Sharing is caring!

The Datejust has been the archetypal Rolex watch for 75 years. It is Rolex’s most varied watch collection with a slew of styles and sizes for men and women. Yet, regardless of the material and design variations, it is always instantly recognizable thanks to its iconic look. Here’s everything you need to know about the Rolex Datejust.

Ultimate Guide Rolex Datejust
The Iconic Rolex Datejust

Quick Rolex Glossary

Anyone familiar with Rolex watches will know that the brand favors using particular names to describe various aspects of its watches. Here are some of the common ones that are important to know in relation to Datejust watches.

White Rolesor and Everose Rolesor Rolex Datejust
White Rolesor and Everose Rolesor Rolex Datejust
  • Instantaneous date mechanism: The date instantly switches to the next date at midnight rather than rolling over slowing over the course of a few hours
  • Rapid setting: More commonly known as quickset, this means that the date can be set independently from the time
  • Stop-seconds: More commonly known as hacking, this means that the seconds hand comes to a complete stop when the winding crown is pulled out for precise time setting
  • Cyclops: The bubble-like lens that protrudes from the crystal above the date window to magnify it
  • Oyster case: The specific case structure that Rolex has been using since 1926 to ensure optimal water resistance that includes a screw-down winding crown and screw-down fluted caseback
  • Perpetual movement: The self-winding movement with a Perpetual rotor that Rolex first introduced in 1931. Any Rolex that has “Perpetual” written on the dial is an automatic watch
  • Oyster Perpetual: A Rolex watch that combines a water-resistant Oyster case and automatic Perpetual movement
  • Everose gold: Rolex’s proprietary 18k rose gold alloy that’s mixed with copper for color and platinum for fade resistance
  • Rolesor: The combination of stainless steel and gold on a Rolex watch. It can be called Yellow Rolesor, White Rolesor or Everose Rolesor depending on the particular shade of gold used
  • Jubilee Bracelet: Rolex’s five-link metal bracelet with semi-circular links
  • Oyster Bracelet: Rolex’s three-link metal bracelet with flat links
  • President Bracelet: Rolex’s precious metal three-link metal bracelet with semi-circular links
  • Easylink: The extension link fitted to some clasps to allow the wearer to easily adjust the length by 5mm

Brief History of the Rolex Datejust

Rolex introduced the Oyster Perpetual Datejust in 1945 to celebrate the brand’s 40th anniversary. The Datejust brought together two Rolex innovations from the prior two decades—the Oyster case and the Perpetual movement—and combined it with a date indication. The Datejust made history as the first automatic chronometer wristwatch to display the date via a window on the dial. The watch featured a 36mm case in yellow gold and it was topped with a fluted bezel. This was also the Rolex watch model that debuted the now-famous Jubilee bracelet.

Vintage Datejust without Cyclops or DATEJUST on the dial

Within a decade of its introduction, Rolex enhanced the Datejust in a few important ways. First, in 1953, the Cyclops magnifications lens was affixed to the exterior of the crystal to make the date window more legible. Then, by 1955, the date mechanism was updated to instantly switch to the next day at midnight. Also in the mid-1950s, the name DATEJUST became a permanent fixture on the dials. Finally, near the end of the decade, the Datejust silhouette moved away from the “bubble back” caseback towards a flatter shape due to a redesigned movement with a flatter rotor. These features are still an integral part of Rolex Datejust watches today.

In 1953, Rolex furnished the Datejust with the option of a “Turn-O-Graph” rotating timing bezel. The Datejust Turn-O-Graph models quickly became known as the Rolex “Thunderbird” once they were appointed as the official watch of the US Air Force Thunderbirds Squadron. The Turn-O-Graph bezels remained an option of the 36mm Datejust until it was discontinued in 2011.

pre-owned Rolex Datejust Turn-o-graph Thunderbird
Rolex Datejust Turn-O-Graph

To accompany the men’s Datejust watch, Rolex added the Lady-Datejust to the collection in 1957. The Oyster Perpetual Lady-Datejust included the key features of the original Datejust but with a smaller 26mm case.

