Although the vast majority of current Rolex watches are fitted with metal bracelets, leather straps were once more available within the company’s catalog. Today, only the new Rolex Perpetual 1908 dress watches feature leather straps (like the Rolex Cellini dress watches of yore). Otherwise, all Rolex Oyster watches that were once furnished with leather bands straight from the factory have been discontinued for several years – some replaced by references with rubber Oysterflex bracelets. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and have a look at some of these now-discontinued Rolex watches with leather straps.
Rolex Datejust Watches with Leather Straps
Image Source: ocwatchguy.com
In 2004, Rolex unveiled the then-new generation of Datejust 36 watches with revamped cases and six-digit reference numbers. Back then, the Datejust lineup was even more varied than it is today with full gold models, Turn-O-Graph versions, and of course, editions with leather straps. Leather strap variants within this 116xxx series were exclusive to full gold models, whether in yellow, white, or rose.
One example is the Datejust ref. 116138 watches with yellow gold cases, fluted bezels, and leather straps in various colors. Dial choices were plentiful with various colors and hour-marker styles on offer, and all are, of course, home to the namesake date window at 3 o’clock. Since Rolex no longer makes full gold Datejust 36 watches nor does it offer the leather strap as an option within the collection, the defunct Datejust 116138 is a blast from the not-so-distant past.
Rolex Day-Date Watches with Leather Straps
I’m not quite sure why colorful Rolex watches have gained so much attention in recent years for being something new and fresh because, as far as I can tell, this is certainly not a new approach for the Swiss watchmaking giant. Take for instance the line of colorful Day-Date watches released in 2013, no doubt inspired by the vintage Rolex “Stella” watches of the 1970s. However, the newer Day-Date watches were even more vibrant than their predecessors thanks to their color-matched alligator leather straps.
My favorite out of the six (which included yellow, white, and rose gold models with various dial/leather hues) is the white gold Day-Date ref. 118139 in the Cherry colorway. The deep red dial and strap contrast beautifully with the white gold case and for me, 36mm is the perfect size. The duo of calendar apertures are super legible against their wine-toned background and the addition of the white gold folding clasp affixed to the cherry-colored strap is a bonus.
Rolex Daytona Watches with Leather Straps
Rolex rolled out Daytona watches with leather straps as early as the 1990s, during the so-called “Zenith” era of the famed chronograph. Following that, Rolex regularly offered gold Daytona watches with leather straps up until 2017, when the rubber Oysterflex bracelet replaced them all.
One particularly striking example was the Daytona ref. 116515LN, which came out in 2011. The combination of an Everose gold case, black Cerachrom ceramic bezel, and black leather strap come together to produce a handsome chronograph watch that’s both sporty and dressy. Interestingly, when Rolex swapped the leather strap of the Daytona 116515LN, the company kept the same reference number for the Oysterflex model. This is something to keep in mind if you’re shopping for a pink gold Daytona with a leather strap.
Rolex Sky-Dweller Watches with Leather Straps
Finally, we arrive at the Sky-Dweller, which was offered on a leather strap upon the collection’s debut in 2012. At first, Rolex only offered the Everose gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326135 with a brown leather strap whereas the yellow gold and white gold models came fitted with matching gold Oyster bracelets.
However, in 2014, Rolex rounded out the lineup with the yellow gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326138 and white gold Sky-Dweller ref. 326139, both fitted with leather bands (brown for yellow and black for white). Like the Daytona, the Sky-Dweller no longer offers the option of a leather strap but instead, Rolex provides the choice of the sportier black rubber Oysterflex bracelet.
Will Rolex Bring Back Leather Straps for Oyster Watches?
Now that all the leather straps from the Oyster lineup have either been dropped in favor of rubber or metal bracelets, it begs the question if we’ll ever see the return of them.
It’s impossible to ever know for sure what Rolex’s future plans are, but if it is a possibility, I would love to see the colorful Oyster Perpetual models (like turquoise, yellow, red, blue, and green) fitted with color-matched straps – similar to the Day-Date watches outlined above or the Daytona “Beach” range from the early 2000s. Now, that would be a treat!
Image Sources (unless otherwise stated): rolex.com