Sunday Morning Showdown: A Day-Date With Destiny — Rolex Vs. Rolex
In our Sunday Morning Showdown, two of our writers go head-to-head in an epic showdown for the ages. Strong opinions and hysterical hyperbole are welcome (so feel free to join in with the fun in the comments section below). And don’t forget to let us know which watches you’d like to see torn to shreds/effusively exalted next week. We’ll try and feature as many of our readers’ choices as we can. This morning, we set you the task of choosing between the same watch in different metals. The Rolex Day-Date 40 in yellow gold takes on its platinum sibling.
When devising this week’s Sunday Morning Showdown topic, our writers knew they wanted to feature the Rolex Day-Date. It’s one of the few current Rolex models that has not yet been featured and is undoubtedly overdue. The problem is, neither Jorg nor Ben could decide on a worthy advisory for the Day-Date. Both writers like to create a match-up with two watches from different brands, yet it was a little more challenging for this one.
Yellow gold Day-Date or Platinum Day-Date?
It then occurred that Jorg considers the Rolex Day-Date the ultimate gold watch. On the contrary, in its platinum guise, Ben believes the Day-Date is the ultimate expression of Rolex. So then, we have our challenge set to win our readers’ hearts for the same watch in either yellow gold or platinum. The proven Superlative Caliber 3255 powers both Day-Dates, but only the gold versions of the Day-Date have a fluted bezel. For Jorg’s yellow gold reference 228238, combining the fluted bezel with Roman numerals creates the presidential image synonymous with Day-Dates.
In contrast, the complexity of machining the fluted bezel to the same standards in platinum means Ben’s choice forgoes the fluting. Instead, this platinum Day-Date 40 opts for a smooth polished bezel alongside straight-forward baton indices. There has been a new addition to the platinum Day-Date with Roman numeral dial from Watches & Wonders 2021. Still, Ben selects the simplified batons. But that does not imply the platinum Day-Date is devoid of decoration, as across the ice-blue dial is a cross-hatch motif. By mixing these styles in the familiar Day-Date layout, the platinum reference 228206 cuts a fresh look.
But which one gets your vote?
Before we get too engrossed, there is the matter of last week’s battle to crown our victor. Last week in our Revival Rivals Showdown, we asked you to choose between two re-issues of famous classics. In the end, the Zenith Chronomaster Revival El Primero A385 came out guns blazing to the war-cries of 56% of the votes. Even with the Zenith Chronomaster Revival El Primero A385 coming out on top, there was plenty of love for both choices. As both our writers stated, it will be great to see versions of the re-editions included as part of the permanent line-up.
Looking forward to this fight, will it be the yellow gold or the platinum Day-Date that takes the crown? Now over to Jorg to stake his claim for the yellow gold Day-Date.
Jorg — Rolex Day-Date 40 Yellow Gold
The Rolex Day-Date is without a doubt the signature gold watch. There is no other wrist-worn item that exudes ultra-luxury as emphatically as the Day-Date. If someone randomly said to me, “think of a gold watch,” before the final syllable is even enunciated, my mind already conjures the gold Day-Date. And not just any Day-Date, but the full-tilt boogie yellow gold Day-Date with gold dial, hands, and indices. Add Roman numerals and a fluted bezel, and I start to question which came first; the Day-Date or time itself? That’s how timeless this configuration is! But does this make other gold options irrelevant? Of course, not. But I cannot picture another gold watch that effortlessly embodies luxury as well as the yellow gold Day-Date.
Ben: The Day-Date certainly is a statement piece in solid yellow gold — especially if your name is Don Vito and you have an offer that no one could refuse.
Jorg: When Rolex introduced the Day-Date in 1956, it was Rolex’s flagship model. The Day-Date was the first-ever self-winding, chronometer-certified, waterproof (terminology of the day) wristwatch that had both day and date windows. The day of the week was famously spelled out in full in an arching aperture at 12 o’clock. Owners could even specify the language for the names of the day. The date indication sat comfortably at 3 o’clock as it had done in the prior Rolex Datejust from 1945. To further emphasize the Day-Date’s cultural status, the case and bracelet were predominantly forged in either 18-carat gold (white, yellow, and rose) or platinum. Of course, there are some rare examples in stainless steel, which, as typical in the watch world, counterintuitively demand higher estimates on the auction block.
