Editor’s Note: Perhaps it’s because Ceri has been spotting them on the wrists of the rich and famous, or maybe it’s thanks to the handsome green-dialled version released at Baselworld that we’re still more than a little infatuated with. Whatever the reason, the solid-gold Rolex Day-Date remains the undisputed king of power watches. We take another look at 2015’s Day-Date 40.
The story in a second
The ultimate power watch has had a major upgrade.
The big question
How long will it take for the next-generation movement technology showcased in the Calibre 3255 to trickle into Rolex’s more accessible collections?
There’s a weight to a gold Rolex that’s measured in more than grams. A gold Rolex is a powerful signifier – of success, of prestige, and of quality – far more so than any other comparable gold watch. And the most iconic iteration of the gold Rolex is, without doubt, the Day-Date, commonly referred to as ‘the President’.
There is some confusion about exactly what a Rolex President is. The term is used to variously describe the Day-Date model, the jubilee bracelet, or the combination of the two. What’s less confusing is the inspiration behind the name; Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson owned different versions of a gold Rolex on a jubilee bracelet.
Always very marketing-savvy, Rolex capitalised on the prestigious association – running a campaign from 1956 until the late ’60s with the tagline: “Men who guide the history of the world wear Rolex watches”. In a battery of print ads, the Day-Date was referred to as “the presidents’ watch” and later as “The Rolex President Day-Date”, and even today, the brand has kept the connection going, describing it as a model worn “by more presidents, leaders and visionaries than any other watch.”
The close association of this watch – only ever available in precious metals – with the world’s political elite creates a strong aura of authority around the Day-Date that makes it the go-to choice for anyone wanting to make a power statement with their wrist. It’s also a watch that’s becoming increasingly significant for the ever bullish vintage Rolex market – with the Phillips ‘Glamorous Day-Date’ auction yielding impressive hammer prices. The Day-Date is being noticed by a younger generation of collectors, and is very much on-trend at the moment.
The Day-Date 40
Which brings us back to the Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 40. There’s a lot that’s new about this watch. New case, new movement, new size, new dial finishes. The Day-Date 40 will replace the 41mm Day-Date II, but still sit alongside the 36mm Day-Date. Individually, the changes in the Day-Date 40 are all small, but taken as a whole they represent a significant upgrade to Rolex’s flagship model. We reviewed an Everose version, but it’s also available in platinum or yellow gold.
The clearest indication that we’re looking at a brand-new Rolex is the dazzling array of new textured dials on offer. The texture is achieved through a new technique for Rolex, achieved by laser etching over a sunray finish. This example is a Sundust dial with a stripe motif, but there’s also a quadrant finish and an ice blue diagonal motif that’s unique to the platinum model. These new dials aren’t for everyone, but they add interest and texture to the watch as well as referencing the brand’s rich history of exotic dials, which often have wonderful names such as ‘tapestry’, ‘linen’ or ‘honeycomb’. And by the way, these dial finishes are exclusive to the Day-Date 40.
Aside from the dial itself, the Day-Date 40 comes with either stick markers or ‘deconstructed’ roman numerals. And of course the instantaneous change day and date indications. These pictures don’t fully capture just how gold this dial is. You could be mistaken for thinking it’s champagne, but trust us: in reality it’s very gold. I can imagine in certain lights, the gold dial/hands/case combination might make telling the time more than a moment’s glance, but let’s be honest, legibility isn’t the main purpose of the Day-Date 40.
While the new case and dials are important, the exciting – and really significant – news is the calibre 3255 that powers the Day-Date 40. Calibre 3255 is Rolex’s next-generation movement, and we expect to see it (or versions of it) rolling out through their collections in the years to come. Aside from the instantaneous date change (meaning that the day and date flip within a fraction of a second at the stroke of midnight – already a feature on the Day-Date and the Day-Date II) the Calibre 3255 boasts performance twice as exacting as COSC standards, a new Chronergy escapement (a more energy efficient version of a Swiss lever escapement), Parachrom hairspring, thinner barrels, upgraded gear train and new lubricants.
These innovations have resulted in a power reserve that is now 70 hours, a 50 per cent gain on the previous movement. It also means that Rolex – already renowned for their hardworking, reliable movements, are continuing to research and develop in this area to keep step with impressive competitor advancements like Omega’s Master Co-Axial series. While it might not have been the sexiest new Rolex release at Baselworld, the Calibre 3255 is the most important. And not just for what it is, but what it represents.
On the wrist
The Day-Date 40 was a dream to wear. The bracelet is nothing short of amazing. Buttery soft and yet still supple. Rolex have also gone to some effort to future-proof it by adding ceramic inserts in the links so that the soft metal won’t wear away and loosen over time. Beyond the excellent bracelet, the case is, for me, slightly more reasonably proportioned than the Day-Date II. What a difference one millimetre makes. But beyond all the tangible factors, there’s just something about slipping on a solid gold Rolex. You can’t escape that cultural weight we mentioned earlier. It was also less bling than expected. Don’t get me wrong, thanks to the fluted bezel, gold dial and multifaceted bracelet, the Day-Date 40 sparkles in any light, but the Everose is warmer and less harsh than yellow gold. As always Rolex have offered the complete package with the Day-Date 40 – and further proof (if any were needed) that they’re still at the top of the game.
Guess how many US Presidents have worn this watch?
For the watch forums
What’s the next watch that’s going to benefit from the next-generation movement technology?
Who’s it for?
The promise of the Day-Date is unchanged. It’s a watch made for captains of industry and leaders of men.
What would we change?
I’d like to see a little more contrast on the dial – but to be fair that’s less of an issue with some of the other dial variants.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 40 Australian pricing
This version of the Rolex Day-Date 40 has an RRP of $47,550.
Original images by Jason Reekie.