Birch is the kind of adjective you expect to find next to ‘Eames Chair’, not ‘Day-Date’. We all know Rolex has used the Day-Date to host hundreds of exotic dial materials, many in extremely low volumes. Readers here will know of my affection for ligneous Presidents, but I haven’t elaborated on their intricacies yet. Like all things Day-Date, the complexity of this topic runs a bit deeper than expected. Luckily, those roots are starting to be fairly well catalogued. This isn’t the solid gold Day-Date you know, but it should be. These burlwood dials are increasingly collected and just fun in a quirky sort-of-way that we rarely see from Rolex anymore.
Just like Rolex used various stones to great effect, their wood Day-Date dials weren’t just one wood. Rolex made dials from the burls of walnut, madrone, mahogany, and birch. When a tree experiences an acute stress such as storm, injury, or virus, small and bizarre outgrowths known as burrs or burls appear. This wood’s grain is almost knotted, twisted, or tangled. That grain was chosen by Rolex for its beauty alone. It is often said that Rolex would produce ten wood dials and only select the best looking of ten to be cased. Then, in each of those type of burlwood dials, text was sometimes gold and sometimes black. Applied indices always match the case metal, but the text color varied by date of production. The black text on this dial contrasts an otherwise entirely gold aesthetic well. Oh, and you have to love the solid gold day and date window surrounds these received.
I also find burlwood an interesting choice for the fact that it is not precious in the slightest. It’s almost as if an intern at Rolex asked if it were possible and 1980s Rolex just went along for the hell of it. Compared to lapis lazuli, wood is almost pedestrian. And that’s the charm of these Day-Dates entirely. They’re quirky and even very, very slowly decomposing (though treated to stop). The style of lacquering has often led to lovely patination over time, as the wood will very slowly interact with the finish. This dial is beautiful, and as every burlwood Day-Date, its grain pattern is unique to the watch. I for one would love to see the more materially experimental side of Rolex return.
This example sports a full case with lovely edges on its lugs. The all-important dial is magnificently aged, no comment. Scripts still visible well too. It is a 1986 production by serial and, moreover, comes with its full set. It comes from a new-to-us retailer. Eminere Horology are a pair watch enthusiasts, Johnathan and Calum, who seek to offer interesting watches and expand the watch lifestyle landscape, out of Australia. Certainly a strong start here.
Find this Birch Burlwood 18038 available here by DM from Eminere Horology for 38000 USD.