While we're looking out for the big lots Christie's Geneva almost silently listed one of the historically most important Rolex Datejust examples of the recent history. It's a yellow gold ref. 4467 with its original Jubilee bracelet from around 1946 and a lovely cream patina... And above all it's the 14(!) Datejust ever produced.

October 31, 2023

An Historical "Tribune de Genève"  Rolex Ref. 4467 - The Datejust Of The Year

  


Marcus Siems     Marcus Siems @siemswatches
    Collector, Author, Data Analyst


  

While we're looking out for the big lots Christie's Geneva almost silently listed one of the historically most important Rolex Datejust examples of the recent history. It's a yellow gold ref. 4467 with its original Jubilee bracelet from around 1946 with dagger indeces, Chronometre signature, alpha hands and outer (1/5th) second track with a lovely cream patina...

 

Christie's Geneva upcoming Rolex ref. 4467 number 14The example coming up at Christie's Geneva this November. A stunning piece but what makes it so relevant beyond style? Photo Courtesy of Christie's Geneva.

 

All very attractive attributes but what makes this one so special and so relevant? Well, it is "No. 014" ... Doesn't ring a bell yet? Well, let me explain the gravity of this number further:

You may have heard that Rolex introduced the Datejust* in 1945 for their 40th firm anniversary[1]. Back then it was the first automatic wristwatch with date-complication - so it wasn't just easy on the eye but also full of innovation. Coming in full 18k gold only it further sported the first iteration of the Jubilee bracelet. All in all, a truly marvelous and important reference for what would become one of the most influential watch brand of the last 100 years.

 

Rolex Datejust ref. 4467 with box and papersThe 40th anniversary watch from Rolex - the ref. 4467. Christie's even got some of the original paper trace. Photo Courtesy of Christie's Geneva.

 

1) Tribune de Geneve Limited Edition

Let's circle back to the Datejust ref. 4467 over at Christie's and its ominous No. 14: Today the Datejust is an absolute bestseller and the longest uninterrupted collection produced by Rolex with over 250 different references produced since 1945[1-2]. But upon introduction in 1945 the Datejust ref. 4467 wasn't supposed to go into serial production - ever(!)[3].

 As a 1945 advertorial from Rolex shows (see below) that the ref. 4467 anniversary watch was intended to be - in the spirit of fine art prints - a numbered limited edition - and that should've been the end for this model...

 

historical 1945 Rolex advertorial showcasing two anniversary watchesThe 1945 advertorial displaying the most important details of the anniversary edition "Datejust". Photo Courtesy of HIFI Archiv.

 

There's already a lot to unpack in this advertorial here (Sorry, it's in German but I'll walk you through). First of all, there seem to have been two anniversary watches - one for men one for women**. Second, the pieces were promised to be delivered to the customers by December 20th 1945 but could be inspected at local retailers prior to the delivery date. This small detail very well explains why the earliest Datejusts are rather dated to 1946 than 1945. Third, even though the name "Datejust" didn't appear on the dial until 9 years later, the "Rolex Achievement" table on the lower left already calls the model the "Rolex-Perpetual-Datejust" (first waterproof automatic watch with date).

Fourth, the anniversary watch was 18k full gold and could be acquired with either 2 straps and gold buckles (for CHF 975) or an 18k golden jubilee bracelet for a whooping CHF 1,785 (including tax)+. Speaking about the bracelet: As we can clearly see from the ad the initial Jubilee bracelets came in the classic 5-element layout and with straight endlinks (compatible to the upcoming Christie's Geneva lot).

 

Rolex ref. 4467 Jubilee bracelet studyA study of the straight endlink Jubilee bracelet in 18k gold. If you look closer you'll see the ad from above lying under the watch. Photo Courtesy of Christie's Geneva.

 

And lastly, the production volume. As mentioned above these pieces were supposed to sell in a limited edition only, each and every one of them numbered between 1 and 100. And here's where another piece of Rolex lore comes into play. These first batch sold*** through a collaboration with the Swiss newspaper "Tribune de Genève"[1]. So basically you needed a newspaper coupon to be able to buy one of these earliest anniversary watches++.

 

2) Production of the Ref. 4467

According to Rolex's original marketing there should be only and exactly 100 ref. 4467 "Datejust" models. But we know today that the ref. 4467 was produced for a longer period and beyond the initial numbered limited edition, approximately between 1945 to 1949[1]. In total I could identify at least six rather independent production batches based on case numbers:

 

Year Serial Range Other Specs
1945* 387.6XX TdG 100
1946 460.43X - 460.60X 1st serial
1946 518.32X - 518.87X 2nd serial
1947 598.13X - 598.19X seems RG only
1947 602.72X - 603.42X 3rd serial
1948 646.0XX & 651.6XX 4th & 5th serial

Table 1. Serial number ranges of Rolex ref. 4467 between 1945* and 1949. Sources Christie's, Antiquorum, Sotheby's, Bonham & Collector Square search functions. * The serial range would typically indicate 1946 as production year, yet we know that these pieces were supposedly delivered in Dec. 1945.

