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When the Day-Date was introduced in 1956, Rolex had all but abandoned complicated wristwatches. The beautiful triple calendar moon-phase watches that they had released in the 1950s, References 8171 and 6062 (the former of which, incidentally, fetched $1.2 million at Christie's a few years ago), proved abject failures on the commercial market. But Rolex secured the patent for the Day-Date on July 23, 1955, rushed production, and debuted the model at Basel the following spring.
Perhaps, given the relatively poor sales performance of complicated watches at the time, Rolex did not anticipate the Day-Date to become the best-seller that it is. Certainly, this first reference of Day-Date--the Reference 6511--suffered from some technical problems that saw its departure from Rolex's catalogs the following year. Due to the complexity of the automatic movement, with day and date discs, there was some concern that it would not keep accurate time. The stress on the mainspring, for example, was entirely focused on triggering a cam that would advance the day and date wheels at midnight. Since Rolex's modus operandi is--like Apple--not to innovate, but to refine, the Reference 6511 was discontinued and the movement was modified and improved throughout 1956.
The resulting reference, the Reference 6611 of 1957, looked almost identical to its predecessor: an 18k gold or platinum case and a silver, white, or gold dial. But there were some slight modifications to the look, namely alpha style hands instead of the earlier dauphine, and--as an indication of what beats inside--"Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified" on the dial. That's because of their new movement, the Caliber 1055, which bears the distinction of being the first Rolex caliber ever to achieve chronometer certification. Additionally, it solved the cam issue found in the Reference 6511 by distributing the energy in the movement throughout the day instead of in the minutes immediately prior to midnight. And perhaps most excitingly of all, this was the first reference to be offered with the folded-clasp bracelet that would be bestowed to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and henceforth be dubbed: the President.
Subtle changes occurred to the Day-Date throughout the 60s, both internally (the introduction of the Caliber 1555 in 1959 and the Caliber 1556 in 1965) and externally (the shift from radium to tritium in 1964). The introduction of the Caliber 1555 in 1959 marked the inauguration of the Reference 1800 series, which saw a veritable rainbow of dial colors. The Reference 1803 debuted in 1965 and ran until 1988, when Rolex introduced the 18000 series with the double quick-set Caliber 3155, which is found in Day-Dates to this day.
In 1977, Rolex improved on the Reference 1803 Day-Date with the single quick-set date Caliber 3055. Prior to this innovative technology, the date could only be advanced by moving the hands forward many times until the correct date was displayed. But with the Caliber 3055, the date could be advanced simply by pulling the crown out to the first position and then turning it until the date window showed the correct date. Externally, the Day-Date also had a sapphire crystal, which gave the Day-Date increased water resistance, since it fit more tightly than the acrylic crystal that had been used previously. The first References of the Day-Date could only be guaranteed to a depth rating of 165 feet, but with the addition of the sapphire crystal, the depth rating was increased to 330 feet (though why anyone would dive with an 18k gold watch is beyond us...).
Around this time, Rolex also introduced a new case reference number system. A fifth digit, signifying the material that the case was made of (whether stainless steel, gold-filled, platinum, or 14 or 18-karat gold), was added to the four-digit reference number. This particular watch bears the Reference number 18038, signifies that the case is made of 18k yellow gold.
The Day-Date, with its dignified nickname, exemplifies class and success. Whether dressed-down on leather or on a hidden-clasp 18k gold President bracelet (which is also available for purchase), the Day-Date exudes a style and sophistication that cannot be suppressed. This particular example is in absolutely pristine condition showing virtually no signs of wear, and dates from approximately 1980. Coming complete with a period box and the original factory case back sticker still in place, makes it a brilliant and clean example that will make the wearer feel like the Leader of the Free World.
18k Yellow Gold case is approximately 36mm (excluding crown). Rolex Reference 18038. Calibre 3035 automatic winding movement, Circa 1980.
Overall Condition: Case is in excellent condition overall, with crisp sharp lugs and virtually no signs of wear or polishing. Gold sunburst dial is in excellent condition with no signs of discoloration or hand drag. Luminescent elements on the hour plots and hands have developed a pleasing even patina. Case back bears original factory sticker with Reference number 18038. Original Rolex signed crown.
Includes one 20mm brown alligator strap. An 18k gold hidden-clasp President bracelet is also available for additional cost.