There’s a reason that the color black is a staple in everyone’s closet – it’s suave, sophisticated and timeless. In fact, a luxury watch with a black dial is as fundamental to one’s wardrobe as the black suit or little black dress. While it’s easy to dress one of these black Rolex watches up, these timepieces also remain incredibly versatile, and they are often featured in Rolex’s Professional line and positioned as some if the brand’s most high-performance timepieces.
Black dial models are often among the most versatile and understated in any watchmaker’s catalog, and arguably none more so than Rolex. A black dial is the perfect choice for a more low-key aesthetic, and coupled with the elegant lines of the watch’s profile, gives us an end product that is both understated and beautifully stylish. They also can make solid investments, as the go-with-anything appeal of the black dial watches means that they generally enjoy an extremely consistent resale value compared to some of the more unorthodox colors that are subject to the whims of seasonal fashion trends.
In this guide, we’re going to introduce you to a wide array of black dial Rolex watches. From classic to vintage and downright dressy, there’s a black Rolex watch out there for everyone.
Black Rolex Watches
Rolex Collections Available with Black Dials
– Oyster Perpetual
– Sea-Dweller (and Deepsea)
– GMT-Master II
– Explorer (and Explorer II)
Click here for our Rolex Watches Ultimate Buying Guide.
Classic Black Dial Rolex Watches
Black dial Rolex watches are inherently sexy and sophisticated. So, what happens when you pair that with the timeless appeal of some of Rolex’s most classic watches? You get incredibly versatile, valuable, and beautiful examples of classic watchmaking that you’ll love to own and wear for many years to come. Here, we’re showing you a few of our favorites.
Rolex Datejust Ref. 126200
You can argue that there is nothing more classic Rolex than a Datejust. Known and celebrated as the go-to watch for everyday wear, timeless class, and natural elegance, the Datejust is both practical and lovable. The ref. 126200 is an incredible example of this, boasting Datejust classic features like water-resistance of 100 meters thanks to the durable Oyster case. Completing the watch is an Oyster bracelet, this time upgraded with a sturdy folding Oysterclasp with a 5mm Easylink extension system.
What we really love about this Datejust is that black dial. The classic design allows this watch to be easily dressed up or down, with the black perfectly suiting a night on the town or your favorite weekend casual attire. Essentially, you’ll have no want or need to ever take this watch off your wrist, and it could easily be the one nice watch that a person owns and wears for their entire life. We also love that Rolex has upgraded the Datejust line with Chromalight dials, making them incredibly easy to read in the dark.
The icing on the cake for this latest generation of Rolex Datejust watches is that they are all powered by Rolex’s Caliber 3235 Perpetual movement, complete with a 70-hour power reserve, a paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring, and Paraflex shock absorbers for reliable performance and additional impact resistance.
Rolex Datejust II Ref.116334
An enduring classic, the Datejust is often considered to be the quintessential Rolex watch. And while the 36mm option remains extremely popular, Rolex did update the line with a larger case option with the Datejust II, which is now discontinued and has since been replaced with the Datejust 41.
However, there is something special about the Datejust II, which has larger proportions that made it feel unique and a bit sportier than the current model. The 41mm case size is also well suited for today’s larger watch trend. Although the Datejust II offers a number of material, dial, and bezel choices, sometimes the simplest options are the best and the classic black dial remains a favorite. The stainless steel and white gold Datejust II with a black dial, classy serrated bezel, and baton indexes is understated yet elegant, and it makes the perfect companion for the office, date night or a catching a game with your friends.
Rolex Datejust 41 Ref. 126333
Rolex’s answer to the growing trend for larger watches is the Datejust 41. This watch is the most true-to-form larger Datejust available, scaling the elements of the dial to perfectly fit the new 41mm casing and mirror the same beloved proportions of the classic 36mm sized timepiece. The black dial version of the Datejust 41 ref. 126333 is particularly special, the beautifully mysterious face contrasting beautifully against the durable 904L stainless steel and 18k yellow gold fluted bezel and Oyster bracelet links.
The classy black dial can be worn in any casual setting, yet the darkness of the dial and the 18k yellow gold elevate the feel and make it easy to strap on this watch for date night or a dressier occasion. With a sapphire crystal cyclops lens over the date and Chromalight luminous baton hour markers with classic hands, this dark dial is also incredibly easy to read in any light.
