01 Rolex Science: Test Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-date
TEST: ROLEX OYSTER PERPETUAL DAY-DATE38 WatchTime October 2002It’s often thecase at Rolexthat smallchanges have bigconsequences.This holds truefor one of thefirm’s most pres-tigious models,the Day-Date,which was fittedwith a smoothbezel in thespring of 2000.The new bezelgives the watcha sleeker look,especially in thewhite goldversion.The“Presi
October 2002 WatchTime 39Americans have always had a direct(some would say blunt) way of sayingwhat we mean, and meaning whatwe say. If we respect or revere someone orsomething, we’re unambiguous in our be-stowal of royal or important titles: Elvis is theKing, Clapton is God, and so forth. (JohnWayne was only a duke, but at least he wasn’ta queen). Rolex’s top model, the Day-Date, isnicknamed the “President” in the U.S., andthe Chinese have also paid tribute to it by call-ing it the “Rolex King.” But back in Europe,where actual royalty abounds, this beautifulwatch is known simply by its official name, theDay-Date, which only (rather prosaically) de-scribes its primary functions. The date appearsin a little window beneath the famous “Cy-clops” magnifying lens at three o’clock andthe day of the week is fully written out inside along, arcing window on the upper part of thedial, directly below 12 o’clock.Why do we call it the “President”? It couldbe that the watch’s cognomen derives fromthe fact that Rolex introduced a gold-linkedbracelet, known as the “President” wristband,especially for this watch. Or perhaps the sever-al American presidents who have worn thismodel are collectively responsible for its execu-tive-branch nickname. In their compendiousstandard work The Best of Time: Rolex Wrist-watches, James M. Dowling and Jeffrey P. Hessreport that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was anenthusiastic Rolex wearer years before the de-but of the Day-Date. Dwight D. Eisenhowerwas given a Rolex watch. Lyndon B. Johnsonalso wore a “President” watch on his wrist, asdid John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and GeraldFord. The book doesn’t record Harry Truman’sdent”Clean as a whistle: TheDay-Date in white goldwith a smooth bezel.
40 WatchTime October 2002wristwatch of choice; perhaps his tastes weretoo plain for a Rolex.With the debut of the Day-Date in 1956, Ro-lex further solidified its position as a luxurywatch brand. Unlike other important Rolexwatches (the Datejust, Submariner and Cos-mograph Daytona) that were offered in steelversions, the Day-Date has always been craftedin either in gold or platinum, with different ver-sions featuring diamonds on the dial, case,and/or wristband. In these luxurious versions,the “presidential” watch found its way ontomany other celebrities’ wrists and was seen atall sorts of four-star events, for example, in Hol-lywood on the wrists of Tom Cruise, Sean Penn,Ray Liotta and Danny DeVito, among others.In horology as in Hollywood, fame isn’tpurely a matter of luck. The Day-Date ultimate-ly owes its many decades of success to first-ratetechnology and extreme longevity. The dateand day of the week displays, however, didn’tmake their first appearances at Rolex with theDay-Date watch. Rolex had already manufac-tured watches with these displays and otherswell before 1956, including full calendar mod-els with moon-phase display and hand-typedate display and with windows for the day ofthe week and the month cut into the uppermiddle of the dial. These watches, incidentally,are now avidly sought by collectors.As the Rolex philosophy evolved, relativelycomplex watches of this sort no longermatched the firm’s concept. Rolex’s future was-n’t in grandes complications. (Although it’s in-teresting to note that Franck Muller passed hisfinal watchmaking school exam by rebuilding aRolex Day-Date into a perpetual calendar.) In-stead, Rolex set its sights on values that thefirm had steadfastly articulated throughout itshistory: the water-resistant Oyster case withthe screwed-down crown and fully threadedscrew-in back; the automatic rotor and, ofcourse, the magnified date window beside the“3.” All of these elements were either inventedby Rolex or else came about as a result of theirhaving been featured by Rolex. As a result, theelegant Day-Date has always been a robust,sporty timepiece that needn’t languish in a safewaiting for you to take it out only on special oc-casions, but a watch more than able to copewith the hard knocks of everyday life.Not only does the Day-Date symbolize es-sential Rolex virtues, it also underscores anoth-er company characteristic: the perpetual striv-ing to improve details. Rolex has patented morethan 1,000 innovations and improvementsduring the course of its 94-year history. Decadeafter decade, quietly and without a lot of fan-fare, many