Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Rolex 'President' Ad from 1957 Uncovered






By Capt. Danny Crivello

The Rolex Day-Date, also know as "The Rolex President," is the stuff of legend, worn by a who's who of 20th-century icons, from U.S. Presidents to the Dalai Lama—not to mention NASA astronauts, Miles Davis, Tony Soprano, Jennifer Aniston, Sir Jackie Stewart, Jean-Claude Killy, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Barry White.

The Rolex "President" is not only a nickname given by watch aficionados but also an official term used by Rolex to describe a bracelet reserved for the Day-Date (and for certain versions of the Datejust for ladies in precious metals). 

The Rolex Day-Date bracelet is shaped with semi-circular three-piece links, and its more modern version is fitted with a Crownclasp, Rolex’s concealed clasp. The super-iconic Rolex "President" bracelet is instantly recognizable from across any room.
The Rolex Day-Date is not just about telling the time, but signals and broadcasts success to the world, as well as to the wearer.

Most have attributed the nickname "President" to the fact that the Day-Date was worn by U.S. presidents, Lyndon B. Johnson in particular. Jake covered this in his detailed 18-part series named "The Complete History of The Rolex President."

My esteemed colleagues at Hodinkee have written as recently as 2021 that: 

While the Day-Date did in fact begin in 1956, we now know it is not "how it got its nicknamed." To be clear, the fine folks over at Hodinkee do a superb job, and this misstatement is no reflection of the work they do. 

Rather, it is a reflection on how large this legend has grown, how often it has been repeated by watch professionals the world over. 

President Eisenhower, pictured above, is wearing his Rolex Datejust on Jubilee bracelet, which is not a Day-Date and does not have a "President" bracelet.

The wonderful publication WatchTime, to which I'm subscribed, has an even more confusing explanation for the origin of the appellation "President." [Alas, not correct either: Eisenhower had a Datejust, not a Day-Date]

The mistakes are largely Rolex to blame as the brand publishes very little about its history. I'd surmise Rolex's biggest depositary of historical documents are in these pages—composed and assembled through painstaking research.

Did the term "President" really come from LBJ owning a Day-Date?

It's been said that the Internet rewards specialization. And Jake's Rolex World is 100% about Rolex. 

Nick Gould has just uncovered in the archives of an Italian newspaper, La Nuova Stampa, a Rolex advertisement from 1957—four years before JFK was elected, six years before LBJ would be sworn in—with the word "PRESIDENT."

"This alters the timeline on the nickname getting attached to the watch," Nick said.

Come closer (and observe the publication date)...

In the third line below the picture of the Day-Date, we can see the word "PRESIDENT" being used to describe the Rolex Day-Date bracelet, or bracciale, before the ad includes the bracelet codeTranslated from Italian, the sentence reads: "Solid 18 carat gold with bracelet << PRESIDENT >> 7286/16". It's 1957, and JFK and LBJ haven't even started campaigning.

Moreover, a 1958 Rolex catalog from the Canary Islands corroborates the use of the word "President" as a name for the Rolex Day-Date's bracelet...

...as well as this 1959 German advertisement with the word Präsident.

It was believed, until now, that Rolex started referring to "President" during LBJ's term in office, as the watchmaker stood to capitalize on (free) exposure from the President's wrist. Below are a couple of Rolex ads published in the mid-1960s, during LBJ's presidential term, one of them referring to "The presidents' watch."

However, thanks to the recent discovery dug up from an Italian newspaper archive, we have proof that the term "PRESIDENT" was used nearly a decade earlier, unrelated to the U.S. presidents of the sixties. 

Jake's Take: Danny and Nick did an amazing job discovering and sharing this previously missing piece of the Rolex history puzzle! Personally, I was shocked with Nick's discovery, and I am not certain what to make of it. It just goes to show that Rolex history seems to be more a moving target than a fixed one. The one thing I would add to this story is that President Eisenhower was wearing a yellow gold Rolex Datejust when the 1957 Italian newspaper ad was published. 

I will also add that a common misconception is the original inaugural 1955-1956 Rolex Day-Date models  [Reference 6511 and 6510] came with the President bracelet, which is not true. The first Day-Date models (pictured above and below) were ONLY equipped and available with a Rolex Jubilee bracelet

So the great takeaway from this story is the Rolex President bracelet was named the "President" from day one when it was first launched in 1957.

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