The ultimate guide to the Rolex President watch

TET
The Editorial Team

With a production run that has spanned decades, it is clear to see how dignitaries, celebrities and US Presidents have become synonymous with this iconic wristwatch. The Rolex President was first introduced in 1956 and is available in 18ct yellow gold, 18ct white gold, 18ct rose gold, and 950 platinum. Its sizes vary from 36mm to 41mm with bezel choices to be had between smooth, textured, gem-set and fluted. Multiple dial options are also available, as well as a choice between the famed President bracelet, the Oyster bracelet and the leather band.


A brief history of the Rolex Day-Date watch

The first Rolex Day-Date watches were the 6510 and 6511. They both featured a President bracelet, a 36mm diameter and a fluted bezel. These members of the Oyster Perpetual series were the world’s first to offer a date feature and a day window spelt out in full. Integrated with Rolex’s waterproof Oyster case and housing a Perpetual movement, the Rolex Day-Date watch was an entirely new concept for elite watch collecting circles. The evolution of the Rolex President watch’s story is nothing short of interesting. The origins of its name initially began after the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson famously wore a yellow gold model whilst in office. JFK was also reported to have been gifted a Day-Date watch by Marylin Munroe, inscribed with what is believed to be the words “Jack with love as always from Marilyn May 29th, 1962”.


Rolex Day Date 6511


Rolex Day Date 6510


The Rolex President watch soon came to be a symbol of power and success. Interestingly, however, the President name is given to only those Rolex watches fitted on the much-loved three-link bracelet and not all Day-Date watches are. Some come fitted with factory leather straps, others with the flat-link Rolex Oyster bracelet.


How much does a Rolex Day-Date watch cost?

The good thing is that if you own a Rolex President watch, it will prove to hold its value much better than many other luxury watches including those from Rolex’s very own catalogue. Although it commands a higher price than some other Rolex models, the money is well worth the investment. Backed by provenance and Rolex craftsmanship, Rolex President watches make for perfect family heirlooms or a gift to mark a special milestone.


Whilst buying from the pre-owned market often means you can pick up a Rolex Day-Date watch for considerably less than a brand new one, you do have to do your research in ensuring you are buying from a trusted dealer. With a solid Rolex movement at the heart of each genuine Rolex watch, a pre-owned President watch is made to last for generations, so buying a pre-loved model almost always outweighs the cons and is often the only way a watch connoisseur can come to afford their very own Day-Date watch.


Movement evolution of the Rolex Day-Date watch

Tirelessly perfected to offer the very best in technology, every Rolex Day-Date watch to be produced has been done so to the brand’s unprecedented standards. Interestingly, as the movement of the Rolex President watch evolved, so did the design of the case to accommodate it. When the first Rolex President was released back in 1956, the models 6510 and 6511 were powered by the Calibre 1055.


This was a hefty movement compared to newer modified movements and thus required a chunkier case to house it. This movement was replaced eventually by the Calibre 1555 in the 180X series. The addition of a hacking seconds function came during the 1970s with the Calibre 1556, which enabled the wearer to stop the seconds hand when wanting to adjust the time. Following this was the Single Quickset function in the Calibre 3055, which adjusted the month independently of the time whilst rotating the crown. With each new movement, Rolex devoted its time to perfecting a sleeker-looking case for a more stylish look on the wrist. To evolve with the times, Rolex produced the President watch in a quartz version during the quart crisis. By the time the 182xx series landed during the 1980s, Rolex had developed the Calibre 2155 with a Double Quickset function. This enabled the wearer to correct both the day and date displays without twisting the crown by full 24-hour rotations. The Rolex Day-Date II watches grew in size, measuring a 41mm diameter and housing the Calibre 3156 inside, equipped with a 48-hour power reserve. The discontinuation of this watch led to a down-sized model – the Rolex Day-Date 40, fitted with the anti-magnetic Calibre 3255 and promising an impressive 70-hour power reserve.


Movement evolution of the Rolex Day-Date watch

Tirelessly perfected to offer the very best in technology, every Rolex Day-Date watch to be produced has been done so to the brand’s unprecedented standards. Interestingly, as the movement of the Rolex President watch evolved, so did the design of the case to accommodate it. When the first Rolex President was released back in 1956, the models 6510 and 6511 were powered by the Calibre 1055. This was a hefty movement compared to newer modified movements and thus required a chunkier case to house it. This movement was replaced eventually by the Calibre 1555 in the 180X series. The addition of a hacking seconds function came during the 1970s with the Calibre 1556, which enabled the wearer to stop the seconds hand when wanting to adjust the time.


