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Thread: New dial for an old Rolex 1603 - good or bad idea?

  1. #1
    Master
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    New dial for an old Rolex 1603 - good or bad idea?

    Hi All

    I inherited a white faced 36 mm 1603 Datejust from by father-in-law in 2002 and had it serviced by Rolex in 2003. I wore it daily for about 3 years but only very occasionally since then. I won't part with it but the problem is whenever I try to wear it, I can't read it easily so revert to wearing a diver within a day.

    I can use it for the very occasional dressy event I go to but would like to wear it more often - as it is old enough to have a non-quickset movement, wearing it for a month or two at a time would work for me. The only way that would be practical would be to have a new, black Rolex dial and white gold handset. I suspect financially this would not be a good move (the dial/hand swap would add about 500GBP to a service and I suspect the resultant watch would worth less than it is now) but I am not too concerned about this as I don't intend to part with it.

    But part of me feels it would be sacrilege - I don't know much of the 1603's history but it is in lovely condition. Here is a pic - your thoughts would be welcome


  2. #2
    Craftsman woodacre1983's Avatar
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    Personally I really like that as it is. If it was me I wouldn't change that at all.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  3. #3
    Grand Master Foxy100's Avatar
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    It's all reversible if you keep the original dial and hands so why not? I'm firmly in the school of wearing your watches, especially something with family history. Ask HHH about his Speedmaster...
    You can live in your car but you can't drive your house.

  4. #4
    Journeyman
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    Are you really sure you'd wear it daily for a month or two at a time if you changed the dial and handset?

    If you are, then perhaps you should go ahead and have it done.

    If in the slightest doubt on that, then I think it would be better to leave well alone.

  5. #5
    Grand Master
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    Change it.
    If you can retain the original parts then it's not going to knock anything off value.

    It's of no value to you if you can't wear it because you can't read it.

  6. #6
    Master
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    I love the pie pan dial & that looks lovely IMO.

    I have a slightly later one on my wrist on a Timefactors rally strap for a giggle.

    An alternative approach could be to look for a new one to buy?
    These pop up from about £1300+.
    This way you'd still have your father watch, the way he intended it, for those occasions & the daily wearer you crave, which you're less worried about any day to day damage.

  7. #7
    Craftsman Frakius's Avatar
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    I probably would not change the dial, but my eyes are good and I don't have issues reading white faced dials. I would probably keep it for special occasions myself, is it easier to read for you at night with less light on it? You could get the crystal double AR coated so you don't get reflections helping you see dial better...crazy idea?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frakius View Post
    I probably would not change the dial, but my eyes are good and I don't have issues reading white faced dials. I would probably keep it for special occasions myself, is it easier to read for you at night with less light on it? You could get the crystal double AR coated so you don't get reflections helping you see dial better...crazy idea?
    Didn't know you could get plexi AR coated. Where do you get this done as I've a few watches I'd be interested in having coated.

  9. #9
    Craftsman Frakius's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Manxdiver View Post
    Didn't know you could get plexi AR coated. Where do you get this done as I've a few watches I'd be interested in having coated.
    I have not had it done myself but I have seen threads on modding forums about people having it done to their watches, If it's plexi/acrylic I guess it would have to be only AR coated on inside of crystal as they are much more prone to scratches. I also wonder if you could get a aftermarket sapphire crystal with double AR on it installed instead of replacing dial, keep original crystal if you ever end up selling it, would make seeing dial easier and retain character of watch more than swapping dial out. All ideas I really have no idea if they would work just throwing them out there!
    Last edited by Frakius; 19th May 2017 at 13:20.

  10. #10
    Master Neilw3030's Avatar
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    I say go for it, change the dial, they are on ebay, just make sure its a pie pan as a later dj will not fit, i tried.
    Give Brendan a message (webwatchmaker) he did a service on my girlfriends 1601, and will happily change a dial and handset for you.

  11. #11
    Master
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    Thanks v much for your input folks

    I have been in communication with Duncan from Genesis about it - he changed my wife's Datejust's dial - and he has sent me an image of some of the options for this model. He is a Rolex accredited independent and has to work to their rules - one of which is that the dials are swapped so the original one would be returned to Rolex. If I could keep that so as to potentially restore it, it would make the decision easier - Neilw3030 did you keep the old dial when Brendan did your girlfriend's 1601?

