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

Colin Chapman: Founder Of Lotus Cars

Colin Chapman


Lotus Founder


Formula One Pioneer

A Passion For Sports Cars & Rolex Day-Date

Colin Chapman pictured above in 1981

Colin Chapman was born in 1928 and passed away in 1982 at the young age of 54. They say the candle that burns twice as bright lasts half as long, which  was likely the case with Chapman. Colin was a highly influential British designer, inventor, and automotive industry maverick that left his mark upon Formula One racing.

Colin Chapman pictured above in an early Lotus

Colin Chapman made his first Lotus, which he called the Lotus MK1, from a modified Austin 7 in 1948. From 1948 to 1951 Chapman made what he refered to as Mark 1 to Mark 3 Lotus models.

In 1952, Chapman founded the Lotus Car Company and began making his own cars.  Chapman was a revolutionary designer in the world of Formula One innovation. In the early years of Lotus Chapman raced his cars, but later focused on the engineering marketing sides of the business.

Among many of his innovative achievements was using struts as a rear suspension device. Colin Chapman once famously said, "Adding power makes you faster on the straights and subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere."

Colin Chapman is pictured below with Formula One race car driver Jim Clark who was from Scotland. James Clark the world championship in 1963 driving his Lotus 25, after having earned the maximum number of points for that season.

Jim Clark and Colin Chapman.

Jim Clark won the Formula One championship in 1965 for Lotus. Unfortunately, he was killed in an accident in 1968 racing in a Lotus at the Hockenheimring in Germany, and Colin Chapman said at the time he had lost his best friend.

Colin Chapman is pictured below with Peter Warr who Colin chose in late 1969 to be Team Lotus' Competition Manager in Formula One. Clark led Team Lotus to World Championship victory in 1970 with Jochen Rindt, and again in 1972 with Emerson Fittipaldi. Warr left Lotus in 1976 and returned after Chapman's death to become the team boss.

Colin Chapman is pictured below in 1972 with then Brabham team leader Bernie Ecclestone at the Formula One South African Grand Prix. Bernie Ecclestone would go on to become the CEO of the Formula One Group.

Before Colin Chapman motorsports and Formula One was considered a wealthy man's sport. Colin changed that with his concept of sponsorship liveries. Meaning he was a pioneer in branding race cars with sponsors advertising their names and decals on Formula One cars, which became moving advertisements—a tradition in full force today.

Roger Moore

The Spy Who Loved Me

One of Colin Chapman's greatest coup was a getting a Lotus Esprit Coupe placed in the epic 1977 James Bond movie name The Spy Who Loved Me which starred Roger Moore as James Bond. 

The Lotus Esprit in The Spy Who Loved me was no ordinary Lotus as it was not only a car but a submarine!

Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla owns the actual Lotus Esprit that was used in The Spy Who Loved Me, and this is ironic as the first Tesla ever made, which was the Telsa Roadster was built upon a Lotus chassis.

The first image one of the publicity stills associated with the James Bond film, "The Spy Who Loved Me." If I understand it correctly, it was used in as a publicity still but not shown completely in the film. 

Ironically, Roger Moore is wearing a Rolex GMT-Master, as opposed to a Rolex Submariner, which we usually see him wear when he played James Bond.

Roger Moore is pictured below in what I believe is a Lotus magazine ad for the Lotus Esprit Turbo.

Colin Chapman would become involved with John Delorean in the development of Delorean's highly controversial DMC-12. The Delorean DMC-12 was basically a Lotus Esprit in disguise, and if you look closely you will notice the cabin and rear dimensions are almost identical. The difference is that the Lotus has a much more cab-forward design.

If you think about it, it is ironic that both the DeLorean DMC-12 and original Tesla Roadster were built on a Lotus chassis.

Colin Chapman's Rolex Day-Date featured a champagne dial with diamond markers as seen in the photo below.

As we see in the photo below, Colin is pictured sporting his trademark yellow gold Rolex Day-Date which kept the time of his life. From my research findings, it appears he began wearing his Rolex Day-Date sometime around late 1969 and wore it until he passed away in 1982.

"To add speed, add lightness." –Colin Chapman