A 1971 Rolex Day-DateAugust 26, 2021
Hey look, it takes a real character to rock a solid yellow gold Rolex Day-Date – that’s about the closest we can get to Character Watch Week here on the vintage team. Our collection is more what you have come to know and love rather than an Audemars Piguet Black Panther or Omega Speedmaster Ultraman. If you think of HODINKEE Vintage 50 years in the future, we are sure it will be riddled with today’s Snoopys, Mickeys, and Marvel offerings. But today, in 2021, vintage watches lean more heavily on historical figures, which are non-fiction characters in a way. Characters like Eisenhower and FDR are closely associated with a Rolex President Day-Date, while Mario Andretti and Niki Lauda are associated with the Carrera.
The models we keep coming back to are here once again this week in the Omega Constellation and Seamaster – one highlighted here by Saori, boasting a “waffle” dial. Another Omega in the collection – a Flightmaster – jumps off the page. Big and brash on the surface, this genius piece of design works surprisingly well on just about any wrist. As always, a couple of picks are explained in depth below, highlighted by an extremely clean Heuer Carrera ’45’ – a black dialed reference 3647N to be exact. The week’s full collection can be found in the slideshow below and in the Vintage Watches section of the Shop.
Every now and again I come across a watch I just fall for and this Carrera is the one that has been pulling on my heart ever since we received it. We acquired this watch from its original owner, who owned this and a Speedmaster, both of which served him well for decades. When the Heuer arrived, the crystal was fairly scratched up, but we could tell the dial looked pretty clean. When we received it back from our watchmaker we were floored by how good it looked. Overall, this Carrera is super-honest – just the way we like to find vintage watches.
The Carrera is a model I didn’t appreciate until I started working in the auction world, around 2013. I don’t think I really knew about the history or even had seen one before we had one come up for auction in New York. Once I got my hands on a couple nice ones, I was hooked. I tend to gravitate toward the manual Carrera model, like this one, due to the design and simplicity. I love how Jack Heuer designed it to be functional and legible – I wish everything was like this. In addition to being smart, it’s just such an attractive watch to look at, with enough details to sink your teeth into. To me, the black dial versions are the most striking, especially when the dial is clean; the white text just pops off. The example we are offering today is just killer. It’s hands-down one of the nicest two-register versions we have offered. In the vintage watch world originality and condition are king, thankfully this watch checks both boxes. If you’ve been searching for a Carrera, this example is definitely worth considering – check out the watch here!
1952 Omega Seamaster Automatic Ref. 2767-3 SC With ‘Waffle’ Dial
“Wait! I feel something is moving around inside! Is it broken?!”
I’ve heard this immediate reaction from people who have never felt a bumper movement inside a watch before. It feels a bit alarming at first because you clearly feel something substantial moving inside, unlike a more contemporary self-winding rotor that has a more consistent rotation. On a bumper movement, I quite enjoy the unique feel of the partial rotor going back and forth.
The Omega Seamaster is an interesting collection in that, stylistically speaking, it has covered a wide range of designs since it was introduced in 1948: From the true tool watch variety to a simple and well-appointed daily dress watch variety. I see the majority of Seamaster designs as versatile go-to watches for many. After all, it’s the choice of watch for the stealth-yet-elegant contemporary James Bond, so it’s perfect for covert operation and black-tie-ready, as well. Plus, the Seamaster design has its origin in previously commissioned timepieces for Royal Air Force crews and pilots during World War II, so its military provenance tells us that they were destined to be truly reliable timekeepers..
Getting back to the Seamaster we have here today, from 1952. What sets this watch apart as a vintage piece is the unmistakable textured “waffle” dial. Textured dials became somewhat of a thing during this period, and they were also adopted by the Rolex pre-Explorers and the early Milgauss series (often referred to as “honeycomb” dials). These small raised textures, while subtle dimensionally, bring the watch alive, adding extra life to the creamy patina on the dial coming through even more. The gold-toned accents, hour markers, and the handset appear seamless with the dial patina on this watch. Maybe I’m nerding out here a bit, but I really love the luminous dauphine hands with a perfect shade of lume patina against the dial. They really complete this watch. It’s these little details that make me happy every day.
1971 Rolex Day-Date Ref. 1803 On Bracelet
When a watch rises to “grail” status for someone who has written over one thousand stories on HODINKEE, you know it’s really that good. As Jack Forster explains, “A gold Day-Date is kind of absurd. It’s just so much,” and that does sum the watch up quite well. We have been describing this watch in vintage listings as the quintessential “power watch” and, as cringe-inducing as that may read, the phrase at least speaks to the feeling that a Day-Date gives off on the wrist. Sure, there are many other all-gold watches on all-gold bracelets, but when the Day-Date is put on a President bracelet, it becomes an entirely different thing.
Maybe the effect comes from our recognition on the wrists of not only U.S. Presidents but film figures like Keyser Soze in 1995’s The Usual Suspects, or Alec Baldwin in 1992’s Glengarry Glen Ross. Maybe the feeling is only further ingrained with quotes like “You see this watch? You see this watch? This watch costs more than your car!” from Baldwin.
Yet, the Day-Date just works. As Jack explains, “But the heart has its reasons whereof reason knows nothing: I still wanted one.” Having examples like this one from 1971 around the office remind all of us here that Rolex’s most immediately recognizable watch is something really special. Standing out about this particular Day-Date is a non-hidden clasp President bracelet. Yes, the hidden/integrated clasp on the President is synonymous with this watch but, to me, this more standard vintage Rolex clasp is more usable and comfortable. It is more of what I am used to with the sport models of this period and it is so much easier to adjust. Check out this crisp Day-Date in the Shop now.