The Day Date
Since its introduction, the Rolex Day-Date has become one of the most popular watches in the Rolex catalogue. Understated in appearance and size, it offers a practical, versatile alternative to Rolex’s other highly-purposeful wristwatches: Chronometer-certified, waterproof and with a near-perfect aesthetic balance. The silhouette, complication and name alone is now recognised globally.
Colloquially referred to as the “President”, the Rolex Day-Date earned the nickname in a typically brilliant marketing move by the brand. Reportedly, they gifted a Day-Date watch to then-President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower. The brand claimed in its marketing materials of the time that “Men who guide the history of the world, wear Rolex watches”, and neither the Day-Date’s ageless versatility, prestige, nor value, have faded since.
The Day-Date combines many of Rolex’s most successful innovations from the last century, including their two-piece, screw-down case. In 1926, the “Oyster” case became the very first waterproof wristwatch case to be produced serially, as well as the first fully-integrated waterproof case. This version of the Day-Date, the reference 18038, was first launched in 1977, introducing a sapphire crystal and quickset date feature.
A Double Signed Example
Issued in 1982, this Day-Date features the logo of the Albilad Fire Fighting Systems company, from Saudi Arabia. Interestingly, the company deals entirely with firefighting and fire protection services. This company logo - which balances shades of blue, grey and black - has appeared on a handful of Rolex watches, most notably Day-Date and ladies’ Datejust models. To date, very few examples have appeared publicly.
At the time, it was not uncommon for a select number of retailers, companies or influential individuals to add their mark to Rolex dials, in a practice which has long been lost today. From Tiffany & Co. and Cartier to the more unexpected Coca-Cola logo, the world of double-signed watches is as varied as it is interesting. Most of these double-signed pieces were created to mark certain achievements or accomplishments, or, historically, for retailers to lend an air of legitimacy to the foreign manufacturers in a local market.
Rolex is no stranger to creating highly customised versions of their watches for the Middle Eastern market. Towards the late 1950s, they began offering Rolex models with Arabic numerals and script to replace the numbers and day markers. One such example is the 1960 Rolex Day-Date “Scheherazade” ref. 1804. Additionally, various specially commissioned, double-signed dials have appeared publicly, such as pieces carrying the Saudi Arabian coat of arms, the Saudi Arabian armed forces logo, or the handful of unusual, Khanjar-signed dials.
This Rolex Day-Date 18038 is encased in 18k yellow gold, with a fluted bezel circling the 36mm case. The brushed finish on the lugs is clearly visible, which is counter-balanced by the polished details on the sides. It comes equipped with its original gold “President” bracelet, with a hidden clasp. The bracelet is preserved in good condition, with some limited signs of stretching found throughout.
The champagne dial complements the golden tones of the case. At 12 o’clock, the day of the week is displayed in English, through a sloped window which follows the curvature of the dial. Meanwhile, the date is displayed at 3 o’clock, enlarged with the help the brand’s recognisable "cyclops" lens. The applied crown and “Rolex”, “Oyster Perpetual” and “Day-Date” signatures sit at the top of the dial, counterbalanced by the colourful Albilad Fire Fighting Systems company logo below.
Rather interestingly, the “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified”, which usually sits at 6 o’clock, was entirely removed from the dial in order to accommodate the “Albilad” logo. It showcases two different shades of blue, adding an attractive, cool-toned contrast to the gold finish of the dial. At times, Rolex would somewhat awkwardly place certain signatures at 9 o’clock, in order to avoid modifying the basic design of their dial, making pieces such as this one all the more unusual.
The watch houses Rolex’s calibre 3055 “Officially Certified Superlative Chronometer” grade automatic movement. The mechanism features 27 jewels and KIF shock-protection, beating at a rate of 28,800 A/h, with a power-reserve of 48 hours.
Introduced in the late 1970s, the calibre 3055 was Rolex’s fifth generation Day-Date movement, featuring an increased beat rate of 28,800 A/h (up from 19,800) and highly-practical, single-quick-set date function. This replaced the caliber 1556, which had been used since 1965.
This Rolex Day-Date is accompanied by its leather box, hangtag, Rolex Oyster manual and Warranty (which remains unfilled).
This example has previously appeared publicly when it was last sold through Amsterdam Vintage Watches.