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In an age where watch manufacturers vie with each other to produce complicated wristwatches, it's hard to imagine there being a time when that wasn't the norm. And yet, when the Rolex Day-Date debuted in 1955, a complication in a wristwatch was viewed as exactly that: complicated to produce and operate, and expensive to boot. The brand had all but abandoned complicated wristwatches after the failure of its previous triple calendar moon-phase watches, references 8171 and 6062 (the former of which, incidentally, fetched $1.2 million at Christie's a few years ago).
But Rolex secured the patent for the Day-Date on July 23, 1955, rushed production, and debuted the model at the Basel fair the following spring.
Certainly, early Day-Dates suffered from technical problems that saw the model's 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, not on timekeeping. Since Rolex's modus operandi is--like Apple's--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 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 the new movement, the Calibre 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.
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 1960s, both internally (the introduction of the Calibre 1555 in 1959 and the Calibre 1556 in 1965) and externally (the shift from radium to tritium in 1964). The introduction of the Calibre1555 in 1959 marked the inauguration of the Reference 1800 series, which saw a veritable rainbow of dial colors. The Reference 1803, which we offer here, debuted in 1965 and ran until 1977 saw the introduction of the 18000 series with the quick-set calibre 3155, found in Day-Dates to this day.
The addition of a hacking capability to the Ref. 1803 makes the already sturdy and dependable Calibre 1555 even more attractive. As far as the rest of the watch goes, well--the Day-Date certainly lives up to its dignified nickname. In warm yellow gold, it simply resonates with style. Elegant and sophisticated, the Day-Date remains a classic worthy of its reputation.
Available exclusively at Marshall Pierce
18k yellow gold case is approximately 36mm (excluding crown). Rolex Reference 1803.
Overall Condition: 18k yellow gold case is in excellent condition with thick lugs and no signs of over-polishing. Case has only the slightest signs of use and wear, evident on the backs of the lugs. Dial is in likewise excellent condition with a stunning overall patina that is most noticeable on the date wheel. Rolex crown. Rolex case back has some signs of wear but is in otherwise very good condition.
Includes one 20mm dark brown suede strap.