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Vintage Rolex Submariner 1680 Sports Model

Paul Altieri

A look at the Red Submariner ref 1680 and beyond

We continue our multi-part series about key vintage sports models with a look at the very popular vintage Rolex Submariner ref. 1680.

Making its debut in the late 1960s, the ref. 1680 was the first Submariner to include a date function and thus, a Cyclops lens too. Because of the new date function, the automatic movement had to be new too. The new Caliber 1575 automatic movement was essentially the Caliber 1570 modified to include the date wheel. Another interesting detail to note on the ref. 1680 is the plexiglass protecting the face of the watch isn’t domed but rather raised and quite sharp.

Red Submariner ref 1680
The Rolex Submariner is a popular watch, always in demand.

Production of the Rolex Submariner ref. 1680 ran until the late 1970s/early 1980s, therefore, it underwent several dial variations. The Red Subs have dials are classified as Mark I – Mark VI, where each dial variation includes small differences. The differences may be small to the untrained eye, but it’s precisely these minute differences that excite vintage Rolex timepieces for collectors.

The Rolex Ref. 1680 Red Submariners

Rolex Red Submariner ref. 1680
The Red Submariner ref. 1680 has a few different variations.

The earliest models of the Rolex Submariner 1680 included red text on the dial, hence their nickname—Red Submariners. The Mark I – Mark VI dials include red text, while Mark VII and Mark VIII dials have white writing. In addition to the differences in font color, the variations of the Submariner ref. 1680.

Mark I – Red SUBMARINER text. Meters first, then feet. Closed 6.

Mark II & III (these dial variations are normally grouped together due to their similarities)  Red SUBMARINER text. Meters first, then feet. Open 6.

Mark IV – Red SUBMARINER text. Feet first, then Meters. Open 6.

Mark V – Red SUBMARINER text. Feet first, then Meters. Slightly open 6.

Mark VI – Red SUBMARINER text. Feet first, then Meters. Closed 6.

The Rolex Ref. 1680 White Submariners

Red Submariner ref 1680
A Great White Submariner ref. 1680 without a single line of red text.

The red texts on the Submariner ref. 1680 were eventually replaced with white text in the mid-1970s, and as its Red Sub sibling, there are also dial variations including open or closed 6s. Along with the white writing came the Triplock winding crown to replaced the preceding Twinlock one. However, this didn’t change the depth rating as the water resistance of the ref. 1680 continued to be 660 feet (200 meters).

The Gold Rolex Submariners ref. 1680/3

Rolex ref. 1680/3
Rolex Gold Submariner ref. 1680/3 is a more luxurious version of the typical Submariner.

The ref. 1680 is also the first time Rolex introduced a gold variant to the Submariner line with the ref. 1680/3. Consequently, this move presented a more luxurious version of the Submariner rather than a strictly utilitarian one. Two different versions of the 18k gold Submariner ref. 1680/3 were available—one with a black dial and black bezel configuration and one with a blue dial and blue bezel configuration. They each had the “nipple dial” characterized by gold cone-shaped hour markers rather than the luminous indexes on the steel models.

Whether looking at the red, white, or gold versions, the Submariner ref. 1680 is an incredibly important vintage Rolex sports model. Its introduction brought along so many elements that are still present in modern Submariner models today. As such a crucial reference, the Sub 1680 will remain as one of the most popular and collectible vintage Rolex references.

Paul Altieri
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