individual components of the move-ments, cases and wristbands have been repeat-edly tested, modified, and optimized. This be-gins with the production, whereeach and every component is sub-jected to rigorous quality-controlprocedures before it advances tothe next step in the productionprocess. In the course of its nearly50-year history, the Day-Datemodel has benefited from manysmall improvements in its design. In 1957, justone year after its launch, the Day-Date wasequipped with the new Caliber 1055, which in-cluded a balance (still in use today) studdedwith Microstella regulator screws that make itrelatively easy for a watchmaker to precisely ad-just the pace of its oscillation. At the same time,this became the first Rolex wristwatch to bearthe phrase “Superlative Chronometer OfficiallyCertified” on its dial. The original calendarmechanism needed so much energy to com-plete the daily shift of the date and day-of-the-week displays that the watch’s accuracy suf-fered during the hour between 11 p.m. andmidnight. This shortcoming was rectified with-in a very few years’ time, followed a few yearslater by the insertion of three intervening hold-ers to reduce the amount of friction betweenthe date ring and the day-of-the-week disk.The Day-Date model was given its first scratch-resistant sapphire crystal in the 1970s. Towardsthe end of that decade it received the so-called“Quick Set” rapid adjuster for the date display.TEST: ROLEX OYSTER PERPETUAL DAY-DATEFormer PresidentsRoosevelt, Eisen-hower, Kennedy,Johnson, Nixon andFord all wore aRolex wristwatch.President Lyndon BainesJohnson was known asthe master of the back-room deal. As much asanyone, he’s responsiblefor the Day-Date’s sobri-quet: the “President.”
The “Quick Set” has been standard equipmenton all Rolex wristwatches since 1983.The policy of continual optimization contin-ues to the present day, and its fruits are plain tosee in the watch that WatchTime was given forthis test. This timepiece embodies a new un-derstatement that was lacking in Day-Dateclassics like the Reference 18238 in yellowgold with ridged bezel. Compared to thatmore ostentatious model, this new Day-Datemakes a far sleeker impression. The smoothbezel, which had formerly been reserved sole-ly for the very rare platinum version of the Day-Date wristwatch, was introduced on goldmodels in the spring of 2000. Although thewhite gold of which the case and wristbandare made gives this watch a healthy dose ofunderstatement, and despite the fact that ittakes a trained eye to distinguish white goldfrom stainless steel, the former metal is, in fact,both more costly and more difficult to workwith than yellow gold. Rolex laboriously millsthese cases from solid ingots of white gold.This alloy is particularly difficult to process be-cause it contains small percentages of rhodi-um and palladium, both of which are very hardmetals associated with platinum ore. Thegreater labor involved in manufacturing thewhite gold case and wristband also explainswhy this version is more expensive than thecomparable version in yellow gold.For aesthetic reasons, Rolex prefers not todrill all the way through the lugs of its goldwatches. The wristband is no less securely at-Only a few wristwatches on the market offerthe unabbreviated name of the day of theweek.The eye of the Cyclops: the built-in magnifyinglens above the date display is one of the hall-marks of Rolex’s watches.DATA PAGEManufacturer: Montres Rolex SA, rueFrançois-Dussaud 7, CH-1211 Genève 24.Model: Oyster Perpetual Day-Date.Serial number: 118209 with Oyster wristbandno. 73859.Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, dayof the week, date; stop-seconds function.Movement: Self-winding Rolex Caliber 3155(based on a Rolex 3135); diameter = 28.5 mm;height = 6.45 mm; 28,800 beats per hour; 31jewels; Kif shock absorption; fine adjustmentvia Microstella screws; ca. 50-hour powerreserve; Glucydur balance; Breguet balance-spring; rapid adjustment of the day-of-the-week and date displays; official chronometerwith C.O.S.C. certification.Case: 18-karat white gold; tripartite; bezel is pol-ished and domed; polished lugs; screw-downcrown; fully threaded screw-in back; slightlydomed sapphire crystal with built-in magnifyinglens above the date display; rhodium dial withapplied white gold Roman numerals; water-resis-tant to 100 meters.Wristband and clasp: Oyster wristband in18-karat white gold, concealed folding clasp in18-karat white gold.Results of running test: (deviation in sec-onds per 24 hours)Dial up: -1Dial down: -1Crown up: -2Crown down: -2Crown left: -2Crown right: -2Greatest deviation of rate: 1Average deviation: -2Average amplitude: 282° in flatpositions; 243° in hanging positions.Dimensions and weight: Diameter = 36 mm;height = 11.9 mm; weight = 178 grams.Price: $19,550.
