What Is The Rolex Buckley Dial? (EVERYTHING To Know)
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What is a Rolex Buckley Dial

What Is The Rolex Buckley Dial? (EVERYTHING To Know)

Watch enthusiasts, like many other enthusiasts, whether it be cars, sneakers, EDC (Everyday Carry), or anything else out there worth collecting, tend to enjoy their communities and the fun eccentricities and nuances that come with them.

For example, if you are a big EDC enthusiast, there is a good chance that you can have an at-length conversation about the different metal alloys that make the very best EDC knife. Or, if you are a big sneakerhead, there is no doubt that you’ve argued over the greatest and worst sneaker releases of all time.

To an outsider looking in, these conversations might as well be in a foreign language. But to the enthusiast, the nuances that the common person can easily overlook or ignore are precisely what makes them an enthusiast. With that said, watch enthusiasts might just be the most diehard of all.

In the pantheon of highly respected, famous, and even infamous timepieces, we, as enthusiasts, have always enjoyed and adored the nicknames that we give to our watches. Now, I don’t mean personal nicknames or pet names that you give your personal collection; I’m talking about the well-known aliases given to timepieces by the community at large.

Some of the most famous are the Pepsi, Batman, Paul Newman, Dark Lord, Arnie, Snowflake, Ed White, and my personal favorite, the Pussy Galore. While there are hundreds of examples of fun, playful nicknames that every watch has earned from the community, the list above is just a tiny example.

With that said, today we will be discussing the Rolex “Buckley Dial,” what it is, where the nickname came from, and a few models that are sure to pique your interest.

The Many, Many Unique Dials of Rolex Watches

Rolex is likely the most popular and sought-after brand in the watch community and likely one of the most recognizable brands in the world. From its sponsorship of sporting events like Formula One racing, golf, and tennis to its sponsorship of the arts, the Rolex name extends beyond the enthusiast community.

With that said, the public image of Rolex has changed over the years. Gone are the days of true tool watches created for a purpose, and in are the days of status, notoriety, and achievement.

So, it is no surprise that in this new age of Rolex, there is a lack of fun, quirky, and unique dial options that were ever present in the old days of Rolex. The joy of yesteryear has given way to a more sterile, safe, and palatable catalog.

Having said that, let’s explore some of the most unique dial offerings from Rolex’s past. Rolex first introduced some incredibly unique dial options in the 70s with an array of stone dial options that are sure to boggle the mind.

With dials ranging from actual wood like birch, African mahogany, and walnut to stones like onyx, tiger eye, malachite, and coral, the use of these incredible materials is proof that Rolex had a sense of fun and uniqueness that is not as common on modern Rolex timepieces.

So, What is Buckley Dial?

For those vintage Rolex collectors and connoisseurs, the Buckley Dial is surely on your radar and possibly in your collection. But, for those who might be new to vintage Rolex or watches in general, let’s break down what the Buckley Dial looks like from a design standpoint and how it differs from similar modern Rolex dials.

The Buckley Dial is generally found in vintage Datejust models that date back to the 70s and 80s. Most commonly found on Datejust references 1601, 1603, 16014, and 16030, the Buckley dial seems to have come into existence around the same time period that Rolex began using the hard stones we discussed earlier.

But like most vintage Rolex, which can be a bit of a mystery, the Buckley Dial has seen use in other Rolex models like the Day-Date and Oysterquartz. What makes the Buckley Dial so unique from a design language point of view is the use of printed Roman Numerals vs. applied Roman Numerals seen on modern Rolex watches.

While some will argue that the use of applied Roman Numerals in some flavor of precious metal or diamond makes the watch more luxurious, I’ll say that the modern dials with applied numerals feel a bit cluttered.

That is what is so beautiful about a printed Buckley Dial, the use of space and dial layout. Due to the particular font thinness, compared to modern applied numerals, the dial has the opportunity to breathe, stretch its legs, and allow for the nuanced “feet” that adorn the numerals to fill some of the empty space.

