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Purpose-built watches have captured the minds and hearts of collectors for decades. Many have found an enduring place in the pantheon of classic designs. The Rolex Submariner, for instance has attained a kind of holy reverence, with special fervor reserved for the matte dial variants of the 1960s to 1970s.
However, increased demand for watches from the 1960s through 1970s has put a strain on the vintage marketplace and created a paucity of worthwhile examples for public consumption. As much as collectors tout the importance of “originality” and provenance, the fact is that these days it’s getting harder and harder to find untouched watches from that era. And time capsules—completely untouched watches with boxes and papers—are becoming as elusive as unicorns.
Meanwhile, Rolex produced Submariners throughout the 1980s and 1990s that may have small differences that distinguish them from their predecessors, but still maintain the care and quality that we’ve come to associate with Rolex. True, the crystals may be sapphire, and the dates may be quickset, and the dials might sometimes be glossy. But the indices are coated in the same tritium that gives matte dial Subs from the 1960s and 1970s (the “golden era” of vintage Rolex) that same creamy hue.
Most importantly, these watches are now twenty to thirty years old. This is the new era of vintage. When compared to their predecessors (that can often net upwards of $10,000 for solid examples), they offer a value proposition that is hard to ignore.
From its inception, the Rolex Submariner was intended to be a robust tool watch, and the models produced from the 1980s to today retain the robust spirit of their ancestors. The clean black dial with its symmetrical hour plots was the hallmark of sub-aquatic form-meets-function design, able to be read in the murky depths. From 1954 to 1966, the model didn’t bear a date.
However, that all changed when Rolex released the Reference 1680 in 1966. For the first time, a dive watch from the revered manufacture was equipped with a date function. This change was remarkably divisive because, according the diehards, a date on a dive watch is as useless as a screen door on a submarine.
But on the whole, the 1680 was a worthy successor to the Submariners of yore. The movement (new and improved) was robust, capable of withstanding shock, dust, and meters of crushing water pressure. But most of all it was versatile, capable of accompanying the wearer through any walk of his or her life.
The inclusion of a date function was an invitation to Rolex buyers to wear their watches longer and in a greater variety of environments, effectively turning a simple dive watch into a timepiece capable of everyday wear.
In the early 1980s, Rolex improved upon the 1680 by releasing the Reference 16800. This Submariner was fitted with a uni-directional ratcheting bezel, a sapphire crystal with a lower profile than the crystal on the 1680, and a quick-set date function. Despite the more refined, streamlined appearance of the 16800, it was rated to 300m, versus the 200m depth rating of the 1680.
With its white gold surrounds and glossy dial, the Reference 16800 launched Rolex into the luxury realm. Now, the Submariner could transition seamlessly from casual wear to the board room with only a change of clothes. These changes dressed up the Submariner and made wearing a Submariner with business attire more acceptable, giving the model a versatility that it had never before had.
Stainless steel Oyster case is approximately 39mm (excluding crown). Rolex Reference 16800. Rolex Caliber 3035 Self-Winding Movement. Circa 1980s.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in very strong condition with sharp, fat bevels on the lugs and no signs of over-polishing. Case does have minor signs of use and wear in keeping with its age. Rotating bezel is in very good condition with crisp printing and minimum signs of use and age, particularly to the luminescent pip at 12 o'clock. Dial is likewise in excellent condition with fine even patina to the luminescent elements of the hour markers and hands. Rolex crown. Rolex case back has minor signs of use and wear consistent with age and use.
Includes one 20mm 93150/593 Oyster bracelet. Bracelet has minor signs of use and wear in keeping with its age.