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Rolex Day-Date 40 vs Day-Date II, Which President Watch is Better?

We are about to explore the differences and similarities between the Day-Date II (41mm) and the Day-Date 40 (40mm), so you can determine which Rolex President is right for you. 

The Rolex Day-Date (aka the Rolex President) is one of the most famous and flagship models from the brand. For decades, the Day-Date 36mm, in the various precious metal options, was the standard gentleman’s dress watch. Classy, elegant, and super luxurious. A status symbol among powerful men. 

Then, in 2008, Rolex gave the world a surprising change when they added a beefier version of the all-time classic dress watch to the lineup, the Rolex Day-Date II. The Day-Date II bestowed us with the Rolex President in 41mm. It was big, yet it had the same exact characteristics. At a time when the M.O. was “the bigger, the better”, the Day-Date II 41mm President watch was clearly made for the modern man. The success of the Day-Date II was immediate, as it remains to this day. However, the line of 41mm Presidents was short-lived. In 2015, Rolex discontinued the Day-Date II and unveiled the Day-Date 40, a 40mm President watch more akin to the traditional style of the Day-Date 36. 1mm may not seem like a big difference, but in the world of Rolex, it most definitely is…

Today, on the retail market, you have the option of the 40mm or 36mm Day-Date. Both fit the wrist in a sophisticated manner, it just depends on if you like your watches a little bigger, and dare we say, more contemporary. That said, many people still desire the larger 41mm President, and thanks to the enormous secondary Rolex market, you can find any Day-Date II of your dreams for sale. 

Now, if you are like us, you prefer a dress watch with a little more wrist presence than the Rolex President 36mm offers. So, you are deciding between the Day-Date 40mm or the 41mm Day-Date II. With that, we have all the information you need and answers to your questions below. That way, you can make an informed decision that you will be happy with for many years to come. 

DAY-DATE 40 VS DAY-DATE II

The Day-Date 40 and the Day-Date II share many more similarities than they do differences. The main differences are the newer, updated movement on the Day-Date 40 and the drop in size from 41mm to 40mm. With the change in case size also comes some subtle changes in the sizing of other aspects of the watch, such as the lugs, bezel, and dial appliqués. These small changes do alter the overall proportions of the watch, but only a true Day-Date enthusiast will appreciate the difference. 

Below we will go over what is the same and what has changed in detail, which includes whether or not the reduction from 41mm to 40mm is actually that significant. 

Let’s start with what is the same…

CHARACTERISTICS 

The overall aesthetics of the Day-Date 40 and the Day-Date II are exactly the same, as are the materials used. Let’s go over the different design options that you have for both the Day-Date 40 and the Day-Date II. 

Precious Metals 

As it has always been with Rolex Presidents, the Day-Date 40 and the Day-Date II come in yellow gold, white gold, Everose gold (Rolex’s patented rose gold) and platinum. 

This is “the ultimate watch of prestige”, so precious metals are all you will find.

Depending on the metal you choose, you have different bezel options as well…

Bezels

Among the entire lineup of both the Day-Date 40 and the Day-Date II, you have the options of a fluted bezel, smooth bezel and gem-set bezel. Of course, the fluted bezel is the most classic and traditional choice for the Rolex President, as that is what the original designed used. 

While there are three bezel options, not all precious metals receive them. 

Fluted Bezel: The fluted bezel is available on the yellow gold, white gold, and Everose gold President watches. 

Smooth Bezel: The smooth bezel is only available on the platinum Rolex President. It has always been this way.

Gem-Set Bezel: “Gem-set” bezels use either baguettes or round brilliant diamonds. All of the precious metal Rolex Presidents come in various gem-set bezel options. 

Dials

For the dials, you have light, colored, dark, gem-set or diamond pavé to choose from. This applies to all of the precious metal 41mm and 40mm President watches, with the exception of the diamond pavé dial for the yellow gold Rolex Presidents. 

Indexes

The Rolex President in 40mm and 41mm offers three options for indices – Roman Numerals, Classic Hour Markers (hour batons, aka sticks), and Gem-Set Hour Markers. 

You can choose any of the three index options for all the precious metal Presidents.

