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March 30 2020

Even if you had very little interest in horology, chances are you would recognize the Rolex Datejust, if not by name then at least by sight.

One of the most famous watch series ever made, it was the first to marry together an automatically winding movement and a date function inside a waterproof case. These days, it is still as illustrious as ever, some seven decades after its release.

But there is a version of the Datejust which is almost as old that has never received anything like the same kind of attention. Practically indistinguishable in every respect bar the case size and some of the bezel styles it has long been the underdog, even though, it could be argued, shaving a couple of millimeters off its dimensions gives it a wider potential audience.

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date was first launched in 1950, five years after its larger sibling, and measured just 34mm against the Datejust’s 36mm.

The Date’s dimensions weren’t particularly small for a man’s watch of the era, being the same as Rolex’s Air-King range. Today however, modern trends mean they are more suited to men with slender wrists, and are also finding an enthusiastic fan base among women. Although 2mm doesn’t sound like much, it can make a big difference.

The ref. 15XX family arrived in 1962 with the Date ref. 1500, and a year later it was joined by the ref. 1501. Fitted with an uncommon style of bezel, one no longer produced by Rolex, it was produced in lower numbers, making an already relatively rare watch even rarer. But it still stands as a highly affordable vintage purchase and a great investment.

Rolex Date ref. 1501 Bracelets

You would normally most associate the Rolex Date with the intricate five-link Jubilee, the bracelet created especially for its bigger brother, the Datejust, back in 1945. And there are certainly plenty out there fitted with it, but because of the down-to-earth nature of the ref. 1501, there are just as many wearing the far simpler three-link Oyster. They are each considered to be excellent bands, offering a great amount of comfort and security, with the Jubilee bringing a little more formality and sophistication and the Oyster adding a tool watch air. We are still in the days before all solid links though, with those in the center on both types being hollow, so they are not as heavy as their modern day equivalents. Older examples may also exhibit a slight stretch.

And this is also the last generation of the watch to all have lug holes on the case, something that Rolex started to scale back with the next iteration.

The Rolex Date is a strangely overlooked entry in the brand’s catalog, more or less exactly the same as the all-conquering Datejust, but slightly smaller.

The ref. 1501 is an especially interesting and charmingly nostalgic piece, fitted with elements not made anymore, in its engine turned bezel and plastic crystal.

It and the others in the series make ideal purchases as either an entry into Rolex collecting or for those looking for the one watch that will last them a lifetime, and it looks as well on a male or female wrist.