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Why We Love It
While there are many vintage watches that have bonafide aviation pedigrees, very few are associated with an elite flying unit like the Thunderbirds.
Except this watch: the Rolex Datejust Turn-O-Graph.
Launched the year before the Submariner, the Turn-O-Graph was, in many ways, the manufacture’s first tool watch. Rolex intended for it to be a substitute for a chronograph, which—as a wristwatch with a complication—was generally more expensive than a time-only watch. In lieu of a chronograph, Rolex intended for the bezel (which Rolex called the "time-recording rim") to be used to record elapsed time; by aligning the arrow of the turning bezel with the minute hand, the wearer could quickly keep a count of the passing minutes.
Understandably, Rolex marketed the Turn-O-Graph to business travelers and pilots. At the time the Turn-O-Graph was released, the GMT Master—that epitome of a pilot’s watch—was still a few years from existence. Therefore, in lieu of a dedicated pilot’s watch, many pilots turned to the Turn-O-Graph as a solid alternative.
In fact, the next reference of Turn-O-Graph would be worn by the Thunderbirds themselves.
In 1956, Rolex released a new reference of Turn-O-Graph: Reference 6609. This model would differ drastically from its predecessors. Unlike the previous models, which but for the bezel would be virtually indistinguishable from the Submariner, the Reference 6609 was built around the 36mm Oyster case used in the Rolex Datejust.
Rolex would offer this new reference of Turn-O-Graph to the Thunderbirds, a squadron of the U.S. Air Force known for acrobatic demonstrations and experimental flying techniques. Formed following the Second World War, the Thunderbirds were unquestionably one of the most elite units in the Air Force. Its pilots were the best of the best, and their planes—the F100 Super Sabre, the first fighter used by the United States that was capable of supersonic speed—were the creme de la creme.
For the pilots of such an elite unit, they needed an elite watch. Accordingly, they were equipped with solid 18K gold versions of the Reference 6609. Rolex touted that fact in an ad campaign, showing the new Rolex 'Thunderbird'—complete with the Thunderbirds’ logo—on a blue background while F100s soared above.
So iconic was this association that Rolex used the name Thunderbird to designate all subsequent Turn-O-Graphs sold on the American market; such is the case with the Reference that followed it, the 1625.
While solid yellow gold Rolexes can be polarizing, there’s something about the Reference 1625 that speaks anachronistically to the sporty elegance that’s inherent to the model. Not a bulky 39mm model like a Submariner or GMT-Master or as elegant and clean as a Day-Date, the 1625/8 Thunderbird in 18K has a more rarified air than a mere tool watch.
This particular example is in excellent condition throughout, having been spared the common over-polishing dial edge wear common to the model. And fitted to a matching solid gold Jubilee bracelet like, it adds some serious gusto to any get up - even an olive-drab flight suit.
The Datejust Story
We've said it over and over again - the Datejust may just be the perfect watch.
Coupling perfect proportions, simple dial layouts, and robust movements, Rolex's most prolific model is an icon of timekeeping that has been in continuous production for decades. Moreover, the Datejust is all the watch that just about any of us really need.
The beauty of the Datejust is that it is the ultimate do-anything, go-anywhere watch. Equal parts sporty and dressy, the Datejust wears just as well with jeans as it does with a suit, and thanks to the signature Oyster case and tough-as-nails movement, it’s ready for anything that you can throw at it.
In production continuously since 1945, the original Datejust was the world's first wristwatch to incorporate a date disc and aperture at the 3:00 position. Since then, date windows at 3:00 have become commonplace, and the Rolex cyclops magnifier bubble has become a hallmark of the brand. Datejusts have proudly been worn by presidents, athletes and movie stars (and probably your grandfather), in a testament to how timeless and versatile the watch truly is.
While recent horological trends have favored larger sporty wristwatches, the age of the giant watch is drawing to a close, making more reasonably sized watches like the original Datejust, a pleasantly stylish option that fits the bill in every setting.
There's a magic to the Datejust's simple design, a timelessness that proves that true style never dies.
18K Yellow gold Oyster case is approximately 36mm (excluding the crown). Automatic-winding movement by Rolex. Rolex Reference 1625/8. Circa 1972.
Overall Condition: The case is in great condition overall showing light prior polishing and moderate wear consistent with age and use. Luminous silver sunburst dial is in very good condition with very minor lume degradation at 8:00 and rich patina to the Tritium luminous elements and matching handset. Signed crown.
Includes 18k solid link Jubilee bracelet with #49 end links and signed clasp.
Analog/Shift stands behind the authenticity of our products in perpetuity.
We back each Analog/Shift vintage timepiece with a one-year mechanical warranty from the date of purchase.
All of our watches include complementary insured shipping within the 50 states. We are happy to hand deliver your purchase in Manhattan or you may pick it up at our showroom.
Please contact us prior to purchase for additional details on shipping and payment options