Note: The gem-set hour markers of the Day-Date 40 are baguette shaped (mainly diamonds but some special models have two sapphires or rubies at the 6 and 9 o’clock), whereas the Day-Date had options of baguette shaped diamonds or round brilliants in a square index setting (as well as special models with sapphire or rubies). 

Water Resistance

Both the Day-Date 40 and Day-Date II offer 100 meters (or 330 feet) of water resistance thanks to their Oystercase and Triplock crown system…not many dress watches can say that!

All in all, the overall DNA of the Rolex President is exactly the same. The design and the materials of the watches have been unadulterated.

Now, let’s go over the differences…

SIZE DIFFERENCE

The case of the Rolex Day-Date II is 41mm across the round of the case, while the Day-Date 40, as the name suggests, is 40mm. The difference is size has been something of a major topic among the Rolex community. It’s quite a subjective topic, as some feel the change is significant, whereas others find it to be trivial. 

A 1mm change in the world of Rolex comes off like a 3-4mm change. Of course, it’s not that drastic, but the way people react to the change, you would think otherwise. 

In our opinion, the 1mm downsizing is actually quite considerable, especially when the watch is on the wrist. The Day-Date II is clearly thicker at the lugs, wider at the bezel, and chunkier as a whole. It creates a bolder, more robust wrist presence. In terms of size, it feels almost feels like a completely different watch than the original 36mm, not just a larger version. 

The Day-Date 40, however, does appear like its simply a larger version of the classic 36mm. It’s more dressy and well-put together on the wrist. It feels more sophisticated in its size. Not too small and not too big. A dress watch through and through, for the modern watch man (or woman…yes, women love the Rolex President too!). 

Besides the actual measurement of the case, the proportions have been ever-so slightly altered as well, which also changes the overall visual effect. For some, it is not that noticeable, while others would certainly disagree…

The Day-Date 40 feels better balanced in its design, with the lugs and case being a little slimmer, the bezel being slightly smaller in circumference, and the dial aesthetics being reproportioned to accommodate the smaller dial. It reverts back to the classic visual aesthetic, as negligible as the downsizing might actually be. 

Overall, it comes down to personal preference. There are tons of people who wish Rolex didn’t discontinue the 41mm President. If we took a poll, we can guarantee it would be right down the middle.

So, if you like bigger watches, the Day-Date II will call to you more. It’s more casual and depending on the design options you choose, it can even feel a bit sporty. With the Day-Date 40, you get a more classic, more proportional, and somewhat more formal look…but remember, size is not the only difference between the Day-Date 40 and Day-Date II. You also need to consider the movement!

CALIBER MOVEMENT

The name “Day-Date 40” vs “Day-Date II” and the size of the case may be the change that’s most apparent, but it’s not the biggest and most important change by any means. Really, the biggest difference between the Day-Date 40 and the Day-Date II is the movement. 

The Day-Date II is powered by the calibre 3156. It is a very reliable movement that is COSC certified with a 48 hour power reserve. It also benefits from a Parachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock absorbers. Nevertheless, it is outdated. Compared to modern movements, the calibre 3156 isn’t on the same level. 

The Day-Date 40, on the other hand, is powered by a movement that is up to modern standards. In fact, it exceeds most of the best current movements in the industry. After all, it is a Rolex movement. This automatic movement is the Calibre 3255. It has all the same important proprietary innovations, but it boasts significant improvements in precision, autonomy, shock resistance, anti-magnetism, and it has a 70 hour power reserve.

So, while the calibre 3156 is a great, reliable movement, it is no match for the calibre 3255. If the comparison of the Day-Date 40 vs the Day-Date II was based on movement alone, there would be no question that the Day-Date 40 is the winner. The movement is far superior. Plain and simple.

But, as people take all aspects of a watch into consideration when making a comparison, movement alone is not enough. As such, the Day-Date II and the Day-Date 40 are still hard to choose between. 

BRACELET MODIFICATIONS

In 1956, when Rolex released the first ever Day-Date, they also introduced their Rolex President bracelet. The Day-Date was the first watch to receive the President bracelet. In fact, it was made specifically for the Day-Date. It’s the President watch after all. 

