No, I’m not talking about going to the movies… I really like the date vs. no date debate and this question pops up on a lot of watch forums. I have spent a considerable amount of time pondering the question myself. Here are some thoughts on having a date display on your mechanical watch.
In some cases, you can choose a certain model of timepiece with or without a date. Two examples that immediately come to mind are the Rolex Submariner and the Longines Legend Diver. These pieces both have two versions — date or no date. In other cases, you can choose between different (but very similar) timepieces that either have a date, or don’t have a date. Panerai, for example, make so many different variations of the Luminor. Therefore, you may very well find yourself choosing a timepiece based it having, or not having, a date display. What to do???
Let’s begin by discussing one of perils and hassles of having a date display on a mechanical timepiece. If you ever read the instruction booklet that came with your timepiece, you may know that it is dangerous to adjust the date when the watch is between about 8:00 pm and 8:00 am (the exact times depend on your movement). You see, the date-change mechanism is “activated” between these times and adjusting the date at this point could damage the movement. There is a proper way to set the date and time on a mechanical watch. If your watch has been sitting for a while and you need to start it and set the date, here are the steps. First, advance the time past 12:00 to figure out of the watch s on AM or PM — if the date changes, you are now on AM. If the date doesn’t change, you are on PM. If you’re trying to set the time early in the morning, make sure your watch is PAST 8:00 am and BEFORE 8:00 pm and set the date to the previous day. Then, advance the time past 12:00 am and your date will automatically change to today’s date. Then, just set the time. Simple, eh? It can be a real pain! Then try setting the date on something like Panerai’s P.9000 movement — it can take forever.
Let’s assume that you have several timepieces and you like to alternate each day. A winder could help, but you don’t want to have all the hassle of setting the date only to wear the watch for just a couple of days. A timepiece with no date could be wound and set in a few seconds. Advantage — no date!
Now, let’s talk aesthetics. A date window can spoil the nice, clean look of a timepiece. It ruins the symmetry. For the past 2 years, I have been wearing a Luminor 1950 with a date window. Although the date can be very practical and useful, it totally ruins the simple look of the Luminor 1950. It bugged the hell out of me. I always wished it had that clean, minimalist look of more classic Panerai models. The same can be said of the Longines Legend Diver. One exception, for me, is Rolex. I absolutely love the date window on the Datejust II, for example. I am not sure why, but the date display just seems to fit Rolex very well. I would take the date-Sub over the no-date and I prefer the Datejust II to the non-date Milgauss.
The usefulness of a date window cannot be denied. And if you’re wearing a watch for several days at a time, the continuity of the changing date is very satisfying. It’s the like the timepiece is going through the week with you, changing dates as each passes. I often glance at my watch for the date when I’m setting my voice mail or making plans. It’s practical. But the look?… I think a good way to manage your collection is to have one automatic piece with a date that you wear regularly and/or keep on a winder… and then a few (ideally manual) no-date pieces that you can grab/wind/set for occasional use. This is, more or less, what I have done recently.
Mechanical timepieces are unnecessary — we all know that. So, in reality, you don’t “need” any additional information from your watch such as the day or the date. You have all of that on your phone. If you have a mechanical device on your wrist that looks cool and, at a minimum, tells you the time, then you are set. This is a good argument for a non-date piece with a beautiful, clean dial — think of Panerai’s PAM00112 or PAM00372. Beautiful.
For myself, I have decided that the beauty, symmetry and ease of use of a NO-DATE timepiece outweigh the benefits of a date window. Like everything in life, there are some exceptions to my rule. The Rolex Datejust II is my favorite example and I am sure I can think of others. I hope this blog has given you some ideas for choosing your next timepiece. I can tell you that my next target has no date…
Enjoy the debate and the shopping. As always, the fun is in the search…