Rolex "Red" Submariner

Rolex "Red" Submariner

It’s interesting when something that first saw life as a tool--something to be used hard and then discarded--becomes something collectible. 

That’s the story with Rolex, in particular their Submariner line. From the 1950s to 1970s the manufacture produced bulletproof tool watches meant to withstand enormous pressure, whether at altitude or in the deepest depths of the ocean, and rigorous use in some of the most punishing environments imaginable. They were meant to dive, and dive deep; to be worn, and worn hard; and for many they were a budget-conscious choice, less expensive than a dive watch produced by Blancpain or Omega. 

But there's an undeniable desirability around the Submariner that lends itself very well to collecting.

The attention revolves around models of Submariner that have small changes that set them apart from the rest. Rolex changed the design language of the Submariner subtly over the years, most notably when it introduced the Reference 1680 in the late 1960s, which saw the addition of a date window. And some very early examples of the Reference 1680 have one single, tiny line of color on the matte dials that make those examples not just collectible, but downright desirable--even lusted after.

Even the name "Red Submariner" or "Red Sub" can cause collectors to salivate like Pavlov's dog. 

From the late 1960s (roughly 1969) to the late 1970s, the word Submariner was printed in red. Seven different dial variations of "red Submariner" exist, being dubbed by collectors as "Mark I" through "Mark VIII." Generally, these examples vary in the smallest of ways, like the size of the coronet at 12 o'clock, or the length of the 'e' in "Rolex," but all of them are alike in that they have that one splash of red--the model name--just under the post.  

In the late 1970s, Rolex began phasing out the red printing, a process that was done gradually from market to market, replacing them with dials that had all-white printing. Additionally, since these were meant to be tool watches, many were worn by divers or servicemen, beaten up, and then sent to the manufacture for repair. That repair process, guided by the Swiss standards of perfection, often led to the original 'Red Sub' dials being swapped for service dials, which had the model name printed in white. As a result, surviving examples are rare.

It's the Red Sub, in many collectors' opinions, that separates the rookies from the big leagues. Though this one has been worn--and though the case shows traces of light but careful polishing, and despite the bezel might be a service replacement--it has survived blessedly intact. The dial, in particular, is sun-kissed, showing signs of years worn outdoors, and promises to survive many more. 

Sticklers and hard-nosed collectors spend hours pouring over vintage Rolexes, sifting through the fingerprints of wear, service and 'proper' aging in ways that would make proud Sherlock Holmes.  For many of those sleuths, the watch as a whole is never fully considered, the proverbial trees never giving way to the forest.  This example, with its honest aging and the hallmarks of purposeful use (only watches that are used, and used as intended, require service and maintenance), offers the budding collector an excellent opportunity to own and enjoy a slightly more rare (and coveted) vintage Submariner.  


SKU: AS01939

Stainless steel Oyster case is approximately 40mm (excluding crown). Rolex Submariner Reference 1680. Rolex Calibre 1575 Self-Winding Movement. Circa late 1960s-1970s.

Overall Condition: Stainless steel Oyster case is in very good condition, showing signs of light but careful polishing. Case does show traces of use and wear, particularly on the sides of the case. Bezel insert looks to be a later service replacement. Dial is in very good condition with crisp printing and no signs of major discoloration or hand drag. Matte black dial does show signs of age, particularly to the luminescent elements of the hour markers and hands. Rolex Triplock crown. Rolex case back has some signs of use and wear but is in otherwise very good condition.

Includes one 20mm Rolex 9315 bracelet with 380 end links. Bracelet shows some signs of stretching due to age and wear and signs of use throughout, but is in otherwise very good condition.

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