At BaselWorld 2019, the Rolex Day-Date 36 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.
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.
There are a few stone dial options — for a hefty premium of around €8,000 in Europe, which equals around $9,000 in the US. The 18k white gold version gets a pink opal dial, while the 18k yellow gold, as seen above, receives a “slightly veined turquoise decorative stone dial” (Rolex’s words for it). The indices are diamond-set — and we know these tiny diamonds always make for a substantial premium on a Rolex watch. I’m a fan of the color of turquoise and the way it generally looks on watches, but on this occasion, both this and the pink opal look distinctly feminine — and I do kind of wish at least one of these stone dials were for men.