Friday, August 17, 2018

The Very First Rolex Day-Date

Rolex Day-Date Genesis Patent Discovered!!!

I have some stunning news to share with you about a discovery I recently made. How stunning is this news you ask? So stunning, I had to borrow Hodinkee's "BREAKING NEWS" Moniker again, as seen above!!

Very little was known about the origins of the Rolex Day-Date until today. Questions like, who designed the movement, and what inspired Rolex to come out with such a watch have never been answered or even addressed? Today, that changes...

Below is one of the most remarkable pieces of Rolex history I have uncovered. You are looking at a patent application which was originally filed in Switzerland in February of 1950 for what would become the Rolex Day-Date. This patent application is significant as it predates the original 1955 Rolex Day-Date patent application by five years!!!!

This patent, which credits Marc Huguenin as being the inventor, shows Rolex's first attempt at creating a watch that displayed both the Day & Date on the watch dial. Rolex never brought this actual watch design to market, but I am certain it was the precursor to the Rolex Day-Date.

I published the story below last week, and am including it with this breaking news as the Patent Application from July 23, 1955, also credits Marc Huguenin as the inventor of the Rolex Day-Date.


The Very First Rolex Day-Date

It never ceases to amaze me how timeless Rolex watches are, and in this photo, we see the very first Rolex Day-Date model which was patented by Rolex in 1955 and introduced at Basel Fair in Switzerland in 1956, which is 62 years ago!!! I love the red date wheel along with the red Day-Date designation on the dial. The Rolex Day-Date is commonly referred to as  The Rolex President, which is a fascinating story in and of itself.

My old friend, John Goldberger wrote in and included the photo below and said:

Dear Jake,

This is the first Day-Date with its original dial! The Day-Date showed today in your blog came from the Rolex collection but its dial is redone like many other dials in the Rolex Geneva collection!

Ciao John

It is worth noting that the Rolex Day-Date pictured above [36MM: Case Number: 134636, Caliber 1055] is the earliest know Day-Date in existence. It was manufactured in 1956 and sold in Italy, and the all details on the watch are original including the dial. The original hands on this watch are dauphine hands and the baton markers are pointed. Rolex later updated the hands and baton marker to make them all rectangular. 

I actually prefer the old-school style dauphine hands and markers which are late art-deco, which was a mid-century design known as Populuxe, which is reminiscent of 1959 Cadillac tailfin. Also, notice the date wheel was red, and in the photo below from Mondani Editore, we see an early Rolex Day-Date point of sale display which is showcasing a Reference 6511.

This is kind of a Rolex Mythbuster of sorts in the sense that the very first Rolex Day-Date models [Reference 6511 and 6510] came ONLY with Jubilee bracelets as seen in the photo above as well as the Rolex magazine ad below. When Rolex introduced the Day-Date at Basel Fair in 1956 it only came in 18Kt pink or yellow gold on a Jubilee bracelet. 

1956 Basel Fair Rolex Ad introducing the Rolex Day-Date Model

On July 23, 1955, Marc Huguenin from Rolex in Geneva filed a patent application #323982 (pictured below), which featured a seven toothed star wheel which sat on top of a 31 tooth calendar wheel. Both wheels were ratcheted once ever twenty-four hours at midnight.

The "President" bracelet would be added a year later in 1957 with the introduction of the Rolex Reference 6611, which featured an improved caliber 1055 that had a new free sprung Micro-Stella balance. This new model was also the first to feature the "Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified" designation on the dial. Notice the original Day-Date model pictured above has a dial designation that reads, "Superlative Chronometer by Official Test."

A few years ago I wrote an article for Rolex's paper magazine about the Rolex Day-Date, also known as the Rolex President, and I decided to share it below as part of this amazing Rolex history:





Rolex asked me to write an article about the Rolex Day-Date, A.K.A., The Rolex President for their print Magazine, in Issue Number 4. 

I decided to title the story as "The Rolex Precedent", which is obviously a play on "The Rolex President." I hope you enjoy reading my article as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Tip: The way to read the story is to click on the first magazine page below, which should make it larger in your browser, then you can use the right and left keys on your keyboard to navigate through the pages.


Table Of Contents