Rolex is best known for dedicated sports watches such as the GMT-Master II, Submariner, and Cosmograph Daytona, but the Datejust model line precedes all of them. As a staple of the Rolex catalog since 1945, the Datejust has adorned the wrists of heads of state, entertainers, and athletes. The Rolex Datejust 41 is the largest Datejust model available and the most versatile watch that Rolex sells.
More than merely a “bigger” Datejust, the 41mm model reads with the wrist presence of a true sports watch and the elegance of a fine dress watch. Rolex first experimented with a 41mm Datejust during the 2009-2015 production run of the “Datejust II.” That model offered impressive size and gravitas, but certain details lacked grace. For 2016, the Datejust 41 arrived with a narrower bezel, a larger dial, finer hour indices, and a less prominent crown. Rolex further refined the 41mm case by tapering the lugs and slimming the watch’s side profile.
Rolex cases and clasps are fabricated at the company’s own foundry. The company’s use of 904L steel is as distinctive as it is excessive. Most watchmakers are content to warn that their 316L stainless steel should be rinsed after contact with salt water or sweat; Rolex makes its steel so that such precautions are not necessary. Fun fact: 904L steel also exhibits above-average resistance to sulphuric acid.
The Datejust 41, like all Datejust models, is highly configurable. Rolex buyers can choose between two bracelets (Jubilee and Oyster), full steel construction, steel paired with all three golds, and bezels in flat, fluted, or diamond-set specification. Many dials are offered, and they span a range from formal to sporty. Dials with and without luminescent paint can be specified, and bright colors are available for those who prefer a more modern appearance. The Datejust 41 as featured in this episode is priced at $7,900. It includes full stainless-steel construction, a black sunburst dial with luminescent “Chromalight” blue paint, a flat bezel, and a Rolex Oyster bracelet. It carries the reference number “126300.”
Internally, the Datejust 41 gained a mechanical upgrade in the form of an automatic Rolex caliber 3235. The major change from the previous caliber 3136 is the new movement’s improved 70-hour power reserve. Small refinements including a LIGA-formed “Chronergy” escapement, a thinner mainspring barrel wall, and a larger mainspring are responsible for the DJ41’s increased endurance. Traditional Rolex movement features include an antimagnetic Breguet overcoil hairspring, a free-sprung balance, and a COSC Swiss chronometer certification.
Rolex’s latest iteration of the long-running Oyster case ensures that the largest Datejust is water resistant down to 100 meters.
Alternatives to the Rolex Datejust 41 include watch models from large rivals Omega and Grand Seiko and even options from smaller brands such as Zenith. Omega’s Seamaster Aqua Terra 41 provides a display caseback and greater water resistance than the DJ41, but the watch is far thicker than its Rolex rival. Grand Seiko’s Evolution 9 Spring Drive SLGA007 “Lake Suwa” is more advanced and more exclusive than the Rolex, but it lacks the proven staying power of the Rolex’s classic design. Finally, Zenith’s Defy Skyline offers a clever quick-release lug design, but it offers fewer styling options than the Rolex.