Over the next decades, Rolex continued to improve the movements powering the watches, which led to new Datejust reference families. A particularly significant development was the addition of the quickset feature in the late-1970s, which allowed the date to be adjusted without having to continuously turn the hands around the dial to pass midnight. It’s also important to note the launch of the quartz-powered models called the Oysterquartz Datejust in 1977.

The Cyclops lens magnifies the date 2.5 times

Along with new movements, the Datejust collection also expanded to include new material options, sizes, and style variations in bezels, bracelets, and dials.

Key Rolex Datejust Milestones

  • 1945 – Rolex introduces the men’s Datejust watch with a 36mm case
  • 1953 – Rolex adds the Cyclops magnification to the crystal
  • 1953 – Rolex introduces Datejust with a Turn-O-Graph bezel
  • 1955 – Rolex modifies the date mechanism to become instantaneous
  • 1957 – Rolex equips the Datejust with Caliber 1065 with a slimmer rotor, thus flattening the caseback
  • 1957 – Rolex introduces the Lady-Datejust for women
  • 1977 – Rolex adds quickset functionality to the Datejust
  • 1977 – Rolex introduces Oysterquartz Datejust
  • 1988 – Rolex updates Datejust with sapphire crystal and Caliber 3135
  • 2009 – Rolex introduces Datejust II with 41mm case
  • 2015 – Rolex increases Lady-Datejust to 28mm
  • 2016 – Rolex discontinues Datejust II and replaces it with Datejust 41 with Caliber 3235
  • 2019 – Rolex introduces new-gen Datejust 36 with Caliber 3235

The Defining Characteristics and Variations of the Rolex Datejust

There are a few notable design features that define the Oyster Perpetual Datejust:

  • Water-resistant round Oyster cases with Twinlock winding crown
  • Solid screw-down casebacks with fluting
  • Dials with three hands at the center and a date window at 3 o’clock
  • Automatic movement (the only exception are the Oysterquartz Datejust watches with quartz movements)
Gold fluted bezel vs. Steel engine-turned bezel

On the flip side, the Datejust collection offers numerous variations that can be combined into countless configurations.

  • Bezels: fluted, smooth, gem-set, rotating “Turn-O-Graph” (discontinued), engine-turned (discontinued)
  • Bracelets: Jubilee, Oyster, President (limited to smaller models)
  • Materials: steel, gold, two-tone Rolesor, platinum (limited to smaller models)
  • Sizes: 26mm (discontinued), 28mm, 31mm, 36mm, 41mm

The Main Datejust Models

The Rolex Datejust is not just a watch but in fact a collection of various models. While not all of these are currently in production, it’s important to be aware of them if you’re shopping for pre-owned Rolex Datejust watches in the secondary market.

Two-Tone Vintage Rolex Datejust 36

Rolex Datejust 36

The classic choice, the Datejust 36 retains the original size of the inaugural model from 1945. As the mainstay of the collection, the Datejust 36 is not only the longest-running model in the line-up but it is also the one that has undergone the most changes over the last seven decades. From quickset vs. non-quickset to acrylic vs. sapphire, it is important to understand the differences between the various generations of the 36mm Datejust before deciding which one would work best for you.

Datejust 36 Ref. 4xxx, Ref. 5xxx,

  • Approximately mid-1940s until mid-1950s
  • Bubble back case shape to accommodate rotor
  • Acrylic crystal
  • No Cyclops lens
  • Non-instantaneous date change
  • Non-quickset date
  • Some dials with DATEJUST some without

Datejust 36 Ref. 6xxx

  • Approximately mid-1950s until 1960
  • Bubble back case shape to accommodate rotor
  • Acrylic crystal
  • Mostly Cyclops lens (some without)
  • Instantaneous date change
  • Non-quickset date
  • Mostly DATEJUST on the dial (some without)
  • Example: Rolex Datejust ref. 6105/6155

