Tropical Dial 1680 Rolex ‘Red’ Submariner

There are more valuable, complicated, and elegant watches. But there are few watches that optimize for beauty and dependability on the level of a 1680 Red Sub. It’s the sled-dog Siberian Husky of watches. The only way you can make one more beautiful is to wear it often out in the world, and then it might just start to look like this. This a lovely tropical dial, one of the greatest characters a vintage Rolex dial can exhibit. In talking to a collector last week, I heard a beautiful turn of phrase. He described a tropical dial as something that, ‘Breathes with time.’ This dial must be winded.

We are a peculiar sort, but it really is remarkable just how distinct a 1680 can seem from a 5513 simply because of one red line of text. The 1680 was not Rolex’s first Sub with a red line of text (that was probably the 6536/8), but it was the most widely-distributed watch to do so. It was, however, definitively Rolex’s first Sub to introduce a date complication to the Sub line, which was distinct amongst its competitors. The red line of text was only available for the first half of 1680 production. This example is a Mk3 dial, characterized by its meters first depth rating and a few font serifs, etc. Although it is highly collected, this reference is not particularly rare. But Mk2 and Mk3 dials have shown a proclivity to turn chocolate more frequently than the rest, and rather evenly too. 

All of which brings me to this: a dial as worn-in as my boots and, likewise, better looking for it. This is a Sub with all the adjectives: tropical, meters first, and red. It’s not a hype watch, it doesn’t even have any bioceramic. It’s just a date Sub that someone like me owned for a few decades. The entire appeal of this particular Sub is in the life it has lived previously, and I quite like that. Despite this, somehow the bright red is never lost. This gets more beautiful the more you wear it. The same cannot be said of a Maxi case, highly polished, ceramic bezel 116610. It is a watch that is even better than what Rolex could’ve tried to create, and nothing like it will exist again. I like to be an optimist when it comes to the future, but, at least in Submariners, the past was inarguably better.


This example is sporting a buttery chocolate dial with an even tone at maybe 80% milk content. That’s lovely. All serifs and spacings are right for a Mk3. Its case has been lightly polished but still sports proud bevels and even lugs, dating to 1970. The bezel is surprisngly black given the dial, but this can occasionally happen. It is on a 9315 folding clasp bracelet. It comes from a well-regarded Genevan retailer.