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100% Certified Authentic

Bob's Watches
100% Certified Authentic

At Bob's Watches, your trust is very important to us. We believe that buying a pre-owned Rolex watch online should be simple, honest, and straightforward. To that end, we guarantee that every Rolex watch on our site is 100% authentic, comprised entirely of Rolex parts. Our mission is to be the leading trusted online source for selling and buying authentic pre-owned Rolex watches. We stand behind this authenticity guarantee with a full money back refund on any watch not found to be completely genuine.

BOB’S WATCHES

ROLEX BLOG

Rolex Submariner Date: Then and Now

January 28, 2020

BY Paul Altieri

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For the first 15-years or so of its life, the Rolex Submariner clung on steadfastly to its tool watch roots. Available only in stainless steel and with an exclusively black and white color scheme (the highest contrast for easy legibility underwater) its biggest early upheaval came with the necessary introduction of crown guards at the end of the 1950s. It was, by any measure, a robust, action-centric timepiece for professionals, good enough for the likes of the British Armed Forces (which adopted it as standard-issue), as well as their greatest fictional spokesperson, James Bond.

However, that sort of celebrity endorsement led to the Sub becoming massively popular, even amongst those for whom a tool watch wasn’t an absolute prerequisite for the job. Very quickly it started to be touted as a luxury dive watch, with more and more emphasis placed on the ‘luxury’ part. Its handsome versatility meant that it was as acceptable in the boardroom as it was on any aquatic adventure, and pretty soon there was a far greater number being worn with business suits than wetsuits. Recognizing this, Rolex set about adding one touch of extra convenience for their new audience, and in 1969 they issued the ref. 1680, the first Rolex Submariner with a date function.

Rolex Submariner 1680 Red Sub

The Rolex Submariner Date References

Although the ref. 1680 was another great success in a long line concerning the Rolex Submariner, some purists believed it marked the end of the model as purely a dive watch and the beginning of another role, as a status symbol. Many didn’t see the point of having a date display at all, and also decried the unbalancing effect it had on the dial, especially topped by the magnifying Cyclops lens fixed to the crystal. As a compromise, Rolex split the range in two and we have had, since that point, both date and no-date Submariner models.

Rolex Submariner Date Watches

There is, of course, evidence that the traditionalists were right. Although the early run ref. 1680 watches were still made of steel, the first solid yellow gold version appeared shortly thereafter. Called the ref. 1680/8, the precious metal was even used for the entire bracelet, which now had polished center links as opposed to the more workmanlike brushed finishing on previous references. Clearly no longer something that most people would dare risk on an actual dive, the watch was an undeniable sign of wealth and affluence.

A couple of years later in 1971, a new colorway made an entrance when Rolex issued the ref. 1680/8 with a bright blue bezel and dial to run alongside the conventional black version. Standing out even more in a crowd, the novel palette was another popular addition and has remained in the lineup ever since. The dials on the gold pieces also differed slightly, with the hour markers now raised conical shapes with a luminescent dot in the middle. Very much of their time, they have since become known as the ‘nipple dials’ by members of the vintage collecting world.

Rolex Submariner gold 1680

Submariner ref. 16800

In 1979, the ref. 16800 took to the stage. Sometimes overlooked as a pre-owned buy, it was actually one of the more important references in the Submariner’s run and introduced a host of features that we now take for granted. It was the first Sub to be waterproof to 300m, where the previous models had been safe to 200m max. It also debuted a sapphire crystal over the dial, replacing the former acrylic. The bezel became unidirectional after the patent for the device (held by Blancpain for the Fifty Fathoms) had expired. A unidirectional bezel is a vital safety feature in a dive watch because if it accidentally gets knocked, it will overestimate immersion time rather than underestimating it.

