When it premiered in 1945, the Replica Rolex Datejust was the first automatic, watertight wristwatch with chronometer-worthy rate quality. It embodied all of the innovations Rolex had developed for wristwatches up to that time, including a date display in a window at 3 o’clock, where the date switched automatically at midnight. To achieve this feat, intermediate wheels in the movement tightened a spring mechanism that advanced the date disk. The Datejust is named for this instantaneous “just-in-time” date switching.
Thanks to a movable finger in Rolex’s new automatic Caliber 3235, which powers the Oyster Perpetual Datejust 41 we’re reviewing here, the date can be reset manually, quickly, and whenever desired. Simply pull the crown out to its middle position, turn it counterclockwise, and the date advances smoothly and accurately. The ergonomic improvements that Rolex made to this caliber, in the interface for making manual adjustments, are very noticeable in practice. The winding stem engages securely in each position so the time can be reset precisely. The crown turns with buttery smoothness. The hands move with no play whatsoever, so the minutes hand can be positioned with its tip perfectly tangent to the desired index. The seconds hand can be stopped at the full minute easily because the screw-down crown’s stem is inserted into a long tube and the unscrewed crown is easy to grasp. Screwing the crown shut again is very secure, with a noticeable spring resistance. This is characteristic of the Twinlock system, which Rolex invented in 1953.
The Twinlock system’s interplay with the Oyster case guarantees that the Datejust replica watch can resist pressure up to 10 bar, which corresponds to the conditions at a depth of 100 meters below the water’s surface. Two insulators help ensure watertightness: one is located in the winding crown while the other is situated inside the tube. A line under the Rolex logo on the winding crown of our steel Datejust shows that our test watch has the Twinlock system. Gold Oyster cases have two dots on the crown to indicate the presence of the Twinlock system, while platinum cases have one dot.
Our Datejust’s newly designed Oyster case has a middle piece milled from a single block of 904L stainless steel. A smooth, polished stainless-steel bezel surrounding a flat pane of sapphire seals the case from above. The Cyclops magnifying lens above the date window wasn’t added to the Datejust until 1954. It performs its practical purpose thanks to its magnifying effect and the anti-reflective treatment on both its surfaces.
The back of the case isn’t very exciting: it provides no information about any of the Datejust’s characteristics, like its water resistance, its materials, or its reference number. Furthermore, the back can only be removed using a special wrench, which Rolex’s authorized watchmakers slip over the knurling along the edge of the caback. Unfortunately, Caliber 3235 remains invisible to would-be admirers who don’t have access to this tool. That’s a pity, because this movement has nothing to hide. It boasts all the fine characteristics of a Rolex caliber: distinctively shaped and arranged bridges, gold-plated covers, red reversing wheels in the automatic-winding mechanism, and handsome finishing such as sunburst patterns, brushed matte parts, a few beveled edges, and polished heads on the screws.
Rolex inaugurated a new generation of mechanical movements in 2015 with two precious-metal models: the Day-Date 40 and the Datejust Pearlmaster 39. This was followed in 2016 by a bi-color version of the Datejust 41, and in 2017 by the Datejust 41 in stainless steel and the new 43-mm Sea-Dweller. Fourteen patents protect Caliber 3235, which marks a new performance standard for the brand in terms of rate precision, power reserve, shock resistance, resistance to magnetic fields, ease of adjustment and reliability. Compared to its predecessor (Caliber 3135), 90 percent of its components have been revised and optimized: from the mainspring and the barrel to the automatic-winding mechanism, and from the gear train to the escapement. The latter bears the Chronergy name and is a patented Rolex innovation.