The Rolex Datejust is a watch, and it is a very good watch. With that said, most watch lovers can’t escape seeing the Rolex Datejust as a symbol versus a timepiece. In my opinion, that is why watch lovers tend to focus on less mainstream watches which allow them to stand out from the crowd. You see the same thing with automobiles. Even though the Mercedes S-Class is a very well-regarded luxury car, most self-described car enthusiasts, for the same money, would probably drive something that isn’t as generic. So, in a very real sense, the Rolex Datejust is an old, solid institution of the luxury world. It’s important, it’s popular, but it is mainstream enough that those looking to distinguish themselves with timepieces that are a bit more original in character will seek something else, even if it is another product sold by Rolex.

That, my friends, is the biggest irony of all – that watch enthusiasts love Rolex, own many Rolex watches, but many often don’t own a Rolex Datejust, even though the Datejust is Rolex’s best-selling product. Showing off my Rolex Datejust to fellow watch lovers, many nod with acceptance upon seeing it, but a few say “that looks like an old guy’s watch.” How do I respond to that?

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I don’t disagree. The Rolex Datejust does look like an old guy’s watch. Not only do a lot of old guys actually wear Rolex Datejust timepieces, but the design has been around for so long that the overall aesthetic can accurately be defined as “retro.” Why do old guys wear the Datejust? Is this the Rolex model elderly people flock to most? Not exactly.

Speaking to several people who sell Rolex watches I didn’t find it to be the fact that older people are core Rolex Datejust customers, at least no more than anyone else. Rather, given that the Rolex Datejust is a watch worn by people who don’t frequently change their watch, it is very possible to see Rolex Datejust watches on people who have been wearing them for years. To explain why it appears today that the Rolex Datejust is an “old guy’s watch,” consider the following possible scenario.


Remember that we see many elderly today wearing Rolex Datejusts, so let’s think about when they bought them back in the 1970s, 1980s, and even into the 1990s. That person was in their 30s or 40s (or a bit older) and finally made enough money that they wanted to reward themselves with something nice. Watches are known to be excellent status symbols, so it occurs to them that a good way of showing off their success is to buy a luxury watch. What name do they think of first? That’s right, Rolex. In the 1980s especially, the Rolex Datejust was the “in” luxury timepiece to have, and a person wanting to communicate success on their wrist likely went straight to a Datejust.

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What this meant is that, for a few decades, people who achieved a point of success in their life bought a Rolex Datejust. What is important to consider next is that most of them did not take it off. They aren’t watch collectors, so they didn’t feel the need to buy more watches. And given that it is a Rolex, most of those watches, with intermittent servicing, stayed on people wrists for years – often until they reached an age that people might consider to be “old.” Thus, from my perspective, a major reason many people see the Rolex Datejust as an old guy’s watch is sort of unfair. Those old guys didn’t start wearing a Rolex Datejust when they were old, but rather kept them on their wrists as they grew old.


Rolex Coolness: John Huston wearing a stainless steel Rolex Oysterquartz Datejust on an Apple ad. via:

Rolex Datejust As Part Of Popular Culture

You may or may not agree with me that the Rolex Datejust is an international symbol of “I made it” to be displayed on the wrist. When I look at my 126333 Rolex Datejust 41, I think of my grandfather. He didn’t actually wear a Rolex Datejust, but he did have a few cars which in their own way were a “Datejust of automobiles.” I recall one such model which was a Mercedes-Benz 500SEL coupe from the 1980s. It was in a similar champagne color as the dial of this watch, and when I wear the Rolex Datejust 41 I often think about him. Rolex can never anticipate that I or anyone else might feel this way, but the power of the brand in pop culture means that Rolex knows many people who own their products will have associations with the name, and thus deeper emotional connections to the product than simply to the design and engineering.


In 2009, I wrote an article about the movie “The Informers,” where I considered the Rolex Datejust to be akin to a main character given how many people in the movie wore them. I think a lot of people would agree the Rolex Datejust was certainly a character from the 1980s. I wonder how its role has changed today? Prior to the 1990s, the luxury watch market has relatively few good options for men compared to the much larger assortment of good options today. How good of an option is a Rolex Datejust in 2017 as a men’s luxury status symbol compared to in 1987? A very good option, especially as Rolex today makes a far better product than it did 30 years ago.

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From a more solid construction to a more reliable movement, the Rolex Datejust today is better than it ever has been before. Though, it isn’t without controversy. Some people claim the Rolex Datejust 41 is too large, while others nitpick the fact that the new Jubilee-style bracelet has an Oysterlock clasp. This is important because on previous generation bracelets, the style of the bracelet continued around the entire circumference, only disrupted by a small and relatively hidden clasp which was not as “secure” as the Oysterlock one. I think both bracelet/clasp styles have their merits, and this one does not bother me. The quality of the bracelet and the clasp are great, and one benefit to the deployant clasp is a small folding extension that gives just a few extra millimeters of wearing room for comfort on days your wrist is expanded a bit.