Datejust 36 Ref. 16xx

  • Approximately 1960 until 1977
  • Flat caseback
  • Acrylic crystal
  • Tritium replaced radium as luminous material on dials around 1963
  • Caliber 1560 or 1570 – hacking introduced in 1972
  • Instantaneous date change
  • Non-quickset date
  • Rolex Datejust ref. 1601

Datejust 36 Ref. 160xx

  • Approximately 1977 until 1988
  • Acrylic crystal
  • Tritium luminescence
  • Caliber 3035
  • Quickset date/Instantaneous date/hacking

Oysterquartz Datejust Ref. 170xx

  • Approximately 1977 until early-2000s
  • Angular 36mm case with integrated Oyster or Jubilee bracelet
  • Sapphire crystal
  • Caliber 5035 quartz movement
  • Hacking seconds
  • Quickset date/Instantaneous date/hacking
  • Example: Rolex Oysterquartz ref. 17013

Datejust 36 Ref. 162xx

  • Approximately 1988 until mid-2000s
  • 904L steel for stainless steel models
  • Sapphire crystal
  • Tritium luminescence until 1998, Luminova until 2000, then SuperLuminova
  • Caliber 3135
  • Quickset date/Instantaneous date/hacking
  • Example: Rolex Datejust ref. 16233

Datejust 36 Ref. 1162xx

  • Approximately mid-2000s until 2019
  • Redesigned case with thicker lugs
  • Sapphire crystal
  • SuperLuminova luminescence
  • Redesigned bracelet with polished center links, solid end links, and Easylink clasp
  • Caliber 3135
  • Quickset date/Instantaneous date/hacking
  • Example: Rolex Datejust ref. 116234

Datejust 36 Ref. 1262xx

  • 2018 – Present
  • Revamped case shape with redesigned lugs and sides
  • Sapphire crystal
  • Chromalight luminescence that glows green in the dark
  • Easylink clasp
  • Caliber 3235 with improved performance and boosted power reserve of 72 hours
  • Quickset date/Instantaneous date/hacking

Datejust II

In 2008, Rolex unveiled the Datejust II as a larger option for men to sit alongside the classic Datejust 36. Datejust II watches feature 41mm cases with broad bezels and thick lugs. This was a short-lived Datejust model as Rolex discontinued it in 2016 to make way for an updated version called the Datejust 41.

Datejust II with 41mm case
Datejust II with 41mm case

Datejust II Ref. 1163xx

  • 2008 – 2016
  • 41mm cases
  • Sapphire crystal
  • Dials with both Superluminova (green) and Chromalight (blue) lime
  • Oyster bracelet only with Easylink clasp
  • Bezels: smooth, fluted
  • Materials: stainless steel, white Rolesor, yellow Rolesor
  • Caliber 3136
  • Quickset date/Instantaneous date/hacking
  • Example: Datejust II ref. 116334

Datejust 41

In 2016, Rolex launched the Datejust 41 to replace the Datejust II. While both models sported 41mm cases, the newer Datejust 41 case is slightly slimmer, its lugs are more slender, and its bezel is thinner. The Datejust 41 collection also offers more style variations than the Datejust II.

Datejust 41 with a “Wimbledon” dial

More importantly, however, is that the Datejust 41 debuted the new-generation time and date Rolex movement, the Caliber 3235. The completely redesigned automatic movement offers improvements in accuracy, precision, durability, and power reserve.

Datejust 41 Ref. 1263xx

  • 2016 – Present
  • 41mm cases
  • Sapphire crystal
  • Dials with Chromalight (blue) lume
  • Oyster and Jubilee bracelets with Easylink clasp
  • Bezels: fluted, smooth,
  • Materials: stainless steel, white Rolesor, yellow Rolesor, Everose Rolesor
  • Caliber 3235
  • Example: Rolex Datejust 41 ref. 126300

Lady-Datejust

By the time Rolex released the Lady-Datejust, the Cyclops lens and instantaneous date mechanism were already developed. Therefore all Lady-Datejust watches were fitted with both of these signature features. Throughout most of its history, the ladies’ Datejust model included a 26mm case.

