1503 Rolex Date
I have a problem with one of the greatest watches ever made: the Datejust. By the metric of pure profit, it might be the most successful watch of all time. But to me, it’s an apology. I know, the ‘just’ refers to the fact that the date snaps over at midnight instead of slowly scrolling. But it’s also an apology, as if to say ‘sorry this one’s just a date, we also make Day-Dates, we promise!’. Sure I’m a pedant, but I can’t seem to separate the intended meaning from the sound. Would I still wear a khanjar dial 1611? You’d better believe it. But these days I’m more tempted by a 1503, known simply as the Rolex Date.
Thoreau got it, writing in Walden, ‘Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.’ What do you really need in a watch? You need it to be reliable. It’d be nice if it could be worn in the rain. And you probably need to know the time. Possibly date. Everything else, every GMT, chronograph, or equation of time is really as superfluous as swim trunks in Svalbard. Now, life can’t be lived on the basis of needs. Humans are more creative than that, sports watches or complications serve a purpose. They demonstrate the artful creativity of the mind as applied to horology. But when all you want to be reminded of what purity of purpose looks like, this is your watch. Preferably with a date disc as beautifully patinated as this.
The 1503 was one of the earliest steps from Oyster Perpetual to the mildest form of complication. There’s little to separate the Datejust and Date except size and the change mechanics. It’s still powered by a 1575, built to be robust and reliable, no more. In the Rolex ethos. If a watch could get more understated, I’m not sure. It wears a bit larger than most 34mm, but it’s more svelte (and thin) than your 36mm Oyster case. And it feels more vintage not only the proportion but the indices, which have this great raised cylindrical center instead of beveled rectangles. But mostly, the 1503 is outrageous value. They’ve never been hyped and they never will be. One of those watches that you only buy if you intimately know, and love, the simplicity of 4-digit Rolex. And that’s nothing to apologize for, Hans.
This one has a full case with a beautiful very light oxidation. The tritium is all still there and a light cream. The lacquer isn’t cracked. There looks to be not much more than moderate surface wear. It comes from a well-regarded California retailer with, surprisingly, an original warranty paper.