The Top Five Alternatives To The Rolex Datejust
If you’re looking for the ideal daily-wear watch, the Rolex Datejust is a popular option. It’s a watch with which you just can’t go wrong, and it’s perfect for both informal and formal situations. The variety in dial options and executions means that there is a Datejust for just about everyone. But what if you want something else? It could be that you want something a bit different than a Rolex, or perhaps you can’t get a Datejust in the current world that we live in. Are there any great alternative options, or is the Datejust a truly irreplaceable icon? Let’s find out.
The Datejust is a watch that will suit anyone on the planet, and that’s exactly why it has convinced so many people to buy one. It is the watch. I almost have a feeling that if I gave a child a pencil, that child would draw something that looks like a Datejust. But there certainly must be several options out there for the people looking for something different. Especially since the Datejust — the perfect entry-level Rolex — has fallen victim to unattainability and rising prices.
Alternatives to the Datejust
I have always had a massive soft spot for the Datejust with a pink/salmon dial with Roman numerals. However, there is one big “but” that has always kept me from buying one: its 36mm size is on the edge of being too small for my wrist. Over the years, I have worn several Datejust models for longer periods of time, and while it never greatly bothered me, the size has been a factor that kept popping up when considering buying one. Obviously, a simple switch would be the 41mm version of the Datejust.
But is the 41mm Datejust really the way to go? Despite Rolex optimizing the proportions of its larger Datejust 41 in comparison to the discontinued Datejust II, it still looks like a beefed-up version of the true Datejust. In my opinion, 36mm is the Datejust at its best, and it’s why I started looking at alternatives. It’s when you start compiling them that you begin to wonder if there could possibly be a better option than the Datejust. So let’s see what is out there and if there is such a thing. The criteria? Let keep it simple — a steel case and bracelet, a date indication, and great versatility for a variety of situations. It shouldn’t be that hard to come up with a list, right? But are the alternatives better than one of the watch world’s biggest classics?
1. Grand Seiko SBGH277
The first great option is the Grand Seiko SBGH277. It’s a watch that is hard to beat in terms of quality, technical specs, finishing, and looks. The SBGH277 comes with its own great history, and it can be yours at a lower price than any of the Datejust models at €6,200. Let’s shortly sum up why this is such a great watch.
The SBGH277 features a brilliant 40mm stainless steel case. It is modeled after the 44GS case from 1967, and it tells the brilliant story of Tanaka’s Grammar of Design. It is a joy to see with its sharp angels and mix of finishes that accentuate the brilliant shapes and curves. Add the crisp white dial with the typical Grand Seiko hands hovering above it, and you end up with a simple but brilliant design.
Inside the case, Grand Seiko equipped the watch with the in-house, hi-beat Caliber 9S85. This 37-jewel automatic movement operates at 36,000vph and has a power reserve of 55 hours and a date display at 3 o’clock. Grand Seiko states that it is accurate to +5/-3 seconds per day. The SBGH277 is is an amazing option if you want something other than a Datejust. As Robert-Jan mentioned in his review, if there would be one point of criticism it would be the 13.3mm thickness. But that doesn’t stop it from wearing very comfortably on the wrist. Overall, the Grand Seiko SBGH277 is hard to beat considering what you get for the money. Unless, of course, you would like a Spring Drive version, which could also be a great option. But as this is the best direct competitor from Grand Seiko, the SBGH277 was a no-brainer for the first spot on this list.
2. Cartier Santos Large
One of the biggest attractions, if not the biggest, when it comes to the Datejust is obviously the Rolex brand. If one brand brings a comparable level of attraction in terms of romance and history, it is Cartier. Whereas Rolex has mastered the art of creating icons that are “can’t-go-wrong” options, Cartier watches are more outspoken and extravagant in their presence. If you choose Cartier, you choose style and sophistication above all. A great example of that impeccable style is the Cartier Santos. The current Santos was introduced in 2018 after a 2-year hiatus from the collection.
The Santos comes in different sizes, but the one suited to a great variety of wrists is the 39.8mm version. This Santos is just 9.08mm thick and equipped with the in-house Calibre 1847 MC. This Cartier movement replaces the ETA base calibers of previous models. While Cartier slightly changed the design of the bezel much to Robert-Jan’s distaste, it does flow very nicely into the iconic stainless steel bracelet. The Santos features one of the most recognizable and beautiful bracelets out there. Combined with the case shape, the opaline silver dial with its Roman numerals, the blue sword-style hands, and a beautiful crown, it creates an iconic style statement that is pretty much unmatched at €7,350.
3. Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M
The third pick on this list is, without a doubt, one that many of you would expect. If there is one perfect all-around daily wearer in the Omega collection, it is the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra. It is such a great all-rounder that it could be both a perfect alternative to the Datejust and a watch to consider when you are thinking of buying a Rolex Explorer. But I have to be honest — for a long time, the Seamaster Aqua Terra didn’t really do it for me. With the Speedmaster Moonwatch, The Dark Side Of The Moon series, the Seamaster Diver 300M, the vintage-inspired Seamaster 300, and the Ploprof, there is simply an abundance of choice.
But that all changed when I had a chance to try on the green-dial version that was introduced in early 2020. I was blown away by how much that green color influenced my overall opinion of the watch. It’s weird how the brain works, but sometimes, a click comes at the moment you least expect it. Like the Cartier Santos, the Aqua Terra comes in a variety of sizes. The most common is, without a doubt, the 41mm version. But if you like a smaller option, the 38mm version could be a perfect choice as well. For me, it would be the 41mm model with the green dial on a stainless steel bracelet. It is powered by Omega’s co-axial Caliber 8900. The movement is Master Chronometer-certified and is visible through the sapphire case back. I could go on for a bit but most of you know how good the Seamaster Aqua Terra is. And at €5,700, it is a steal compared to the Datejust. What’s not to like?
4. Rolex Oyster Perpetual
The first three watches on this list were no-brainers, really. But that’s when the reality of how great the Datejust is as an all-arounder finally kicks in. Finding a watch with similar status, versatility, and presence that is a serious alternative is tough. It’s when the idea that perhaps the perfect alternative actually lies within the ranks of Rolex itself.
When Rolex introduced the latest-generation Oyster Perpetual last year, I was seriously impressed. Did the brand create its own Datejust competitor, or did Rolex just add another successful model to the collection? For now, it looks like the latter. You might think that the Oyster Perpetual does not solve the size issue I have with the Datejust. But I think the current Oyster Perpetual 41 is a much better-proportioned design than the current Datejust 41. That silver-dial version with yellow gold hands and hour markers is a stunner! Granted, it does not feature a date indication, but I simply love those looks.
The Oyster Perpetual also suffers from the same situation as the Datejust, and that’s availability at dealers and rising prices on the gray/pre-owned market. In the case of the latest versions, the prices have risen above those of the Datejust itself. An alternative would be the more affordable previous-generation 39mm Oyster Perpetual ref. 114300. I personally love the “Red Grape” version with its purple dial and red accents. It’s part of the trio of 39mm models with quirky dials that Rolex introduced first, only releasing the black and white-dial variants later. At 39mm, this is the perfect daily wearer for a variety of wrist sizes, and that makes it more versatile than the current Datejust models. Sure, the Oyster Perpetual suffers from the same buying issues as the Datejust. But if you are seriously considering a Datejust, you should always seriously consider the Oyster Perpetual.
5. Omega Constellation Globemaster
A second Omega? Yes! The Constellation Globemaster is one of the most underrated Omega watches in the current Omega collection. As some of you will probably know, Fratello’s own Robert-Jan owns a Sedna Gold Globemaster, and it is one of the watches that he loves the most. I can say that every time I see it on his wrist, it stands out. Sure, its fluted bezel resembles the Datejust, but if you ask me, that’s where the comparison ends. While the fact that Robert-Jan’s Globemaster is made of Sedna Gold definitely plays a part in the wow factor, the stainless steel version of the watch is no slouch either. If you see it on the stainless steel bracelet, you realize that the Globemaster is an incredibly versatile watch that makes for a perfect daily wearer.
Robert-Jan also wrote a great in-depth piece on the Globemaster Annual Calendar. In it, he explained why the Globemaster is Omega’s best-kept secret. While it might be nice sometimes to keep things a secret and admire them in their mystique, it would not make sense to not add the Globemaster to this list. It comes with a very comfortable 39mm stainless steel case, the choice of a beautiful dark blue or silver pie-pan dial, a fluted bezel, and a very comfortable bracelet. Inside the case, Omega equipped the watch with the Master Chronometer-certified co-axial Caliber 8900, which is visible through the sapphire case back. The Globemaster, which is part of the iconic Constellation family, is simply a great option at €7,100. It also is the perfect watch to close out our list.
There you have it — five different options that could be a serious Datejust alternative. Overall, I can say that after writing this article, I think there are definitely great Rolex Datejust options out there. But it is very hard to top one of the industry’s most enduring watches. When it comes to watches that have the same overall allure as the Datejust, finding serious alternatives once again proves difficult.
It is easier for people who didn’t want a Datejust in the first place to find a similarly versatile watch. But if you have set your sights on a Datejust, it might be hard to convince you that one of these alternatives is the better option. That is, obviously, all a matter of personal perspective. But maybe I have overlooked an option that should have been on this list. Please let us know in the comments section what your pick would be or what watch(es) you would add to the list.