Finally, the fact that it is a Datejust makes this watch the perfect companion. Oozing with effortless style and class, this enlarged 41mm version with a black dial adds just the right amount of contemporary flare to make this timepiece stand out among the crowd while remaining your versatile go-to luxury watch.
Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126711CHNR
The GMT-Master series was originally designed as a tool watch and has an inherently purpose-built design. However, as an increasing number of people began wearing it as their everyday watch, its overall design has become less tool-like and more luxurious and versatile. Its original bezel color scheme, the blue and red better known as the Pepsi, remains among the brightest and most eye-catching in the sports watch collection. Similarly with the blue and black “Batman” and the discontinued black and red “Coke” bezel. But among the existing options in the range, the ref. 126711CHNR is wonderfully discreet choice.
Matching a black gloss dial, a two-tone bezel of black and chocolate brown, and a Rolesor metal combination (in this case a mix of stainless steel and warm Everose gold) gives us the most restrained form of the classic pilot’s watch. It is an offering that harks back to the 60s and 70s, with the style nicknamed the “Root Beer” that is enjoying a resurgence in popularity at the moment. It is a watch both luxurious and underplayed, with just the right amount of old world nostalgia.
Dressy Black Dial Rolex Watches
Wearing a watch with your tuxedo used to be a big ‘no-no’. The idea behind this was that wearing a watch was a bit taboo, signaling you’re more focused on the clock rather than the event itself and the good time you should be having. However, these days, styles have changed so much that it’s not only welcome to wear a watch with your suit, but that you should probably sport one for every dressy occasion. We’ve even reached the point where certain stainless steel watches can make the cut and be considered dressy enough. Here are a couple of our favorites for your next special occasion.
Rolex President Ref. 118238
It’s impossible to make this list without including the Rolex President. The ultimate statement of luxury, elegance, prestige and power, the Rolex Day-Date has remained one of the most iconic dress watches on the planet since its introduction in 1956. Many times, collectors opt for classic champagne or white dials, which very much suit everyday or office wear. However, there’s something mysterious and sexy about a yellow gold President with a dark black dial.
The ref. 118238 is a modern take on the classic Rolex President and the ultimate display of opulence. The black dial President contrasts so beautifully against the 18k yellow gold, creating a timeless look that will match whatever black suit is in-season for years to come. We also adore details like the gold hour markers, which patch quite nicely with the warm yellow gold of the case
Rolex Sky-Dweller Ref. 326139
In 2012, Rolex released an entirely new creation out into the world – the first generation of the luxe, high-flying Sky-Dweller. Along with the introduction of a new model being a rare occurrence for Rolex, the Sky-Dweller was also the most complicated watch to ever emerge from the Geneva headquarters. Since its launch, Rolex fans have been split down the middle by the controversial styling but there’s no argument that as an example of pure watchmaking virtuosity, it remains a work of art.
One of the more discreet variations, the Sky-Dweller ref. 326139 hits a pleasing balance between the unusually eye-catching and the modestly restrained. The dark black dial is also given just the subtlest pops of color in the red outline of the inverted triangle above the sub-dial, and in the month indication apertures around each of the hour markers.
Crafted in white gold, the satin black dial with ivory white GMT disc version was released in 2014. One of the very few watches in the Rolex lineup to do away with Oyster and Jubilee bracelets, the sober design is perfectly suited to the formality of its black leather strap. With it, the watch loses much of its sportier feel, swapping it for something you would more expect to find waiting in the first-class lounge.
Rolex Yacht-Master 40 ref. 116655
Not to be confused with the Yacht-Master II, the original Rolex Yacht-Master arrived in 1992 as the more lavish version of the Submariner. Initially only presented in 18k yellow gold, it too was a long way from subtle but over the years it has evolved, bringing in a number of far more toned-down models. Launched in 2015, the ref. 116655 is a massive visual departure from those early pieces. Where they were all glitz and glamor, this is almost stubbornly unobtrusive.
