I do not have a large watch collection, but the best replica watches I do have are very important to me. As you may have noticed from some of my previous stories, a few of them were either passed down to me, or discovered within my family. Just a few weeks ago, a caller on HODINKEE Radio posed a question about the notion of guilt when it comes to owning expensive watches, and having watches that may have come through unfortunate circumstances, such as a death in the family. The caller raised the idea of being judged by others as to how he came to possess such items of luxury, especially at a young age. I’ll admit, that kind of stuff used to bug me. I have watches that came into my life through familial pathways and not by my own purchase.
One such watch is my two-tone Rolex Datejust fake watch with champagne dial, a watch that took me years to feel comfortable wearing, and a watch that has become one of the most important that I own.
Now, in the world of vintage Rolex clone, there are Datejusts, and then there are Datejusts. The two-tone Datejust most certainly falls into one of those two categories. It is often considered to be the “Grandpa” watch, or sometimes the “Bateman” (not to be confused with Batman). To others still, it is simply a Rolex. Do people collect two-tone Datejusts? Well, not really. In fact, I have found that what most people consider to be the most collectible in the model range are everything but the two-tone variety. But it’s worth considering it as a potential collectible watch in my estimation. To paraphrase one Hunter S. Thompson for a moment, once you get locked into a serious watch collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can – two-tone included.
Growing Up Two-Tone
The two-tone Datejust is a watch that I have grown up around, and a watch I was exposed to in a few varieties – to the point where, for me, the Datejust was synonymous with Rolex itself. Today, as a more active student of horology, I have come to appreciate the sheer volume and variety of the Datejust collection. In fact, I would argue that the Datejust is similar to the 34mm Omega Seamaster, in terms of the seemingly infinite number of variants. There are just so many different Datejust models out there, so many dial varieties (Buckley, Pie Pan, Sigma, Linen) with differing sets of markers, styles of typeface, different bracelets, clasps, materials. There is simply no way to track them all down.
Lucky for me, my exposure to the range was confined to the two-tone, for better or worse. Now, I have told a few stories about my family connection to watches, including my grandfather’s Rolex Submariner. In that story, I highlighted a bit of research I did to try to find out where and when it was purchased. I found that my grandfather purchased a matte dial Submariner 5513 sometime in 1967, likely in Germany. In that same transaction, another watch was purchased: a two-tone Datejust, on a jubilee bracelet, with a champagne dial. When my dad graduated from college in 1968, it was his graduation gift. Although I never saw my dad wear the watch – as he had since retired it from his wrist in favor of his own Submariner (more on that in a moment) – it was a watch I was very much aware of growing up.
In the ensuing years, my father would go from college graduate, to junior high school teacher, to law student, to attorney, all while wearing his Datejust. In 1982, while on a trip to Switzerland, he was ready to buy his own Rolex. Well, as it turns out, he picked up two watches – one for himself and one as a gift for his father. The first was a matte dial Submariner 5513. The other was a two-tone Rolex Datejust fake with gold and steel jubilee bracelet with a champagne dial. My father not only bought the same two watches his father had bought 15 years earlier, but he bought his father effectively the same exact watch (well not exactly as we will see) as his father bought for him. I asked him why he did this, and he answered that the two-tone Datejust “was the watch, and I liked it.” I mean it’s hard to argue with that. My grandfather wore his Datejust, a gift from his son, for the next decade or so before similarly retiring it, in favor of a Timex.
So, both Datejusts were retired early and confined to heirloom purgatory. Their interim destination was a watch box in the basement of my childhood home. I recall sneaking down there just to look at them – two steel and gold watches; hidden treasures. At the time, I could not tell them apart. Since then, both watches have found their respective homes. The 1967 variant now belongs to my younger brother – a gift to him from our dad on his 18th birthday. The 1982 variant is now mine, left to me by my grandfather after he passed away.
And, there is yet a third two-tone Swiss made Rolex Datejust replica watches in my family. Purchased (again, by my father) sometime in the late 1970s/early 1980s, it is a Datejust Oysterquartz two-tone with champagne dial. He would later swap the dial color out for blue – at a time when that was still allowed by Rolex. That watch is now my older brother’s. I guess it’s a family thing. Although the Oysterquartz is rare and interesting in its own right (it is said that only 25,000 were produced in its 25-year production run) – for the purposes of this story, I would like to focus on the two two-tone Datejusts that were the product of identical two-watch purchases nearly two decades apart.