Gary Player's Rolex - Presidential Day Date

Golf Legend Gary Player wearing a Rolex Presidential Day-Date in Yellow Gold
Gary Player is one of the greatest golfers in the history of the sport.  He is the third player to win the Career Grand Slam, which is winning all 4 major tournaments in a lifetime.  Only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus have done it since, putting him in the ranks of possibly the top 5 golfers in history.  He has won 9 majors including the Masters 3 times, the US Open, the Open Championship 3 times and the PGA Championship twice.  He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.  He has since excelled at the Senior's tour, winning many tournaments including the Senior British Open 3 times, the Senior PGA Championship once and the Senior U.S. Open twice.

Player has epitomized excellence in the sport.  He put on annual golf tournaments, designed over 300 courses in 35 countries, and has continued to win championships - a total of 165 to date.

Player has come from a poor family in South Africa.  His mother died when he was young and his father made very little as a gold miner.  Hard work, diet and healthy lifestyle epitomized Player - as he became known as one of the Big Three golfers of his era.   He has acquired many other nicknames: The Black Knight, Mr. Fitness, the International Ambassador of Golf, and the World's Most Traveled Athlete.

Player has a deep affection for Rolex.  His father once said to him after seeing his hard work and dedication, "You keep working hard like this and one day you might even buy yourself a Rolex".  After winning his first Grand Slam, he acquired his first Rolex.  He chose the Presidential Day-Date in solid yellow gold because it reminded him of his first Rolex and of his dad who toiled endlessly in the gold mines of South Africa.
The Day-Date was launched in 1956 and was the first watch to have the day spelled out in full and date split out.  It has adorned many world leaders and presidents - even other golf legends including Jack Nicklaus himself.

The current Day-Date is 40mm in diameter and constructed in 18 ct yellow gold with a fluted bezel and scratch resistant sapphire crystal.  There is a cyclops lens over the date and the timepiece is waterproof to 330 feet.  The new caliber 3255 has an enhanced power reserve of 70 hours. However, Player's Day Date probably has an older caliber and shorter power reserve.  The timepiece is adorned with a President's bracelet with semicircular 3 piece links.  This is truly the timepiece of champions.

Early Chronographs "Pre" Rolex Daytonas

Rolex 6238 produced in the early to mid 1960's
The Rolex Daytona is one of the most recognizable timepieces today and highly sought after in both the current market and the auction market.  However, you may not have seen some of the predecessors to the Rolex "Paul Newman" Daytona.  This is an interesting history since the first chronograph was actually tied to the swimmer Mercedes Glietze who swam the English Channel in 1932 with a record setting 46 hours.  However, her feats were soon eclipsed by the "Speed King" Sir Malcolm Campbell who set several world speed records in auto racing on the salt flats of Utah and in Daytona Florida.  This became the first Rolex ties to the future of Daytona racing and to the Daytona name for its watch line.

Rolex registered the name Cosmograph to identify the chronograph by name.  However, they initially tried to tie the brand to the Le Mans racing by advertising the timepiece as a Le Mans Cosmogrpah.  However, the name didn't stick.  It wasn't until the late 1960's that the  with reference numbers 6239, 6240, 6241, 6262, 6263, 6264 and 6265 established the "Paul Newman" Daytona. 

However, the progression of detail is a beautiful history to observe.  I hope the below picture reel helps illustrate some of these exceptional timepieces and the changes over time.  You can see that Rolex tweaked and modified the dial design extensively from the first timepieces that had only 2 dials to the more modern 3, and tachymeter markings that moved from the on-dial position to the more modern on-bezel location.

The loveliest version is the Eric Clapton Reference 4500 which is in gold and has a very clean dial look even though the Tachymeter markings go to an astonishing 1000 which was quite high even by today's standards.  Interestingly, all of these models are self-winding timepieces.  The Daytona didn't get an automatic movement until 1988 when Rolex modified the Zenith El Primero to become the calibre 4030 movement.  Eventually, Rolex would bring that movement in house with their launch of the caliber 4130.
Rolex Reference 2508 - an early 1930's chronograph

An ultra rare Reference 4113 (1940's chronograph with 44mm case and split seconds pusher on the winding crown) Image: Hodinkee

Rolex Reference 4500 - from 1948 - part of the Eric Clapton collection - Image: Sothebys

Rolex Reference 6034 - from 1952

Rolex Reference 6234 from 1955 - blue coloring on white - Image: Hodinkee

Rolex Reference 6234 with tropical coloring - 1950's - Image: Sothebys

Rolex reference 6238 produced between 1963 and 1967

Early version of the Rolex Reference 6239 with Tachymeter markings including 300 and 275 before they were simplified to 200 in the below model.
Rolex Daytona "Paul Newman" Reference 6239

Why Rolex uses Sapphire Crystal

Rolex and the finest watchmakers have turned to sapphire crystal to be the face to their exquisite timepieces.  There are several reasons for this.  However, to really understand the decision to use sapphire it is worthwhile to look at the various alternatives.  Not all watches manufactured today utilize sapphire.  Besides sapphire, acrylic/plexiglass/hesalite, and mineral/hardlex are often used.

