How The Rolex Day-Date Became Known As The Texas Timex
It’s a tale as sprawling as the state that inspired the nickname.
They say that everything is bigger in Texas. In terms of square miles, Texas is second only to Alaska in size. And it is the largest of the contiguous 48 states. When we think of the Lone Star State, we think of big hair, big sky, big ranches, and big money.
And all those J.R. Ewings have to spend their money on something, so why not watches? Specifically, why not Rolexes?
The yellow gold Rolex Day-Date is so ubiquitous amongst the monied class that it has become known as the “Texas Timex.” And this is the story of how that watch became the favorite of wildcatters.
From 1963 to 1969, Texas native Lyndon Baines Johnson was President of the United States. Johnson is also a watch connoisseur who owned timepieces from Hamilton, Vulcain, Patek Philippe, and LeCoultre. The most famous watch in his collection was his 18K yellow gold Rolex Day-Date which he wore on the bracelet now called the “President.”
Why, among all the watches in LBJ’s wardrobe, did the Date-Just become his signature timepiece? Some point to a famous 1965 photograph of President Johnson pointing to his scar from gallbladder surgery. The Rolex is as prominent as the incision. In an ad circulated in 1966, the Day-Date was hailed as “The President’s Watch,” cementing the timepiece’s status.
Texas, in particular, fell hard for the flashy-for-its-time formal watch. Local authorized dealers couldn’t keep up with demand for the Day-Date, which led to the birth of the modern-day waitlist. Then, in the 1970s, oil-producing Texas was so flush with old money and newly minted millionaires that the timekeeper became so commonplace amongst the upper classes that the President gained a second nickname – “The Texas Timex.”
Deep in the Heart of Texas
These golden tickers could be spotted on the wrists of many legendary residents of the super-sized state – from oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens to Dallas Cowboy’s coach Jimmy Johnson. And even though these millionaires and billionaires could afford much more expensive watches, enthusiasts remained loyal to the brand, attracted more by what it represented than what it cost.
By the mid-1980s, more Rolex watches were sold in Texas than in any other state in the US. As demand for the Date-Just exceeded supply, the Texas Timex moniker soon expanded to refer to any solid yellow gold Rolex watch.
The allure of Rolex remains strong in Texas. The brand’s official website lists 33 Authorized Dealers in the Lone Star State, including a stand-alone boutique in Houston (only California surpasses that number with 40 locations). Dallas has been home to a Rolex Service Center since the 1980s, and, in 2018, it opened up an eight-story facility in the Harwood District.
Speaking of legends, we must digress from the Date-Just to talk about the reference 5100 Beta-21 Quartz “Texan,” one of the rarest Rolex watches ever produced.
At Baselworld 1970, Rolex introduced its vision of the future of the luxury watch: the reference 5100, powered by a state-of-the-art, hyper-precise (+/-0.003 sec/day) quartz movement. In the short window before the quartz crisis, this timepiece was marketed as virtually maintenance-free and impervious to the laws of gravity, which was kind of a big deal.
The 5100 was the first-ever Rolex with synthetic sapphire glass and a quick-set date, a pallet wheel seconds hand, and a hacking feature for accuracy while setting the watch. So as to keep it upscale, this mechanism was housed in a 40mm solid 18K gold case, rumored to have been designed by Gérald Genta.
The bracelet was based on the President but with some funky ‘70s flair. reference 5100 Beta-21 Quartz’s size and sizzle soon earned it the nickname the “Texan.”
These first and only 1,000 examples of the Texan were sold before they left the factory – partially because Rolex offered a tour of its factory to all those who joined this exclusive Quartz club. Yet despite the initial popularity, production lasted only two years as much lower-priced quartz watches saturated the markets.
Because there are few surviving Texans, it has become a highly collectible example of Rolex’s history and of that entire turbulent era in watchmaking.
(Header image via Bob's Watches, and other sources credited)