Posted on May 26 2020
What are the Best Alternative and Homages to the Rolex Day-Date?
This is the Presidents watch. The Rolex worn by more Presidents and leaders than any others.
It was launched in 1956, a decade after the release of the Datejust, and is arguably Rolex’s flagship design. Stylistically the two watches are similar, with the notable difference being the distinctive day display on the Day-Date. Prominently placed at 12 o’clock, the day of the week is spelt out fully, in what at the time was a first.
On release, the Datejust had included its own newly designed bracelet, the jubilee. Following that success, Rolex repeated the process with a new exclusive bracelet created for the Day-Date. Unnamed at the time it was later dubbed the President bracelet and features semi-circular three-piece links.
So those two features are what outwardly differentiates the two models.
The day display and the bracelet. The variations between each model in the two lines are similar. There are options for dial choice, numerals and bezels. Again, for example, the bezel can be smooth, fluted or set with gems.
Additionally, the watch comes with a choice of languages for the day display.
When looking at affordable alternatives to the high-end Swiss pieces we’re most obviously making compromises with the quality of the movements powering the watches.
The Day-Date is no exception.
However, with this model there’s also another big compromise to make. The Rolex is only currently available in two case materials. 18 ct gold or 950 platinum. There’s nothing modest or affordable about this watch.
Assuming Stainless Steel is adequate, as it should be, and a Swiss-made in-house movement isn’t a must-have, then there are some interesting alternatives to this pricey Rolex.
Here’s a look at some of my favourites.
Bulova is a brand I often feature on this blog, and it should be no surprise that they’re included here. Over the years they’ve made a number of watches that have taken inspiration from Rolex. Each watch still managed to include some of its own DNA so as to not be an outright homage.
The brand story should be one you’re already familiar with.
They were an American heritage watchmaker that is now owned by Japanese giants Citizen. They’ve had a watch on the wrists of astronauts, supplied Vietnam GI’s with timepieces to take into combat and made cool and colourful divers watches in the 1960s.
And that’s before we mention the Accutron, the worlds first watch to use a tuning fork to keep time.
Part of the Classic collection, this particular watch mimics the plainer variants of the Day-Date. There’s an attractive deep blue dial with simple silver hands and indices.
It’s a personal preference, but I find the spartan markers more appealing than the Roman numerals favoured by some. There’s no cyclops lens over the date window and the bezel is smooth, so this is very much an understated design.
Hamilton is another American brand, famed for their military watches, who are now in the hands of a watchmaking behemoth. This time the Swiss-based Swatch Group.
The brand’s current range covers most of the popular categories, but with military and field watches still being core to the business.
I’m never going to get bored dropping the Khaki field watch into articles - it’s one of those pieces that successfully manages to combine both form and function, a feat attempted by most watch designers.
The Jazz Master line is another of Hamilton’s well known and well-regarded collections. More dressy and more formal, this line aims for a refinement not present in their tool watches.
Unlike the Bulova, with its Japanese quartz movement, the Hamilton is powered by a Swiss-made mechanical movement, Hamilton’s own Calibre H-40.
There are other relatively subtle design features, including the crown protection on the case and the hands which are noticeably different from the Rolex. And the date is at 6 rather than 3.
Other than that, it is similar to the Day-Date. Not exactly the same, but similar.
Hamilton Jazz Master H32595151
This is a brand I’ve not featured much in the past.
Indeed, until they had a watch included in the article about Rolex Datejust alternatives I’d only included them in one piece. As noted previously, Casio is a technology company that originally made its name producing calculators, before releasing a digital watch in 1974.
They’re a high-street brand that is probably best known to you for their popular and well respected G-Shock watches.
They make watches that really are affordable. Often priced at under £50.
This model is no exception. It’s a straight-forward high-street piece, powered by a reliable Japanese quartz movement. It’s around the 40mm size and ticks a lot of the boxes of a very affordable, everyday watch that gives a nod to the Rolex.
Again, there’s no attempt to be something that it’s not.
There are aesthetic cues taken from the Swiss watches design, but it’s not attempting to be a poor-mans Rolex.
The Day window is there at 12 o’clock and there are other touches reminiscent of the original, but the date is different, as are the hands and the crown guards. The overall effect is of a cheap, fun, beater. A robust and reliable watch that’s not going to break the bank.
Orient have to be up there with fellow Japanese brand Seiko for most featured on this blog. To separate the pair isn’t always necessary. Orient is part-owned by Seiko.
They’re both similar companies that produce high-quality mid-priced watches.
A big selling point is that they manufacture their own in-house movements. Again like Seiko, they have a large range, with designs that cover most watch types They are renowned for their rugged divers and also the contrasting minimalist Bambino design.
The Orient President, particularly this variant with the fluted bezel and gem markers, is clearly a homage to the Rolex.
It’s a popular piece with collector and seems to come and go from online retailers, rather than being constantly available.
It is a modestly sized watch, a little smaller than some of the others featured here, and not all of the models feature the sapphire crystal. This one helpfully notes the crystal type on the dial text. As expected, you’ll have to pay a little more if you want one of the older sapphire releases.