Until 1970, Rolex utilized acrylic as the glass for their timepieces.  Acrylic is a low cost plastic and is quite hard.  It is practically shatterproof.  It is so hard that when it gets scratched, people often use a compound such as polywatch to buff out scratches fairly easily - returning the beauty of the glass to its original form with a crystal clear polished look.  Even today many timepieces utilize the acrylic crystal because of the low cost and ease to produce the glass.  However, the acrylic glass tends to be thicker than sapphire crystal glass, which can add weight and thickness to the timepiece itself.

Companies like Seiko have opted to upgrade their glass to a mineral based glass which they call Hardlex.  This is more costly than acrylic, but less than the sapphire.  It is shatter resistant and is less scratch prone than acrylic.  It is also fairly easy to manufacture and shape.  Mineral based crystal is one of the most common glass types used on timepieces - especially in the under $300 watch market. Like the acrylic, the mineral based glass can be buffed and polished to remove scratches.

Sapphire crystal requires a flame fusion process which requires diamond saws to grind and shape the glass, so it drives the actual cost of the glass to over $100 in the aftermarket.  Because of this, you will not likely see any sapphire timepieces under $300.

Rolex clearly wanted to create a scratchproof substance, which is both hard and durable.  It developed a synthetic sapphire crystal which is so hard that only diamond registers as a harder substance.  The hardness keeps the crystal from getting scratched because only a substance like a diamond really has the ability to create a scratch across a sapphire surface.  Although sapphire is far more scratch resistant than acrylic it is possible to shatter.  A shattered sapphire crystal could damage the Rolex timepiece significantly.  However, the rarity of a shattered crystal is what Rolex was banking on.  They found that it was far more common for an owner to scratch their acrylic glass than it was for them to shatter the sapphire.  A sapphire crystal would basically look new forever.  And, Rolex is all about timeless beauty.

Another key reason Rolex liked sapphire crystal is for the smoothness of the surface.  Because of the lack of pores in the sapphire surface, Rolex is able to add an antireflective and antiglare coating to the bottom side of the sapphire crystal.  This adds clarity to the timepiece even in strong sunlight.  It wouldn't be possible to add this antireflective coating to mineral or acrylic.  This antireflective coating gives a bluish glow under certain light, but keeps the timepiece from appearing cloudy.

Sapphire also has interesting refractive qualities.  For example, if you compare domed sapphire to domed mineral, you would see a distortion of the watch-face by the mineral crystal at certain angles.  However, the sapphire will produce a clearly visible timepiece face at nearly any angle. Although this is hardly noticeable unless you turn your timepiece to the side and look through the crystal at a sharp angle, Rolex does care about the details.

One last feature of sapphire crystal is its ability to keep water from streaking across the surface.  If you place a drop of water on a sapphire and a mineral surface, you would see a significant difference.  On the sapphire, the water will bead up and keep shape.  On the mineral it will spread out.  If you turn the crystals vertical, the sapphire water bead will gracefully and completely fall off the face of the sapphire keeping a very clean and clear appearance.  The mineral would streak and the water will leave a trail as it falls off the crystal.  The benefits for Rolex here are obvious.  Many of Rolex timepieces are engineered for diving and swimming.  The Submariner is a perfect example of this.  A sapphire crystal would help retain visibility and repel water naturally as swimmers exit the water.

Rolex started rolling out sapphire crystal on their timepieces as early as 1970 on their Oyster Quartz, and then Submariner in 1981.  By the mid 1990's Rolex had updated most of their timepieces to all utilize sapphire crystal, and today all Rolex timepieces have sapphire crystal.

Rolex has added the cyclops lens to the top of the sapphire crystal to provide access to the date window in models that contain a date window.  If you turn the crystal with the cyclops lens to the side, you will see that the lens is added to the sapphire glass rather than being molded inside the glass itself.

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