In 1956, Rolex presented U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower with a special Day-Date Ref. 6611 watch, their 150,000th certified chronometer. This followed the company's 1944 presentation of a Oyster Perpetual chronometer to Swiss general Henri Guisan (celebrating 50,000 watches produced) and 1948 presentation of a pink gold Datejust to Winston Churchill. The company did not celebrate or use these gifts in marketing, and in fact kept the details secret for many decades.
Rolex suggested providing Eisenhower with a Rolex Datejust "bubbleback" Ref. 4467 with a silver dial and red date wheel. Although Guisan and Churchill received watches on a strap, Rolex further suggested providing Eisenhower with a matching gold bracelet. This would be the signature detail of the watch, but it might not have happened if Eisenhower had said no. The back was engraved "DDE" with five stars and "12-19-1950", the date of his appointment as Supreme Commander of NATO.
Although Eisenhower is widely credited as the eponymous "president" referred to, his watch was not a "Rolex President" model for many reasons: It was a Datejust, not a Day-Date; it had a Jubilee bracelet rather than a President bracelet, and he was not president at the time he received it. In 1956, Rolex introduced the famous Rolex Day-Date Ref. 6511 with the "President" band. The first US president to wear such a watch was Lyndon Johnson, and historians suspect that Rolex coined the term after seeing him wearing this watch.
By the 1960s, Rolex was openly referring to three-link bracelet as the "President Bracelet" in advertising. The same watch was favored by generals and businessmen at the time, and the term became fixed in the consciousness of the market. Today, most people consider a fluted bezel, yellow gold case, and three-link bracelet Rolex as the signature of success. In the 1980s, Rolex officially referred to the Day-Date watch as the "Rolex President Day-Date Chronometer" in advertising. Today, the name stands for the bracelet, the watch, and the image of a yellow gold Rolex in general.
For a watch to be considered a "Rolex President", it should have the following characteristics:
- It must use the President bracelet
- It must be a Rolex Day-Date model
- Most people associate yellow gold with the President designation
Although the Day-Date is available with a smooth bezel, other bracelets, and a wide variety of colors, these would generally not be considered to be "Rolex President" watches. This is even true of white gold, platinum, and diamond bezel models.
- Rolex Day-Date - 36 mm case
- 1955-1957 - Ref. 6511
- 1957-1959 - Ref. 6611 - Cal. 1055 (Also Ref. 6612 and Ref. 6613)
- 1959-1978 - Ref. 1800 - Cal. 1555 (Also Ref. 1802, 1803, 1804, 1806, 1807, 1811)
- 1978-1988 - Ref. 18000 - Cal. 3055 (Also Ref. 18038, 18039)
- 1988-2000 - Ref. 18200 - Cal. 3155 (Also Ref. 18300)
- 2000-2019 - Ref. 118000 - Cal. 3155
- 2019-present - Ref. 128000 - Cal. 3255
- Rolex Day-Date II - 41 mm case
- 2008-2015 - Ref. 218000 - Cal. 3156
- Rolex Day-Date 40 - 40 mm case
- 2015-present - Ref. 228000 - Cal. 3255