Sequoia Wood Dial 1803 Rolex Day-Date
If you really know your Day-Dates, this wood dial will immediately look a different to what you’re used to seeing. It’s made of sequoia, not the birch, mahogany, or walnut you’re perhaps more familiar with, and it’s what came first. In fact, this isn’t just the first wood dial Rolex, it’s one of the earliest instances of Rolex experimenting with unusual materials for Day-Date dials. It was totally flat, in an era where all other Day-Dates had ‘pie pan’ dials. As such, the details feel a bit . . .experimental, shall we say. You should really think of these as almost material test dials that were manufactured and sold, both because the volumes were tiny and they’re finished like a Siberian prison.
In latter production, Rolex developed a lacquering process that, in effect, froze the natural changes wood undergoes over time. Text was then printed on that lacquer and the end result looked smooth, glossy, and what you’d expect. But when Rolex was first starting to use wood, they didn’t lacquer anything, and just printed text right on the porous surface. Some would say this a less professional product, and Rolex then was not what it is today. But I would simply state that the first of anything always takes some iterating to perfect, and the print quality in conjunction with rougher texture is a part of these extremely early sequoia dial’s charms. And for rarity, it’s very near the top.
Mostly due to rarity, it’s an extremely hard watch to benchmark. The closest example to great condition was probably the one sold by Phillips in 2018, but then it was polished and on a strap, still before the Day-Date mania of the last few years. Then, it hammered at 32K USD. Since, a few examples have traded hands privately that I’m aware of for nearly double that. There’s even a Florentine example currently hanging out on the market at 120K. I’ve never seen more than four for sale at once. You’ll find early production signed T only and latter production with sigmas. And be warned, most people will think it’s fugazi simply because they aren’t aware it exists, you will have to explain it. But it’s still a beautiful and rarely seen bit of Day-Date history that’s worth the effort in sharing.
This example comes from a well-regarded name in Day-Dates, Momentum Dubai. The case is probably lightly polished, but still thick. That case and bracelet share a light to moderate degree of surface wear, but nothing egregious. The dial has aged and swallowed up some of the printed script, but in a very lovely and charming way. There are tiny light pinpricks in the minute hand and the date wheels have warmed attractively. It’s a fine example and one we really don’t get to cover very often, one for the Day-Date hardcore today.