Over the ensuing decades, we have seen many famous leaders and celebrities wear a Rolex Day-Date. The watch earned the nickname the “President” when Rolex gifted one to the United States President, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Many successive US Presidents could be seen wearing a Day-Date, including; Johnson, Ford, Reagan, Nixon, and Roosevelt. There is also the infamous tale that Marilyn Monroe attempted to gift John F. Kennedy a Day-Date with the engraving “With love as always.” A watch that he politely declined to avoid a public scandal.
…the rich and powerful made the Day-Date into the icon it is today…
Not just political leaders, but the Day-Date became ubiquitous in the world of professional golf thanks to the likes of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Even oil well firefighter Red Adair wore his Day-Date during strenuous activities on the job. There are many more examples, but what I’m getting at here, Ben, is that all the versions mentioned above shared one thing in common — each one was a yellow gold Day-Date. In any other metal, the Rolex Day-Date may not have had the cultural impact that it has achieved in yellow gold. And it’s this connotation of a watch worn by the rich and powerful that made the Day-Date into the icon it is today, just as Robert-Jan suggested in his historical overview of the Day-Date.
As far back as I remember, I always wanted a gold Day-Date
So, I chose the most historically authentic version of the Rolex Day-Date, yellow gold, for this match-up. The real question comes down to whether it’s the popular gold dial or the slightly more restrained white dial. I’m usually the least flashy guy going, so the white would make better sense. But in this instance, it’s go big or go home. In conjunction with the mass of polished gold, it has to be the gold dial. The Roman hour indices I can take or leave, as the baton-style do have a stately quality. Combining this with the president bracelet and hidden clasp, the Day-Date in yellow gold is a feast for the eyes. While I may prefer a vintage example over a new model, I’d still configure a current Day-Date this way.
I favor the 36mm version’s purity as it’s already a pretty prominent slab of bling.
The reason for preferring the vintage piece comes down to diameter. Up until 2015, the Day-Date was available in the gentleman’s size of 36mm. As the name suggests, the new Day-Date 40 comes in a slightly more contemporary size of 40mm. I favor the purity of the 36mm version as it’s already a pretty prominent slab of bling on your wrist. But in reality, the 40mm version is a better fit for my 18cm wrist and still works well with the yellow gold. After all of this, for some reason, Ben thinks he knows better when it comes to playing with the configurator on the Rolex website. He throws out all the history that came before and opts for the platinum Day-Date with an ice-blue dial. We’ll let him play along, dear readers, but you already know who the real winner is.
Ben: Well, now that Jorg is finished playing president, or more likely, henchman #2 in Goodfellas, it’s time for me to celebrate what is indeed the ultimate Rolex.
Ben — Rolex Day-Date 40 Platinum
Jorg, if you’re gunning for the oval office, you have to get with the times. These days, flashing gold on your wrist during any presidential term is going to land you in hot water with the tabloid press. Even if you found the gold Day-Date while staging an opportunistic beach clean-up in the presence of the world’s media, they will nail you for it. Suppose the watch was a gift from an elderly relative that you care for during your hectic schedule. Even in that case, the headlines will read, “President Weppelink uses government funds for opulent luxury while the economy crumbles!” That’s just how boring and predictable the political press is in this regard.
Platinum is the perfect choice for stealth-wealth.
Gold, especially in its natural coloration, is the instant identifier for wealth and power. In these times, that can attract the wrong attention. So white metal is the direction to go. But what if you still want to own that confidence-boosting power-piece with a reassuring heft? Well, luckily, the Rolex Day-Date is available in two white metals; white gold and platinum. To me, the mass of platinum is the perfect choice for stealth-wealth and avoiding unwanted attention. Only the real connoisseurs would notice the ice-blue dial as a Rolex trait to signify its premium platinum pieces.
