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.
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 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 shows a perfect vanilla-aged dial and matched intact (rare these days) bezel pearl. Seller notes a possible refinishing on the seconds hand which was left as it matches. That may be a problem for some, not for others. Original NOS hands are not difficult to source for 16800s, but you lose complete originality of the piece. It doesn’t look badly done, that’s about all the more I can say. Bracelet and end links are correct for this model which comes with box only. This in mind, it is priced fairly competitively within its market if you hit a quick search on Chrono24.
Find this Transitional Sub here from Watchworks for 10950 EUR.