One day I came across a vintage gray dial Datejust that I fell in love with almost immediately. Well, I fell in love with a picture of it. The reference in question is 1601. To me, this particular Datejust offers something unique that is super vintage and that doesn’t exist in any modern Rolex catalog. The mixture of the baton hands and markers, with the fluted bezel and date magnifier offers a visual experience that is uniquely Rolex and that I wish the brand could bring back in a modern version. Not to mention the unique shade of gray showcased on the dial.
In this article, we’re going to talk about the Datejust collection and then focus on this particular reference, the 1601 which I believe makes it unique.
Brief History of the Datejust Collection
The more I dig into Rolex’s history the more I realize that most of its core collections have been around for far longer than I had originally imagined. And this is the case of the Datejust which was first released in 1945 in the reference 4467. Well, actually this model didn’t bear the name “Datejust” which wouldn’t happen until the 1950s. (This tended to happen a lot with Rolex and Tudor, in which a collection wouldn’t be officially named until the second or third iteration of a model.) What’s more is that the first Datejust was only available in 18K yellow gold. It wasn’t until a decade later that it would become available in stainless steel and other materials like two-tone steel and gold.
As I wrote in my recent article about Cyclops (LINK), the Datejust was the first wrist watch to come with a date complication, and later with a magnifying piece of glass to make reading the date easier. The Datejust was also the first wrist watch to have a date that would automatically change at midnight. I know, this may make perfect sense since Rolex was the first to add a date complication to a wrist watch. A few laters later, Rolex introduced the caliber 3035 with its iconic “quickset” date feature, meaning that the wearer could change the date independently from setting the time.
A feature that we all take for granted today.
The 1601: Unique in the Rolex Catalog
Over the past year, I’ve developed a deep interest and a preference for gray dial watches. I used to be all about black dials for a very long time, then tried a few white dial watches that I never connected with, and then a few gray dials. I had finally found my groove with the latter. I love the balance a gray dial offers, especially when it has the right shade. A recent and excellent example of an amazing gray dial is the MONTA Noble in Anthracite gray. It has a darker shade of gray which contrasts superbly with the applied hour markers, making the dial legible and also more elegant than a black dial watch. At least, that’s my perspective.
The 1601 with the gray dial looks timeless to me, although Rolex hasn’t made such a watch in a few decades. The current Rolex catalog does not include this unique combination of the fluted bezel, applied baton markers, and anthracite dial. Given that the Datejust was designed to be an everyday watch—unlike a Submariner that was destined to professional divers or a Milgauss to scientists—I feel that the 1601 offered something that modern Rolexes don’t. In other words, a perfect diameter of 36mm (at least to me,) a thinner case profile, and a more elegant overall look due to having thinner applied markers and thin hands.
Well, by writing this article I simply wanted to tell you about my grail vintage Rolex. And more than being a grail, it will only remain a dream—I think. Looking into the history of the Datejust collection to write this article permitted me to have a deeper appreciation for specific Rolex references and for the massive impact the Swiss brand has had on the watch world. The 1601 is, to me, the epitome of the elegant everyday Rolex, even more so than a gold or two-tone version. What is your dream vintage Rolex, if you have any? Please share your comments below.Featured image: www.bulangandsons.eu