Size is the Question
When Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf started his fledgling business, men's watches were now the size we would consider exclusively for women. At just over 32mm, it is noticeably small by modern standards.
In fact, the wristwatch itself was primarily a concept for women. Men wore pocket watches more often, as they did hundreds of years ago. There will be two world wars before the usefulness of a wearable watch that provides a much faster way of predicting time than fishing in a
tunic and opening a case is finalized.
However, since 1945, when Rolex introduced the revolutionary Datejust, the wristwatch has been sealed as a basic men's accessory. This model started with a diameter of 36 mm. It was quite large at the time, and it was much larger than a woman could wear at the time. Following the unprecedented success of the men's version, Rolex introduced the first LadyDatejust in 1957 with innovative features such as a date function, automatic winding and waterproof case, reduced to 10 mm for a more elegant profile.
Since then, the watch has become the best-selling watch produced by Rolex for all genders, surpassing icons like the Submariner and the Daytona. The
LadyDatejust has been in continuous production since its launch, given the variety of metal, dial and bezel configurations that are identical to the men's models.
In 2015, like most Rolex products today, the size was increased to 28 mm for the first time. Interestingly, although currently one of five watch sizes, only 28mm is officially called LadyDatejust, 31mm, 34mm (known simply as Date) and 36mm are all listed in the women's section of the Rolex website. You can see how much tastes have changed depending on the size of women's watches.
Currently, the smallest Rolex model is the 26mm Oyster Perpetual. Generally considered entry-level models, the series is much older than the Datejust and is available in five versions. All but the largest 39mm are shown on the Women's Watch page.
Women's Watches in Demand
In the last couple of decades, the demand across both sexes has been for ever bigger watches. That has led, out of necessity, to more women wearing models from the Rolex catalog which were originally designed solely for men, as there was simply nothing in the ladies collection in a sufficiently large size.
These days, seeing a Daytona or a GMT-Master on a female arm is nothing unusual. But in the early '90s, the brand started addressing this problem with two new series: the YachtMaster and the Pearlmaster. The first was a smarter version of the Submariner and became the first Rolex sports watch to be offered in three sizes. Full 40mm, Medium 35mm, for both women and men with small wrists, the true female version is 29mm.
The Pearlmaster line was part of the Datejust range and is still produced exclusively as a women's watch, crafted in one of three gold tones and many precious stones that elevate the level of luxury. Originally released in two sizes, 29mm and 34mm, which is 3mm larger than the smallest LadyDate. Since then, following the general trend, both have undergone some changes. The entire YachtMaster line has been upgraded to the next level. The 29mm disappeared and the mid size became a feminine version except for the name, increased to 37mm, and in 2019, 42mm was released at the top end. And a true symbol of the times, the Pearlmaster welcomes the 39mm model to the top of the series. There are only four models in the Hyundai lineup aimed at women. The Datejust, Oyster Perpetual and YachtMaster are all larger for men, while the Pearlmaster is a women's series. But given that the fashion of oversized clothes is now shared by both men and women, it wouldn't come as a surprise that Rolex will always show more models for its fans.