The Datejust II is the latest update to the long serving Datejust range, and this is arguably the most radical interpretation of the classic date watch that Rolex have ever done. It has a large size increase over the standard gent's Datejust, and is certainly a striking piece to look at. As such, the watch has divided opinion, with some arguing that it is simply too big to be a dress watch. On the other hand, it has turned what many perceive as a watch for the older man into very much a younger man's watch, and is certainly an interesting addition to the big watch parade. This article will assess features, looks, wearability and build quality, with a few pictures along the way. The model reviewed is the steel and 18Ct white gold model.
*Model number: 166334
*904 L steel case and bracelet
*18ct White Gold Fluted bezel
*Case Diameter: 41mm
*Choice of dials, model reviewed - Black baton dial, w/ luminous hands and markers, arabics around the circumference
*Sapphire crystal w/ cyclops date magnifier (Antireflective coating on underside of cyclops)
*Oyster bracelet with Oysterclasp
*Cal. 3136 (exclusive to the Datejust II)
*Self-winding, chronometer rated
*Quickset date complication
*Parachrom blue hairspring, Paraflex shock absorbers
UK RRP: £4940
The two most striking aspects about this watch is how big it seems, and how prominent the bezel is. Although the case diameter is essentially the same as, say, a Submariner or a GMT IIc, it appears larger than them placed side by side. I believe this is largely due to the size of the dial - with the bezel being thinner than the rotating ones on the sports models, the dial stretches further, which gives the appearance of a larger surface area on the wrist. That's not to say that the bezel is a shrinking violet - far from it. The dial to bezel ratios are more biased towards the bezel than on the 36mm equivalent (ref. 116234), making it really sparkle. Some people have expressed that they think it's too prominent, but I disagree - if it was any thinner, it would mean the dial would be even larger, and would make the watch begin to look odd on the wrist. You really need to see the bezel and the way it catches the light to appreciate it - it truly is a thing of beauty.
Another aspect of note is the size of the crown in relation to the watch. Rolex have decided to utilise the Twinlock crown on the Datejust II, the same as on the 36mm model. Whilst it looks spot on on the smaller watch, it seems a little disproportionate on a 41mm case. In a similar way to how they upgraded the crown on the GMT IIc to the Triplock, they probably should have done the same on the Datejust II. Finally, despite the large case diameter, the thickness of the watch is quite reasonable, which should mean it'll still fit nicely under a shirt cuff.
I think this watch is a great addition to the range for those who want a smart looking dress watch that's a bit more substantial. I know I have small wrists, and the 36mm Datejust looks pretty good on me, but for men with larger wrists, it might not look right. Yes, it's a step away from classic Rolex sizing, but there's nothing wrong with offering more choice. People are wearing far bigger watches these days, with 45 and 50mm watches becoming more and more popular. In any case, the Datejust II isn't as radical as some would make out, and it is certainly more wearable than a lot of other oversize watches. Crucially, unlike the Deepsea, the thickness of the watch is reasonable, and that's the killer aspect when it comes to wearability.
In terms of comfort, it's on the latest incarnation of the Oyster bracelet - solid end links and solid centre links. Solid, practical, and comfortable - you won't have any problems with hairs getting caught. There is some room for microadjustment on the clasp, and it also features the Easylink - an extra half link that can be concealed or extended. It's not as good as the Glidelock adjustment you can find on Rolex's diving watches, but it means you can still get the watch nice and comfortable. The clasp itself is solid and well engineered - Rolex have gone from producing some of the most basic clasps on the market to some of the best. It certainly gives you a sense of confidence whilst wearing it. The watch is relatively weighty, but not to the point where it's unconfortable - you know it's there, it's a feeling of security.
Value for Money
Okay, at a shade under £5000, it's not a cheap watch. It's about a 20% increase on the price of a 116234, and are you getting more watch for your money? Hard to say - obviously there's more gold in the bezel, and the 3136 is an entirely in-house movement (I'm not entirely sure what differences there are between the 3135 and the 3136, my feeling is that there won't be a significant change.) It also goes with the usual Rolex practice of the larger the watch in a family, the more expensive it is. For the time being, dial choices are relatively limited compared to the 36mm Datejust and only the fluted bezel and Oyster bracelet are available. I expect a Jubilee bracelet and Polished bezel to become available in the future, as well as more dials - keep an eye out at Basel, they might decide to launch some then. In terms of engineering, it can't be faulted. Feels and looks like a premium watch should, and the quality is bound to be extremely high too. Initially, it'll be a relatively exclusive watch, but it won't hold its value as well as the sports models.
I have to admit, this watch isn't for me - just a bit too big for my wrists. However, I can appreciate and understand what Rolex are aiming for with this watch. The oversized watch market is big business at the moment, and, for me, the Datejust II fills a nice niche, and is certainly a lot dressier and practical than a lot of other large watches. It's helped to revitalise a staple of the Rolex range, and I really hope this introduces a new generation to the brand, and shakes off the "old man" image that Rolex seem to have developed recently.