Can you guess it? The best watch ever to be made? My answer on this question is fairly simple. We are talking about the Rolex Datejust, more specifically the one made in 36mm. In this article we are going deeper into 2 references, the 1601 and the 1601X, for other references we will upload a next article soon.
First designed in 1945 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Rolex and damn what a watch. The first automatic watch as we know it today with a rotor automatic system and a date indicator at the 3 o’clock. Firstly, made only in precious metals but already with the ever so elusive jubilee bracelet. The joy of feeling these 5 separate links hug your wrist with a certain weight and feel is just uncanny cool in the watch world.
The Datejust went to a couple changes over the years, some small, some big. The most interesting one for many collectors happened in the late 70’s where Rolex (finally) added the quickset feature. Sadly, they lost the real vintage charm a bit to do this since they ditched the pie-pan dial for a flat dial while doing this. In numbers, this is the change from the 1601 to the 1601X. The x indicating if the watch has a white or yellow gold bezel.
Perhaps losing this pie pan dial in ’78 was in fact a smart move from Rolex. Some might argue that even back then they already knew that they made a watch that will go down in time as a true classic. Changing the pie-pan to a flat dial gave Rolex the opportunity to really distinguish these 2 reference numbers, giving collectors yet another reason to get a new Rolex.
But what do we really look for when looking at perhaps a 1601? Well, you need to know a few key dates here to know what sup. First off, we have the hacking feature, no you do not have a computer genius in your Rolex. You have starting in 1971 the option to stop the seconds hand when you set the time. This gave you the opportunity to really dial in your time setting to the second.
Next up, the bracelet; The jubilee bracelet with the 5 links got first designed in 45 as we mentioned before. Yet there are a couple changes here. We are going to ignore the local difference like Asian or USA clasp but focus more on the 3 big changes. First off we have the folded jubilee bracelet with big crown clasp. These were made until the early 70’s and are known to feel a little flimsy but o soo comfortable. A fun detail about the big logo clasps is the fact that they are always stamped with a date code. A number 1 up to 4 to distinguish the quarter followed by 2 digits to mention the year. Around 72-73 they changed the bracelet to the folded bracelet with the box clasp. The one we are most used to see. Sadly in 72 they also ditch the date stamp until 76 so kind of hard to date these super accurately. You could say these are perhaps the most often seen clasps since Rolex also replaced the big logo clasp to this clasp during service if the big logo clasp was broken. Trust me, those old clasps look cool but plenty of them failed over time at the turning point sadly. After 76 we get into the bracelet used until somewhere in the mid 2000. The solid jubilee. A bracelet made to feel hefty and be way stronger as the one before. These are the ones that might show stretch by now but are also the ones that are rather ‘easy’ to restore. In the clasp you can find the date stamp in the idea of a letter. Starting from A op to Z, each year a different letter starting from 76.
About the movement, the 1601 uses a 1570 where the 1601x uses the 3035. The technical difference can be summed up quite shortly since this article is already getting too long. 1570 had micro stella adjustable balance, runs at 19.8k bph and is considered the real ‘last’ handmade Rolex movement. Also, a tank of a movement, these things just don’t break down for some odd reason. They started using these in some sort of a way (like 1520/1530) in the early 60’s up until the late 70’s. The Next gen, the 3035 was designed in the last 70’s until the late 80’s. Sporting a higher BPH (28.8k bph), giving a better accuracy and a quickset date.
Now that we summed up some key differences between these 2 legendary iterations of the ever so iconic Datejust. What is your preference?
Next up: How did Rolex make the best watch ever even better?!