Onyx Dial 16238 Rolex Datejust

Staring into an onyx Datejust is the horological equivalent of a black hole. Both aesthetically and financially, they will suck you in. Normally, I would always slightly preference a Day-Date, everything else being equal. But in stone dials, Datejusts really sing. You get more of the stone, to start. But I really love that fact that, in period, someone spent more than a standard Day-Date on this solid gold Datejust. The kind of premium that precious metal stone dials sold at put them well above most non-stone Day-Dates or very close. As such, they are rarer. Some have even suggested Rolex made fewer in order to not compete with the Day-Date market. That these less complicated, less interrupted (by apertures) stone dials exist at all is miraculous when you stop to think about.

This is a 16238, which sets itself apart from four-digit dials with a larger Datejust print that many like. In addition, this one is a Swiss only with non-luminous hands, which makes up a fraction of production. Long time readers will know, stone dials were frequently signed T SWISS T, luminous or not (as they were all printed at once), but more Swiss only signatures began to appear in the mid 90s more often. This one actually matches.

Most buyers at this price level want the Day-Date name. But stone Datejust still represents a fairly strong value today, even with the recent surge. Rarer and less expensive almost never go together, but they do here. They proved remarkably stable throughout the whole up and down of the last five years, on the kind of steady climb only rivaled by Cartier. This, I suspect, is because it’s a very considered buyer who makes this kind of choice. Part of the reason to pay attention in stone Datejust is because so few collectors are. The other is, well, look at it. It’s an immensely characterful watch that sold badly in its era, remained unpopular for decades, and is now seeing a renewed interest. Remind you of anything? Maybe something that rhymes with Raul Rewman? That might be a stretch, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see these move that way. Stone dials don’t feel like a fad to me. They feel like they’re finding their rightful place in the zeitgeist. Just don’t leave the Datejusts out, they’re just as special.

This example looks great. The dial is clear of hairlines or fractures as far as I can see, which is always the big thing to watch out for here. The handset is right. It comes on strap, which some would say is not ideal but that’s a matter of preference. The case is probably lightly polished but still quite full. It comes from a well-regarded Mexican retailer.