Rolex announced their new generation of “Datejust” reference 12633 at Baselworld 2018. The introduction of this model line has lead to phasing out many of its previous versions. But, what exactly has changed?… Previously we did a comparison between the “Datejust 41” vs “Datejust I and II”; you can consult here. Now let’s take a closer look at what the new 36mm options feature and how they differ from what came before.
Now for those watch aficionados that have been loyal fans of the “Datejust”, much of the appeal stems from its overall simplicity, while providing the essential time needs: hours, minutes, seconds and date. Hence it’s appropriately given name of “Datejust”. Just the date, besides the time, obviously. It was a direct descendant of the “Bubbleback” models and historically introduced the horology industry to the innovative automatically changing date window, when it debuted back in 1945.
This model has been in production for over 70 years and has been released with minor alterations and various dial options across the span of these decades. But, recently Rolex gave their latest reference (Ref#: 126234) number a more distinguished makeover, which has led to some divisiveness and made others confused about whether to opt for the most recent edition or an older model. So let’s highlight some of the differences and similarities between ref#116234 and ref#126234.
The 36mm case for both the pre and post 2018 Datejust can be had in either: stainless-steel, 18k yellow gold or 18k rose gold; with a solid case back. Mounted to the case consumers can choose between a: fluted white gold bezel, or smooth steel bezel for the steel case version; while the yellow/rose gold case models can be had with a gold matching smooth, fluted or diamond studded bezel. But, the newer “Datejust” despite keeping a diameter of 36mm has had some slight modifications done to the case finish and lugs, which has attributed it with a more robust look.
Another modified element that has fallen under greater scrutiny by the Rolex community is the bracelet that comes attached to each version. Some fans argue about how the older Datejust that came paired with the Jubilee bracelet has a much more vintage look. And it makes sense since that has been the standard in vogue style most people have seen it in for nearly seven decades, since it was first originally released back in 1945 to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary.
But, the bracelet on the newer Datejust is secured to the wrist by the upgraded single-folding Oysterclasp engraved with the Rolex crown logo; while the previous pre-2018 models used a Jubilee bracelet, secured by a folding-clasp that is unattached by pulling the aforementioned Rolex crown piece.
Dial wise the “Datejust” has previously been seen with blue, silver, black, white, pink or grey dials. But as we now proceed to compare the differences between the old and the new dials, these alterations are most notable in the details. Pre-2018 the Datejust dial could be had with either Roman numerals, hour index marker, or both options followed by a railroad-motif minute track. It also featured a roulette date with alternating black and red numerals.
While the new post-2018 model can also be had with varying colored dials (not with as wide of a collection as the pre-2018 model line, although Rolex will undoubtedly expand the offerings in subsequent follow-ups) and Roman numerals or hour index markers, but Rolex has eliminated the railroad-motif minute track. The absence of these minute index markers gives a less “busy”, simpler look to the dial. It also includes a date aperture at the 3 o’clock position, but Rolex opted for only black numerals instead of the “roulette” color-scheme.
Finally we focus on the inner ticking of these old and new timepieces. The previous model was powered by the Rolex in-house self-winding mechanical movement caliber 3135 with 31 jewels and 28,800 vph. This caliber was a continuation of the 3035 series that Rolex launched in 1977. It was the company’s first high-beat movement increasing the balance speed from 19,800 to the aforementioned 28,800 vph. A higher frequency that began here, but would go on to become the standard across all of Rolex’s collection. Later on all modern version were all so equipped with the “Quickset” feature. Power reserve on this movement can last up to 48 hours, when fully wound.
As for the recent current production “Datejust” since 2018 it is being powered by the Rolex in-house self-winding mechanical movement caliber 3235 with 31 jewels and 28,800 vph. Despite caliber 3135 being one of Rolex’s longest running and most successful movement, this update caliber replaces more than 90% of its predecessor’s parts. Its main innovation derives from a new type of escapement known as “Chronergy”, which is an improved version of the more commonly used “Swiss lever” escapement. Power reserve on this movement has increased by nearly an extra day, lasting up to 70 hours, when fully wound. Despite initial rumors Rolex was able to maintain the barrels original size by halving the thickness of its wall, so it could still fit in a 36mm case.
So, in the end it comes down to basically aesthetic reasons. Both watches provide the same information and are powered by reliable movements. You can check the current stock at EiT of pre-2018 “Datejust” here and the newer offerings here.
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