The case is Rolex’s own 18k Everose gold – a proprietary blend of gold and copper, mixed with a dash of platinum to seal in the warm reddish color. The bezel with raised numerals is made of Cerachrom, which is sandblasted to give it a matte finish. That muted effect is echoed on the face, one of the very few non-glossy black dials in the contemporary Rolex lineup. And topping it all off, the ref. 116655 sits on the first rubber strap the brand has ever put into production, the Oysterflex bracelet.
That wall-to-wall black detailing, with rose gold highlights just popping out here and there, makes this one of the least conspicuous models in the modern range, but it still manages to retain a dressy air of opulence about it. If you had to sum it up in a hurry, it would be with the phrase ‘stealth wealth’ and perfectly blurs the lines between sports model and a dress watch. It is also available in a 37mm version, making it the ideal unisex watch for any occasion.
Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 116520
Released in 2000, the ref. 116520 became the Daytona that introduced a completely in-house movement. It took Rolex 40 years to come up with a chronograph movement of its own, but the Caliber 4130 was worth the wait. To usher in this new era, Rolex went classic, only releasing the watch with the option of black or white dials, with the black variant often preferred for its versatility and subdued aesthetic.
The black dial of the ref. 116520 is sophistication and never looks out of place, even matched with formal wear – a rarity for a stainless steel sports watch. With its silver-ringed sub dials, engraved steel bezel and the legendary name forged in red, the Rolex Daytona 116520 is a must for any serious watch collection – especially for those who want a watch that can be worn with both casual and dressy attire.
Sporty Black Dial Rolex Watches
Today, sport watches aren’t just for sports. These luxury timepieces boast some of the most complicated movements and high-end features of any timepiece, making them exceptional watches to wear and show off on all occasions. The black dial has been a staple of the Rolex Professional line since the very beginning, offering the highest contrast for maximum visibility. However, it has become an integral and adored part of the style of sports watches over the years, and here are just a few of our favorites that are currently available.
Rolex Explorer Ref. 214270
Rolex’s entry-level sports watch, the Explorer is a straightforward timepiece that celebrates simplicity and symmetry. The current-production Explorer is the ref. 214270, first unveiled in 2009 and later revamped in 2016. This Explorer sports a very wearable 39mm stainless steel Oyster case and is presented on the sporty and comfortable Oyster bracelet.
The beautiful black dial is home to the characteristic 3-6-9 numerals, along with the luminescent baton indexes and Mercedes-style hands. The black dial makes this Explorer easy to read whether you’re heading out for a hike or to strap on something comfortable and durable for everyday wear. The Explorer is ideal for those who want an unassuming and solid Rolex watch, yet we love how the black dial elevates the look, allowing it to be paired with more formal attire.
Rolex GMT-Master II Ref. 116710LN
Although the Rolex GMT-Master II collection is famous for its bi-color bezels like the Pepsi, Coke, Root Beer, and Batman, what balances these colors so well are their black dials. Yes, the GMT-Master also comes with blue or Meteorite dial options, but the black dial on the GMT-Master and the GMT-Master II are completely and utterly classic and a must-have for any sports watch collector.
On the GMT-Master II ref. 116710LN with a black face and matching black ceramic bezel, you’ll notice the black dial is beautifully accented with details like a green 24-hour hand and matching green “GMT-Master II” text. This pop of color is welcomed against the all-black bezel, adding the hint of color we’ve all come to love and expect of the GMT-Master.
Rolex Submariner Ref. 116610LN
There’s probably no black dial more iconic than that of the Rolex Submariner. The black dial has been a staple of this watch’s history since its inception in 1953, and over the years, it has been tweaked and transformed along with the rest of the watch.
The ref. 116610LN is a modern model of the Submariner with a production period that spans from 2010 to 2020. With the 116610LN you get a beautiful black dial with Chromalight markers that reflect the classic look of the original Submariner dive watch. Additionally, it is the first Submariner to feature a ceramic (aka Cerachrom) bezel, which helps ensure it will stay looking fresh for many years to come.
Rolex Explorer II ref. 216570
Both of the Explorer models have always been perhaps the most no-nonsense ranges Rolex has ever put forward, and the Explorer II has remained the definition of what a tool watch should be all the way since its introduction in 1971. The latest model is the fourth generation and was released in 2011 to mark the 40th anniversary. Like the latest Root Beer GMT-Master II, it was given a little splash of retro charm, reinstating the bright orange Freccione 24-hour hand from the debut reference – a distinctive and much-loved feature absent for many years.