Full gold Lady-Datejust 26 with President bracelet
Full gold Lady-Datejust 26 with President bracelet

However, in 2015, Rolex replaced it with a slightly larger 28mm case size. The Lady-Datejust and the Datejust 31 are the only Datejust models that offer the option President bracelets as well as platinum references. What’s more, many of the Datejust watches for women offer the choice of lavish diamond embellishments including diamond-set bezels, dials, cases, and bracelets.

Lady-Datejust 26 Ref. 65xx

  • Approximately 1957 until 1970
  • Acrylic crystal
  • Caliber 1135 until 1967, Caliber 1166 until 1970
  • Non-quickset

Lady-Datejust 26 Ref. 69xx

Lady-Datejust 26 Ref. 69xxx

Lady-Datejust 26 Ref. 79xxx

Lady-Datejust 26 Ref. 179xxx

  • Approximately 2005 until 2015
  • Sapphire crystal
  • Redesigned case with thicker lugs
  • Redesigned bracelets and clasps.
  • Caliber 2235
  • Quickset
  • Example: Lady-Datejust 26 ref. 179179

Lady-Datejust 28 Ref. 279xxx

  • 2015 – present
  • Larger 28mm case
  • Sapphire crystal
  • Caliber 2236 with antimagnetic Syloxi hairspring and 55-hour power reserve
  • Quicket

Datejust 31

The Rolex Datejust 31 is commonly referred to as the mid-size Datejust and it has been a part of the brand’s catalog just about as long as the Lady-Datejust and has followed a similar history. In fact, this model is geared towards a women clientele looking for a larger Rolex Datejust than the petite Lady-Datejust.

Yellow Rolesor diamond Datejust 31
Yellow Rolesor diamond Datejust 31

Just like the Lady-Datejust, the Datejust 31 also offers platinum models, as well as the option of the famed President bracelet. Naturally, there are plenty of gem-set Rolex Datejust 31 models too.

Datejust 31 Ref. 68xx

  • Approximately early-1970s until mid-1980s
  • Acrylic crystal
  • Caliber 2035
  • Non-quickset
  • Example: Datejust 31 ref. 6824

Datejust 31 Ref. 68xxx

Datejust 31 Ref. 78xxx

Datejust 31 Ref. 178xxx

  • Approximately mid-2000s – present
  • Redesigned case with thicker lugs
  • Redesigned bracelets and clasps.
  • Sapphire crystal
  • Caliber 2235
  • Quickset
  • Previous generation Datejust 31, currently only manufactured in stainless steel or white Rolesor
  • Example: Rolex Datejust 31 ref. 178240

Datejust 31 Ref. 278xxx

  • 2018 – present
  • Redesigned case sides and lugs
  • New-generation Datejust 31 currently only manufactured in precious metals or two-tone configurations
  • Caliber 2236 with antimagnetic Syloxi hairspring and 55-hour power reserve
  • Quickset

The Must-Have Rolex Watch

There you have it, a comprehensive guide to all things Rolex Datejust. As you can see, the Datejust is an immense collection that spans 75 years. This translates to plenty of pre-owned Datejust models for men and women in the secondary market that range in price from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

The Iconic Datejust

From simple steel models to opulent precious metal gem-set editions, there truly is a Datejust watch to suit just about any luxury watch fan out there. With an appealing combination of vast variety and enduring style, it’s easy to understand why so many people have chosen the Datejust as their everyday Rolex watch.

Written by

Celine Simon

Celine is a freelance luxury watch writer who has enjoyed working in the horology industry for over ten years. Like many of the high-end timepieces she writes about, she comes from Switzerland—the heart of fine watchmaking. From Singapore to Montreal to Geneva to Dubai, Celine has lived all over the world but now calls Southern California home.