The Day-Date (colloquially President) is arguably Rolex’s most iconic model, full stop. It is classic, subdued, sophisticated, timeless, and coveted. Like much of vintage Rolex the variety of iterations and custom-order examples within this one model could serve as subject to multiple volumes of research. This elicits the query, where to start? Well, when both Eric Ku and Tariq Malik note Stella Day-Dates as something they’re paying close attention to, it’s worth asking why. For the seriousness of the precious metal President, a lacquered dial in a bright hue changes the attitude entirely.
Stellas were produced first for this ref. 1803, which followed the 6611(B) and was produced from 1960 to 1978 until the 18038 five digits took over. What the calibre 1556 lacked in a quickset date, the dial made up for as it was Rolex’s last pie-pan shape and a beautifully subtle one. In the mid 1970s and into the 80s, Rolex introduced a series of enamel dials for the Day-Date in riotous tones.
The dials were listed in catalogue as ‘Lacquered Stella’. Stella was a company based in Châtelaine and Geneva who supplied the a special brightly-pigmented lacquer to Rolex. Each dial was finished by hand through multiple lacquered layers, mixed and dried individually to the eye of their creator. These layers would then dry to create this tone and get a varnish, polished by hand. Stella Presidents were available in a range of metals and stone configurations, but only a few explosive dial hues.
The dials were believed to have been produced originally for the Middle East and Asia but over time began to be retailed through other markets. The watch sold slowly in period, leading Rolex to allegedly destroy multiple remaining batches in the late 80s. The slow sales (read: low production, rare) and intense laborious process have spelled insane levels of collectibility all these decades later. This oxblood and 18k confluence is undoubtedly one of the best.
This example has a full case which appears to have seen only a very light polish. Its all-important dial is absolutely perfect, no visible cracking anywhere and beautifully even tritium pips. I see nothing out of place. The bracelet has light surface wear visible but nothing egregious. Overall very strong. It comes from a well-regarded Swiss vintage retailer.
Find this Oxblood Stella 1803 here from Vintage Watches Zermatt listed as POA.