The Rolex Day-Date is the most prestigious watch in the entire Rolex lineup and has been gaining in popularity in recent years. You used to be able to buy the golden Rolex on the open market for less than the MSRP, but those days are long gone. It’s actually surprising to see, since gold watches haven’t historically been the most popular on the market. Nevertheless, with current market prices starting around $50,000, the “President’s Watch,” as the Day-Date is also known, is certainly unattainable for the masses. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of three more affordable alternatives that should also put a smile on your face. Read on to discover a cheap movie star, an alternative with Rolex DNA, and a genuine gold luxury watch boasting both a day and date display.
1. Rolex Day-Date Alternative Under $1,000
Hamilton offers a number of watches with day and date functions, including their Hamilton Jazzmaster Day Date. This timepiece has a lot in common with Rolex’s famous model. For starters, when you hear “Day Date” in the model name, you can’t help but think of a certain glamorous luxury watch. But for my first alternative, I’d actually like to show you a watch that has a totally different look, namely the Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Day Date Auto. This pilot’s watch may have a slightly unwieldy name, but it is a very affordable day-date timepiece that has made its mark on the silver screen.
This Hamilton timepiece costs less than $1,000, but still manages to offer just about everything you could ask for. The 42-mm watch is water-resistant to 100 m (328 ft), has a sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating, and comes on a stainless steel bracelet with a folding clasp. The most important features in the context of this article, however, are the day and date functions. The automatic H-40 caliber powering the watch is a reliable, robust, and easy to service ETA movement, offering an impressive 80-hour power reserve. But what makes the Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot really special in my mind is the role it played in Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece Interstellar. This is without question one of the best films of our time, and it should particularly appeal to watch enthusiasts, seeing as time is a central theme of the film. In fact, you can hear the subtle ticking of a clock in the background of some scenes. The watches in the film play an extremely important role – they could almost be called characters in their own right. In the film, the Hamilton Khaki Aviation Pilot Day Date Auto is worn by Matthew McConaughey, who plays the protagonist Cooper. While the Rolex Day-Date has had its fair share of screen time and adorned the wrists of celebrities in the past, it has certainly never starred in such an epic movie as this one.
2. A Day-Date Watch With Rolex DNA and Its Own Look
Are you looking for a more affordable alternative that looks as close to the Rolex Day-Date as possible? Well, Tudor’s Prince Date-Day can certainly hold its own up against the Rolex in this regard. In fact, the Prince Date-Day is probably the best option out there. But I’d hate to just leave it at that. What about a slightly more unique Tudor with a day function? Something like the Tudor Royal, perhaps? This watch was introduced at the end of 2020 and, unlike the Prince Date-Day, it has its own unique look. The angular, 41-mm case is striking and certainly a good pick for anyone who’s looking for a watch with good wrist presence. In comparison, the bracelet and clasp are surprisingly delicate. With its day display, the Tudor dial is certainly reminiscent of the famous Rolex Day-Date. However, the Roman numeral hour markers don’t quite have the same depth as those on the big brother model.
That being said, you do get a superb sunburst dial that really shines in natural light. The watch’s Sellita movement is modified further by Tudor and offers a 38-hour power reserve alongside its day and date displays. The watch is water-resistant to 100 m (328 ft), making it the ideal choice for an everyday wearer.
I really like that the Tudor Royal strikes its own path. It reminds me ever so slightly of the Rolex Oysterquartz with its similarly striking case. You can add this Tudor to your collection for less than $3,000. The version with a blue dial is the most popular and, therefore, slightly more expensive. Interestingly, prices on the gray market are currently several hundred dollars above Tudor’s official list price. I wasn’t actually aware of how popular this model was until I started researching prices for this article!
3. The Golden Rolex Day-Date Alternative
When I was brainstorming this article, I wanted to find a watch that met a few specific requirements. First, it had to be a gold watch – after all, the Rolex icon is only available in the precious metal – and it had to have a weekday display between 11 and 1 o’clock, just like the Rolex Day-Date. After a lot of searching, I came across a watch I really like: the Omega Aqua Terra Day-Date. Unfortunately, Omega has already discontinued this model. The ref. 18.104.22.168.06.001 comes with the typical Omega case, which enthusiasts will recognize from the Omega Aqua Terra or Omega Speedmaster, but this time it’s in solid gold. The dial also features the typical Aqua Terra pattern that’s reminiscent of the deck planks on a yacht. However, the lines are vertical instead of horizontal – similar to all the latest Aqua Terra models.
But where the Omega Aqua Terra Day-Date really stands out is the upper half of the dial, home to the day display. Just like its Rolex counterpart, you’ll find the day-of-the-week function between 11 and 1 o’clock. In contrast to the Rolex version, however, the window isn’t white, but kept consistent with the dial color. The same goes for the date display at 6 o’clock – a really beautiful touch. This means the dial color is left uninterrupted, which I think is a major bonus. Another plus for this watch is its in-house movement. Here, Omega showcases its strengths, as usual, and offers everything you could wish for from a modern timepiece. The gold Omega Aqua Terra Day-Date is available on a gold bracelet or leather strap, but both versions are quite rare. I was only able to find two listings for watches on a leather strap on Chrono24. With prices well under $20,000, this model is certainly a great alternative to the Rolex Day-Date 40 – you’d have to fork over more than twice that for the Rolex. If you want a few more options to choose from, however, check out the two-tone or steel versions of this Omega watch. With prices around $6,000, they are far more affordable than the gold version. I personally think the Omega Aqua Terra Day-Date is the best alternative to the famous golden Rolex. Even so, I do miss the beautiful fluted bezel of the Rolex icon.