However, perhaps the biggest change came with the movement, which was updated to the Cal. 3035. That caliber brought the now-standard balance frequency of 28,800vph, an increase from the 19,800vph of the previous Cal. 1575. Again, the gold editions turned out to be highly sought after (the ref. 16808, both black and blue) and they were joined by another type in the mid-80s. The ref. 16803 was the first Rolesor Rolex Submariner, its bodywork and bracelet a combination of stainless steel and yellow gold. This was also the model that introduced the so-called Serti dials. Taken from the French word ‘sertir’, meaning ‘to set’, these dials were finished with gemstone hour markers, a mix of diamonds and sapphires against a champagne or rhodium face.

Rolex Submariner Date Watches

Submariner ref. 168000

A very short-lived reference, the ‘Triple Zero’ was only produced from mid-1988 to the end of 1989. The only real difference from the ref. 16800 was in the type of metal Rolex used. The ref. 168000 was the first Submariner to be given 904L steel, now employed catalog-wide across all Rolex watches in the brand’s current portfolio. Obviously rather difficult to come by, and virtually identical to the reference that replaced it, prices for these rare models are primed to start rising on the secondary market.

Rolex Submariner Evolution

Submariner ref. 16610

The ref. 16610 is commonly called ‘the last of the best’, as it is the final example to maintain an aluminum bezel insert and the classic shape of the watch. Launched in 1988, it also benefitted from another upgraded movement, the Cal. 3135, an engine built so well that it is still used in the contemporary Submariner watches that Rolex produces today. Yellow gold and Rolesor versions were released at the same time (the ref. 16618 and ref. 16613 respectively), again with an option of blue or black dials and bezels. 

However, this was the reference to take the model up to its half-century of production in 2003 and to celebrate, Rolex broke with tradition and launched the ref. 16610LV – a piece with an emerald green bezel insert, which quickly picked up the nickname the ‘Kermit’ among collectors and enthusiasts. Although causing a little turmoil at the time, the green bezel Rolex Submariner 16610 has since gone to become a real favorite among collectors.

Rolex Submariner Green Anniversary Edition Kermit LV

The Current Submariner ref. 116610

As if to underline the watch’s move away from its tool origins, it was actually the stainless steel Rolex Submariner that was released last among the current generation, following the 2008 unveiling of the yellow gold ref. 116619 and (another first) the solid white gold ref. 116618 – issued with exclusively a blue dial and bezel and picking up the unofficial moniker of the ‘Smurf’ due to its all blue and white color profile. The two-tone ref. 116613 followed in 2009 and then, finally, the stainless steel ref. 116610 emerged in 2010. All versions of this new generation of the Submariner received re-designed case proportions, and also featured ceramic bezel inserts made from Rolex’s proprietary Cerachrom material. 

Due to the adoption of Rolex’s new Super Case, all versions received a major overhaul in looks, something that hadn’t really happened to the Submariner for the last 50 years. A concession to all those who felt the traditional 40mm was too small for a modern sports watch, the thicker lugs and crown guards added significant bulk and presence, although the diameter remained the same on paper. The beefed-up profile was put to good use with the introduction of the Kermit’s replacement. The ref. 116610LV (standing for Lunette Verte) added a green dial along with the bezel and was swiftly dubbed the ‘Hulk’ by collectors.

Rolex Submariner Date Evolution

The date-displaying Rolex Submariner line presently contains seven different models, with four different metal configurations. As an illustration of the direction Rolex has moved, the no-date Submariner, the one that really started it way back in 1953 as the ultimate dive companion, has only one version – in all steel and with a black dial and bezel. However, while it may have been a good few years (or decades) since the last Rolex Submariner was bought with the sole aim of taking underwater, there is no doubt that it is still the world’s favorite sports watch.

The Submariner’s looks have been copied endlessly by just about every rival manufacturer out there, but never bettered. Many believe that the current version is due for another refresh, most probably with a new movement, but perhaps also taking the case back towards its former svelteness, now the craze for ever bigger watches is cooling down. Time will tell of course, but one thing remains certain: the Rolex Submariner will likely remain an iconc withing the watchmaking industry, just as it has for more than a half-century.

Ceramic Rolex Submariner Date Evolution 116610

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