1957 – Rolex for Women gets the Lady-Datejust
‘ … The sun is warm on my back and from somewhere down the street I can faintly hear ‘The King’ declaring himself to be “All Shook Up”. The music gets louder as its origin, the radio speakers of an open top Cadillac come into view. The car cruises past behind us, its tanned driver craning his neck in our direction to see what all the fuss is about. A few of the guys look around but only momentarily; our focus is on the hotel door. I look down at the shiny Leica M3 swinging loosely around my next and check the time on my Rolex Datejust. Three minutes until she is due to make an appearance.
Miss Bardot is in town shooting her latest movie and I am in amongst the press pack waiting to grab a piece of the action. Suddenly I become aware of the lightest of touches on my right arm. I look down and see a woman’s pale, delicate hand tugging gently on the sleeve of my jacket. Her nails are a glossy natural and immaculately filed. It is at that moment that I see it; shining in the morning sun on her slender wrist is a gold watch so beautiful and elegant that for a moment I am transfixed. I squint to focus on the tiny lettering on the dial; “Rolex Lady Datejust Perpetual”. How can it be?! Rolex don’t make a lady’s version of my watch.
“She’s not coming.” The voice is familiar, very familiar. “She called me and said she would rather have lunch together with us. Just the three of us.”
Confused I look up and into the woman’s eyes. Audrey smiles that knowing smile she has …’
Aaaaaaaaagggggghhhhhh!!!!! No! It’s a dream! No, no, no! Don’t let it be a dream!
Anyway, everyone knows Audrey wore a Longines.
Rolex for Women – The Lady-Datejust Video
To complement this article I made a video on the Rolex Lady-Datejust which you can see here .
Watch design tends to be part of an evolutionary process. Sure, in the history of wristwatch production there have been some arguably revolutionary moments but on the whole the process is a slow one where each step draws on features that we can see in watches that have gone before. The Rolex Lady Datejust is no exception.
You might say, and in many ways you would be right, that put simply the Rolex Lady Datejust is just a smaller version of the man’s watch which Rolex first brought to the market in in 1945 with its reference 4467.
It’s Good Looking
It’s a Rolex for women and ladies are very very discerning about the look of any watch they wear. Over the years there have been subtle changes to the Lady-Datejust appearance. At the time of writing (Nov 2018) Rolex are shipping models which are 2mm wider than the Ref 69174 on which I focus in this article and accompanying video. This changes have not been very significant and I guess this will be because Rolex see no advantage in meddling with a winning formula; for this is definitely a very good looking watch.
Does Size Matter?
At the time of writing (Autumn 2018) there is still ‘a bit of a thing going on’ with girls wearing bigger watches. For the last few years ladies have been sporting watches in sizes that before would only have been worn by men in any large numbers. All the big fashion watch brands now make watches targeted for women but at dial sizes of 36mm and above. In addition to these models women are also more commonly wearing models traditionally targeted at men; seeing a women wearing a Rolex President or Submariner was once almost unheard of but now, as the millennials would say ‘it’s a thing’. Interestingly men have not reciprocated. They have stuck doggedly to they larger timepieces and shunned the wearing smaller watches, the kind traditionally thought of as women’s watches.
So let me set out my stall and say where I stand on this phenomena. It is my view that …
- Ladies of all ages and sizes should be free (and feel free) to wear whatever size of watch they want to.
- Men don’t wear small watches because a small watch tends to look silly on a man
- A big ( 36mm – 42mm) watch on a woman is less silly on a women than a 26mm watch on man. I offer no explanation for this but simply assert it to be true.
- Optimal watch size on a women is influenced by the outfit she is wearing to a greater extent than would be the case with a man.
- Elegant or formally dressed women might more safely select a traditionally sized women’s watch to complement their outfit
- We should consider why the watch industry might like women to buy bigger watches (we should follow the money)
So, here’s the thing then from my perspective. If a girl wears jeans and a leather jacket then small watch or larger watch really makes no difference; both will look good and a if she has the cash a Rolex Datejust (41mm) or even a submariner would work really well. However, if the same woman goes to a cocktail party and slips her nibble size 10 frame into a nice little black number by Dior or Roberto Cavalli or F&F then the big watch doesn’t work so well. It’s not a disaster but it is just not optimal. In this instance, in my view, she would do better to go with a smaller more elegant piece. Why is this?
