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ROLEX BLOG

Vintage Rolex Sports Models – 5 Important Models

May 6, 2021

BY Paul Altieri

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Vintage Rolex watches are among the most desirable and collectible in the entire world. However, not all vintage Rolex watches are created equal, and there are a few models that seem to consistently be near the top of every collector’s wish list.

By their definition, these vintage watches are no longer in production and the total number in existence will always be decreasing. Additionally, many vintage Rolex watches can be found with a range of variations, and it is often the case that two examples of the same reference will likely have slightly different dials, hands, bezels, and cases. Below, we’re taking a closer look at the history, significance, and defining features of five important vintage Rolex sports models – the Rolex GMT-Master 1675, Submariner 5512, Submariner Date 1680, Daytona 6262, and the ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona 6239.

Click here for a closer look at some of the most affordable vintage Rolex watches.

Vintage Rolex Watch

1. Rolex Submariner Date Reference 1680

Vintage Rolex Submariner 1680 Red Sub

Submariner 1680 Key Features:

– Production Years: 1969 – 1980 (approx)

– Case Diameter: 40mm

– Materials: Stainless Steel; 18k Yellow Gold

– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display

– Dial: Black or Blue w/ Luminous Hour Markers

– Bezel: Bidirectional, Black Aluminum Insert w/ 60-Minute Scale

– Crystal: Acrylic (Box Shaped w/ Cyclops Lens)

– Movement: Rolex Caliber 1575

– Water Resistance: 200 Meters / 660 Feet

– Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet

– Price Range: $12,000 – $628,572 (Unique White Gold Prototype)

The vintage Rolex Submariner Date ref. 1680 made its debut in 1969 and was available until about 1979. The ref. 1680 is particularly important in Rolex Submariner history, as it was the first to offer a date window – a major turning point in the collection’s history. One of the most notable features of the ref. 1680 is only found on early examples – the ‘Submariner’ name appears in red letters rather than all-white text. Due to the rarity of these so-called ‘Red Sub’ watches, they are now highly sought out by collectors.

While collectors typically clamor over the opportunity to own a ‘Red Sub’ from the first half of the model’s production, the entire reference 1680 range is incredibly collectible due to all of its various dial variations over the years. In fact, there were so many dials made during its run that collectors named all of them to help distinguish them (Mark I through Mark VII). There’s even sub-category ‘Marks’ for the Mark VII and VIII to help further distinguish the white-text examples of these Submariner watches.

2. Rolex GMT-Master Reference 1675

Vintage Rolex GMT-Master 1675 Pepsi Jubilee

GMT-Master 1675 Key Features:

– Production Years: 1959 – 1980 (approx.)

– Case Diameter: 40mm

– Materials: Stainless Steel; Yellow Gold; Rolesor (two-tone steel and gold)

– Functions: Time w/ Running seconds, Date Display, GMT Functionality

– Dial: Black or Brown w/ Luminous Hour Markers

– Bezel: Bidirectional, Aluminum Insert w/ 24-Hour Scale

– Bezel Colors: Blue/Red (“Pepsi”); Brown/Yellow (“Root Beer”); Brown; Black

– Crystal: Acrylic (Box Shaped w/ Cyclops Lens)

– Movement: Rolex Caliber 1565 or Caliber 1575

– Water Resistance: 50 Meters / 165 Feet

– Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet; Jubilee Bracelet; Leather Strap

– Price Range: $12,000 to $1.95 Million (Marlon Brando’s ref. 1675)

The vintage Rolex GMT-Master 1675 was one of the collection’s longest-running models of all time – manufactured for more than two decades from approximately 1959 to 1980. Naturally, during that long 21-year run, several modifications and updates were made to the ref. 1675, including some that are still present on contemporary GMT-Master II models.

When the reference 1675 replaced the original GMT-Master ref. 6542, Rolex’s pilot’s watch got serious upgrades like a larger 40mm case, crown guards, and an updated bezel with an aluminum insert. Throughout the years, several important updates were made to the ref. 1675 including crown guard shape changes, dial redesigns, movement improvements, and new bezel colorways. Because of all these improvements and iterations over the years, the GMT-Master ref. 1675 is one of the most collectible vintage Rolex sports watches and examples occupy a wide range of variations.

3. Rolex Submariner Reference 5512

Vintage Rolex Submariner 5512 Matte Dial

Submariner 5512 Key Features:

– Production Years: 1959 – 1979 (approx.)

