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More Than a Century of High-End Watchmaking with Audemars Piguet

Jorg Weppelink
September 27, 2019
by

If you’re a watch enthusiast, you’re probably more than familiar with the Rolex Datejust.

You could spend hours discussing what makes the Rolex Datejust is so popular. Is it the watch’s history? Its design? Its functionality? However, there’s no disputing that the Rolex Datejust is currently the most popular watch on Chrono24 (according to sales).

Another possible reason is that it’s readily available, something that can’t be said of many other Rolex models. Rolex watches are more highly coveted than ever, meaning purchasing certain timepieces comes with a years-long watch.

This Genevan brand is also known for its unique fan culture. The world of vintage Rolexes is filled with brand-specific terminology. When searching for a Rolex in online forums, blogs, or on Chrono24, you’re sure to encounter terms like Pepsi, Hulk, Fat Lady, and more. The Rolex community never tires of expanding their creative lexicon.

We’ve already written an article about specific watches and their nicknames. This time, we’re focusing on the nicknames given to the different Rolex Datejust dials. Many collectors consider the dial one of the most important design elements of any timepiece. It often helps them distinguish between individual models. Some variants are particularly rare and, thus, exceptionally popular. If you’re not familiar with Linen, Sigma, and Buckley dials yet, this is the perfect opportunity to learn something new that you can then use to impress your peers in your next watch discussion.

 

Buckley Dial

Buckley Dial

 

The “Buckley Dial”

We begin with the so-called “Buckley” dial. This dial is most often ‘s most found on Datejust models from the 70s and 80s. Perhaps its most notable feature is its Roman numerals. There’s some contention as to which references actually exited Rolex’s workshops with the Buckley dial and which were altered after the fact. As usual, Rolex is mum on the subject. However, it’s more than likely that the references 1601, 1603, 16014, and 16030 originally came with the Buckley. These models have either black or white hands and indices. Many prefer the black version thanks to the contrast between its dark elements and the light dial.

In my opinion, the Roman numerals only heighten the Datejust’s already classic and elegant feel. However, the Buckley dial isn’t a Datejust exclusive. Various Day-Date models, such as reference 1803, and some Oysterquartz references can also be found as originals with this dial.

As is often the case, the dial doesn’t get its nickname from Rolex, and the brand doesn’t use it in any official capacity. This is also true of other nicknames, including Pepsi, Batman, etc. So just where does this nickname come from? Rumor has it that the name can be traced back to a prominent watch dealer named John Buckley, who has a shop on New York’s 47th Street. However, how his name came to be associated with the dial remains a mystery.

 

Sigma Dial

Sigma Dial

 

The “Sigma Dial”

A few months ago, I decided to purchase a vintage Datejust. By then, I’d already had my eye on the references 1601 and 1603 for a quite some time. While looking through different listings, I noticed that prices for these models varied widely. Watches with the “Sigma dial” were generally quite a bit more expensive than other comparable models. So I asked myself: Why? What is a Sigma dial? Unsurprisingly, this dial features the lowercase Greek letter sigma (σ) at 6 o’clock. The letter appears twice, once on either side of “T Swiss T,” a reference to the use of tritium on the indices. Sigma, on the other hand, indicates that the hands and indices are made of gold.

The Sigma dial exclusively appears on Datejust models from the 1970s. This is important for collectors to keep in mind in case they find a watch from another time period advertised with a “Sigma dial.” Due caution is advised in such cases. Rolex has never disclosed why they decided to put this letter on the dials. One theory is that other manufacturers – for example, Omega – had already begun marking dials to indicate that it and/or the hands were made of precious metals. Omega used the sign “OM” for or massif, French for “solid gold.” (Incidentally, this symbol also appears on the case of the latest edition of the gold Speedmaster). However, Rolex is not known for following the trends of other watch brands, which puts this theory in question. A more plausible explanation is that, during the quartz crisis, manufacturers wanted to actively draw attention to the fact that mechanical Swiss watches used valuable precious metals in order to distinguish them from quartz watches.

Sigma dials have also been used by other brands, including Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe. By the way, there’s also a version of the much-beloved Daytona with this uncommon dial (reference 6265).

 

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