Which Size is Right for You? A comparison of the Rolex Datejust 36mm and 41mm

Aug 07, 2018

What is up, watchfam?! Today, we’re going to take a look at two of the most popular modern Rolex Datejust case sizes, and which one may be right for you!

So, I will start this article with a confession – I was always a 40mm and up devotee. I long believed that, because of my larger frame, that smaller watches would just look dainty on me, and not in some “I didn’t want to look like a girl way,” but more in the sense that I was afraid it would look like my wrist was attempting to swallow them whole. Ultimately, I never was actually that big, but the thought was always sitting there in the back of my head. The only small watch I ever wore was my great-grandfather’s 34 or 35mm Gruen, which I only wore with any confidence knowing that he was, by far, a larger man than I, and pulled it off with an Italian gusto like nobody else. Beyond that, though, the thought of anything sub-40mm seemed laughable to me, even working at T&H. I’m sure this is a sentiment shared by a pretty significant portion of the watchfam, which is part of the reason I think this article is super important – I know that the argument is often posed one way or the other, but I don’t know that anyone has ever just sat down and said “let’s just see how they wear.” So I did…y’know, for science!

I took myself to a local Rolex/Tudor/Tag/Other Awesome Stuff Authorized Dealer called Bernie Robbins, and had a very simple goal in mind – I wanted to see what all this 36mm Datejust fuss was about. Marvin, the sales rep that I spent most of my visit with, was a true, born and bred, salt of the Earth watch geek (who you can follow on Instagram @marvinfrombr). He knew almost everything that I did about the pieces we looked at, and I ended up trying on far more than just the Datejusts. That, however, is a different subject entirely.

Rolex Datejust 41 ref. 126334
Source: Logan Hannen

The first piece I tried on was the Datejust 41, as pictured above on my roughly 7 inch wrist. The example I looked at came on the Oyster Bracelet and, as you might guess, measured in at 41mm. The piece features a white gold fluted bezel, and houses the new caliber 3235 inside, giving the watch a stated accuracy of plus or minus 2 seconds per day and a 70 hour power reserve. Spec talk aside, though, it fit exactly the way I expected a 41mm case to fit, if not a tiny bit chunkier because of the integrated lugs of the Oyster Case. It looks good, if you ask me, even if I can’t stand diamond dials. But we’re here to talk about cases, and I knew I needed to try on another one to really get a sense of the two.

Rolex Datejust 36 ref. 126233
Source: Me, My Samsung, and My Hairy Wrist

Above, we have the Rolex Datejust 36 ref 126233. Now yes, in design it is arguably a ladies watch, but it is also the only 36mm they had on a jubilee, and I’ve been dying to try on the jubilee so humor me. Spec wise, it’s basically identical to the Datejust 41 that I tried on, the major exceptions being the size (obviously) and the fact that the piece is in two-tone instead of straight steel (well, steel with the white gold fluted bezel). This model is indeed part of the new Datejust 36 collection launched at Baselworld 2018, which features the new 3235 movement as well as some redesigned lugs and case-sides.

And on the wrist…well, frankly, it felt great. In a completely different way than the Datejust 41 did, it felt like exactly the right size for the piece. And that, of course, is the crux of this entire argument. Both pieces were magnificent, and well built, and felt right in their own ways. The Datejust 41 felt classically designed, but the Datejust 36 felt like the icon that it always has been. And that’s what I realized most – the 41mm is a much more modern, sporty kind of size. A large part of that, I’m sure, is owed to the Oyster Bracelet, but I think it is equally the result of the increased case size. It also felt, weirdly, more durable.

So back to the question at hand – which case size is right for you? Well, like I said, I’ve got a 7 inch wrist roughly, and if you’re near that size, then the pictures of the pieces on my wrist should give you a pretty good idea of how they might fit on yours. Of course, the only true test is to go and try them on for yourself, but I would add a caveat to that – try them on while keeping in mind what it is you want out of a Datejust? Do you want the perfect all rounder? Something you can wear from the beach to the board room? Or are you looking for a more casual dress watch, something that will always be paired with a suit? If you’re like me in wrist size, then you may find that both sizes accomplish different tasks, even if they may look otherwise identical. And for that reason alone, it may well take some trial and error to figure out the best way to keep it classy, watchfam.