The 1601 Datejust is precisely what someone who doesn’t know watches imagines when you say ‘a nice watch’. This is one unit of Rolex, in exactly the same way that you would purchase one foot of fabric for curtains (or one meter for our more cultured friends, we know we’re backwards). Some may think that means it’s boring; it isn’t. That’s just the result of Rolex dominating the plebian’s luxury consciousness through consistent messaging, dominant ad spending, and, in truth, a fairly bulletproof product. Interest, however, arrives in two forms: the vast-ranging specifications of production and the vastly different lives they have led. This is the latter. And it’s strangely a bit German.
Let me elaborate. Ghost dials are a bit absurd at face value. Rolex machine-printed text on the dial so that everyone could tell a little bit about your watch, particularly that is in fact a Rolex. Then someone wore it a lot in the sun and now no one can see ‘Rolex’. Effectively, you’re undoing all of Hans’s good work. But are you? It’s a bit like the people, namely Germans, who buy very lovely AMG Mercs, RS Audis, or M cars and then de-badge every last millimeter of it. You’ll see it coming up behind you on the autobahn doing mach eleven, but it’s on you to spot the hood scoops and anabolic arch flares to know to get out of the damn way (god I wish that simple understanding existed worldwide).
I have a good German friend, who will remain nameless, who explained this to me in detail. Maurice Maschmeyer said it’s not cool to de-badge a base C-Class, because people will think you’re pretending to have something you don’t. But it is cool to de-badge a range topping C63 AMG Plus Plus Black GRRR Edition, or whatever they’re calling it these days, because that exemplifies modesty. This is absurd, because modesty is actually punting around in a Fiat and doing charity work. But there’s a sort of top-down culturally enforced discretion over there which I find quite appealing. That’s also why this 1601 is both deeply interesting and cool. It’s a Datejust, but because someone loved it more than average (and Rolex made a mistake), it’s now a little more modest. And let’s be honest, we’re all a little sick of footballer’s rainbow Daytonas and candy-colored RMs. I’d talk to someone wearing this. The others? Their wrists talk enough for both of us.
What I love about this example is it’s more ghosted than most. Ghosted dials normally have some vestige of the print visible in all lights, but because this text has gone so silver, it’s really almost not there. I see all tritium pips present, the handset tritium is beginning to degrade slightly but really its all there. The case has seen a light polish but it’s not bad. Said to be running well. It comes from a well-regarded New York retailer.
Find this 1601 here from Those Watch Guys for 7850 USD.