The Rolex Datejust is one of the most iconic wristwatches ever produced. It exudes quality and is a symbol of wealth and success all over the world. Its iconic style has been copied frequently but never been beaten. A vintage Rolex Datejust is a great watch to start off your luxury watch collection. How do you choose the best second-hand Rolex for your budget?
Rolex Datejust Model Guide
The three most popular types of Rolex Datejust are probably the 16xx series, the 16xxx series and the 116xxx series.
16xx series watches were produced until about 1977. They had an acrylic crystal and holes in the case at the side of the lugs. This model is particularly sought-after by collectors for the “open 6 and 9” date wheel. Only the number 26 appears in a ‘regular’ font on all but the rarest examples.
The 16xxx series (shown in the main image) was upgraded in 1978 with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. Later models also lost the lug holes. Otherwise, this model shares an identical 36mm case with the 16xx series. The movement was upgraded Rolex’s Calibre 3135 which has a higher beat rate, ticking eight times per second rather than 5.
The 1166xxx series watches are the latest Rolex Datejust models. They have a new 36mm or 40mm case and the bracelet has been upgraded with solid centre links and a more solid feeling clasp.
What to Look For in a Second-hand Rolex Datejust
The most important thing when buying a second-hand Rolex is its provenance. Watches that have their papers and service history with them are worth more money. When the owner has retained the paperwork and box for the watch, you know the watch will have been cared for. Rolex movements are hard-wearing, so a full Rolex service history is not essential but do take care as some faults are expensive to fix.
Check the condition of the bracelet. It is normal for jubilee bracelets to fee a bit light and rattly. Rolex watch bracelets are known to “stretch” over time. The solid gold centre links stretch as the soft metal gradually pulls out of shape. Stainless steel bracelets do not actually stretch, but the pins holding the bracelet together slowly wear out. This can cause sudden failure: leaving you to pick up your investment from the floor. The bracelets can be repaired by a specialist – at a price – or you can buy an OEM or aftermarket replacement.
Avoid Buying a Fake Rolex Datejust
The Rolex Datejust is renowned as being the most faked watch in the world. Fake 16xxx and 116xxx series watches are widespread. There are also a number of “Franken-watches” on the market. These are made up from parts of other watches – usually broken ones – and sold as the real deal. Most fake Rolex Datejusts are poor quality, but there are high-quality with replicas of Swiss movements inside them.
The only way to be sure you are buying a genuine Rolex is to choose a trustworthy dealer or have a Rolex Authorised Dealer authenticate the piece before you exchange money. Real Rolex watches are made of stainless steel or solid gold – but are never gold plated. You can often tell by the weight and condition of the watch if it is made from solid precious metal. Look out for worn plating on the crown and check the edges of the centre links of the bracelet to see if they are silver.