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ROLEX BLOG

What is a Rolex Nipple Dial?

December 17, 2018

BY Eric Wind

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In the vintage Rolex community, there are some unique terms and names that come up often to describe certain design traits or particular watches. Take for example the “nipple dial”—a nickname coined by collectors and used today to describe a particular dial style. Read on to learn about the Rolex nipple dial and which Rolex watches you can find them on. It all started with the GMT-Master.

Rolex Nipple Dial

Vintage Root Beer Rolex GMT-Master

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What is a Rolex Nipple Dial?

The nipple dial is a specific dial style found on select vintage Rolex GMT-Master and vintage Submariner watches with slightly protruding hour markers made of precious metals. These applied round indexes are always crafted in yellow gold and are filled with luminescence for optimal legibility in low light.  

Sitting alongside the applied yellow gold round hour markers on the Rolex nipple dials are the familiar baton markers at 6 and 9 o’clock, in addition to the inverted triangular index at 12 o’clock. Mimicking the style of the round ones, these three indexes are also applied, yellow gold, and lume-filled. Depending on the watch, some nipple dials can be black, brown, or blue.

Vintage Rolex 2 Tone GMT Master

Vintage GMT-Masters can be found with nipple dials.

Where Are Rolex Nipple Dials Found?

Rolex no longer manufactures the nipple-style dial so you can only find it on a few vintage Rolex models in gold or in two-tone gold and steel.

For instance, when Rolex introduced the first GMT-Master in the mid-1950s, the yellow gold versions of the GMT-Master ref. 6542 came equipped with a brown nipple dial to match the brown Bakelite bezel and yellow gold case.

Other GMT-Master models that feature the Rolex nipple dial includes the yellow gold vintage GMT-Master ref. 1675/8, as well as the two-tone GMT-Master ref. 1675/3. The third generation of the GMT-Master came about in the early 1980s with the 1675x family of references. Interestingly, some yellow gold GMT-Master ref. 16758 and some two-tone GMT-Master 16753 watches still came with nipple dials while other housed dials with the flatter luminescent indexes with yellow gold surrounds.

In addition to vintage GMT-Master watches, there are also some vintage Submariner models that come fitted with nipple dials. In the late 1960s, Rolex unveiled the very first yellow gold Sub, the Submariner ref. 1680/8. Depending on the color of the bezel, the vintage yellow gold Submariner ref. 1680 can come with a matching black nipple dial or a matching blue nipple dial. In the late 1970s, Rolex launched the newest generation of the Submariner Date and the yellow gold Submariner ref. 16808 was again offered with either a black bezel and dial or blue bezel and dial combination, complete with nipple style dials.

Immediately recognizable thanks to its unique design, the Rolex nipple dial represents an important time in Rolex’s history when the brand’s tool watches took a turn to become luxurious sports watches, worn more so for status than for utility. Distinct, uncommon, and a historically significant part of the Rolex archives, vintage nipple dials are highly sought after in Rolex collecting circles.  

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