Article By: Logan Hannen

What is up, watchfam?! Today, we’re talking about whether or not there is value to be found in the Rolex Day-Date.

So why is this a question? Well, the thing about the Rolex Day-Date is that it has always been a Rolex model that is offered exclusively in precious metals, most traditionally in yellow gold. Because of this, and the premium price tag associated with a solid gold Rolex, it’s easy to see where the idea that there isn’t any value there to be had comes from – after all, how could there be in such a lavish, expensive, and refined (if not simultaneously extravagant) timepiece?

Well, there is, needless to say, value to be had, you just have to look at a specific reference of the Day-Date to find it.

Rolex Day-Date 1803
Source: Bulang & Sons

The Day-Date 1803 is, without question, one of the funkiest traditional Day-Dates in existence. It isn’t super clear in the above photo, but as you’ll see in the photo below, a lot of them have what are known as “pie pan dials” or, dials that are raised towards the center and slope downward just past the hour markers but before the minute track.

Rolex Day-Date 1803 w/ Pie Pan Dial
Source: Bob’s Watches

Pie pan dials are the epitome of “subtle funk,” looking totally normal from certain angles, and having oh-so-much depth from others. It’s the most “vintage” looking Day-Date reference, in that it comes with a dial design that is reminiscent of so many vintage pieces (see: the Omega Constellation) but that is rarely found among more modern watches. However, there is one more reference that might take the cake just a tiny bit more, and offer more value – The Day-Date 18038.

Rolex Day-Date 18038 w/ Black Onyx Dial
Source: Rolex Passion Market

So why the 18038 over the 1803? Well, there’s really only one reason that the former beats out the latter, and it all comes down to the watch’s most basic function – the day and date display. The 1803, while marvelous, lacks something that is of relative importance when you’re talking about a watch with a more complex calendar in it – it doesn’t have a quick-set date. In essence, a quick-set day-date function is exactly what it sounds like, in that it is a function of the movement that allows for the day and date to be set in the quickest way possible. On the 1803, you have to wind all the way around the dial through every single date, and then back to set the day of the week, and it takes an absolute eternity. On the 18038, all you have to do pull the crown out and employ that quick-set function without needing to wind through several 24-hour intervals to do it.

As a matter of convenience alone, the 18038 wins out, not to mention it was the first Day-Date reference to come equipped with a sapphire crystal, but that still doesn’t answer the question of why this is a good value. Ultimately, it comes down to price. The 18038 can typically be found in the $10,500 or so price range, depending on condition, whereas the newest Day-Dates (we’ll use the Day-Date 36, reference 118238 as our example since the vintage models were all 36mm) come in at $25,000 and up, depending on metal and whether or not it features any gems. That’s a nearly $15,000 price difference in most cases, and to me, there are so many other, better ways that you can use that extra $15,000 to help you keep it classy, watchfam.