at BaselWorld 2019, the replica Rolex Day-Date watches finally got to catch up with its big brother, the Day-Date 40. For four years, those privileged with their eyes and wallets set at the Day-Date 36, had to wait for this high-prestige range to receive all those useful and impressive technical updates that the 40mm wide version had had all along. With 2019, these technical improvements, some minute changes to the case, as well as notable new dial options have all arrived to the Day-Date 36, along with some notable limitations, as well.
It was back in 2015 that we debuted the new Day-Date 40 that, in turn, first introduced Rolex’s new generation of 32xx calibers, Superlative Chronometer -2/+2 second daily accuracy tests, and the ceramic inserts in between the precious metal links of its President bracelet. Those, in a nutshell, made for a major product update, and it was just a matter of time that the 36mm version received them. On that note, I had expected the Day-Date 36, “the be all, end all” prestige watch of Rolex, to not lag behind quite so long — but it has to be said that four years, by Rolex standards, is but a blink of an eye.
We’ll get to discussing those technical updates soon, but I’ll begin with what I think actually is a lot more important to anyone looking to buy a Day-Date 36 in the foreseeable future — and that is configurability. For the time being, the new Day-Date 36 is not available in platinum — again, a real head-scratcher and something that will surely have to be rectified soon. For now, it can only be 18k yellow gold, white gold, or Everose gold.
Another important thing to note is that, with this update, all previous Day-Date 36 dial options are gone with the wind. We have new ones, three for the Everose, four for the white gold, and six for the yellow gold version — plus all three metals have an extra option of a pavé set dial with “rainbow” sapphire indices. That, I think, is a bummer, as many enticing dial options had come to be for the Day-Date 36 over the years.
All the rage this year seems to be the “fumé,” “smoked,” “vignette” or, as Rolex likes to call them, “ombré” dials. These colorful dials are darker around their edges and lighter by their center — H. Moser & Cie is often credited for bringing this style to light, although one must not forget that this was a popular design choice a number of decades ago, all the same. On a personal note, I have yet to grow used to these vignette dials on the Day-Date 36. There somehow is not enough room on the Day-Date 36’s — mind you, beautifully proportionate — dial. The Day-Date 40, by contrast, often looks vast, like a saucer, and that certainly would have been my choice to introduce this style.
More to the point, this transitional execution doesn’t look elegant — not to me, at least. It is a brand new watch that somehow looks old and dated. Whereas the presentation of the Day-Date 36 itself, meaning the case, fluted bezel, and President bracelet, are as timeless as a Roman marble bust, this vignette effect reminds me of the cheap plastic cover on an ’80s Rolodex. Needless to say, the fact that I am yet to get it doesn’t mean others won’t.
A number of previous Day-Date 36 models suffered from at least some legibility issues, and these new “ombré” dials don’t appear to help with that. The hands often turn dark in their reflectivity; pair that with the transitional colors of the dial, and you have a camouflage effect, which really isn’t what you want if it’s legibility you’re after. I am an absolute sucker for a Rolex with baguette-cut diamond hour markers — and diamond indices in general — and yet, here, they appear to strangely blend in.
The President bracelet on the Day-Date 36 has, at last, received ceramic inserts. Rolex introduced these, as I said, with the Day-Date 40 back in 2015, the idea being that these super-hard ceramic inserts would save the links from becoming sticky — allowing for a more comfortable wear — and also eliminate the stretching of the bracelet. If you don’t know what bracelet stretch is, just take a look at any vintage Rolex bracelet that hangs loose — its pins and holes are so worn out that the bracelet isn’t quite as tight and robust as it once was. As far as I know, to date, only the President bracelet — now in its every iteration — has this upgrade, while precious metal Oyster bracelets don’t.