The Big Kahuna
The platinum Rolex Day-Date has an aura surrounding it, almost as if it’s a mythical beast. The nickname “The Big Kahuna” has stuck with the platinum Day-Date through all the generations since the reference 6612 from 1958. You couldn’t hope for a more fitting moniker for what is undeniably the top-of-the-line Rolex model. Sure, adding gemstones stretches the costs to the upper extreme at Rolex. Especially the full pavé diamond version with a rainbow assortment of colored gems at each marker. But in my view, we are discussing Rolex watches with a sense of quiet restraint and purity. Just the case metals alone exude the appropriate levels of luxury.
Jorg: I am surprised you’re not dropping ice on your Day-Date, Ben.
Ben: Well, I prefer the youthful quality of the platinum Day-Date that eschews its black and white past. Platinum itself is a highly challenging metal to polish to the same standards as gold and steel. The “chewy” properties of platinum’s compound require a deft touch to apply the correct force during the finishing stage. The results speak for themselves as platinum emanates a wholly different sheen when amongst similar white metals such as steel and white gold. Stainless steel can often appear as a cold material due to the silver base. White gold does its best to hide its bright yellow roots but still emits that warm tint.
In comparison, platinum can adapt to its surroundings and reflect the hues of the environment. It’s unnerving at first, but platinum’s chameleonic abilities have to be experienced to be believed. No doubt, this is what birthed “The Big Kahuna” reference.
Pole position on the grid
The embellishment that elevates this particular platinum version is that grid-style decoration on the dial. There was apprehension from onlookers at the 2015 Baselworld fair of Rolex trying too hard to appeal to a younger audience. But that hatching motif brings out the contrast of the ice-blue dial.
Jorg: I fully agree that dial is a peach. And the same motif also works wonders for the yellow gold Day-Date 40 with black dial.
Ben: As mentioned, the ice-blue colorway is savored exclusively for Rolex models in its most precious metal. With a flat or even sunray brushing, the ice-blue color could get lost amongst the striking platinum case. But with this varying finishing on the dial, the mixture of darker and lighter depths brings out the full impact of ice-blue.
A platinum Day-Date is the ultimate expression of Rolex.
As a complete package, the platinum case with polished bezel and president bracelet creates Rolex’s ultimate expression. I even consider it a watch that ascends to the level of superiority in its category. Now you can understand how it made it a challenge to find a foe to fend it off against. Luckily, its gold brethren comprised of historical elements that packed a punch against the platinum Rolex Day-Date. But we all know the real winner here. Jorg said earlier, “it’s go big or go home.” Already, I can see him heading home early with the loss against the almighty ice-blue platinum Day-Date.
Jorg: I like to roll back to where you mocked my Presidential fantasy of wearing a gold Day-Date. I agree; the public outrage these days would be catastrophic for my political ambitions. Thankfully, I am not planning to run for office any time soon. But let’s imagine you as my opponent wearing a platinum Day-Date and ice-blue dial. Indeed your wristwatch would cause an even more significant scandal considering the cost of €60,100 over the yellow gold’s €38,400 price tag. Perhaps you’re not aware of the eagle-eye celeb watch-spotters out there nowadays. Not only would you be accused of lavish spending, but actively trying to deceive the people you are serving.
I am slapping down your claims that yellow gold is a flashy metal connected to dubious characters — like the mobsters you referred to. My point is, what’s wrong with that? You sound like you enjoy the gangster movies you referred to as well.
Ben: That, I do. But I prefer the adaptability of platinum’s subtlety.
Jorg: For me, the Day-Date is a statement piece, no matter which precious metal you go for. I’m not against the platinum Day-Date, but it’s still the yellow gold Day-Date when it comes to making choices. Primarily thanks to the historical figures that shaped the world and continue to do so. While leaders change, the yellow gold Day-Date persists and always will.
Ben: I have no qualms with the importance of the Day-Date in yellow gold factors in the history books. But when it comes to a timepiece I choose for myself, it’s the platinum model, especially with this dial configuration. My friend said it best when she first saw the platinum Day-Date back in 2015:
The one, the wow, the everything!
But what do our readers think? Vote now and make your choice known in the comments below.