So, for both the Day-Date II and the Day-Date 40, the President bracelet with a concealed Crownclasp is what you will get. 

However, there are some modifications to note with the Day-Date 40. With the Day-Date II, only the Platinum models had a ceramic inserts in-between the links. The ceramic inserts are an important feature as they prevent the bracelet from stretching over time. With the Day-Date 40, every single model has ceramic inserts. It’s now a set feature across the entire line. All in all, this is a very important point to note if you are concerned about the longevity of your bracelet. As any good Day-Date fanatic will know, older President bracelets are liable to stretch after many years of use. 

REFERENCE NUMBERS

If you can’t spot the difference between a Rolex Day-Date II vs Day-Date 40 just by looking at it, which is understandable for an untrained eye, the reference number has all you need to know.

Day-Date II’s come with a 218xxx reference number and Day-Date 40’s come with a 228xxx reference number. 

Here are all the various references to choose from:

ROLEX DAY-DATE 40 REFERENCE NUMBERS 
  • Ref. 228238 – Yellow Gold, Fluted Bezel
  • Ref. 228348RBR – Yellow Gold, Diamond Bezel
  • Ref. 228398TBR – Yellow Gold, Baguette Diamond Bezel
  • Ref. 228239 – White Gold, Fluted Bezel
  • Ref. 228349RBR – White Gold, Diamond Bezel
  • Ref. 228235 – Everose Gold, Fluted Bezel
  • Ref. 228345RBR – Everose Gold, Diamond Bezel
  • Ref. 228206 – Platinum, Smooth Bezel
  • Ref. 228396TBR – Platinum, Baguette Diamond Bezel
ROLEX DAY-DATE II REFERENCE NUMBERS
  • Ref. 218238 – Yellow Gold, Fluted Bezel
  • Ref. 218348 – Yellow Gold, Diamond Bezel
  • Ref. 218239 – White Gold, Fluted Bezel
  • Ref. 218349 – White Gold, Diamond Bezel
  • Ref. 218235 – Everose Gold, Fluted Bezel
  • Ref. 218206 – Platinum, Smooth Bezel

DAY-DATE 40 VS DAY-DATE II PRICE & WHERE TO BUY

As the Rolex Day-Date II is no longer in production (2008-2015), you will only be able to buy one on the secondary market. Some dealers may have unworn Day-Date II’s, but most will be pre-owned. The Day-Date 40 is a current-production, so you can buy it at retail from an authorized Rolex dealer or on the second-hand market pre-owned. 

For the Day-Date 40, the entry level price at retail is $36,550. Prices rise dramatically when you start looking at President watches with gems. 

But, here’s the thing, most of the popular references have long waiting lists. So, you will have to head to the second-hand market if you want one right away. 

On the second-hand market, the prices for the Day-Date 40 and the Day-Date II are basically the same. The Day-Date II jumped in trading price once it was discontinued. This is a clear testament to the success of the Day-Date II. People love it. 

So, if you are looking at pre-owned Day-Date 40’s and Day-Date II’s, the lowest price you will get one for is around $40,000. 

At Diamonds By Raymond Lee and Raymond Lee Jewelers in Boca Raton, we have a wide selection of Day-Date II’s and Day-Date 40’s to choose from, which includes the models you see in the featured images here.

Shop Day-Date watches at Diamonds By Raymond Lee.

Interested in one of the featured watches? Contact us for pricing. These are not currently listed on our website, but they are for sale. 

FINAL VERDICT: DAY-DATE 40 VS DAY-DATE II, WHICH IS BETTER?

The Day-Date 40 and the Day-Date II are both fantastic larger versions of the quintessential Rolex dress watch that has been extremely sought after and a status symbol for more than half a century. For you to decide which is better, you need to look at the different characteristics that separate the two. All in all, listen to your heart. 

We recommend trying on the watches if you can. If you live in or around Boca Raton, feel free to stop by and try on any Day-Date watch you like. In the end, you can decide whether the bolder, sportier Day-Date II or the classic, dressier Day-Date 40 is right for you. 

See our collection of Day-Date watches

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