Rolex Submariner Date
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Rolex Submariner Date

After 101 grueling days and 4,300 nautical miles, Thor Heyerdahl and his crew sailed their rickety wooden craft into a reef on the shores of Raroia, one of the Tuamotu Islands, completing one of the most historic and controversial crossings of the Pacific Ocean.

Heyerdahl had set out in 1947 to prove his theory that Polynesia was settled from east to west, by mariners who drifted from island to island on the currents. Although Heyerdahl’s theory does not hold water among anthropologists, and was roundly criticized by his contemporaries, his book on the voyage—and later documentary film—garnered a tremendous public following. Heyerdahl followed up that voyage with an expedition to Easter Island (Rapa Nui) in 1955, and once again, his follow-up book—Aku-Aku—was an international best-seller.

Next, Heyerdahl turned his sights to the Atlantic. If, he theorized, the Pacific could be crossed in a balsa wood raft, then why couldn’t the Atlantic be crossed in a boat made of reeds? After all, the Phoenicians had used similar boats to conquer the Mediterranean, as had the Egyptians, and those who lived on the shores of Lake Titicaca relied on reed boats to catch the fish that made up their diet.

Moreover, whether in Egypt or in South America, pyramids or pyramid-like structures had been built. The civilizations who had built them—Olmecs, Aztecs, Incas, as well as the ancient Egyptians—used similar calendars, which all started in 3000BC. To Heyerdahl, this could not have been mere coincidence: the ideas must have been communicated in person, by mariners who sailed across the Atlantic… in reed boats.

In 1969, Heyerdahl constructed a boat of papyrus reed and named it Ra, after the Egyptian sun god. He selected a crew of six men, all from different countries: Egypt, Chad, Mexico, Italy, the USSR, the U.S., and Norway—represented by Heyerdahl himself. However, of the crew, only Heyerdahl and the American, Norman Baker, had sailing experience.

Ra set out from Morocco… and almost immediately began taking on water. It seems that in construction, the boat makers missed an integral component of the original Egyptian boats upon which Ra had been based: a tether that kept the stern high in the water. The boat broke apart after 4000 miles, and Heyerdahl and his crew abandoned ship and were rescued by a yacht.

Undaunted, Heyerdahl commissioned another boat—this time from shipwrights in Bolivia. Christening her Ra II, Heyerdahl sailed once more from Morocco. Although the boat became lost and was saved by a U.N. search and rescue mission, Heyerdahl and his crew did ultimately reach Barbados, proving that mariners could have crossed the Atlantic on the Canary Current.

On his wrist throughout the whole ordeal was this watch, a Rolex Submariner Date, Reference 1680. 

Although the Reference 1680 (first released in 1966, three years before Ra set sail) was the first Submariner to feature a date, this feature did nothing to detract from the watch’s rugged nature. Divers, both military and professional, relied on the Reference 1680 when doing their jobs. For an aquatic explorer like Heyerdahl, the 1680 was the perfect choice.

This particular Reference 1680 dates from the late 1970s and features a lovely dial with just the right amount of patina to the hour markers. It's been very well taken-care of. More than that, it's been loved—as great a testament as any to the wearability of this watch.

Putting the utility of a date on a dive watch aside, there's something to be said for a watch with a date function, particularly if you intend to wear it daily. This is is a superb example of an infinitely wearable vintage Submariner, combining the tremendous appearance of the early matte dials with the added functionality of a date display. We can think of no better companion for daily life. 

Details

SKU: AS02423

Stainless steel Oyster case is approximately 39mm (excluding crown). Reference 1680. Circa 1977.

Overall Condition: Case is in very good condition overall with some signs of polishing. Dial is in very good condition with patina to the luminescent elements of the hour markers. Hands have been professionally color-matched. Trip-lock crown.

Includes one 20mm light brown leather strap.

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