. The Datejust was the first Chronometer with an automatic calendar feature – the date wheel would advance to the next date “just in time” at midnight – hence the name “Datejust”. The Datejust was initially launched to celebrate Rolex’s Jubilee 40year anniversary, and 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.

Though it only enjoyed 11 years as the Rolex flagship, the Datejust has continued to not only endure but has enjoyed many years as Rolex’s top selling model.  Perhaps the most dramatic visual change to the Datejust happened in 1954 when Rolex added the first “Cyclops” date magnification bubble on the crystal, magnifying the date two and a half times for improved legibility.  Fast forward to the late 1970’s and 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 24 times to advance the date wheel one day. The Rolex caliber 3035 also had a thinner profile which 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 domed plastic crystal and replaced it with a scratch resistant sapphire crystal.

For over 50 years, the Rolex Datejust has remained one of the most recognizable and desirable models Rolex sells, and it remains available today in several varieties, designs, and sizes as well as being available in both men’s and women’s models.

DATEJUST MILESTONES
1945 Rolex introduces the first Datejust model 4467 – a modified Bubbleback which included a date wheel.  The first Datejust was 36mm, but later a 2mm smaller version called the Oyster Date was introduced.
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 domed 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.

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