Now housed in a larger 42mm case, it can be had with either a white (Polar) dial or one a classic black one. As a further nod to the inaugural model, the base of the hands on the black dial version are also painted black to blend in with the rest of the face, giving them a floating, or ‘Phantom’ effect. The brushed stainless steel of the case and Oyster bracelet give it all a real masculine presence, underlining its role as more of something with a job to do rather than a pure status symbol.
Vintage Black Dial Rolex Watches
Since Rolex has been using black dials on its watches for decades, there are some incredible vintage models available with black dials that have been produced throughout history.
Black Dial Rolex Submariner Ref. 1680
An absolute classic diver’s watch and a highly-collectable timepiece, the Submariner ref. 168o features a black dial with an attractive patina for extra retro appeal. Heightening the vintage vibe, as well as skyrocketing its value and desirability, is the hard-to-ignore red ‘Submariner’ text scrawled across this famous black dial, which is indicative on being an earlier example of the reference 1680. This simple red text instantly makes this one of the most coveted and valuable black dials ever made, and a must-have for serious collectors.
So why is the black dial with the red Submariner text just so special? Well, while the Rolex Submariner 1680 was produced from approximately 1966 to 1980, the red Submariner was only produced until approximately 1973 (although some will say red-text dials were fitted to watches up until 1975). With that in mind, only a relative handful of the original black dials with red Submariner text are still in existence today, since many reference 1680 watches that required replacement dials ended up receiving the later-era version with all-white text.
Black Dial Rolex GMT-Master II Ref. 16710
The first GMT Master II debuted in the 1980s and introduced the brand’s iconic pilot’s watch to a newly independent GMT hand on its famous dial. This update allows the wearer to adjust the GMT hand without disturbing the other hands, and bringing the number of time zones that the wearer can read at once up to three.
The Rolex ref. 16710 is only the second reference introduced to the GMT-Master II line and it offers much more compact and more traditional case proportions than the later-era generations of the watch. Besides that classic black dial, the ref. 16710 is also available with three different colors of aluminum bezel inserts including Pepsi (red/blue), Coke (red/black), and all black.
Black Dial Rolex Explorer Ref. 1016
Initially launched in 1953 to commemorate the successful summit of Mt. Everest by Hillary and Norgay, the Explorer is the ultimate, classic vintage Rolex sports watch. With such a rich history, the Rolex Explorer (in any of its forms) it is a highly desirable option, with older models such as the ref. 1016 being celebrated by countless collectors. The reference 1016 was first released in 1963 as the third generation of the model in a decade, and this version was to stay in production for an incredible 26 years. The original Explorer watches were known for their beautiful black dials and to this day, black remains the go-to color option for Rolex’s original sports watch.
Part of the reason why the ref. 1016 remained in production for such a long time was because it was the one that got so many things right (and some have described it as the brand’s most starkly beautiful design ever put forward). However, it was also because it is sometimes thought of as the forgotten Rolex. During its quarter of a century, while other models around it were being updated and modernized at a noteworthy rate, the Explorer received just two changes.
Early examples of the Rolex Explorer ref. 1016 feature beautiful glossy black gilt dials with tritium hour markers, while later-era examples of the ref. 1016 Explorer received matte black dials with white text – a change that took place around 1967. Additionally, in the early 70s, the original Cal. 1560 was swapped for the Cal. 1570 – ostensibly the same movement except for an increased balance frequency of 19,800vph over the former 18,000vph. Regardless of the specific year of production, all Rolex Explorer 1016 watches originally left the factory with black dials and today, the modern Explorer is only available with the option of a black dial.
Today, virtually all Rolex Explorer models are becoming more sought after, and the ref. 1016 in particular. As simple and sophisticated as a watch can be, its charms are only now being noticed by a wider audience after a lifetime in the shadows. Need more convincing? It was the lifelong timepiece of James Bond creator Ian Fleming; and if that doesn’t qualify it to sit in an article with ‘stealthy’ and ‘stylish’ in the title, I don’t know what will.
