Rolex "Red" Submariner

SKU AS02413
SKU AS02413

Why We Love it

While Submariners with blue or even green dials are a common enough sight in jewelry stores today, there was a time when that wasn’t the case. For decades the Submariner was a monotone affair, with white or gilt text on black dials. The only splashes of color often came with age: patina to the luminescent elements, in that perfect shade of pumpkin that collectors so love.

But in the late 1960s, Rolex made a tiny change to the Submariner that, forty years on, sends ripples through the vintage Rolex collector community.

We mean, of course, the single line of red on certain examples of the Reference 1680 Submariner, a watch which has gone down in history as the “Red Sub.”

For many collectors of vintage Rolex, you’re not worth your proverbial salt if you don’t count a “Red Sub” in your arsenal. But to go into the history of the “Red Sub” is to take a wider look at the history of the model as a whole and find this particular watch’s place in it. Why is it that, decades on, it has become so desirable?

When the Rolex Submariner was first produced, it was meant to be a tool watch. As Rolex’s answer to the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, it had to be water resistant, the dial visible in the low-light conditions at depth, where everything is a shade of grey. In designing this watch, Rolex wasn’t driven by aesthetics, but functionality.

Which makes the red on the “Red Sub” a baffling choice, one which has puzzled—and intrigued—collectors for decades.

Although records are as murky as the depths to which many of these watches were taken, we’re able to narrow the introduction of the “Red Sub” to the late 1960s. At this time, Rolex added a date window to the model, creating the Reference 1680. However, on early examples of this reference, the word “Submariner” is printed in red.

From the late 1960s to the late 1970s, there were seven different dial variations of “Red Sub,” being dubbed by collectors as “Mark I” through “Mark VIII” dials. Generally, these examples vary in the smallest of ways, perhaps the result of being from different printings—or even from different dial manufacturers altogether. But what unites all of them is that splash of red just under the post.

At the close of the 1970s, Rolex began phasing out this feature. It was a gradual process, from market to market. Additionally, since many of these watches had been purchased by professional divers or servicemen, the dials with the red printing were often exchanged for dials with all-white printing during the course of a routine service.

As a result, examples that survive with the red printing intact are exceedingly rare.

The mere mention of a “Red Sub” can cause collectors’ hearts to skip a beat. Though we’ve offered a handful over the years, this is without a doubt one of the nicest. The case shows some signs of professional polishing, but it shows honest wear, and the bevels are crisp. The crystal has been replaced with a Tropic 19 domed crystal, a common swap that gives the 1680 a totally unique look. 

With honest aging and the hallmarks of purposeful use (meaning, careful service, since only tools that are used need to be serviced), this Red Sub offers the budding collector an excellent opportunity to own and enjoy a rare (and coveted) vintage Submariner.  

A:S Guarantee


Our Pledge

Analog:Shift stands behind the authenticity of our products in perpetuity.


Since our pieces are vintage or pre-owned, please expect wear & patina from usage and age. Please read each item description and examine all product images.


We back each Analog:Shift vintage timepiece with a one-year mechanical warranty from the date of purchase.

International Buyers

Please contact us prior to purchase for additional details on shipping and payment options.

Shipping & Returns


All of our watches include complementary insured shipping within the 50 states.

Most of our products are on hand and will ship directly from our headquarters in New York City. In some cases, watches will be shipped directly from one of our authorized partners.

We generally ship our products via FedEx, fully insured, within 5 business days of purchase. An adult signature is required for receipt of all packages for insurance purposes. Expedited shipping is available at an additional cost. We are also happy to hand deliver your purchase in Manhattan or you may pick it up at our showroom.

Returns must be sent overnight or by priority international delivery, fully insured and paid for by the customer. A restocking fee may apply. Watches must be returned in the same condition as initially shipped.

We welcome international buyers, please contact us prior to purchase for additional details on shipping and payment options.


Rolex "Red" Submariner



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