|Case||Oyster, 36mm, 904L steel and white gold|
|Crown||Screw down, Twinlock waterproofness system|
|Movement||Perpetual, mechanical, self-winding, Calibre 3135|
|Crystal||Scratch-resistant sapphire, Cyclops lens (2.5x) over the date|
|Waterproofness||Waterproof to 100m (330 ft)|
|Power Reserve||Approximately 48 hours|
|Functions||Centre hour, minute and seconds hands. Instantaneous date. Stop-seconds for precise time setting|
|Bracelet||Jubilee, five-piece links, with concealed folding Crownclasp|
The archetypal Rolex, this icon of watch making was first released in 1945. It was the first self-winding chronometer (a movement itself first developed by Rolex in 1931) that indicated the date in a window on the dial, as well as the first to bear the jubilee bracelet in conjunction with a fluted bezel. It’s a design that, although now available in a myriad of options and sizes, is still instantly recognisable today.
Fashion has changed significantly over the last 73 years. The example here is a 36mm diameter case, which some will say is now too small for a gentleman to wear, especially with more women wearing ‘oversized’ watches – 36mm, 40mm and above. Don’t forget however, Rolex still produces the ‘Lady Datejust’ at 28mm. There is no right or wrong answer to this; it will depend on your personality, sense of style, the purpose of the watch and, of course, the kind of piece you are used to wearing. Clearly, moving from a Panerai Luminor or an IWC Big Pilot is going to be a difficult jump to make, requiring some recalibration before it could really be appreciated.
What is clear however is, in terms of design, the way Rolex has kept the Datejust relevant is testament to its philosophy and commitment to quality and integrity. To my eyes, whether too small for a modern man to wear or not, it is beautifully proportioned: something the 41mm loses somewhat. The way the bezel sits perfectly with the case, flowing to the exquisite tapering of the lugs into the integrated bracelet is stunning. It’s here that I think the 41mm loses out the most; the bracelet feels a little overwhelmed by the larger case.
The Jubilee bracelet, with its satin and polished links is a joy to wear. It looks sensational, is extremely well made and keeps the skin cool. The deployment clasp, activated by an brilliantly executed release tab in the shape of the famous Rolex crown feels secure; something that was not always the way of previous pieces from the maison.
But as with any watch, all this design is nothing without a dial to back it up and, in this example, Rolex does not disappoint. There is no complication, but the simplicity adds to the watch as opposed to detracting from it. The sunburst dial is a revelation and covers so many shades of blue you lose count. That, combined with the white gold applied hour markers makes for a great combination of beauty and subtlety. It’s a very attractive watch; eye catching enough to stand out amongst other Datejusts but not sufficiently to be attention grabbing; something best left to other models and manufacturers.
What this does is it adds to the piece’s versatility. As with so many Rolexes, which is perhaps why they are the market leader, the Datejust seems to be happy in about any environment you could think of. Whether you are attending a black-tie event or relaxing at a barbeque with some friends, it works. Fundamentally, it’s a statement of elegance and taste.
To conclude, I will return to the question, does size matter? To my eyes the perfect sized gentlemen’s Rolex from their ‘classic’ collection is the Daydate 40 with fluted bezel. It takes the essence and purity of design of the 36mm and gives it an extra presence, without any of the drawbacks as I touched on regarding the Datejust II. Is the 36mm too small for me? Yes. But should that stop other men wearing that size piece? No. Many simply prefer to have a lighter watch, both in terms of weight and visual impact; it’s all a question of perspective and taste. As with life, but especially in the horological world, choose your own path. And whether the size is your taste or not, there is no denying the Rolex Datejust 36mm is a beauty of timeless proportions.
The Rolex Datejust 36mm in stainless steel and white gold, reference 116234, retails for £6,150. On the secondary market you can find a ‘new – preowned’ piece at around £5,000.