The Rolex Day-Date Ref 228238 is an impressive watch. Also known as the Rolex President, wearing one is a major power move. At the same time, the model has a reputation for being a bit dated (no pun intended). Sure rappers and other big-time celebrities are snapped wearing them from time to time. But this is not your typical demographic for the Rolex Day-Date. Instead it’s successful businessmen in their 50s and 60s. At least that’s the perception. But do you really need to be a sexagenarian to pull one off? Let’s take a closer look.
A (Very) Brief History Of The Rolex Day-Date
The Rolex Day-Date made its debut in 1956. It built on the foundation established by the Rolex Datejust a decade earlier. That watch was the first self-winding waterproof chronometer to display the date in a window at 3 o’clock. The Day-Date took things a step further with the addition of an instantaneous day display. It was the first watch of its kind to spell out the day of the week in full in a window on the dial at 12 o’clock. Along with the date at 3 o’clock, magnified by a cyclops.
The first models were the ref 6510 and ref 6511. Not quite up to the high standards of Rolex, both had short production runs. Replacing them was the 18xx series, which came in 1959. This is the series that put the Rolex Day-Date on the map. And on the wrists of some of the most powerful men on the planet. A 1960’s advertisement referred to it as “possibly the most distinguished wrist timepiece in the world…” (see below.)
The best known of these is the Rolex Day-Date ref 1803. Presented in a waterproof Oyster case measuring 36mm, it was only available in gold. Yellow, white or rose. And featured a fluted bezel. A characteristic that still remains in the current collection. Although now you have the option of a smooth bezel too. Or one set with diamonds and other gems. If that so takes your fancy.
This model remained in production into the late 70’s. It was first powered by the Cal. 1555 automatic movement. Before later being updated with the higher-beat Cal. 1556 in the mid-60s. Hacking seconds were introduced on the Cal. 1556 in 1972.
The 18xx series made way for the 180xx series in 1977. The key change was the introduction of the Cal. 3055. It beat at a higher frequency of 28,000 beats per hour. Plus, it offered quickset date functionality. This meant you could change the date independently of the hands. A welcome update I’m sure. The 180xx series also saw different bezel options introduced. As with its predecessors, it was available exclusively in precious metals.
A further update would follow a decade later in 1988. The 182xx series introduced double quickset functionality thanks to the Cal. 3155. Now, both the day and date window could be set independently of the hands. The case still measured 36mm and was still only offered in precious metals. Including platinum.
From here on out, the formula remained largely unchanged. The Rolex Day-Date 36 is still available in the current collection. It’s now equipped with the new generation calibre 3255.
The President’s Watch
The Rolex Day-Date is often referred to as the Rolex President. It’s not unusual for Rolex models to be given nicknames. Hence, we have the Pepsi. The Batman. The Hulk. And so on. What is unusual is the fact that Rolex has embraced the moniker. So much so that the company even ran an advert referring to the wristwatch as the “Rolex President Day-Date Chronometer”. But how did this presidential association come about?
There’s a couple of different theories. Firstly, Rolex created a new bracelet specifically for the launch of the Day-Date. It features semi-circular three-piece links and is always made in the same metal as the case. Audaciously, Rolex called it the President bracelet. Talk about positioning a product in the mind of the consumer.
Then there’s the fact that Marilyn Monroe is alleged to have given one to an actual US President – JFK – as a birthday present in 1962. The same year when she famously sang “Happy Birthday Mr. President”. (The two were rumoured to be having an affair.) The wristwatch surfaced at an auction in 2005, selling for US$120,000. The case back reads “JACK, With love as always, from MARILYN, May 29th, 1962”.
The story goes that the Day-Date was ‘couriered’ to the president by his assistant, Kenneth O’Donnell. Upon seeing it, Kennedy is said to have remarked “Get rid of it!”. There’s no record of Kennedy ever wearing (or even owning) the Rolex, but the story has become legend all the same.
And, of course, we can’t discount the contribution of former US President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1965, while serving as the 36th US President, Johnson had a gall bladder operation. A press conference was held afterwards where he pointed to the surgical scar on his stomach. On his wrist was an 18k gold Day-Date.
Initially it was referred to as the “Texas Timex”. LBJ being a proud Texan. Soon, however, Americans began referring to the Day-Date as the “Rolex President”.
The Rolex Day-Date II
In 2008, Rolex did something unexpected. The company tends to do that from time to time. See the new gold Sea-Dweller for a recent example. In this case, the unexpected move was the Rolex Day-Date II. At 41mm, its case size was markedly larger than the standard Day-Date. This proved a popular move. By then, 36mm was considered a little on the small side for a modern man’s watch. Inside was the Calibre 3156, offering a 48-hour power reserve.
Seven years later, Rolex would refine its flagship model again. A single mm was shaved off the case diameter. Resulting in the Day-Date 40 found in the collection today. It’s also powered by the calibre 3255 movement. Which brings us conveniently to the Rolex Day-Date Ref 228238.
The Rolex Day-Date Ref 228238
This is the classic Rolex Day-Date 40. 18ct yellow gold case with fluted bezel. Champagne dial with 18ct gold hour markers. (There are other dial colours available). Roman numerals at 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 o’clock. The day displayed in full through the window at 12 o’clock. And available in a wide range of languages. The date under a cyclops at 3 o’clock. And a President bracelet in matching yellow gold tying it all together.
In some ways it’s hard to believe this is one of the most prominent status symbols on the planet. But it is. It’s also a really good watch. The 40mm Oyster case is well constructed and features a monobloc middle case. The caseback and crown are both screw-down. With the latter fitted with the brand’s Twinlock double waterproofness system. This means the Rolex Day-Date is waterproof to 100m/330 feet.
Inside is the new generation calibre 3255, developed and manufactured by Rolex. A self-winding mechanical movement, it boasts no less than 14 patents. Including a Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring. And high-performance Paraflex shock absorbers. It offers a power reserve of around 70 hours. And rate accuracy of -2/+2 seconds a day after casing. Hence, it’s certified as a Superlative Chronometer.
Price and Availability
Retail price for the Rolex Day-Date Ref 228238 in 18ct yellow gold is GBP 25,500 / USD 34,850. Quality examples can be found on the secondary market for less though.
Are You Old Enough To Wear One?
Some people would say the Rolex Day-Date Ref 228238 is a bit dated. Especially in yellow gold. Personally, I think it’s a good-looking watch but not everyone can pull one off. I certainly don’t think I could. I’ve never led the free world or run a billion-dollar empire. Nor do I vacation in Florida.
Then again, far cooler people than me have been spotted wearing one. Think Jay-Z. Justin Timberlake. His Airness Michael Jordan. Brad Pitt. Victoria Beckham. Conor McGregor. Kevin Hart. Drake. The list goes on. So, maybe it’s not a question of whether you’re old enough. Maybe it’s a question of whether you’re a big enough deal?
Technical Specifications: Rolex Day-Date Ref 228238 in 18ct Yellow Gold
- Case: Oyster – 40 mm – yellow gold – monobloc middle case, screw-down case back and winding crown with Twinlock double waterproofness system – waterproof to 100 metres / 330 feet.
- Dial: Champagne-coloured – scratch-resistant sapphire, Cyclops lens over the date – centre hour, minute and seconds hands – instantaneous day and date in apertures – unrestricted rapid setting – stop-seconds for precise time setting.
- Movement: Calibre 3255 – bidirectional self-winding via Perpetual rotor – paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring – high-performance Paraflex shock absorbers – 70-hour power reserve – certified as Superlative Chronometer.
- Price: GBP 25,500 / USD 34,850.
More info at www.rolex.com.