The Men’s Jewelry Watch

As I sought to suggest above, the Rolex Datejust defies traditional wristwatch style categorization. How is that? Well, it isn’t a sports watch, but it does have a durable Oyster case. It isn’t a dress watch either, but it does have a more formal versus casual appearance. So what is the Rolex Datejust? I asked this question at the beginning of the article, and I have an answer. For me, the Rolex Datejust is the purest experience you can get if you want a true men’s jewelry watch.

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By that, I mean the Rolex Datejust is undeniably a men’s watch (especially in the Datejust 41 form), but also undeniably a piece of jewelry. What makes it rare is that there are so few items of men’s jewelry out there which are conservative and have mainstream appeal. Thus, the Rolex Datejust can also be seen as one of the most successful pieces of men’s jewelry ever made. I realized this notion back in 2008, even though I didn’t describe it as such. Back then I wrote an article about how Rolex fluted bezels were actually blingy, and what that meant.


While you can get a Rolex Datejust 41 with a smooth gold bezel, I encourage people to consider the classic fluted one. Other companies attempt to make fluted bezels, but no one makes them as well as Rolex – meaning they cut and polish the surfaces so well, they not only have the highest-quality look, but they play with the light in just the right way. Fluted bezels were originally meant to suggest the “Oyster” theme that Rolex liked to advance given the water-resistance of their watches. The original 1926 Rolex Oyster watch had a bezel and caseback that were screwed on, and since then the look of fluting has been common on Rolex watches.

At some point, Rolex realized that the better it polished the fluted elements, the more light the bezel was able to reflect. Thus, the bezel became not only a sign of what Rolex was good at (durable watch cases), but it also had a jewelry element to it (shiny and plays with light in addition to being rendered in a precious material). For me, you can’t have a Rolex Datejust without the fluted bezel, the two just seem to go hand-in-hand.

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Playing with light and offering a dazzling little dance of reflections is something that the Rolex Datejust does very well. In its latest form, the Rolex reference 126333 Datejust 41 does that even better given the larger size and the incredible level of detailing that goes into every visible part. The dial, bezel, case, and bracelet work together to make for a very consistent, shiny look that lends itself so well to the things which make for good jewelry.

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It helps that the watch is very comfortable. At officially 41mm wide (though in reality an even more discreet 40.6mm wide), the case is only about 11mm thick, which means it sits with a relatively low profile on the wrist – while still offering 100m of water resistance. The watch does wear on the larger side given the widely-spaced lugs. So those with smaller wrists should try the watch on before buying it if they are concerned about the size. Note that the gracefully tapering bracelet does help reduce the perceived overall size of the watch on your wrist.


Even the small “bead style” links in the center of the Jubilee bracelet help with the watch’s ability to reflect light, adding to the “jewelry effect.” This bracelet style not only has more flex points (meaning it wraps easily around any wrist), but the three gold links in the center of the bracelet offer more angles to reflect light than the larger links on, say, the Oyster-style bracelet which is also available for the Rolex Datejust 41 (for a sportier look).


Not all men want to wear jewelry all the time. When they do, however, the Rolex Datejust 41 is a perfect, timeless blend of the horological and ornamental arts. Its function as a lifestyle and success indicator exceeds its reputation as a mere timepiece, which in my opinion, accounts for popularity with some consumers, and not others, even though most people familiar with the product easily acknowledge its merits. Moreover, as a successfully mainstream men’s jewelry watch, the Rolex Datejust exists in a small class of other products, which helps explain why the watch is otherwise difficult to define.


I really enjoy wearing the Rolex Datejust 41 as the most modern interpretation of a classic that simply hasn’t gone out of style. The larger size suits my tastes, and the obsessive nerd in me loves the enormous attention Rolex has put into the movement and overall construction of this product. It isn’t cheap, but it feels like if any timepiece is worth the price of $12,700, it is a Rolex Datejust 41 126333.

Necessary Data
>Brand: Rolex
>Model: Oyster Perpetual Datejust 41 reference 12633 (126333-0010)
>Price: $12,700 USD
>Size: 41mm wide
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Anyone wanting a great timepiece that is also a great item of men’s jewelry (and can afford it).
>Best characteristic of watch: In my opinion, this is the best Datejust Rolex has ever made. The Rolex Datejust 41 just might make two-tone cool again for a new generation. Construction and design are as flawless as you can get in a watch this price. Exceptionally engineered movement.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Classic and conservative style isn’t for everyone’s tastes, especially in a world were many younger consumers want original and distinctive designs. Larger proportions aren’t for everyone – but Rolex hasn’t stopped production of the 36mm-wide Datejust models.

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