ROLEX DAY-DATE IN WHITE GOLDWristband and clasp (max. 10 points): 9Sturdy clasp clicks closed neatly; no sharpedges.Operation (5): 5Simple and convenient to operate thanks todouble rapid adjustment for date and day dis-plays; screw-down crown can be readily turned.Design (15): 13Classical Oyster case; the white gold model withthe smooth bezel is significantly more understated and less ostentatious than the yellow goldmodel.Legibility (5) 4Clear and unambiguous; the day of the week isfully legible; no luminous material on the dialor hands.Wearing comfort (10): 9A heavy watch, but not uncomfortable on thewrist; no sharp edges.Movement (20): 17Practicality determines the construction; theself-winding mechanism remains distinctive;components are polished and beveled where-ver necessary, but the focus obviously isn’t onthe attempt to produce visual effects.Results of running test (10): 9Very good results, scarcely any deviations in theseveral positions; a slight readjustment wouldallow the watch to run minimally ahead ratherthan to lag minimally behind.Overall value (15): 13An appropriate price to pay for a product thatis truly mature in all of its many details; veryhigh resale value.TOTAL: 88 points ★★★★TEST: ROLEX OYSTER PERPETUAL DAY-DATE42 WatchTime October 2002tached, however, because the fittings are soprecisely crafted that the cross-pieces cannotpossibly come loose when the watch is worn.Another detail has been the subject of end-less criticism time is the fact that the crystal pro-trudes quite a bit. Too far? Even though the crys-tal is comparatively thick, as the years go by it’sapt to show scars caused by inadvertent knocks.That’s a vexing shortcoming on a robust watchthat has otherwise been so perfectly designedto maximize its longevity. Rolex hasn’t yet re-worked this detail, perhaps because raising thebezel high enough to cover the edge of the crys-tal would make the watch too bulky. Loweringthe glass towards the movement isn’t a viableoption either because there isn’t enough emptyspace beneath it. This is one detail where thethickness of the movement demands its tribute.It seems as though Rolex is caught between arock and a hard place, but we’d nonethelessrecommend that the inventive people at Rolexdevote some thought to this problem. We’reconfident that they’ll come up with a clever andpractical way of providing the edge of the crys-tal with the protection it needs.Although the design of our tested watchwith the white gold case and smooth bezel isobviously more understated than that of itspredecessors, one particularly notable detailhas been left unchanged: the magnifying lensabove the date display. This unmistakable fea-ture, which Rolex describes as the “eye of theCyclops,” instantly identifies the watch as aRolex, but it’s also a detail that’s not quite aspopular today as it was in the past. Masterwatchmaker Peter Hoffmann, a German Rolexdealer and jewelry storeowner, says that hiscustomers frequently express interest in a Ro-lex wristwatch without the built-in magnifier.Many of these customers ultimately decide infavor of a model without a date display, or elsethey opt for the SeaDweller, the only Rolex thatcombines the presence of a date display withthe absence of a Cyclops magnifying lens. WillRolex eventually market a sans Cyclops Day-Date? No one can predict with certainty.Another detail has also been changed in thenew Day-Date. The President can now be hadwith the improved version of the Oyster wrist-band, rendering the formerly sharp edges of thetraditional President bracelet a thing of the past.The watch is now very pleasant to wear, and theuser-friendly but inconspicuously concealedfolding clasp makes it child’s play to slip thewatch on and off. The formerly hollow middleparts of the bracelet are now solid, and severalhalf links near the clasp ensure that the wrist-band can be adjusted to fit any wearer perfectly.When the movement is removed from itscase, the extremely high standards of crafts-manship become obvious. The interior of thecase is very precisely milled. This is also wherethe twin bridles are attached so that they canoptimally perform their important job of hold-ing the movement securely in its place. A typi-cal Rolex feature is the water-resistant, solidgold, screw-down crown with the “Twinlock”Rolex has patented more than 1,000innovations and improvements during thecourse of its 94-year history.The Rolex Caliber 3155.The two red Teflon-coveredreversing wheels and thebalance with its Microstella reg-ulator screw are easy to spot.
