Vintage Watches

Rolex vs. Tudor: A Tale of Two Vintage Day Dates

Which one is better?
Source: HQ Milton

With vintage watches, it's the little details that matter: Two may look nearly identical from across a room, but a few key differences visible up close can make one of them far rarer—and perhaps an incredible value—for the astute collector. This Rolex Day-Date and Tudor Date+Day are textbook examples.

In 1956, Rolex started selling the Day-Date, the very first watch to show the day of the week fully spelled out on the dial. It was essentially a souped-up version of the Datejust, available only in precious metals. (Originally just in 18 karat yellow gold and platinum, then expanding to include pink and white gold.) Only a handful were ever made in stainless steel, and these are about as collectable as Rolex watches can get. 

The Rolex Day-Date was the first watch to ever spell out the day of the week on the dial.

The Rolex Day-Date was the first watch to spell out the day of the week on the dial.

Source: HQ Milton

A few years later, in the 1960s, Rolex's more affordable sister brand Tudor added the Date+Day to its line-up as the analog to the already famous Day-Date. Significantly, this watch was available only in stainless steel and two-tone gold-and-steel models, clearly differentiating it from the all-gold Rolexes. Various Date+Date styles were made over the years, with different case sizes, different bracelets, and different dial and bezel combinations, while the Rolex Day-Date has remained the more conservative model. In today's vintage market, you can expect to pay at least three times or four times as much for a Rolex Day-Date in solid gold as you will shell out for a steel Date+Day.

This is precisely why these two vintage finds, fraternal twins of sorts, are so exciting to compare, side-by-side.

In white gold, instead of the usual yellow gold, the Rolex Day-Date looks extremely modern.

In white gold, instead of the usual yellow gold, the Rolex Day-Date looks extremely modern.

Source: HQ Milton

Finding Rolex Day-Dates such as the one pictured above, in white gold instead of the more common yellow, is always special. The case on the Rolex dress watches is much more lithe than the sturdy beveled design found on such vintage sport watches as the Submariner and GMT. While the normal clasp here isn't usually deemed as desirable as the President bracelet with hidden clasp, it can work to make the watch feel less formal, especially in a white metal. The slightly yellow tone of the silver dial perfectly matches the color of the gold,giving the watch an all-over monochromatic look.

The best part is that at $9,900, the watch presents incredible value: An understated solid-gold Rolex in great condition for less than $10,000? Sign me up.

Think of the Date+Day as the more casual, and more affordable, version of the Day-Date.

Think of the Date+Day as the more casual, more affordable version of the Day-Date.

Source: HQ Milton

Then, too, there's the above Tudor Date+Day. More commonly made in the "jumbo" 38-millimeter size that looks and wears much more casually, this one above is the same 36mm size as the Rolex Day-Date. (Two millimeters might not sound like much, but it matters.). It also features the engine-turned steel bezel with smaller markings, rather than the fluted gold bezel found on its Rolex sibling and some other Date+Day models. The Tudor-branded, Jubilee-style bracelet, full complement of box and papers, and $2,700 price tag make this a great entry-level collectable watch that you'd want to wear on a daily basis. If a casual observer were to mistake it for a Rolex four times as expensive, we won't set them straight.

It would be tempting to look at these watches side-by-side and, given their similarities, say that the Tudor is obviously the better value. It's not that simple.

Getting the Tudor for a fraction of the price of the Rolex (in this case about 25 percent) is appealing, especially since many of the components were made in the same factories, and the design is so similar. It's a flat-out great watch. Less obviously, being able to get a solid gold Rolex watch for less than $10,000 is one of the best values in all vintage watches (as I've previously written). Why, exactly? A brand new Rolex Day-Date in solid gold will set you back about $30,000; while it's worth every penny at that price, it's hard to argue with the value you get by buying a nice vintage example.

Ultimately, these two watches prove one of the most important principles of collecting vintage watches: Sometimes, the answer to the question "Which one is better?" is "Both." 

Both of these watches are available from HQ Milton, with the Rolex Day-Date priced at $9,900 and the Tudor Date+Day priced at $2,700.

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