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Characteristics of the Reference 1680 Red Submariner

November 11, 2017

BY Paul Altieri


While it is not the oldest or most rare iteration of the Submariner that Rolex has ever produced, the reference 1680 Red Submariner is certainly one of the most easily recognizable vintage references and is frequently considered an entry point into serious vintage Rolex collecting. Occupying an important place within the history of Rolex’s legendary dive watch, the reference 1680 Red Submariner possesses a number of defining characteristics that help distinguish it from other Submariner references and make it a highly sought-after prize for collectors.

1680 Red Submariner

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1680 Red Submariner: Matte Dial with Submariner Name in Red

The focal point of any watch is its dial, and for the Red Submariner ref. 1680, the dial is the most defining characteristic of the entire watch. Unlike the later-era examples of the reference 1680 Submariner that received matte black dials with all-white text, early production runs of the reference 1680 received dials that featured the Submariner name printed in red.

The cosmetic difference between a reference 1680 Red Submariner and a later-era reference 1680 with all-white text is relatively minor. However, since every subsequent rendition of the Submariner has been fitted with an entirely black and white dial, the bright red color of the Submariner name instantly stands out against the monochromatic color profile of the watch, and immediately identifies the Red Submariner as an early iteration of the legendary reference 1680.

1680 Red Submariner

This Red Submariner has a matte black dial.

The First Submariner to Feature a Date Complication

The reference 1680 was the first Submariner to ever be manufactured with a date complication – a feature that has now become nearly ubiquitous among Rolex’s various dive watches. Although the first Rolex Submariner references displayed nothing more than the time of day, the reference 1680 marks a turning point in the Submariner’s history where Rolex’s iconic dive watch started to take its contemporary form. As the Red Submariner represents the earliest iteration of the reference 1680, it can be considered the first Submariner to ever feature a date complication.

1680 Red Submariner

The 1680 Red Submariner features a date function.

Acrylic Crystal with Cyclops Magnification Lens

To accompany the addition of the date display at the 3 o’clock location, Rolex added their Cyclops magnification lens to the crystal of the reference 1680. At the time of its release, Rolex was still manufacturing their crystals from acrylic, and so the reference 1680 received a plastic crystal with a Cyclops magnification lens on its surface. All subsequent date displaying, Submariner references (beginning with the reference 16800) left the Rolex factory with flat crystals made from synthetic sapphire, making the reference 1680 truly unique, as the only date-displaying Submariner to ever been fitted with an acrylic crystal.

1680 Red Submariner

The 1680 Red Submariner also has a cyclops.

Fat Font Bezel Insert

When the reference 1680 Submariner was initially released, it originally left the Rolex factory with bezel inserts that featured a slightly thicker font than those found on later-era releases of the reference 1680. These bezels, which we now refer to as “fat font” inserts, were prone to fading and discoloration over time, and were frequently replaced with newer, “thin font” inserts by Rolex Service Centers when Red Submariner watches came in for repairs and regularly scheduled maintenance.

1680 Red Submariner

Overall the 1680 Red Submariner is a respected watch in the vintage community.



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