Originally named the Jubilee Datejust, Rolex Datejust history began in 1945 when Rolex released the model for the company's 40th Anniversary. It was a direct descendant of the Bubbleback and included a date function, which was placed at the 3 o’clock position on the face. The Datejust had a coin-edge bezel, which later became the flutted bezel. It was the first watch to show the date automatically and also the first to change the displayed date at exactly midnight. The Datejust was innovative, unique, and different than any other watch offered at that time.
The history of Rolex Datejust begins with the first Datejust, the Jubilee Datejust Model 4467, which was only available in 18k gold and had a small bubbleback winder with a deeply domed back. In the 1950's, the Oysterdate joined the Datejust family, coming in two sizes. Although the Datejust originally consisted of three case parts, it was quickly updated to just two. Another major update was the addition of the Cyclops lens in 1954. Today this lens is standard to Rolex watches and even part of the brand’s signature. Before 1954, however, no one had used a magnifying bubble on the lens right above the date. Then, in 1957, a new, lighter, slimmer movement, the caliber 1065, allowed for a flattened case back in place of the old domed one. That same year, the Datejust became available in Steelium (stainless steel) in addition to the original gold. Other changes over the years included a flat dial (rather than curved) and the Rapid Date Change (aka quickset) feature.
The Datejust Turn-o-Graph model made its debut in 1955. The timepiece received its nickname “Thunderbird” because it was given as an award to US Air Force pilots after combat missions. This model would later inspire the Rolex Explorer, the Rolex Submariner and the Rolex Sea Dweller. In the late 1980's, Datejust models began to feature sapphire mineral crystal glass, which was both aesthetically pleasing (because it was slimmer) and highly resistant to scratching.
The fact that Rolex Datejusts are still purchased and worn today is a testament to their enduring respectability and timelessness. To understand the Rolex Datejust history, pictures can be worth a thousand words. Seeing pictures of multiple presidents and other powerful people wearing the Rolex Datejust shows the importance and significance of this watch.
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Video: Rolex Datejust History
Brush up on your Rolex Datejust history with the stories behind the model you love.
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