Following this was the Single Quickset function in the Calibre 3055, which adjusted the month independently of the time whilst rotating the crown. With each new movement, Rolex devoted its time to perfecting a sleeker-looking case for a more stylish look on the wrist. To evolve with the times, Rolex produced the President watch in a quartz version during the quart crisis. By the time the 182xx series landed during the 1980s, Rolex had developed the Calibre 2155 with a Double Quickset function. This enabled the wearer to correct both the day and date displays without twisting the crown by full 24-hour rotations. The Rolex Day-Date II watches grew in size, measuring a 41mm diameter and housing the Calibre 3156 inside, equipped with a 48-hour power reserve. The discontinuation of this watch led to a down-sized model – the Rolex Day-Date 40, fitted with the anti-magnetic Calibre 3255 and promising an impressive 70-hour power reserve.


The many faces of the Rolex President watch

The Rolex Day-Date has always been a formal-looking timepiece. That said, it did not stop Rolex from getting experimental with several dial colours. Over the decades, the President watch has displayed the time on its classic champagne dial with scintillating diamond dot hour markers, a rainbow dial set with a full spectrum of colourful gemstone hour markers, wooden dials with unique grains, an Anniversary dial in the brand’s signature deep green colour, a multi-layered enamel Stella dial, an Arabic numeral dial, and a rich blue Lapis Lazuli dial.


The different generations of the Rolex President watch

The 65xx series

The 65xx series of Rolex Day-Date watches were almost identical to the 6510 and 6511 models. They featured a 36mm Oyster case, a fluted bezel and the additional day complication located at 12 o’clock above the Rolex brand logo. The semi-circular-shaped links of the President bracelet gave the timepiece a very purist and elegant look on the wrist.


Series 180x

The Rolex 180x landed in 1959 with several dial colours on offer. This indicated the period where Rolex became a little more daring and playful with its design options. In addition to this, the brand experimented with different bezel finishes and bracelets, expanding the line of Day-Date watches to reach a broader spectrum of watch lovers and collectors. More materials were also introduced to the family, offering the Day-Date watch in 18ct white gold, 18ct yellow gold and 18ct rose gold.


The Rolex 180xx Day-Date generation

The Rolex 180xx Day-Date generation was aesthetically similar in many ways to its predecessor. These watches were classified as the “five-digit Day Dates” and also housed a new and improved movement named the Calibre 3055. As mentioned, the Quickset function in the Calibre 3055 was quite a technological leap for a Rolex collector back then. Instead of winding the crown until the hands had travelled a full cycle. The Quickset function eased this issue, granting the wearer a more seamless operation for time adjustment. The Rolex Day-Date 180xx series was available in yellow gold, white gold and platinum case options, along with fluted, diamond-set, smooth and bark-effect bezels.


The 190xx series

The 190xx series of Rolex President watches marked the quartz crisis era, which later ceased production. As such, these models remain in high demand. Several 18ct yellow gold and 18ct white gold variations boasted gem-set and non-gem-set versions, as well as President bracelet options and pyramid bracelet options


The Rolex Day-Date 18xxx

The Rolex Day-Date 18xxx series debuted in 1988 with a new movement – the Calibre 3155. This generation marked the diamond-set 182xx and 183xx models. These iterations implemented the Double Quickset function for adjusting both the day and date functions effortlessly. Variations from this series came in the form of 18ct yellow gold and 18ct white gold models with a fluted bezel and a bark-effect bezel.


Rolex President 118xx

The Rolex President 118xx series is a generation characterised by its upgraded bracelet and clasp. Improved security and links with a higher polish gave these Rolex Day-Date watches a resolutely refined and opulent look on the wrist. The movement inside these president watches was the same Calibre 3155 movement and the models came in 18ct yellow gold, 18ct white gold, 18ct Everose gold and platinum case options. Smooth, fluted and diamond-set bezels featured in this series, as well as leather band options.


Rolex Day-Date II

The Rolex Day-Date II watch series saw the popular dress watch enlarge to a 41mm size. Despite larger sizes being a more unusual choice back then, the dimensions of this larger President watch were met with instant success. The Day-Date II watch was released back in 2008 and has grown significantly from its much more manageable 36mm diameter. Rose gold, white gold, yellow gold and platinum options were available in this 41mm President watch.


Day-Date 40

Finally, to complete this ultimate guide to Rolex President watches, the Day-Date 40 watch was released back in Basel in 2015 and completes the story of the Day-Date watch so far. It offered a middle ground to collectors who found the 36mm too small and the former 41mm too large. Bridging the gap quite nicely, the Day-Date 40 watch is powered by the Calibre 3255, which offers a 72-hour power reserve and promises an accuracy of -2/+2 seconds per day.


Given that the Rolex President watch has stood the test of time with a design that has barely altered since it first debuted in the 1950s, it is easy to appreciate how the watch has come to be the number one choice for many influential leaders, celebrities and presidents of the past. For this reason, the Rolex Day-Date will always remain a much-loved classic, a highly sought-after collectable and a true symbol of power and success.


To find out more about which Rolex hold their value you can read more of our guides where we cover all Rolex Nicknames or our classic guide to the Day Date models and our comparision with their sister brand: Rolex vs Tudor.

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