The crisp printing of the numerals also allows for a highly legible dial that makes reading the time at a glance incredibly easy.

Who is Buckley?

Like many Rolex models named after individuals, most notably the Paul Newman Daytona and the McQueen Explorer II, which he may not have actually worn, the Buckley Dial is named after an individual who is neither a movie star nor a household name.

John Buckley is the owner of Tuscany Rose, a pre-owned watch shop that caters to vintage lovers and in the world of vintage Rolex, Buckley has a wealth of knowledge and expertise on the subject, so much so that he now has a Rolex nicknamed after him!

The story goes that John Buckley, vintage watch dealer extraordinaire renowned for his expertise in the field, became so passionate about vintage Rolex with printed dials that his enthusiasm and interest helped thrust the rare references into the limelight, gaining popularity on the pre-owned market.

Due to his passion and excitement for a reference that could have been lost to time, the watch community decided that the watch should be nicknamed after him. The rest is history.

Buckley Models to Adore

In an attempt to keep this section concise and quick, I will touch on a few standout Rolex models that use a Buckley dial and give a brief description of each timepiece. This will be by no means a definitive guide, but it should act as a decent jumping-off point for anyone looking to start the search for a Rolex model with a Buckley Dial.

Rolex Datejust Ref. 16030- Gray Dial

Rolex Datejust Ref. 16030- Gray Dial

The Datejust ref. 16030 was first introduced in 1977 as a replacement for the Datejust ref. 1603 and would be produced and eventually taken out of production in 1988. In true vintage Rolex Datejust fashion, the ref. 16030 has a case diameter of 36mm, a lug-to-lug distance of 44mm, and a case thickness of 11mm.

The acrylic crystal comes with the signature cyclops over the date, which in tandem with the printed Buckley Dial, makes this timepiece highly legible. While we’ve discussed the Buckley Dial and design, we haven’t touched on dial colors.

I think the standout feature for me is the gray dialed reference. There is a beautiful monochromatic eeriness that works so well with the engine-turned bezel and patina’d lume plots.

Rolex Datejust Ref. 16014- Blue Dial

Rolex Datejust Ref. 16014- Blue Dial

The Datejust ref. 16014, like the ref. 16030, was introduced in 1977 and saw production until 1988. This beautiful reference comes with a beautiful blue dial and white Roman Numerals. The white printing on the blue dial references truly pops.

The highly contrasted dial is an excellent example of simplistic and conservative beauty. The white gold fluted bezel gives the already charming timepiece a luster that can only be found in the use of precious metals.

Many Datejust references, especially vintage ones, are usually found on a leather strap or an original stretched-out jubilee. The reference shown as an example comes on an amazingly well-cared-for jubilee that looks as good today as it did the day it left the factory floor.

Rolex Datejust Ref. 1601- White Dial

Rolex Datejust Ref. 1601- White Dial

Last but certainly not least, Rolex Datejust Ref. 1601 with a white dial is likely going to be the most common Buckley Dialed Rolex out there.

While, as it stands, the Buckley Dial will always be a more unique and rare reference, the bright white dial with black printed numerals will be the one most often found in quality and well-regarded vintage watch shops.

The white-dialed reference is definitely a great do-all timepiece like the rest of the Datejust family. You get a watch that can be easily paired with both casual and formal attire, one that is not ostentatious or overly bold but an understated timepiece that can act as the perfect companion in whatever situation you put it in.

Parting Thoughts

In the wide world of vintage timepieces and, more specifically, vintage Rolex, enthusiasts and collectors are always looking for the next watch that will be highly sought after.

The Buckley Dialed Rolexes used to be just that. A watch that flew under the radar, a watch that only a few people gave much time and attention to, and one that one man saw the future potential of.

John Buckley and his now-loved Buckley Dialed Rolex watches are proof that in this weird hobby/obsession that we call horology, your passion and love for those unique outliers can earn you a spot in history!

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