PERFECTING A MATCH
Watch Time|July - August 2020
Water resistant, automatic winding, chronometer-certified, a date window — in 1945, the Datejust was the first watch that could offer all this — just about perfect. Nevertheless, Rolex has continued to improve upon it.
Jens Koch

What does the perfect watch look like? Automatic winding, three hands, a date display, accurate, sturdy and water resistant — you really don’t need more than that. No wonder the first watch with just these characteristics was a great success: the Rolex Datejust, which first appeared in 1945. Perfection is often achieved in small steps and so it was with Rolex. The brand introduced the water-resistant Oyster in 1926 and added the Perpetual automatic movement in 1931. The perfect watch for everyday wear was then created with the Oyster Perpetual Datejust.

Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf not only had a feel for the needs of the market, he also knew how to position his brand and its innovative technology to be both interesting and eye-catching. The names he chose were ingenious: the waterproof Oyster case, the Perpetual movement (to describe the movement of the wrist that continuously winds the mainspring) and the Datejust model (to highlight the instantaneous advancement of the date at midnight).

At the beginning of 1945, the Datejust was only available in gold. And this was also its 40th anniversary year, so Rolex named the metal bracelet developed for the Datejust the “Jubilee” bracelet. By the end of the 1940s, the company began producing the Datejust in steel, which was powered by the Rolex 730 automatic movement in these early years.

The design underwent slight changes at the beginning. Despite its exceptional wearability, Rolex did not rest on its laurels and continued making improvements to the Datejust. In 1954, Rolex added the famous Cyclops lens magnifier for the date. And beginning in 1955, the date advanced in the blink of an eye. In 1957, the new automatic movement 1065 allowed for a thinner case. Collectors know the watches built before this time as “Bubble Backs.”

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