Rolex Submariner: The Most Iconic Black Dial
Rolex has always been an innovator. While it wasn’t the first luxury watch company to develop a diver’s watch, many will argue that it was the first brand to perfect it. The Rolex Submariner itself has evolved throughout the years to offer improved performance and more refined aesthetics, yet it has always retained its core aesthetics. Many editions of the Submariner are available and include several options in regards to materials and colors; however, none is as iconic as the black dial Rolex Submariner.
The Rolex Submariner has seen quite the transformation, from its days as the James Bond watch, to the stunning ceramic bezel diver with a Maxi dial that remains in production today. The black dial saw more changes than any other feature on the Submariner, making it an intriguing element of the Submariner to be studied and collected. While the line also saw the addition of a vibrant blue, green, and gem-adorned Serti dials in champagne and rhodium finishes, it is the black dial version that remains the most sought-after for its timeless and enduring style. To better understand how we came to know the modern black dial Submariner, we must first explore its incredible history.
History of the Black Rolex Submariner Dial
The black dial is synonymous with the Submariner. The first Submariner to come to market in the 1950s featured a simple black gilt dial topped with pencil-shaped hands and minimal text reading “Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner.” The black dial not only looked inherently sporty from the start, but it allowed divers to quickly and easily read the time with the luminous plots against the dark face while they waded through the depths of the oceans.
Rolex continued to adjust the black Submariner dial over the years. The now-iconic Mercedes hands arrived shortly after the very first reference and has stayed part of the iconic style to this very day. The depth rating and “Officially Certified Chronometer” text was added onto the dial next, and the depth rating increased from 100 meters to 200 meters, which was reflected in the updated text on the dial to denote its greater water resistance.
The next several years saw many changes to both the outward appearance of the case and the movement that beats within. During this time, the dial saw many small changes to the wording of the text and also saw a shift from glossy gilt dials to matte part of the way through the production of the ref. 5513. This edition of the Rolex Submariner saw much success and remained in production until the late 1980s. Several changes were made to its dial, including the font type and the size of the luminous plots, making it an exciting watch to pursue and collect.
The next major upgrade came in the 1960s with the ref. 1680. This beloved vintage Submariner was the first to feature a date display. Early variations of the ref. 1680 also can feature the Submariner name in red just above the depth rating, earning it the nickname “Red Submariner” among collectors. In the 1980s, the depth rating was increased to 300 meters with the introduction of the transitional ref. 16800 and all this time, black remained the only color option available for the stainless steel models.
Black Dial with White Gold Hour Markers
The ref. 16800 originally kept the same matte dial as its predecessors; however, it was updated to a gloss dial with white gold surrounds for the hour markers, and this continued over onto the ref. 168000 that followed. Next came what many consider to be the first “modern” Submariner, the ref. 16610. The dial which featured luminous hour markers with white gold surrounds was carried over from the previous generation, giving the ref. 16610 a more contemporary feel and a slightly more luxurious aesthetic than vintage Submariner references.
The Kermit ref. 16610LV, with its stunning green aluminum bezel insert, was introduced to celebrate the collection’s 50th anniversary and is the first instance of the modern Maxi dial, which appears throughout the 6-digit ceramic bezel generations that remains in production today. We would be remiss if we didn’t also mention the iconic “No Date” Submariner ref. 14060, which is distinguished by a date-free black dial. Many collectors seek the black dial No Date for its clean, symmetrical aesthetic that more closely resembles earlier-model Rolex Submariner watches. This edition was replaced in 2012 with the “Cerachrom” ceramic bezel version (ref. 114060), which also notably includes a modern black Maxi dial.
This brings us to the previous generation of the Submariner, the ref. 116610 with a black dial and bezel. This dial is known for its powerful Chromalight display, larger Maxi hour markers in white gold surrounds, and date aperture prominently displayed at the 3-hour marker. In 2020, Rolex released two new black dial Submariner models, the dial no-date Submariner ref. 124060 and the date Submariner ref. 126610LN, which both feature 41mm cases, luminescent Chromalight displays, and the classic simple shape hour markers (triangles, circles, rectangles) outlined in white gold. The only real difference between these dials are the date, which is featured at the 3-o’clock hour marker on the Submariner Date.