Rolex Submariner Red 1680 Mark III Tropical Year: 1970


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Rolex Submariner Red Tropical

The history of this model

Submariner is one of the most iconic watches ever made and it is certainly one of the most copied. For many people it’s the most practical watch; it can be dressed up or down, satisfying all the basic needs an average owner has. 

The model has not changed much throughout the years, maintaining the famous silhouette and features, but there were some standout aspects which separated some reference numbers from the crowd. Probably the most significant example is the ref. 1680, or the so-called “Red Sub”.

The Red Tropical Submariner was first introduced in 1967, with production running up until 1980. This reference became so influential and game-changing mainly thanks to the addition of a date window, which changed it from a watch suitable only for SCUBA divers to a versatile and practical accessory, which could be worn comfortably even during normal, day-to-day life.

The “Red Sub” gets its name from the colour used on the text written at 6 o’clock, where the name Submariner is declared in bold red instead of the standard and later-used white. 

The red version was only made for the first part of the production, being replaced by white in approximately 1975. With years coming, more and more Submariners came, but people still liked to return to this rebellious reference. Today, it’s one of the most prized and valued vintage Submariners, mostly picked out by collectors and true enthusiasts of the Haute Horlogerie.

Why is this watch popular?

The popularity of the Submariner is no big surprise. When the watch was first introduced in 1953, people enjoyed it to the fullest. It was a functional and quite practical watch with reliable automatic movement which also happened to be almost indestructible and waterproof to 200m, a remarkable feat at that time.

The “Red Sub” took all that was good about the watch and improved upon it massively. The ruggedness, durability and reliability stayed, but with the addition of the date function, the watch turned from a “nice timepiece” to an irreplaceable daily companion. 

With full honesty, besides the date and the actual time, we don’t need that many functions from a watch. Yes, chronograph or perpetual calendar have their uses and are very nice and precious additions to any timepiece, but in day-to-day life, we look for different traits. 

When you’re getting up from a table and hit your watch on the corner, or when you get caught in a very strong rain, or even just want to go for a swim and know the time, you expect that after such a thing happens, your timepiece still looks and works the same.

And this one simple but not easy demand the “Red Sub” satisfied more than well.

People wanted a wearable and practical option which could reliably accompany them anywhere. Rolex responded with a watch, that lived according to the philosophy that the wearer basically never needs to take it off their wrist. 

And since Rolex delivered, their customers rewarded them with the loyalty to this timepiece which has been growing for more than 50 years.

The looks

On the dark face of the dial, we can see the traditional Submariner predispositions, such as the iconically-shaped white hour markers or the set of three luminescent hands - the Mercedes-style hour hand, sword-shaped minute hand, and slim and sleek seconds hand.

But there are notable differences as well. The first is the newly added date window with the famous Cyclops lens, which allowed any wearer to comfortably see the date. The second is the unique and incredibly sought-after red Submariner text, which moves this watch into a category of its own.

The rotatable black bezel of this Submariner contains a characteristical set of white numbers, ranging from 0-60. The bezel is used for timing dives. A simple rotation ensures that you will know exactly how much oxygen you have left. 

The case is made of durable and polished stainless steel, making sure the movement will be protected from any sudden impacts and water resistant to 200m.

The bracelet is the traditional Oyster variant, comfortable and reliable, with an unmistakable folding clasp. 

This specific model is from 1970 and for its age it looks amazing. Almost without scratches, it is one of the best-preserved exemplars.

The investment value

Vintage Submariners tend to hold value very well. This applies twice for the Red Sub, which is one of the most prized collectable watches you can own. 

Its value lies in its historical value, as it was a groundbreaking addition to the Rolex catalogue which influenced the brand for decades to come. 

Over the years, the watch has seen a significant price increase, as more and more serious collectors enter the watch market and wish to own a piece of Rolex’s history.

For many enthusiasts, the “Red Sub” is the highest achievement of their whole collection.

How it feels on the wrist & Why I love this watch

If you’ve dealt in luxury watches as long as I have, you will simply stumble upon some watches which you will love for the rest of your life. Knowing the historical background of the Red Sub makes you appreciate the watch, but even without it, the timepiece is just beautiful. 

I enjoy the 40mm size, which strikes the perfect balance between large and small, and wears just perfectly. I also love the finishing of the Red Sub. Everything looks so smooth and functional. When you have it on your wrist, the weight is just enough to make you feel it, but not too much to bother you. I think that Rolex really did hit a jackpot with this one.

If you search for a vintage status piece, it can hardly get better than this. It is not as flashy as a Daytona or Day-Date, but people will notice it on your wrist. Thanks to the red “Submariner” text (which is way more visible than you would ever guess), you will get your fair share of compliments. 

Just like with most vintage watches, mainly enthusiasts and other collectors will appreciate the true value, but the Submariner’s popularity also ensures that even those who just know the name Rolex will recognize it. From my experience, this is one of the best conversation starters with watch lovers.