Among the Rolex watches most coveted by collectors for some years now we find the Day-Dates nicknamed "Stella", by virtue of the lacquered dials with bright colors such as yellow or mint green, which have become iconic. The "Stella" dials, certainly unusual for a very traditional maison, were made between the end of the 70s and 80s and have indices or diamonds.
But let's take a step back and focus briefly on the Rolex Day-Date, the flagship model of the long-crowned maison. Introduced exclusively in precious materials (white, yellow, pink and platinum gold) in 1956, except for a few examples produced before its official debut, it was immediately the faithful companion of the most important personalities of the time, just think of John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Lydon Johnson, Warren Buffet or sports legends like Jack Nicklaus.
36 mm case, elegant and sporty design at the same time, automatic movement, shock resistant, waterproof up to 50 meters, the Day-Date had all the elements to be able to become the perfect companion of every gentleman's adventures by taking, in fact, the place once reserved for the older brother "Datejust". The icing on the cake is the indication of the day of the week at 12 o'clock.
On the occasion of the launch of the Oyster Perpetual Day-date, a new bracelet with three rounded links was specially designed, called "President".
The first versions of Day-Date launched on the international market were the references 6510 and 6511. Both references mount the 1055 caliber, made in 1954. Subsequently, in 1959, they were replaced by the 18xx references equipped with the 1530 caliber, only to be replaced by the calibers 1555 and 1556.
The peculiarity of the Rolex Day-Date was immediately the possibility of being able to choose from a wide range of dials, cases / bezels and bracelets. In this way, a watch capable of reflecting one's personality could be configured according to one's tastes.
In terms of dials, the “Stella” dials have now become the object of collectors' attention. Produced in a limited period of time, they are enjoying great success in international auctions and in the second wrist market. Just think of the thematic auction dedicated to Rolex Day-Dates with “fancy” dials held by Phillips in 2015, the results of which went well beyond expectations.
The true origin of the name "STELLA Dials"
But why are they called "Star"? In fact, in spite of other nicknames referring to Rolex models, it was the house itself in its 70s catalogs that defined this type of dial as “Lacquered Stella”. However, the origin of this nickname has always been vague and the subject of debate among collectors.
Reading the catalogs of the most prestigious international auction houses, as well as very famous dealers, the prevailing opinion is that the name Stella derives from the minimalist artist Frank Stella, famous for the use of bright shades in his paintings, or from the effect "Dazzling" of this type of dials.
Curiosity is the engine of knowledge, they say, and this is how, with the help of an expert and friend of the sector, I arrived at the most correct and rationally obvious motivation. The name Stella comes from the company Stella SA, located in Geneva, specialized in lacquer paints and supplier of the well-known dial manufacturer Stern Freres and Lemrich.
It was difficult to verify the existence of the Star SA, enlightening is to have found the news that a well-known Swiss chemist, Pierre Castan, a pioneer of epoxy resins, in 1950 he became the technical director of Stella SA, a factory specializing in the production of paints.
I found the queen proof thanks to this 1958 advertisement, present in the catalog Stern Freres and published in the book "Le Cadran, visage de la montre bracelet au 20e siècle”Written by the luminary Helmutt Crott.
This type of lacquered dials became a feature of the Stern Frères dials. The use of enamel was gradually replaced by a multi-layer lacquering process, with a subsequent polishing process. The high standards with which these dials were made, capable of giving an intense and luminous color to the dial, is often mistakenly confused with the “enamelled” or “porcelain” dials.
The colors of the star dials are: oxblood (dark red), coral red, orange, blue, green, turquoise, peach, salmon, pink, yellow and the rarest purple. As with other Rolex models, the Stella dials were not very popular in those days. In fact, it is said that many customers preferred to exchange them with more common dials, such as argentèe, black or champagne color. Precisely because of their rarity, today they have become so rare and desired by collectors.
It should also be noted that the Stella dials are not only mounted on Day-Dates but also on some Datejust products produced in the 70s.