Rolex Day-Date 36 & Day-Date 40

Rolex Day-Date 36 & Day-Date 40

A significant milestone is marked by the debut of the first-ever platinum fluted bezel on a Rolex model, as Rolex affectionately refers to its watches. While the Day-Date retains its timeless elegance as a dress watch, it also bids farewell to a long-standing design tradition within the Rolex family. Let us delve into the history of Rolex, explore the significance of the fluted bezel, and uncover the performance of the platinum Day-Date with its captivating new bezel.

Rolex holds the fortunate position of owning iconic watch design elements that have become deeply ingrained in people's minds over several decades. Notable examples include Rolesor, the combination of steel and gold, which has graced Rolex timepieces since the early 1930s.

The five-piece link Jubilee bracelet, introduced with the Datejust in 1945, and the three-piece link Oyster bracelet, present since the early 1940s, have undergone minimal changes. In fact, many Rolex models have enjoyed uninterrupted lineages that extend back 60-70 years or even longer, solidifying the visual codes of Rolex in the collective consciousness.

Similarly, the fluted bezel, an external frame of precious metal featuring nearly 200 reflective facets encircling the watch's front crystal, traces its roots back to the original Oyster case of 1926. In its refined form, which we know and cherish today, the fluted bezel adorned the inaugural Rolex Datejust in 1945 and the first-ever Rolex Day-Date in 1956.

Over the course of approximately 80 years, the mesmerizing fluted bezel has undergone meticulous revisions, culminating in its current generation that exhibits an unparalleled level of precision. The facets' consistency in flatness and the ridges' straightness attest to the craftsmanship unique to Rolex as a high-volume producer of luxury watches.

To the best of my knowledge, fluted bezels have exclusively been crafted from 18k gold for those eight decades, with no other material employed. If one spotted a Rolex watch with a fluted bezel, it was instantly recognizable as 18k yellow gold, 18k white gold, or Everose gold. There have been instances of engine-turned bezels on references like the Air-King and Datejust, made from steel, which featured polished surfaces and grooves.

However, none of these bezels qualified as true fluted bezels, and they could not be mistaken for one. In contrast, platinum bezels on Rolex watches have historically been either domed, gem-set, or graduated with raised and polished numerals. Let's not forget the platinum bezel Yacht-Master models either.

Now, this tradition of exclusively gold fluted bezels is broken, or rather, expanded with the introduction of the platinum Rolex Day-Date 36 and platinum Rolex Day-Date 40 watches for 2022. Fans of the Day-Date 36 (myself included) have surely noticed that the platinum version of the smaller model was discontinued with the 2019 update.

However, the Day-Date 40 is now accompanied by the return of the platinum Day-Date 36, both boasting the remarkable fluted or gem-set platinum bezels. The smooth bezel previously found on platinum Rolex watches since the mid-1900s has now been retired, making way for the fluted or gem-set bezels exclusively.

Considering the fluted bezel's eight-decade association with 18k gold, many, including myself, would consider it synonymous with this material. Just as an ice blue dial suggests platinum, two dots on a crown signify Twinlock, and crowns flanking "Swiss Made" at 6 o'clock denote a latest-generation movement, one would naturally expect a fluted bezel to represent 18k gold.

However, Rolex sees it differently, and their perspective actually makes sense, even easing the concerns of fluted bezel enthusiasts like myself. Essentially, the platinum fluted bezel is introduced because it was always meant to exist. When the Day-Date collection debuted, both gold and platinum versions were launched, and if the technology had been available at the time, a platinum fluted bezel would have adorned the watch from the start. By rectifying this inconsistency now that the manufacturing techniques exist, Rolex enhances the Day-Date in platinum by incorporating a fluted bezel.

An analogous example from Rolex's world of "universal features versus technological limitations" is the original Sea-Dweller from 1967. It was intended to have a cyclops magnifier over its plexiglass front, providing a date window. However, due to the structural weaknesses caused by combining the cyclops with the required pressure resistance, the cyclops was omitted, and the Sea-Dweller remained without one for 50 years.

In 2017, Rolex rectified this inconsistency by reintroducing the cyclops magnifier in the updated Sea-Dweller, eliminating variations between different watch collections. If a watch possesses a date function, it must have a cyclops, just as a precious metal watch should feature a fluted bezel. See the pattern?

Consequently, the existence of the platinum bezel stems from the fact that it was always intended to be part of the collection. So, what caused the delay? For a long time, it was widely believed that fabricating a platinum fluted bezel was impossible due to the challenging nature of working with platinum. Platinum is a stubborn material—it is soft and malleable like butter, yet dense and highly conductive of heat.

Shaping platinum is akin to cutting butter with a knife: it requires force to penetrate, and as the process proceeds, the butter melts and adheres to the knife while resisting taking a precise, defined form. Rolex has refined its in-house production techniques to enable the creation of a platinum fluted bezel.

Perhaps the most captivating aspect of the fluted bezel is that each facet requires only a single, perfect cut—no additional polishing is necessary or even possible.

The manufacturing process involves the use of a machine similar to a guilloche machine. It works on a platinum "coin" and utilizes extremely sharp diamond tools to make precise, clean cuts into the precious metal. Achieving the desired results demands extreme precision and carefully calculated force. Even with these measures, producing a fluted bezel, not in 18k gold but in platinum, takes approximately ten times longer. Manufacturing other platinum components, such as cases, crowns, or bracelet links, also presents a similar level of difficulty compared to the soft and pliable gold.

Is the extra effort worth it? That is for each individual to decide. Ariel recently photographed the platinum Day-Date 40 with a smooth bezel (referred to as a "smooth" bezel rather than a "domed" bezel on the Day-Date 40), a configuration no longer in production. This provides an opportunity to compare the two versions. Speaking for myself, the ideal Day-Date has always been the 36mm version in platinum, and now that it comes with a fluted bezel, its allure remains unaltered.

In my eyes, it remains the quintessential timepiece, perfect for those who desire a single watch to cherish for a lifetime. It boasts a delightful weight, wears comfortably on the wrist, offers water resistance up to 100 meters for worry-free wear, and is powered byRolex's latest-generation 70-hour power reserve 3255 movement, ensuring excellent timekeeping. Moreover, while exuding confidence in its status, the 36mm version, at least, maintains a discreet elegance compared to the attention-grabbing luxury watches of today. What more could one desire from an "escape watch"?

The price for the Rolex Day-Date 40 in platinum with a fluted bezel is 60,400 Swiss Francs, while the 2022 Rolex Day-Date 36 in platinum with a fluted bezel is priced at 56,200 Swiss Francs. You can find more information, excluding the price, on the official Rolex website.

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