While the Rolex Submariner itself was first introduced in 1953, it didn’t actually gain a date display until almost a decade and a half later in 1967 with the launch of the reference 1680. Since then, the Rolex Submariner Date has become a constant presence in the brand’s catalog and it has expanded to the point where it is now available in different colors and even precious metal configurations. Rolex still produces a version of the Submariner Date that is crafted from stainless steel and fitted with a classic black dial and matching black bezel insert, although the model that Rolex produces today is quite a bit different than the first version that debuted more than half a century ago.
Below we are going over a complete comparison between the vintage and modern Rolex Submariner Date watches, and highlighting the key differences between them, and the way this classic date-displaying dive watch has evolved over the years.
Vintage Rolex Submariner Date 1680
Submariner Reference 1680 Key Features
- Year of Introduction: 1967
- Reference Number: 1680
- Case Size: 40mm
- Materials: Stainless Steel
- Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display (Non-Quickset), Rotating Timing Bezel
- Bezel: Bidirectional, Black Aluminum Insert w/ 60-Minute Scale
- Dial: Black w/ Luminous Markers (Matte Style)
- Luminous Material: Tritium
- Crystal: Acrylic (Box Shaped w/ Cyclops Lens)
- Movement: Rolex Caliber 1575 Automatic Movement
- Water Resistance: 200 Meters / 660 Feet
- Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet
- Clasp: Latching Fold-Over Clasp w/ Fold-Out Extension
Modern Rolex Submariner Date 126610LN
Submariner Reference 126610LN Key Features
- Year of Introduction: 2020
- Reference Number: 126610LN
- Case Size: 41mm
- Materials: Oystersteel (904L Stainless Steel)
- Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display (Quickset), Rotating Timing Bezel
- Bezel: Unidirectional, Black Cerachrom Insert w/ 60-Minute Scale
- Dial: Black w/ Luminous Markers (Maxi Style)
- Luminous Material: Chromalight
- Crystal: Sapphire (Flat w/ Cyclops Lens)
- Movement: Rolex Caliber 3235 Automatic Movement
- Water Resistance: 300 Meters / 1,060 Feet
- Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet
- Clasp: Oysterlock Safety Clasp w/ Glidelock Extension
External Case Differences: Modern vs. Vintage Submariner Date
Arguably the single most noticeable way that the Rolex Submariner has changed from the vintage reference 1680 to the modern reference 126610LN is in regards to its case. While the official case diameter has only grown a single millimeter from 40mm to 41mm, the case proportions have dramatically changed, and the modern version includes thicker lugs and crown guards. Additionally, while the lugs on the vintage Submariner 1680 feature their springbar holes drilled completely through them (known as a “holes case” among collectors), the outer flanks of the lugs on the modern Submariner 126610LN are completely smooth (referred to as a “no-holes case”).
On top of that, while both models are ultimately made from stainless steel, the new modern Submariner Date is crafted from Oystersteel, which is Rolex’s own blend of 904L stainless steel that it produced from within its own in-house foundry. Lastly, while the crystal fitted to the vintage ref. 1680 is made from acrylic in a thick box-shaped structure known as a “top hat” crystal, the crystal fitted to the modern ref. 126610LN is flat and made from scratch-resistant synthetic sapphire, just like the rest of Rolex’s contemporary watches.
Bezel Differences: Submariner Date Watches
While both the vintage Submariner Date 1680 and the modern Submariner Date 126610LN feature rotating timing bezels with serrated edges and black 60-minute inserts, that is more or less where the similarities end. The bezel fitted to the ref. 1680 is friction-fitted and rotates smoothly with bidirectional motion, while the bezel on the modern ref. 126610LN features a 120-click ratcheting motion and will only move counterclockwise as a safety feature for scuba divers.
Additionally, the actual material used for the black bezel inserts has changed. While the vintage Submariner Date 1680 has an insert made from anodized aluminum, the modern Submariner Date 126620LN has its insert crafted from Cerachrom, which is Rolex’s proprietary ceramic material that is impervious to the fading effects of UV rays and near-impossible to scratch under normal circumstances.
Matte vs. Maxi Dials: Rolex Submariner Date Watches
The dials fitted to both the vintage and modern versions of the Rolex Submariner Date are black in color with geometric-shaped luminous hour markers. However, the dials found inside the vintage ref. 1680 are matte black and have their luminous hour markers painted directly onto their surface using tritium. Meanwhile, the dials fitted to the modern ref. 126610LN are known as “maxi” dials due to their larger indexes, and they feature gloss black surfaces with applied hour markers that are crafted from 18k white gold and filled with blue-glowing Chromalight.
Furthermore, although all of the dials fitted to the vintage Submariner Date 1680 are matte black in color, the text on them can slightly differ, and the very earliest examples that were produced up until the mid-1970s even feature their “Submariner” name red letters. By contrast, all of the dials fitted to the modern Submariner Date 126610LN are more-or-less identical, and the greatest update to accompany this latest generation of Submariner dial is the tiny Rolex logo placed below the 6 o’clock hour marker, which is absent from the maxi dials found on the previous generation of Submariner Date watches.
Internal Movements: Vintage Cal. 1575 vs. Modern Cal. 3235
Just like the rest of the watch, the internal movement powering the Rolex Submariner Date has slowly evolved over the years as new materials and technologies have become available. While both the vintage and modern versions of the Rolex Submariner Date feature self-winding, chronometer-certified movements that are produced in-house by Rolex, the actual designs and capabilities of the two movements are slightly different.
The vintage Rolex Submariner Date ref. 1680 is powered by the Caliber 1575 movement, which runs at a frequency of 19,800vph and offers users an approximate power reserve of 42 hours. Additionally, while the Rolex Cal. 1575 features an automatically changing date display, there is no Quickset functionality for the date, meaning that it cannot be adjusted independently of the time.
On the other hand, the movement powering the modern Rolex Submariner Date ref. 126610LN is the Caliber 3235, which is the latest generation of Rolex in-house movements. Based upon the brand’s Chronergy escapement and featuring Rolex’s proprietary blue Parachrom hairspring, the Cal. 3235 features both a Quickset date feature and offers users a longer power reserve of approximately 70 hours. Furthermore, while both movements are officially certified chronometers, the COSC standards for the Cal. 1575 guarantee -4/+6 seconds per day of timekeeping accuracy, while the Superlative Chronometer standards for the Cal. 3235 promise even tighter timekeeping tolerances of -2/+2 seconds per day, after casing.