system. This system relies on a pair of rubberinsulators, one at the crown end and one in-side the tube, to protect the movementagainst penetration by water.Beneath the rotor lie the components thatcombine to wind the mainspring. These includethe two red reversing wheels. Coated withTeflon, they’re virtually friction-free, as well assmooth and noise reductive. The Day-Date’sbalance bridge has been in use for roughly adecade. A pair of threaded nuts makes it possi-ble to adjust its height. The protective stirrup isa newer innovation: it protects the balanceagainst sharp blows. The more interesting partsof the movement are located beneath the dial.Here’s where a curious connoisseur will find thedisks that bear the displays for the date and dayof the week. A second disk above the date diskis printed with the names of the seven days ofweek. One of these seven names appears in-side the arcing window below the “12.” Theday-of-the-week disk itself is pierced with sev-en small apertures so that this disk doesn’teclipse the date display, which is located besidethe “3.” A trio of holders firmly clasps the datedisk while simultaneously serving as spacemaintainers for the day-of-the-week disk andthus preventing unwanted friction.The switch from yesterday’s date to today’slex. With a maximum deviation of just one sec-ond in each position, the Day-Date achievedsome of the best results ever posted by anywatch since WatchTime first began perform-ing these tests. Unfortunately the tested watchlagged very slightly behind, but this isn’t a seri-ous problem because a minor adjustment ofthe Microstella regulator screws would sufficeto give the timepiece a slight “plus” rate ofone second per day. (It’s always better to run alittle fast than to run a little slow.)All in all, the white gold version of the Day-Date is an absolutely practical and robustwatch. It’s ideal for daily use, but is also elegantenough to wear on special occasions. A gen-uinely valuable watch like the Day-Date reallycan’t be praised highly enough. It’s a pleasureto see such a renowned and internationally ac-tive manufacturer like Rolex holding such highstandards of quality and even continuing tohone each and every detail to the highest de-gree of perfection. The name “Rolex” is such aluxury juggernaut that they could very easilyrest on their laurels and spin-off inferior prod-ucts at a pretty little profit. Both the strengthand the weakness of the brand is the fact thatthey make extremely traditional and sturdytimepieces. Too traditional? Well that, as youknow, is a matter of long debate.THE 26 LANGUAGE OF THE DAY-DATERolex offers the unabbreviated names of thedays of the week in all of the world’s majorlanguages, as well as in many of the planet’s lesscommonly spoken tongues. All in all, there are26 different languages to choose from. They are:ArabicBasqueCatalanChineseDanishDutchEnglishEthiopianFinnishFrenchGermanGreekHebrewIndonesianItalianJapaneseLatinMoroccanArabicNorwegianPersianPolishPor-tugueseRussianSpanishSwedishTurkishTEST: ROLEX OYSTER PERPETUAL DAY-DATEAn under-the-dial view of the Caliber 3155. Af-ter removing the days-of-the-week disk, youcan see the date finger with its little “nose”(left of center), which advances the day anddate displays each midnight, as well as thefive-pointed star of the date corrector (right ofcenter), which is used to rapidly reset the date.44 WatchTime October 2002date on our tested watch occurred promptly atmidnight, even though Rolex’s instructions toits watchmakers allow them a tolerance of oneminute in each direction before and after thewitching hour. Starting around 8 p.m., a littlehelix begins storing up tension that it releasesall at once when midnight arrives. This abruptrelease is triggered by the “date finger,” locat-ed immediately above the helical spring. Thecrown can be drawn into three positions toperform three distinct tasks: In position num-ber one – unscrewed – the crown is ready tomanually wind the mainspring, while in posi-tion number three (pulled all the way out), itresets the watch’s hands. Between those twopositions, in position number two, the crowncan be used for rapid adjustment of the dateand day displays: twisting the crown in one di-rection adjusts the date; twisting it in the otherdirection adjusts the day. This adjustment is ac-complished by means of a five-pointed starmounted atop a brass rocker. The date correc-tor meshes with both the inner teeth cut intothe date disk and the centrally axial wheel thatbears the day-of-the-week disk.Running ResultsOur running test showed how much thedecades of optimization have paid off for Ro-
