3 Uncommon Rolex Datejust Alternatives

When someone asks for an alternative to the Rolex Datejust, there have become a series of go-to answers.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2019

When someone asks for an alternative to the Rolex Datejust, there have become a series of go-to answers. The Seiko SARB033/035 is the clear winner in the affordable category, but with its discontinuation and price increase, it hasn’t quite maintained the same level of value prop it once did. The Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra is another classic alternative, as are pieces from Grand Seiko and Longines. But what about some of the unsung heroes in the world of Datejust alternatives? Which more obscure models perfectly capture the energy and versatility of possibly the best everyday watch in existence? That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

1: Orient Star Classic

Source: Orient

Case Diameter: 38.5mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Strap: Steel Bracelet w/ Butterfly Clasp
Movement: Orient In-House Caliber 40N52 Automatic
Crystal: Domed Mineral
Price: $345

While this variation is currently sold out on the Orient USA website, all of the models in the Star Classic line fit the bill pretty seamlessly, while still carrying plenty of their own uniquely Japanese design cues. Here we have a 38.5mm steel case, smack dab between the classic 36mm of the Datejust and the 41mm of the new Datejust 41. It’s arguably the perfect modern size for an all around watch, and though the Star lacks any lume, it does feature an equally useful power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock. This helps balance the dial out, and adds a slightly different complication to the mix.

At $345 retail (often less on the secondhand or grey market), the watch is in a true sweet spot, the kind previously owned by the SARB and, frankly, I can’t think of a better watch to fill its shoes.

2: Oris Artelier Date

Source: Oris

Case Size: 40mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Strap: Stainless Steel Bracelet
Movement: Sellita SW 200 Automatic Movement
Crystal: Sapphire
Price: $1,850

Oris is perhaps most well-known for their divers (both the Divers 65 and the Aquis) and their field/pilot watches, but the brand also translates their notorious quality into some incredibly dressy/versatile pieces. Take this Artelier Date, a model that is about as far removed from the Big Crown ProPilot as you can get. 40mm in diameter, the watch is a solid contemporary size for a mens watch, and the full steel bracelet (in a style that is difficult to quite put a name to but does every so slightly resemble a Jubilee) helps to add to the overall wrist impression.

Its intricately patterned blue dial plays with the light in a way that photos alone can’t quite do justice, and having the date at 6 o’clock, rather than the traditional 3, creates a superb sense of balance and symmetry. The hands and indices look sharp, as if you could use them in some kind of medieval joust (assuming, of course, you’re approximately hamster-sized). All in all, it’s one of the best value packages from one of the last few mainstream independent brands, and accomplishes everything the Datejust does in a more modern size.

3: IWC Ingenieur Automatic

Source: IWC

Case Size: 40mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Strap: Steel Bracelet
Movement: IWC Caliber 35111 Automatic Movement
Crystal: Sapphire
Price: $5,500

Now for a piece that reflects the inherently sportier side of the Datejust, the modern IWC Ingenieur Automatic, a 40mm timepiece with an impressively finished case and bracelet. Its dial features bulkier hands and indices (with lume!) that make it incredibly legible in the dark, and unlike the Datejust, its date wheel is executed with a background that matches the color of the dial. With a water resistance of 120 meters, it’s also by far the most capable on the list for more than just the casual every day, and it can truly be your one watch if you need something to carry you from boardroom to surfboard. Plus, at $5,500, it comes in at under the price of the most basic modern Rolex, packing in a ton of value for your money, and heritage to boot.

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