28 June 2023


By In Brands, General, Rolex

Platinum watches, over the years, have become increasingly sought-after. Considering its preciousness and mechanical characteristics, watchmaking brands traditionally use platinum only for watches that show great complications or very limited production and Rolex was no exception. Starting from the early years of its history, Rolex used this material and the first model where platinum made its debut was the Day-Date.

The first platinum Rolex watch: the Day-Date

Introduced in the market during the Basel Fair in 1956, the Day-Date is one of Rolex’s flagship models and still enjoys wide popularity. It is a symbol of luxury and prestige, and, not surprisingly, it is the only Rolex watch that has never been made by steel, but only by noble metals (gold or platinum). In particular, the Day Date is the Rolex watch that has had the most versions in platinum.

The first versions of the Day-Date launched on the international market are ref. 6510 with smooth bezel and ref. 6511 with fluted bezel (known as a “millerighe” because of the dense decoration), they were available both in platinum and 18k yellow gold and they were both driven by the caliber 1055. These watches showed the diameter of 36mm, which was quite a brave choice at that time, and they lasted only one year before being replaced by ref. 6611, 6612 and 6613. 

Day-Date 6611 – photo courtesy of phillips.com

Few years later, in 1959, Rolex released the 1800-generation, powered by caliber 1555.

The official introduction is supposed to have been on September 1st 1960. 

In that period, more references of the Day-Date were introduced, such as 1802, 1803 and 1804 where the last digit of the reference indicated the type of bezel mounted and among these the 1803 is arguably the most famous.

Photo courtesy of www.vetroplastica.it
Photo courtesy of www.chrono-shop.net

As already mentioned, all these models were produced entirely in precious metals and platinum, including the case and the bracelet with the goal of giving the entire watch an aura of prestige and rarity. Indeed, because of both the difficulty of construction and the available technology at that time, very few watches were produced.

Going ahead, the 1970s were a period of strong technical advancement for the Day-Date. In 1972 Rolex introduced the caliber 1556 showing the hacking feature, meaning that the seconds hand would stop when the crown was pulled out. Moreover, the watch was also fitted with a sapphire crystal around this time.

Finally, in 1977 a technology step took place by introducing the new 3055 caliber and the Day-Date reference numbers grew from 4 to 5 digits: 18xxx, going from 1800 series to 18000 series.

For the first times we see Rolex watches with only the case made by platinum and showing the leather straps, avoiding using the classic “president”, “oyster” or “jubilee” bracelets.

Day-Date leather strap 18046 – photo courtesy of www.monacolegendauctions.com
Day-Date Baguette Bezel 1804 – photo courtesy of www.monacolegendauctions.com

The use of platinum in the 1990s: a new watch and new Limited Editions.

Several years passed before Rolex tested platinum on other watches than the Day-date and it was 1997 when 1he Yacht-Master 16622 was introduced within the catalogue, a watch made entirely of steel but with a platinum dial and bezel showing the modern 40mm diameter. This model is also so-called Platinum Yacht-Master by watch collectors.

This introduction resulted to be a novelty under several point of views: for the first time the Geneva-based company added a platinum bezel to a steel watch and therefore the precious material was not used for the case and/or bracelet. Later on the same watch was introduced in smaller sizes also (i.e. 35mm and 37mm).

Yacht-Master 16622 – photo courtesy of www.hodinkee.com

In those years Rolex designed platinum watches that were never included in the official catalog, showing unique configurations that were commissioned in the 1990s by former Rolex CEO Patrick Heiniger and given as gifts to friends and associates. Indeed, the CEO commissioned 5 Daytona (all of them with different dials) with platinum cases and leather straps and the “one and only” Yacht-Master entirely in platinum, presented to collectors’ eyes by Monaco Legend Group in April 2023 auction. To these extremely rare watches sought after by all collectors around the world, Rolex dedicated a special five-digit reference: ref. 16516 for the 5 Daytona and 16220PT for the Yacht-Master.

Rolex Daytona Platino 16516 – photo courtesy of www.sothebys.com
Yacht Master PT – photo courtesy of www.revolutionwatch.com

At first it was thought that the Daytona had a blue “Stella” dial due to the characteristic polished finish (the enameled dials are usually called “Lacquered Stella” or only “Stella”, such name comes from their supplier and they are usually found on Day-Dates), but upon more detailed analyses, it was discovered that this dial was made with a turquoise stone.

The polished finish was achieved by lacquering the turquoise stone to accentuate its blue color. 

This piece was made in about 1998 and features the classic caliber 4030 that we find in all five-digit Rolex Daytona watches and the watch was sold in 2021 for a figure of 2.68 million euros.

On the other hand, the Yacht-Master was made entirely of platinum., Heiniger ordered the watch to celebrate the production of Rolex’s 10 millionth chronometer-certified movement, as evidenced by the inscription “Dix Millionieme Chronometre” on the dial. In addition to the platinum case, bracelet, and flip-lock clasp, the exclusive gray dial is embellished with blue sapphires and diamonds. The watch was auctioned at a price of 1.82 million euros.

2013, the presentation of the most long-awaited watch: Platinum Daytona

It took almost 20 years to have an additional watch in the catalog in platinum to accompany the Yacht-Master and the Day-Date, which through the various updates has also been presented in 40mm case). In 2013 and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this Icon, Rolex introduced the Rolex Daytona 116506.

Daytona Platino 116506 classic – photo courtesy of www.astrua.com
Daytona Platino 116506 Baguette – photo courtesy of watchaser.com

Reference 116506 really represents a milestone for the Daytona: it is the first time that the Daytona is produced entirely in platinum, it is the first time that it mounts the ceramic bezel (only in 2016 we will have the introduction of the famous bezel in the steel model), it is the first time that the Daytona is presented with an “ice blue” dial, and it turns out to be the first time that diamonds on the “baguette” dial have been introduced on this model.

Moreover, for this special this occasion Platinum 950 was introduced by Rolex, an alloy composed of 950‰ (per thousand) platinum and made in-house through the meticulous work of the company’s metallurgical technicians.

The modern catalog of platinum Rolexes 

As of today, in 2023, 10 years after the Daytona platinum was introduced, we find the same platinum watches in the catalog, but modernized with the latest upgrades on calibers:

  • Yacht-Master 126622 in 40mm and 37mm versions.

There are currently two dials dedicated to this watch: rhodium and blue;

  • Day-Date in 36mm and 40mm, a model for which a multitude of diamonds are destined. It should be noted, however, that it is the only watch from Rolex’s platinum manufacturer to be provided with stone dials: one of the most beautiful is definitely the meteorite dial with baguette diamond hour markers.
Day Date Platinum Meteorite – photo courtesy of www.time4diamonds.com
  • Daytona, which just in 2023, for its 60th birthday, introduced an important novelty: for the first time in Rolex’s history, only on the Daytona in the platinum version at the moment, it introduced a visible case back.
Daytona 126506 Caseback – photo courtesy of www.timeandtidewatches.com

Could this be a characteristic that will also be introduced on the other all-platinum watches (such as the Day-Date) or will it only be exclusive to the Daytona?

Will there also be other platinum sports watches besides those currently in the catalog, such as Submariner or GMT-Master?

No one at the moment can answer these questions because Rolex is always the best at surprising its audience.

Written by Alessio Sammaria

Born in 1996, trainee tax lawyer in Milan. Watch enthusiast since childhood, collector since the age of majority. Attracted to the shapes, innovations and materials of watches. Exit watch in his collection is to own all the great complications.