Introduced in 1956, the Rolex Day-Date was the world’s first wristwatch to feature windows on the dial to display both the date of the month and the day of the week written out in full. Since then, the Day-Date, better known as the President watch, has grown to become Rolex’s ultimate symbol of prestige – a watch that denotes success and affluence.
For over fifty years, the Rolex President was exclusively available with a 36mm case. While there have been 39mm versions of the Day-Date, these were fitted with Pearlmaster bracelets and called Masterpiece Day-Date watches. Therefore, they are not considered true Rolex Presidential watches. 36mm was the classic size for the Day-Date since the very beginning but for some, it was too small for a men’s watch – even for a dress timepiece.
Therefore, in 2008, the Swiss watchmaker unveiled a noticeably larger Rolex President model fitted with a 41mm case named the Rolex Day-Date II. Then, seven short years later, Rolex replaced the Day-Date II with the slightly smaller Rolex Day-Date 40 model. Given their similar dimensions and styles, there can be some confusion as to how these two larger Day-Date watches differ from each other. So, let’s explore the differences and similarities between the Day-Date II and the Day-Date 40 to determine which Rolex President is the right fit for you.
The Oyster case of the Rolex Day-Date II measures 41mm, while (as its name suggests) the Day-Date 40 measures 40mm. Although on the outset the 1mm difference seems trivial, wearing the watch is a different story. Due to its thicker lugs, chunkier build, and wider bezel, the Rolex Day-Date II wears larger and offers a bolder wrist presence than the 1mm variance suggests.
Conversely, not only did Rolex trim 1mm from the case size of the Day-Date 40, but its overall style is more elegant thanks to a thinner profile, thinner bezel, and slimmer lugs. It may be hard to tell with a quick glance but if you hold the two models side-by-side, the differences become quite apparent.
In short, the size variations and silhouette redesign mean that the Day-Date II is regarded as the slightly sportier choice, while the Rolex Day-Date 40 is more aligned with the classic 36mm Day-Date style but in a larger format.
One of the defining characteristics of all Rolex Day-Date watches, regardless of size or era, is their precious metal construction. Unlike its other models that offer steel or two-tone steel/gold variations, Rolex has only ever made the Day-Date in solid 18k gold or platinum. Nothing but the best for the Presidential watch and of course, this choice of material makes the Day-Date one of the priciest Rolex watches to own.
As always, both the Rolex Day-Date II and the Day-Date 40 collections offer iterations in yellow gold, white gold, Everose gold (Rolex’s proprietary rose gold alloy), and platinum. The gold variations come fitted with the classic fluted bezel while the platinum versions sport smooth bezels. Naturally, certain Rolex Day-Date II and Rolex Day-Date 40 watches also have the option of factory diamond-set bezels, including both round-cut and baguette-cut.
In true Rolex fashion, there are plenty of dial styles to choose from within both the Day-Date II and Rolex Day-Date 40, from various hour marker styles like Arabic numerals, Roman numerals, and diamonds to numerous colors like champagne, black, and silver. As is tradition with platinum Rolex watches, the platinum Day-Date 40 and Day-Date II models can also come with ice-blue dials. Furthermore, when Rolex introduced the Day-Date 40 in 2015, the company debuted a new laser etching process to create dial patterns including stripes, crisscross, and quadrant motifs.
Following in the footsteps of the classic Day-Date 36, the larger Day-Date watches feature a day window arching above 12 o’clock, which is available in 26 different languages. Also, the date window at 3 o’clock is magnified by a Cyclops lens protruding from the surface of the sapphire crystal above it.