Datejust 126200 - Two weeks on the wrist
I had posted here a few months ago, to express my surprise that the new iteration of the classic Datejust 36mm seemed to have flown completely under the radar at Basel 2019. After all, this the iconic model most associated with Rolex over the past 7 decades, but the market seems obsessed only with the Sports range these days. Still, this is weird as this particular model is likely to be a major seller for the brand, as it has always been.
There was a lot to like from the specs and the pictures released, impressions that were confirmed when my AD of choice called me to let me know he had one in the configuration I wanted: round stainless steel bezel, jubilee bracelet, blue dial.
Here are the reasons that drove me to that particular configuration:
- blue dial: visually it was (by far) the most striking of the dials offered. This has been confirmed by a couple of other dealers, who are telling me that they can barely keep the blue ones on the shelves, whereas the black or silver are a bit slower to sell
- jubilee bracelet: I have many more Rolex on oyster bracelet than jubilee, and I really wanted to experience the new "super jubilee"
- smooth bezel: the white gold bezel on the 126234 is quite striking, but it's extremely shiny and luxurious, and I wanted something a bit more low key. I also do not believe that a difference in price of HKD 10,000 (about USD 1,300) is justified for just a few grams of gold
As I have now worn the watch, almost exclusively, for the past couple of weeks, I thought it might be of interest to share my impressions.
What I like:
- the dial: as stated above, the blue is really spectacular, with hues that vary between navy, sapphire and ultramarine depending on the light conditions. I also like the fact that they have simplified it, foregoing the railway track of the previous iteration. It makes for a much cleaner look in my eyes
- the bracelet: the construction feels very sturdy, thanks to the solid links, but it's really the integration of the end links between the lugs that offers a marked improvement over the previous versions. The bracelet seems to flow seamlessly from the case. I also very much like that they brought back a traditional clasp rather than the hidden one, as it provides micro adjustment as well as easylink functionality. And it makes the watch a bit more sporty. Altogether, this is the best jubilee style bracelet I have ever handled
- the case: Rolex have done an outstanding job at redesigning the case with flatter sides and thinner lugs. It is really reminiscent of the 16xx / 16xxx series, albeit far more substantial. The proportions case / bracelet are pretty close to perfection in my book, more so than the 116xxx series, which looked much more square with their thicker lugs
- the wearability: it wears wonderfully well, on my 7 inches wrist, much better than I expected from a 36mm watch. I am more used to wearing 39-40mm watches, but after a couple of days of my eyes getting adjusted to a more compact format, it looks completely natural and proportional. What is quite surprising is the contrast between its actual size, and how substantial it looks and feels. Because of its construction, it feels rock solid, and the visual impact is really enhanced by the rounded bezel. In short, the watch has a real wrist presence, and would suit any wrist up to 7.5 inches. Above, one is probably better off with a Datejust 41
- the power reserve: it was about time that Rolex upgraded their movements to offer 70 hours, which is fast becoming the norm in modern wrist watches. I like the idea of being able to put the watch down on a Friday evening, and pick it on Monday morning without having to reset the time
What I don't like:
- the accuracy: my watch consistently gains 4 seconds per day. Normally, I am perfectly happy with anything comprised within -5 / +5 secs per day. But Rolex spend their time bleating about the fact that their watches are now leaving the factory tested at -2 / +2 secs per day, which helps them justify the ever increasing prices. So if they are going to make this claim, they'd better deliver, and in my case they haven't
- the lume: it is perfectly useless after 30mn in the dark. The quality of the chromalight lume itself is probably not in question, there simply isn't enough of it, especially on the hands, for it to keep its functionality. This is not a Sports model, so one can't expect the same functionality, but it's still disappointing that Rolex hasn't come up with a real solution for their smaller models ever since tritium was retired. At the very least, they should make the hands a little bit wider to allow for more lume. More on that later
- the polished lugs: this is something that will split opinions right down the middle, but I don't care much for polished lugs. Between the bezel and the 3 centre links of the jubilee, there are enough polished surfaces already, and the lugs make the overall package a bit too shiny for my liking. I am strongly considering having them professionally refinished to mimic the brushed finish of the outer links of the jubilee, similar to the 16xx / 16xxx series
- the legibility: 75% of the time in daylight conditions, the legibility is adequate, if unspectacular. But 25% of the time, especially in dimmer light and at certain angles, the highly polished hands just blend into the dial because of the reflections they attract. Meaning that one can only rely on the lumed sections to tell the time. Which, as I was explaining earlier, are quite narrow. There is a very simple solution to this, which is to give the hands a brushed finish to improve the contrast. Grand Seiko does this, applying brushed finish on hands fitted onto dark dials while keeping them highly polished on light dials. They recognise that contrast is important for legibility and adjust the finishing accordingly. It is baffling that most Swiss luxury brands, never mind Rolex, utterly fail to address this issue given how obvious the fix is. I am very tempted to have the hands refinished too, though I probably won't do it while the watch is still under warranty.
The picture below provides an illustration:
Despite the few flaws / dislikes described above, I think this is a terrific watch. It is gorgeous, practical and wears superbly. It's incredibly versatile, too, which explains why this model has been such a hit through the years. Some will consider it dressy thanks to its size and finishing. Others will be appealed by the sporty nature of the oyster case and metal bracelet. I sit in the middle, and can easily see myself wearing it in just about any situation, from the swimming pool to a black tie party. In my view, this is the best Datejust version Rolex has ever come up with. And with the choice of bezels, dials and bracelets available, anyone should be able to find a configuration he likes.
Thanks for reading me.