TEST: ROLEX OYSTER PERPETUAL DAY-DATE46 WatchTime October 2002The first chapter begins with Rolex’sfounder Hans Wilsdorf, who wantedto prove that a wristwatch could bejust as accurate and reliable as a pocket watch.In 1910 Wilsdorf built an 11-ligne movementwith a Swiss lever escapement and had a busi-ness associate named Aegler send it to the of-ficial timepiece-testing site in Biel, Switzerland.The rate certificate with the grade of “firstclass” that Wilsdorf was hoping to receive ar-rived on March 22, 1910 – and cast Rolex intothe unchallenged role of a pioneer in the fieldof wristwatch chronometers, a role, it has con-tinued to play ever since.The longstanding perception that the caseof a wristwatch will inevitably succumb to theeffects of dirt and moisture leads us to our sec-ond chapter. Wilsdorf devoted long and carefulthought to the task of solving this problem.The weak links in the chain were the edge ofthe crystal, the case back and the crown. Hesolved the problem by designing a new kind ofwatchcase whose individual componentswould be tightly screwed together to create ahermetic seal. The crystal above the dial wouldseal the interior 100% and would have to becrafted from a synthetic material that could beshaped to perfectly fit into the case. And thecrown would need to be constructed to reliablyprotect the interior from moisture, not once ina while but day in and day out. On October 18,1926, Wilsdorf applied for a Swiss patent onhis innovative case, which featured a screw-down crown. It didn’t take long for Wilsdorf tocome up with an appropriate name. After all, isthere any underwater creature that closes itselfmore tightly than an oyster?The quest for a truly water-resistant caseleads us to our third chapter. A water-resistantcase needs a caliber inside it whose mainspringdoesn’t need to be wound daily via the crownbecause over the long term, the daily openingand closing of Wilsdorf’s screw-down crownwould gradually compromise the integrity ofthe water-resistant seal. The objective wasclear, so shortly after the debut of the Oystercase, Hans Wilsdorf and talented technicianEmil Borer Ende set to work on inventing “anautomatic winding mechanism that wouldmove back and forth in complete and utter si-lence, without bumps or jerks, and withoutthe need for a buffer.” By 1931 Ende and Wils-dorf had reached their goal. The rotor CaliberNA 620 proved itself to be worthy of a patent,and for the next 15 years this patent protec-tion meant that Rolex’s competitors wereobliged to do without this optimal windingsystem.The fourth chapter results from the factthat the ability to display the date ranks headand shoulders above other additional func-tions as the most important accessory functionthat a wristwatch is expected to perform. Inview of this fact, it’s really rather astonishing toconsider just how long the industry neglectedit. As late as the mid 1940s, the goal of creat-ing an everyday wristwatch that would also in-dicate the date had still not been achieved.When Wilsdorf celebrated Rolex’s 40th an-niversary in 1945, he wanted to emphasize thehappy event by launching a truly special wrist-watch, the Datejust. When it debuted at the40th birthday bash, no one could possiblyhave guessed its immediate success or how itwould influence the appearance and technol-ogy of generations of later wristwatches. TheDatejust was the world’s first completely wa-ter-resistant men’s wristwatch with automaticrotor winding, a central seconds, and a datedisplay in a window beside the “3.” An officialchronometer certificate testified to the accu-racy of the rate of the Caliber 740.The reign of the 740 lasted ten years. After-wards, the old adage that insists “better beatsgood” once again proved true, this time in theform of chapter five in the Rolex success story.The year was 1956. The place was Basel,Switzerland. And the occasion was the annualwatch and jewelry trade fair. Under referencenumber 6511, Rolex debuted a brand-newmodel that the firm had patented in July 1955.In addition to a date window and a built-inmagnifying lens, this model also had an arc-shaped window cut into the top of its dial be-tween the “11” and the “1.” Within thatlong, arcing window, the unabbreviatednames of the days of the week appeared. The“Day-Date” further reinforced Rolex’s reputa-tion as a pioneer on the luxury-watch market.As it had done in the past with the Datejust,Rolex offered its newcomer with a “President”linked bracelet that was available only in 18-karat gold or in platinum. This opulent time-keeper catapulted Rolex into an unprecedent-ed price level. The company was now offeringproducts that sold for prices comparable tothose formerly charged only by the likes of Au-demars Piguet, Patek Philippe, or VacheronConstantin.Beneath the dial of the 28.5 mm diameterand 7.00 mm thick automatic Caliber 1055,which was derived from the 5.85 mm thick au-tomatic Caliber 1030, Rolex’s watchmakers in-stalled a special technological innovation: aday-of-the-week disk that rotated above thedate ring. One of the seven apertures in theday disk always came to rest precisely beneaththe window cut in the dial beside the “3,”where it served as an attractive frame for thedate numeral beneath it. As the years havegone by, the Day-Date (unlike most of the peo-ple who wear them) has gradually becomeslimmer. But only slightly.Success in Five Easy ChaptersBY GISBERT L. BRUNNERThe familiar version of theDay-Date as it has looked fordecades: yellow gold andwith the famous ridged bezel.