The Rolex Oyster
The Rolex Oyster was first introduced in 1926, beginning as the first waterproof and dust-proof wristwatch designed specifically for professional use. The watch famously crossed the English Channel in 1927, around the neck of English swimmer Mercedes Gleitze, surviving the 10-hour long swim undamaged. A front-page newspaper advertisement followed, testifying “ten hours of submersion under the most trying conditions” failing to adversely affect its perfect timekeeping, whilst pioneering the modern concept of sports celebrity marketing.
In 1931, Rolex patented the world's first self-winding mechanism with a perpetual rotor, today at the heart of every modern automatic watch. The innovation which led to the creation of the “Oyster” case was a screw-down, moisture-proof winding crown, patented by Swiss inventors Perregaux and Perret in 1925.
Launched by Rolex in 1945, in celebration of the brands 40th Anniversary, the Datejust was the first self-winding wrist chronometer to indicate the date in a window on the dial. Since this introduction, the Datejust has become one of the most iconic and popular watches in the Rolex catalogue. It was described alongside the GMT and Submariner, in the brands marketing materials of the time as “a bit of both, and a substantial character at any level”. As second Rolex advertisement from the period puts it, “The Datejust combines the ruggedness of the Submariner with the versatility of the Cosmograph. And it has distinctive features of its own”.
As a continuation of the Datejust series, this reference 16078 was introduced in 1981, and features a unique textured finish to both bezel and bracelet, making this a rather distinctive piece. Understated in both appearance and size, the Rolex Datejust 16078 offers a practical, versatile alternative to Rolex’s other highly purposeful wristwatches.
This Datejust features a bark-finished bezel and bracelet, with the name referencing the protective outer layer from the trunk of a tree. This unusual finish was occasionally used on a handful of Rolex watches between the 1970s to 1980s, bringing a twist to the brand's usually restrained aesthetics. This type of finish was usually found on the Day-Date - perhaps the brand's most precious model - as well as a handful of Datejusts, such as this one.
The dial of this piece is a muted ivory, while the applied index markers and hands are rendered in gold. The classic "ROLEX" and "OYSTER PERPETUAL" - "DATEJUST" references are also present on this. The date aperture holds the usual "Cyclops" lens, which magnifies the date for easier readability. The lume on the hands and plots outside the hour markers is made out of tritium, having developed a warm patina over time, which complements the warm tones of the case.
Meanwhile, the caseback sports a green holographic sticker, which would likely initially have accompanied the watch when it was first sold, in 1981. This Datejust features the classic Jubilee bracelet, which is a five-piece, semi-circular linked design that allows for increased reflections of light and in turn, a more textured look for the bracelet. This Ref. 16078 is particularly interesting, as the bark-finished appearance of the three central links contrasts with the polished outer links that frame it and provide a compelling visual depth.
The watch is powered by Rolex's caliber 3035, a self-winding chronometer movement. The mechanism features a lever escapement, 26 jewels, mono-metallic balance and KIF shock-absorber, beating at a rate of 28,800 BPH. The Rolex 3035 movement is the earliest iteration of the high-beat, ‘3000’ in-house system, developed and introduced in 1977.
An improvement on Rolex’s 1500 series, the 3035 movement increased the balance speed from 19,800 BPH to 28,800 BPH, allowing for more accurate timekeeping. As with many later production models, the Rolex 16078 Datejust also features a highly-practical quick-set date function, introduced to automatic self-winding movements by the calibre 3035.
This Rolex Datejust Ref. 16078 comes with its original leather box, a leather pouch containing an official chronometer certification and manual, a seal for the chronometer certification, and three accompanying booklets on the Rolex Datejust, the Rolex Oyster, and notes on the care of the Rolex piece.
If sold within the United Kingdom, this Rolex Datejust 16078 will be subject to 20% VAT. Viewings are currently suspended for the time being.