And here is the bit where I maybe upset a bunch of people …
The watch looks better because the elegant outfit accentuates her femininity and the smaller watch simply helps this process along.
A bigger watch would jar and not look right. She is, at the end of the day a woman, and a woman is, thank God, physically different to a man. Often, what looks good on a woman does not look good on a man and vice versa. I offer no scientific explanation for this but assert to be evidenced by what we see people actually do. At the Oscars the lady guests tend to wear very beautiful dresses and the guys smartly cut suits. It’s just the way it is. It’s like gravity, we are not sure why it exists or exactly how it works but we can observe it to be happening all the time and therefore assert it to be a true thing. Of course you could equally assert that gravity is not true and test you theory by jumping from a tall building or you could assert that a woman looks ‘her feminine best’ in a boiler suit and try to persuade your recently engaged best friend to get married in one. If so I wish you luck!
All this is very important context for the Rolex Lady Datejust because it is simply a smaller version of the Datejust and therefore it is almost defined by its size not its features. If it’s size is of no consequence then this distinction is not important and the watch is just a pale shadow of its predecessor.
But size does matter. It matters a lot. If a woman wants a watch that works well for her in all outfits or needs a watch that definitely works with an uber feminine look then it has to be a smaller watch and this is where the Rolex Lady Datejust comes into its own.
The Rolex Lady-Datejust is one of the most classically feminine designs there is. It is a beautiful resilient piece that can be handed down to the next generation if properly cared for.
“I’m proud to say that ‘she’s’ my buttercup, I’m in love, I’m all shook up!”
Engineering quality always matters and Rolex has a pretty good reputation for delivering in this area. So let’s look at the specification of this watch.
In addition to the features shown above the Rolex 2135 also provides for rapid date change as demonstrated in the video. This compact and accurate movement is the perfect powerhouse for this resilient little watch.
Lady-Datejust Models, Budgets and Purchase Options
Maybe if you have read this far you are starting to think that maybe you would like to invest in one of these watches. So the next question is what can you get for your budget.
This is a luxury item and you should expect to drop at least £2K for a vintage piece. If you have a bigger budget then a new model is a good way to go. Here’s a few examples of roughly what you can expect to pay and what you get in terms of the movement inside the watch …
Some Purchasing ‘Good Ideas’ and ‘Not So Good Ideas’
Rolex itself does not sell watches online. To buy a new watch from Rolex you will need to visit an Authorised Dealer. Indeed to only place you can buy a new watch from is a Rolex Authorised dealer. Whilst definitely the pukka way to go it is potentially inconvenient and choice and speed of supply might be an issue as there are waiting lists for some models. A grey market dealer is officially, from Rolex’s perspective the first owner of the watch, which means if you buy via this route the watch is by definition ‘Used’. It can be legitimately sold on by a grey market dealer when described as ‘Unworn with tags’ but regardless of what a grey market dealer might claim the watch is used and the warranty will be void. On the upside the grey market dealer may be able to offer a decent discount and the convenience of buying online.
- If you can afford it and do not want a vintage piece then buy new from a Rolex Authorised Dealer.
- If your budget will not stretch to a new model our you want an older model for some specific reason then buying a used piece via a local jeweller is a good idea although choice may be a limiting factor.
- Research the online grey market sellers and when you are sure you understand this route to purchase negotiate a price. Make sure you understand the downsides to this method particularly in regards to warranty and only purchase in full knowledge of the potential disadvantages.
Not So Good Ideas
- Not a good idea to buy from any online auction site unless you know exactly what you are doing and have factored in the cost of a watchmaker to service the watch after purchase (about £400 at least).
- Not a good idea to buy anything that looks like an unrealistic bargain. It it looks too good to be true it probably is.
- Not a good idea to buy from a grey market seller unless the discount offered is significant compared with the price offered by an Authorised Dealer. Do your research and think the costs and benefits through carefully.
If you subscribe to the argument that a smaller size watch is a desirable accessory for a woman because it works better with formal, feminine and elegant outfits then the next obvious question is which make and model of classic watch should you seek out. I hope in this article and video I have made the case for the Rolex Lady-Datejust because I truly believe it to be an absolute classic. It is perfectly sized for the feminine wrist, it is resilient, practical and very stylish.
When you have the funds in place to make a purchase then please consider my pointers on what might and what might not be a good approach here.
Richard Perrett – Watchmaker