Rolex changed the 1680 sub over to the 16800 in 1980. As usual, the changes were subtle. The bezel became racheted and uni-directinal, the crystal went sapphire, a slimmer case was introduced with a 100m deeper rating, and quick-set date function was added to a higher-beat movement. Okay, maybe the changes weren’t so subtle. Here’s what that all adds up to: a Sub that you can mildly abuse, use on the daily without acrylic worry, and set quickly. It’s the one to actually wear daily. One of few references which can pair that practicality with the lovely pumpkin tritium tones we see here.
Early examples kept a matte dial with no white gold surrounds on the lume plots. This is analogous to the 5513 era evolution, just with a date. In my view, this is the perfect balance between vintage aesthetic and a touch of modernity. An upgraded movement, quick set date, and sapphire are enough to resist the abuse of daily wear. The matte dial with the beautiful aged tritium plots is enough to keep you looking at it lovingly every few minutes. There are a few dial variations, the serial number and dial configuration mark this out as the earliest Mk1. You can dig in to all the variations here.
This example is used, for sure. But that’s a good thing in my eye. The case is full with strong lugs. Its bezel has gone charcoal with sun. The dial is a light fade with these lovely pumpkin plots. Those tones are matched in the handset, which is quite even with full plots retained. There are a few small cracks in the hand plots worth noting, but nothing bad.
Find this 16800 here from Bulang & Sons for 13750 USD.