The fluted bezel references the Rolex original, but it is also the smaller features, including the cyclops lens, that might swing it for you. Some of the others hint at using the President as inspiration, but this Orient is less subtle. This outwardly looks like a Rolex.
While the crown is unsigned, it does screw-down, and helps maintain the 100M watch resistance.
There’s always a dilemma when buying watches. How much emphasis do you place on the brand, the specs, the design and the price? What compromises are you willing to make to hit your budget?
You’re here because price does matter.
But for most of us, price is just one aspect. Many of us are drawn to specific brands, maybe because of their story or simply the design of their watches. We know a Bell and Ross when we see it, well because, it looks like a Bell and Ross.
But I always have to remind myself to not be a watch snob.
So again, I’m choosing a Rotary watch to include on my list, as I did with the posts about Reissue watches and Vintage Divers. I wouldn’t describe myself as a Rotary fan, and I don’t think that as a brand they have a cohesive style that attracts me. Yet here we are again. Another Rotary watch that caught my eye.
It ticks the main boxes that it should, with the Day display, bezel and cyclops lens all there. A few of the touches are a little different, but again, it’s not a direct homage. Rather, this piece is a very affordable alternative, with an eye-catching blue gradient dial.
The specs are as you’d expect for a cheaper watch. Quartz powered instead of mechanical and a mineral rather than sapphire crystal. It is priced at a little over £100.
Rotary Havana GB02660-05
I used to own a sweater from a company called something like Frederik Johansson. A brand from Stockholm. I’d bought it cheap in TK Maxx. Then I watched an expose on TV that highlighted how TK Maxx would create their own brands, often including a city in the brand name, to make it look like they were selling, for example, Scandinavian knitwear.
It turns out that there was no Frederick Johansson and the word Stockholm was just the third word in the company name, not as I’d assumed, the home of the brand. Hold that thought as we look at a watch from Charles Hubert, Paris.
The brand sells a large selection of watches, with most of them being firmly in the affordable end of the market. The current watch is well under £100.
Like the Orient, this is an attempt to create a homage, again with a jubilee bracelet and a cyclops lens. The blue dial and two-tone colouring maybe a little too bold for some tastes, but for others, it’s that strong design that drew them to the Rolex originally. There are no surprises here, there’s minimal water resistance and a Japanese quartz movement. A nice touch is the domed mineral crystal.
Charles Hubert 3401
After stressing the repeated inclusion of Seiko, Orient and Bulova on my lists, I’m now including a brand that I only recently featured.
It’s a shame, as I have a little history with the brand.
During my teens, one of my first purchases with my early pay packets was a watch. I spent £80 on an Accurist at a time when I worked for £2 an hour. It was a week’s wages.
A few of us went swimming to a local water park and as we approached the lockers afterwards I noticed that mine was wide open and empty. I had to send a friend home to collect some new clothes, lest I walk home in my trunks. Not advisable in Northern England.
But that didn’t matter. It was the watch that mattered. Along with my clothes they’d stolen my watch. My new Accurist watch. I’ve mentioned before that I love watches with stories and stories about watches. This is my first watch story. The story of a crime. An injustice.
But let us not get carried away. Accurist are reasonably cheap watches, widely available on and offline. This one is an attractive piece, with an understated colouring that appeals to me. There are hints of the Rolex in the design, but just touches. Most of it isn’t quite right if it’s a homage you’d like. But if it’s a watch that reminds you of the Rolex, then this matches the criteria.
More pricey than Accurist, but still affordable, Certina is often described as an entry-level Swiss luxury brand. The company grew from three employees in 1888 to an operation that by the 1970s was producing over half a million watches a year. Today, like a large portion of the Swiss watch industry, they’re owned by Swatch Group.
The DS-1 is a part of their heritage collection, a line of watches inspired by the brand’s iconic designs of the past. The DS stands for Double Security, a range of protective measures Certina created for a mechanical watch. It’s a concept the brand is proud of and now 60 years old.
The DS-1 comes in a number of styles, with this being one of the few to incorporate the day of the week into the design.
There’s just enough Rolex in the watch to invite comparisons, but you have to look for them. Remove the day window and you’d be pushed to find the similarities.
The upgrades from some of the cheaper alternatives here are obvious. There’s a Swiss-made automatic movement, an ETA 2834-2 that can be viewed through the exhibition back. The glass is a sapphire crystal and there’s the improved build quality. All still at a very affordable price.
Certina DS-1 C006.430.11.051.00
The Rolex is a classic watch design and the choice of Presidents. There are not that many similarly styled watches currently on the market, with some having been discontinued. But if you’re willing to shop around and consider brands that aren’t currently on your radar, then you should be able to find something that you like.
It may be a Swiss-made automatic, steeped in heritage, like the Certina. Or you may prefer to take a chance on a newer, unfamiliar brand like Charles Hubert. Either way, there’s a nice selection of styles out there, some direct homages and some having been more subtly influenced. The prices vary quite a bit too, so there should be something for each of your budgets.
If you have something to add I’d love you to comment below.