 

Overall, this puts the total production of the ref. 4467 roughly in the sub-1000 pieces ballpark... Not a lot but definitely more than the promised 100 limited anniversary watches. Interestingly, just a year after the first Datejust newspaper ad appeared prices already skyrocketed by over 50% to CHF 1,450 (two straps) and CHF 2,500 (gold bracelet) for the serially produced pieces. A solid sign that success was a key motivation behind increasing the production.

 

3) Variations of the Ref. 4467

The anniversary batch of the first Rolex Datejust was quite well described - all 18k yellow gold, alpha hands, dagger markers, black date-wheel[1] - but some variations to this template were readily introduced with later batches.

 

Three variations of the vintage 1940s Rolex Datejust ref. 4467Comparing three different dial and case versions of the first Datejust (ref. 4467). No.014 (left), LH version (middle), & rosegold with black dial (right). Photos Courtesy of Christie's.

 

Basically, you could choose between with or without luminous material, red or black date-wheel (likely age dependent[1]), left-handed versus right-handed version, black or white dial and yellow or rose gold cases. Plenty to choose yet all from clearly the same design language.

 

4) Historical Relevance of No. 014

And finally I'd like to spell out why our cover model - Christie's Ref. 4467 with case 387.696, No. 014 - is such a pivotal cornerstone of our modern horological landscape. The Rolex Datejust is one of The most important collections of our time - by any brand. It's a design archetype that is equivalent with sports luxury and casual elegance. You may like it or not but it's a bestseller bringing in more annual revenue than most Swiss watch brands in total. It's sold millions and millions of times over the last 80 years.

And that's why "Number 014" - the 14th Datejust ever(!) - is so so relevant. Whatever models, designs, or versions with precious gems and stone dials, you name it, came after it... This is THE beginning.

 

No. 014 stamped between the lugs of the Rolex Datejust ref. 4467The reason this particular Datejust ref. 4467 is so special: No 014 stamped in between the lugs (reference and serial were still stamped inside the caseback). Photo Courtesy of Christie's Geneva.

 

As far as I can tell this is only the second time one of the numbered "Tribune de Genève" sells publically within the last 30 years. The only other example has been No.057 sold at Christie's Hong Kong in May 2005 (for HKD 36,000). Interestingly, No.057 (387.663) has a case number 33 lower than No.014 (387.696).

 

Rolex Datejust ref. 4467 Number 57 from 1945The only other numbered Rolex ref. 4467 I could identify - No. 057: Lot 1873 sold at Christie's HK in 2005.

 

Overall, Rolex considered this particular design as the frontier of technological developments and likewise the epitome of style... Characteristics that are still true to today. Just imagine, Christie's No.14 is the earliest Datejust hitting the market in over 18 years! This lot is perfectly showcasing the legacy of a modern horological phenomenon. It's the origin, the root of 78 years of dress casual and the birth of modern tool-watches. No.14 is a once in a generation chance to lay your hands on The first Datejust! Well, the 14th Datejust ever, but who's counting?

 

 

A big thank you goes to Mathieu Ruffat (@mrc_watches) specialist at Christie's for providing additional visual aid and insights on lot 77 of the upcoming Geneva auction.

 

 

* A little sidenote here: The Datejust wasn't actually signed "Datejust" until 1954 - 9 years after their introduction - starting at the later iterations of the 8th(!) Datejust model (ref. 6105)[1]. However, the "Datejust" did appear in catalogues and ads from the beginning.

** The anniversary gimmick for the women's watch by the way was a novel strap system to easily change between options - and Rolex delivered three different ones with the watch already to match it with your attire.

*** Allegedly

+ Just a year later (1946) Rolex sold these pieces already for CHF 1,450/2,500

++ I'd like to raise a note of caution here. Even though several sources report the coupon story I don't see absolute proof that each and every one of these pieces was sold through this promotional campaign. I couldn't find the origin of this piece of information. Further, the advertorial didn't really give any information about the distribution channels - (it also didn't mention the Tribune  de Genève).

 

References

[1] Datejust: A Closer Look At A Rolex Icon - Part 1; Edmond Saran, Le Monde Edmond;

https://le-monde-edmond.com/datejust-a-closer-look-at-a-rolex-icon-2/

[2] The Vintage Rolex Field Guide; MorningTundra;

[3] Rolex Jubilaeum 1945 - Ein Jubilaeum der Leistung; Rolex Advertorial

https://www.hifi-archiv.info/Uhren-Werbung/Rolex/Rolex_201945_2020.jpg

 

All rights on text and graphics reserved to the Author.

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