– Case Diameter: 40mm

– Materials: Stainless Steel

– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds

– Dial: Black w/ Luminous Hour Markers

– Bezel: Bidirectional, Black Aluminum Insert w/ 60-Minute Scale

– Crystal: Acrylic (Domed)

– Movement: Rolex Caliber 1530, Caliber 1560, or Caliber 1570

– Water Resistance: 200 Meters / 660 Feet

– Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet

– Price Range: $17,000 – $234,000 (Steve McQueen’s ref. 5512)

The vintage Rolex Submariner 5512 is a no-date Submariner that was manufactured for approximately 20-years from 1959 until 1979. The introduction of the ref. 5512 is especially noteworthy for introducing crown guards and a larger 40mm case to the Submariner collection. Early crown guards of the reference 5512 were square-shaped, but these turned out to restrict access to the crown too much, causing Rolex to eventually modify them. Additionally, unlike the reference 5513, most Submariner 5512 watches have four lines of text on their dials due to having COSC certified movements.

Depending on the year of production, there are three distinct types of crown guards found on the Submariner ref. 5512. The square shape of the guards on the very first wave of the Submariner 5512. Rolex then switched to pointed crown guards, and then finally to a more rounded shape. Because there are so few of the square crown guards, these ref. 5512 watches tend to trade hands for significantly higher prices that can reach into the six-figure territory.

4. Rolex Daytona Reference 6262

Vintage Rolex Daytona 6262 Black Dial

Daytona 6262 Key Features:

– Production Years: 1970 – 1971 (approx.)

– Case Diameter: 37mm

– Materials: Stainless Steel or Yellow Gold

– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, 12-Hour Chronograph

– Dial: Black; Silver; Champagne; or Exotic ‘Paul Newman’

– Bezel: Fixed, Stainless Steel or Yellow Gold w/ Tachymeter Scale

– Crystal: Acrylic (Box Shaped)

– Movement: Valjoux 727

– Water Resistance: Pump-style Pushers (Limited Water Resistance)

– Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet; Jubilee Bracelet; Leather Strap

– Price Range: $60,000 – $475,630 (Yellow Gold 6262)

Considered a transitional model and only manufactured for a very short period of time, the Rolex Daytona 6262 chronograph is one of the rarest vintage Daytona references. Rolex only made the ref, 6262 for about one year in 1970, so its availability in today’s vintage market is incredibly sparse. Launched after the ref. 6239, the reference 6262 has the upgraded Valjoux 727 movement but is aesthetically similar to the reference 6239 and also features pump-style pushers and a metal tachymeter bezel.

The Rolex Daytona reference 6262 is also interesting due to all its dial variations given its incredibly short production period. Like the ref. 6239, the reference 6262 was available with either black or silver dials, along with exotic ‘Paul Newman’ dials, and the yellow gold editions were also available with champagne-colored dials. Racing legend Bobby Unser even wore a reference 6262 Daytona fitted with a black dial. The vintage Rolex Daytona 6262 is an incredibly fun reference to hunt down (albeit, rather difficult). However, if you do manage to get your hands on one, it’s a piece you’ll cherish forever knowing just how few are out there.

5. Rolex ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona Reference 6239

Vintage Rolex Paul Newman Daytona 6239

Paul Newman Daytona 6239 Key Features:

– Production Years: 1963 – 1970 (approx.)

– Case Diameter: 37mm

– Materials: Stainless Steel or Yellow Gold

– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, 12-Hour Chronograph

– Dial: Exotic ‘Paul Newman’ (Black; White; Champagne)

– Bezel: Fixed; Stainless Steel or Yellow Gold w/ Tachymeter Scale

– Crystal: Acrylic (Box Shaped)

– Movement: Valjoux 722

– Water Resistance: Pump-style Pushers (Limited Water Resistance)

– Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet; Jubilee Bracelet; Leather Strap

– Price Range: $60,000 – $17.8 million (Paul Newman’s 6239)

In the 1960s, Rolex offered special Art Deco-inspired dials classified as “exotic dials” for its Daytona chronograph. At first, these dials were incredibly unpopular and some owners even went so far as to have them replaced with standard dials during routine repairs or servicing. Hollywood actor and racing legend owned one of these exotic dial Daytona watches and once the link between Paul Newman and these exotic dial Daytona watches was established, their popularity started to climb. Today, the ‘Paul Newman Daytona’ is easily the most coveted vintage Rolex watch money can buy.

Incredibly rare and popular, these Art Deco style dials set the Paul Newman apart from any other Rolex Daytona. So what do you look out for? Those beautiful Art Deco numerals on the chronograph registers. Stainless steel examples of the reference 6239 Paul Newman Daytona have either a black dial with white registers or a white dial with black registers, although the specific example worn by Paul Newman was a ref. 6239 with a white dial that he famously wore on a leather strap.

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One Response to “Vintage Rolex Sports Models – 5 Important Models”

  1. Scott says:

    I have worn a 1680 since I bought it new in 1981. I was in the Navy and all my fellows had Rolex watches, Subs and my CPO said it was what we did, so I bought one.

    It’s my most cherished possession and is worn daily. It’s only been opened up twice and the bracelet repaired once. What else can you own for forty years, use daily and is worth a few dollars more that you paid for it.

    My only question is who gets it when I’m gone……

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