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07/28/2021
 5 minutes

Rolex Datejust for Beginners: The Best References Under $7,000

By Donato Andrioli
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The Rolex Datejust is one of the most popular watches of all time and is perhaps the most iconic model in Rolex’s catalog. For more than 75 years, it has graced the wrists of many famous personalities, from film and culture to politics. By now, it’s impossible to imagine our pop culture without the Datejust. This was the first watch to feature the famous date magnifier that has since become the trademark of Rolex. However, despite its high profile, the Datejust is a perfect watch for beginners, as it is one of the most affordable Rolexes available. Are you just starting to develop an interest in watches? Then you should consider a Rolex Datejust, which offers you a huge and diverse selection. In this article, I’ll show you the best references for under $7,000. 

Rolex Datejust 1: Vintage for the Limited Budget – Ref. 1601 

The Datejust ref. 1601 is an excellent choice even if you’re working within a smaller budget because you can get this model for less than $6,000. Introduced in the 1960s and produced until the early 1980s, the Datejust 1601 is quintessentially vintage. While you’ll have to make do with plexiglass, the 1601 has everything that made the Datejust so famous and popular: the classic 36-mm size, the white-gold fluted bezel, the Jubilee bracelet, the iconic magnifying lens over the date display at 3 o’clock, and on top of all that, water-resistance to 100 meters (330 feet). While the Datejust has noticeably evolved after all these decades, it has never lost its true essence. This means you get a fully-fledged Datejust, with all its advantages, regardless of this reference’s significant age. As an alternative to the 1601, you should definitely take a look at the ref. 1603. Technically identical to the 1601, this reference’s only difference is a fluted bezel made of steel, rather than the typical white or yellow gold. Hence, this lends the bezel a slightly different look, which ultimately makes the 1603 an interesting and distinctive alternative. Both references offer you as wearer and collector an excellent and relatively affordable entry into the world of Rolex and Datejust. 

Despite its advanced age, the ref. 1601 is a full-fledged Datejust and a great introduction to the world of Rolex and the Datejust.
Despite its advanced age, the ref. 1601 is a full-fledged Datejust and a great introduction to the world of Rolex and the Datejust.

Rolex Datejust 2: Almost Modern – Ref. 16234 

The Datejust ref. 16234 was introduced in the late 1980s and produced until the early 2000s. It’s perfect for all watch wearers and collectors who would like to own a slightly more modern Datejust. For example, the 16234 offers you a 42-hour power reserve and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, making this reference more suitable for everyday wear than the 1601. The selection available for under $7,000 is really something to behold. While you are still somewhat limited in the choice of dials with the 1601, the 16234 offers you a wide range of different dials. To name just a few, you can choose between sleek black, a magnificent blue sunburst, elegant white, or classic silver. However, your choices for the 16234 go beyond the dial color and extend to various styles, such as line indices, Roman numerals, or even diamond indices. I personally find most striking the dial version with line indices, which lends the Datejust an elegant yet somehow laid-back feel. If it’s important to you to have a full-fledged Datejust under $7,000, then I think the 16234 is a fantastic option that comes surprisingly close to the new 36-mm references. 

The Datejust ref. 16234 comes astonishingly close to the new 36-mm references.
The Datejust ref. 16234 comes astonishingly close to the new 36-mm references.

Rolex Datejust 3: The Exotic Choice – Datejust Oysterquartz 

If you are a watch wearer looking for something special or unconventional, the Datejust Oysterquartz could be the timepiece for you. The Oysterquartz, especially in the fluted bezel variant, only remotely resembles the classic Datejust. Both its case and uncharacteristically integrated bracelet make it strikingly clear that this watch is not your everyday Rolex. The Datejust Oysterquartz includes several references and is a relic of the quartz crisis, which made Rolex break with tradition. Its name gives it away: Inside the Oysterquartz slumbers quartz rather than a mechanical movement. Rolex introduced the watch in the late 1970s and officially sold it until around 2004.

What makes this model so special, in my opinion, is that it is completely atypical for Rolex. For example, the watch’s case and bracelet bring to mind a timepiece crafted by the legendary designer Gérald Genta instead of a Rolex. In fact, I immediately think of the Royal Oak from Audemars Piguet when I see the Oysterquartz. Yet compared to a Royal Oak, the Oysterquartz is an extremely affordable timepiece, as there are many options for under $7,000. You have your choice of a smooth or fluted bezel, steel, as well as steel-gold variants, not to mention different colored dials with line indices or Roman numerals. Particularly in the last few years, the entire Datejust collection’s value has been trending upward. Given its exotic look and atypical quartz movement, I believe that the Oysterquartz could become a highly sought-after rarity.

The exotic choice among Rolex watches: The Datejust Oysterquartz offers a quartz movement and a rather unusual design for Rolex.
The exotic choice among Rolex watches: The Datejust Oysterquartz offers a quartz movement and a rather unusual design for Rolex.

Rolex Datejust 4: The One and Only? – Ref. 16013 

Whether solid gold or two-tone, watches made with gold are not necessarily the most popular timepieces in many countries. But the two-tone Datejust with a gold champagne dial might just be the Datejust that Rolex itself considers the definitive original. Why do I believe this? For as long as I can remember, Rolex has always advertised exactly this variant of the Datejust. For example, the Datejust-inspired fluted bezels on the watches you see at sporting events like Formula 1 or tennis tournaments are always yellow gold. Even on the Rolex homepage, the Datejust is always shown first in the two-tone version. Maybe this is all subjective, but I can’t remember ever seeing any other version of the Datejust in a Rolex advertisement than this one.  

Subjective or not, if you’re looking for a Datejust with that extra “bling,” the ref. 16013 is the one for you. The golden center links of the Jubilee dial perfectly complement the golden-yellow bezel to create a harmonious overall look. If the champagne gold dial is too much of a good thing for you, you still have the option of choosing from other, more understated dial colors. For under $7,000, you can get the Datejust that Rolex itself likely considers the one true model. Moreover, should you choose the version with a gold line dial, you would be wearing a veritable celebrity on your arm, made famous by Christian Bale in the cult film “American Psycho.” The next time you tell your friends “don’t touch the watch” with your 16013 on your arm, it will take on a whole new meaning.  

The two-tone version of the Datejust is probably the original version that Rolex had in mind.
The two-tone version of the Datejust is probably the original version that Rolex had in mind.

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About the Author

Donato Andrioli

As an author at WATCHVICE, Donato works closely with company founders Jenni and Kai to produce video scripts for their German-language YouTube channel. Donato is …

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