    As for AR - an interesting idea but I'm not sure an AR coating would make it good enough for my eyes - I have tried a couple of newer white/silver faced watches which I think had AR coated sapphires and still couldn't read them in some lights. Looking at the pics of white/silver faced watches you would wonder what the problem is as the hands always show so well, but as some of us are finding age isn't kind on eyesight and the lovely contrast in the pics isn't always mirrored in the metal!

    I don't think I will rush into getting it done - though if I can keep the old dial that would help the decision...

    Many thanks

    Jon

  12. #12
    Duncan did mine last year

    Hands and dial replaced as they were water damaged

    Thoroughly professional job, went for a blue dial in the end.

    Not the best pic


  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by gpattni View Post
    Duncan did mine last year

    Hands and dial replaced as they were water damaged

    Thoroughly professional job, went for a blue dial in the end.

    Not the best pic

    That looks great - making a change harder to avoid!

    Thanks for posting :)
    Last edited by JonRA; 19th May 2017 at 17:42.

  14. #14
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    If I had inherited that watch with that dial I would just leave it as it is and wear it now and again. It's a lovely watch and there's lots of people out there who would be over the moon to have such a timepiece. I get the fact that it's hard to read but a watch is a bit more than just being able to tell the time, after all we all have mobile phones for that.
    I think it's a great thing to be left by a loved one.

  15. #15
    Master
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    Once again, thanks everyone for your input

    I think I am going to keep it as it is and wear it sparingly - as Stuart67 has said, it's more than just a watch, which is probably why I had such a hard time deciding. Not for the first time a watch decision is heart over head.

    But your suggestions have also made me think about getting a dark faced Datejust - as the pic from gpattni suggests, they do look very nice indeed!

    ATB

    Jon

  16. #16
    Grand Master
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    I think most Datejust dial combinations are quite hard to read in poor light. I had a black dial on my 16234 (sapphire crystal) and that wasn't easy to read. There's a risk of spending the money and still not solving the problem; much as I like the black dial I don't think it's much easier to read. Mine' s now got the original white dial reinstalled and that's not easy to read either, but it looks nice even though I'm not a big white dial fan.

    Considering the history of the watch I think it's best to leave it as it is.

    Paul

  17. #17
    Master
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    Good point about potentially not solving the legibility issue by changing the dial. The watches I find legible are usually black faced divers with substantial hand sets - reinforces the decision not to change.

    Many thanks

    Jon

  18. #18
    I find mine really easy to read....




    Wife is trying to nick it and wants a diamond dial but I'm just about managing to keep hold at the moment.

  19. #19
    Craftsman simonsays's Avatar
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    The blue dial looks great, but if I was doing this I would be looking for a dial on eBay and then keeping the original dial. Sending the original dial back to
    Rolex so they can bin it seems a travesty.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by RJM25R View Post
    I find mine really easy to read....




    Wife is trying to nick it and wants a diamond dial but I'm just about managing to keep hold at the moment.

    That's lovely - I got a diamond dial for my wife's 26mm Datejust but she barely wears it. I wince every time I think how much it cost.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by simonsays View Post
    The blue dial looks great, but if I was doing this I would be looking for a dial on eBay and then keeping the original dial. Sending the original dial back to
    Rolex so they can bin it seems a travesty.
    Thanks Simon

    I think I am going to leave it for now - but this does seem the best way forward if I revisit

    ATB

    Jon

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by JonRA View Post
    Thanks Simon

    I think I am going to leave it for now - but this does seem the best way forward if I revisit

    ATB

    Jon
    My experience with Rolex dial swaps (white to black on Daytona, silver to blue on OQ, "white grape" to steel grey on OP) has been nothing but positive; I keep the original part, I end up with a watch I enjoy wearing more, and I can always get my money back out of the replacement dial should I decide to revert to original. So I really don't see a downside here other than tying up some cash, as an original Rolex dial holds its value well.

    As you don't seem to be impatient, you'll have plenty of opportunity to source a nice black dial for that DJ if you want it. But I think the watch looks great as-is with that lovely and uncommon wide-marker dial.

  23. #23
    Grand Master
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    I also have a bimetal Datejust, with gold hands against a silver dial, and that's easy to read compared to the steel (white gold plate?) hands on the steel version. I`ve found that with other watches, gold hands against a silver dial works OK and gold hands against a black dial are usually easy to read.

    Paul

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