The Rolex Datejust is one of the most recognizable wristwatches in the world. It oozes class and is shorthand for wealth and success the whole world over. Its iconic design has often been copied but never bettered. Buying a vintage Rolex Datejust is a great way to start a luxury watch collection. How do you make sure you choose the best possible example for your budget?
Rolex Datejust Model Guide
The three most common types of Rolex Datejust are the 16xx series, the 16xxx series and the 116xxx.
The 16xx series was produced until 1977 and had an acrylic crystal (the glass over the watch) and holes in the lugs to make strap changing easier. This mode is particularly sought-after for its “open 6 and 9” date wheel, with a distinctive open font on those digits – except for the number 26.
The 16xxx series was upgraded to incorporate a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. Later models lost the lug holes, but otherwise, it shares the same 36mm case as the 16xx series. The movement was upgraded to the newer calibre 3135 with a higher beat rate. Models made after 1978 tick eight times per second rather than 5.
The 1166xxx watches are the latest models. They feature a newly designed case in 36mm or 40mm and an upgraded bracelet with solid links and a sturdier clasp.
What to Look For in a Vintage Rolex Datejust
The first thing to look for in a vintage Rolex is provenance. Watches with papers and service history are worth more, and if the owner has kept the paperwork and box, then you know the watch has been cared for. Rolex movements are sturdy, and so a full Rolex service history is not essential, but you will find that faults are expensive to fix.
Check the bracelet’s condition. Jubilee bracelets on Rolex watches are renowned for “stretching”. Those with gold centre links stretch due to the soft metal gradually pulling out of shape. Steel bracelets do not stretch, but the pins that hold the bracelet together wear out. This can cause them to snap suddenly: making your investment tumble to the floor. It is possible to have the bracelets repaired by a specialist, or you can always buy a replacement. A poor bracelet will affect the value of the watch.
Avoid Buying a Fake Rolex Datejust
The Rolex Datejust is widely reported to be the most faked watch in the world. Fakes of the 16000 and 116000 are widespread. There are also many “frankenwatches” that have been made up from parts of other watches but sold as the real thing. Most fake Rolex watches are of poor quality, but high-quality fakes exist containing replica Swiss movement.
The best way to be sure you are buying a genuine watch is to use a trustworthy dealer or to have a Rolex Authorised Dealer authenticate the watch before you hand over any money. Rolex watches are made of steel or solid gold and are never gold plated. You will be able to tell by the weight and condition of the watch if it is really made from precious metal. Look at the colour of the edges of the centre links in the bracelet to see if they have been gold plated.
You can find out more abut buying new and used watches, from affordable wristwatches to luxury timepieces at www.wristwatchreview.co.uk, your independent source of watch news, opinion and reviews.