The Oyster Perpetual Day-Date is instantly recognisable, in particular thanks to its emblematic President bracelet, whose evocative name, together with the eminent figures who have worn it, ensured the Day-Date became known as the ‘presidents’ watch’.
It was an era for major economic, political and social change. With technological leaps in society, the world was not only becoming smaller but also increasingly globalised and as such, under the leadership of Hans Wilsdorf, for whom “dates and days are a necessity”, Rolex sought to develop a model with a clearly readable day display, appropriate for everyday use.
Since its debut, the Oyster Perpetual Day-Date has become the watch of choice for philanthropists like Warren Buffett, and not to mention sporting legends and cinema luminaries including Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer and American filmmaker Martin Scorsese, whom are both among the many Rolex Testimonees associated with the timepiece.
The legacy of the Day-Date enjoys similar laudatory acclaim as the men who wear it; five years before its introduction, Rolex presented famed WWII Allied Forces commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower with an 18-ct yellow-gold Rolex Datejust to celebrate its 150,000th chronometer. The watch was engraved with the initials “DDE” and five stars for his rank.
Transcending a value that hitherto had been dominated by its predecessor Datejust, the Day-Date was eventually introduced as the “watch of prestige” within the Oyster Perpetual collection. The unprecedented innovation that the Day-Date offered made it truly unique and instantly recognisable: it displayed the day of the week in an arc-shaped window at 12 o’clock.
Although the days may be the same wherever you are in the world, the Day-Date offered a solution to those requiring complete mastery of their personal calendar by tailoring to the needs of its wearer, adapting the system to 26 languages like Latin, Arabic, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Japanese, Chinese ideograms or even the Ge’ez alpha syllabary used in the Horn of Africa – the Day-Date expresses the cultural identity of its wearer. Suffice it to say, the Day-Date provided a universal yet personal approach to reckoning time and space, leading to its growing popularity amongst titans of the world.
Look Calm, Keep Innovating
In true Rolex fashion, the watch has remained largely the same aesthetically throughout its history with the brand adding incremental technical modifications and design enhancements over the years. The early models ran on the calibre 1555 automatic movement until Rolex replaced it with the higher-beat calibre 1556 automatic movement in the mid-1960s, but the brand kept its eyes on its namesake raison d’être – ideating improvements for its vaunted Day-Date complication.
The “miracle of midnight” is the fruit of numerous years of research: from 1950 to 1955 Rolex registered four patents for timepieces featuring an indication of day and date. When midnight strikes, the day and date simultaneously change in their respective windows on the dial. This watchmaking feat equipped the Day-Date with two discs that turn both instantaneously and simultaneously.
For the day and the date to change in a fraction of a second, the mechanism must accumulate enough energy to not only activate both discs at a precise moment, but also effectively impede them so that they only advance one day at a time.
In 1972, Rolex equipped the calibre 1556 with the “hacking” feature, meaning that the seconds hand comes to a complete stop when the winding crown is pulled out. By 1977, the calibre 3055 with a higher frequency rate of 28,800 beats per hour with a quickset date functionality, meaning that the date could now be set independently from the centre hands.
By 2015, the Day-Date 40 was running on a next-generation movement – the calibre 3255 featuring an approximate 70-hour power reserve and an improved accuracy rating of -2/+2 seconds per day.
An Aesthetic And Technical Masterpiece
In 2022, the Day-Date 40 in 950 platinum features a fluted bezel crafted from the same precious material – a first for Rolex. A cornerstone of the brand’s stylistic heritage, the fluted bezel initially had a functional purpose: the fluting served to screw the bezel onto the case, helping to ensure the waterproofness of the watch.
New fixation techniques have since been developed and the fluted bezel has become a purely aesthetic feature. Crafted exclusively from 18-ct gold, the Day-Date is now available in 950 platinum, the most prestigious metal in existence. A material with exceptional luminosity and a captivating white glow, platinum is challenging to work with, especially when carrying out finishing.
Rolex therefore came up with an innovative new manufacturing process for creating a fluted bezel in 950 platinum. Producing fluting with the perfect shape and sparkling surfaces was a true technical feat.
Its signature bracelet has also seen many subtle improvements through the decades. Fitted with a concealed Crown clasp, opened with a hinged Rolex crown – the final aesthetic and functional touch to this bracelet – it includes ceramic inserts inside the links to enhance its flexibility and longevity.
A concealed attachment system on the bracelet ensures seamless visual continuity between the bracelet and case. Its bracelet is nearly as iconic as the watch itself. Projecting a unique aura that speaks of prominence, it has become a symbol of prestige and personal accomplishment, the Day-Date has been championed by numerous personalities who shape the world in their respective disciplines through their commitment, performance, human qualities and creative genius.