Why The Rolex Datejust Was A Perfect Everyday Watch
If you have followed me, you know that I am a bit of a Rolex Datejust lover. It was the watch of choice for my debut book for a reason. Part of its charm is its flexibility, so when Nacho asked me to write an article on why it is such a great do-it-all watch, I did not have to think twice. Or did I…
It seems so self-evident that the Datejust is a GADA (go anywhere, do anything) watch. But why is it so flexible? What makes it such a horological chameleon that seems at home in any situation? It is a topic that is often mentioned but hardly ever unpacked. So let’s do that today. Let’s ask ourselves, why is the Rolex Datejust such a perfect everyday watch? And perhaps more importantly, is it still?
Reliability of the Rolex Datejust
I think one aspect is pretty obvious. To be a true GADA watch, you need dependability in the technical sense. You want a watch to handle whatever daily life throws at you with some headroom to spare. This is provided by a tough movement as well as a solid case and bracelet.
Of course, water resistance is part of that equation. You might not wear your watch in the shower or swim with it on a regular basis. Still, there is peace of mind in knowing your watch can take a splash or shallow submersion. A screw-down crown, for instance, is a must for me on a true GADA watch.
Rolex, in general, excels at the above. It is in the brand’s DNA. There is no need to look at the crowned brand for the highest word in finishing or watchmaking craftsmanship. But for usable daily reliability? Yes! In my dealing days, I felt much more comfortable selling a 50-year-old Rolex than I did selling some modern watches. I just knew that I would not see that Rolex back with any issues anytime soon. I know there is some nitpicking around certain generations of movements, but this never translated into any returns worth noting in my trading practice.
How to look good, always
The above, however, does not settle it. By those terms, the Omega Ploprof would be the ultimate GADA watch. You need aesthetic versatility as well. This is where the Rolex Datejust starts to really shine.
There is a certain subtlety and neutrality to the Datejust that makes it work in any situation. I really cannot think of an outfit that would make the Rolex Datejust look out of place. Okay, black tie, but that is about it. I especially feel this way about vintage Datejusts since they tend to look more subdued and less blingy.
I believe it is a combination of the subtle size and the unique shape of the Oyster case. It is, by now, so familiar that it is easily overlooked. But the Oyster case has that ultimate neutrality while retaining a clear identity of its own. Paired with a classic bracelet like the Jubilee or Oyster, you get a shape that is iconic in a quiet, almost modest manner.
A slightly formal touch
You can find the above elsewhere within the Rolex universe. I could have devoted a very similar article to the Explorer, for instance. The Rolex Datejust, however, has the edge in one respect — formality.
The Explorer approaches the GADA concept from a sporty, casual angle. The Datejust takes a more formal approach. They meet just shy of the middle. I appreciate that you can have a preference for either one, but from a versatility point of view, I think it is always better for a watch to be ever-so-slightly formal. In my eyes, a dressier watch looks better in casual settings than a sporty watch does in formal situations.
But is the Rolex Datejust still GADA in 2022?
There is one elephant in the room that I feel I need to address. It is one thing that severely limits the versatility I get from my vintage Rolex Datejust ref. 1601 from 1967 — safety.
Depending on where you live, your mileage may vary. In my part of the Netherlands, however, safety has become an issue. Luxury watches — Rolex, specifically — are being targeted by robbers. I do not know the underlying statistics, but the horror stories follow each other quickly. And unfortunately, these criminals do not swipe watches unnoticed. Many attacks are extremely violent, leaving victims not only watchless but severely injured.
In that sense, statistics do not even matter. The mere thought that it puts in the back of my mind limits my enjoyment of the watch. If I have to think about where I will go on any given day and whether my watch can be worn there, it is no longer truly a do-it-all watch.
Yes, the mighty Rolex Datejust is the perfect everyday watch, but only as a discreet entity in a watch lover’s virtual world. As part of my actual, practical daily life, it pains me to admit that it is no longer. I have found that I strongly prefer more affordable and lesser-known watches as true daily wearers. I may be paranoid, or I may be rightfully cautious. Who knows? The simple fact, I’m not proud to admit, is that it ruins the experience enough to actually change my behavior.
What are your thoughts? Is safety an issue for you? Do you consider it when picking what watch to wear? And what is your perfect everyday watch? Let me know in the comments below.