A legendary timepiece with iconic history, the Rolex Day-Date has earned the title of the "Watch of Prestige" for a very good reason. Unveiled in 1956, it swiftly became the preferred choice for athletes, visionaries, and global leaders, leading to its enduring moniker 'the President.' This nickname persists even today, as the watch continues to serve as Rolex's flagship offering with its luxurious construction and timeless design.
Released in 1977, the Rolex Day-Date Ref. 18038 introduced several upgrades that positioned it ahead of the competition. Among these enhancements were a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, a notable improvement over the previous plastic acrylic, and the "single quick" date set function. This innovation allowed the watch to rapidly cycle through the date without the need to backtrack, a step forward (no pun intended) enabled by Rolex's new self-winding movement, the Rolex Cal. 3055.
With an Oyster case crafted from 18-carat yellow gold, this 1979 Day-Date Ref. 18038 I have here comes fitted with the iconic three-piece link Presidential bracelet and the trademark 36mm case with a fluted yellow gold bezel, which are standard attributes for a Rolex Day-Date. However, what truly distinguishes this specific example is its highly sought-after and strikingly beautiful red Vignette lacquer dial. When it comes to Vignette dials, it is worth noting that their production process bears a resemblance to the renowned Rolex 'Stella' dials. The method involves initially rotating the dial while carefully applying lacquer, followed by varnishing the outer edges, resulting in a stunning gradient-like transition from vibrant brightness to rich, profound hues towards the edges of the dial. Collectors often describe this as a 'dégradé' dial (basically, a fade) due to the gradual colour shift from the Ref. 18038’s lighter burnt orange centre to a darker hue of burgundy towards the dial's outer periphery. Furthermore, the dial on this example is adorned with factory-set diamonds (with charming baguettes at 6 and 9 o'clock respectively) serving as hour markers, enhancing the dial's already rich and lush appearance. Adding to its rarity, it also showcases a Chinese day and date disc, making it an exceptionally uncommon configuration for a Day-Date.
Throughout the years, Rolex has introduced a multitude of Day-Date models, encompassing diverse configurations, precious metals, and dial variations, culminating in an expansive and captivating landscape of collecting today. However, when it comes to extraordinary specimens like this particular Ref. 18038 I have here, featuring a rare red Vignette lacquer and diamond dial paired with an uncommon Chinese day and date disc configuration, words often fall short in capturing its aesthetic beauty and exuberance. Therefore, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.