The Rolex Submariner has been in production since 1953. In its relentless pursuit of perfection, this famous model has undergone many design changes over the years, including updates to its iconic dial. Properly identifying a dial can tell you a lot about the watch, which may seem like a daunting task if you are new to Rolex collecting. This guide will give a quick overview of the four main dial types of the Rolex Submariner and how to identify them.
The first generation of Rolex Submariner featured a glossy gilt dial, which featured gold text and details set on a glossy black surface. The luminous markings – originally done with a luminous radioactive substance (radium or tritium) – have aged to a matching golden hue on many surviving examples. The gold-plated dial of the Rolex Submariner can be found in a variety of slightly different configurations, depending on the model and year of production of the Submariner. While there are some variations in the minute track, markers, name and depth rating, you can easily identify the gilt dial by its gold lettering.
The gilt dial is by far the rarest and most valuable type of Submariner dial ever produced, and the vast majority that was ever produced no longer exist. Many of the original replica Rolex Submariner watches with gilt dials have been replaced with later service parts over the years due to wear and damage, and because of their current scarcity, well-preserved examples are quite valuable. These subtle differences that make collecting vintage watches so exciting can be the difference between a relatively affordable watch and one that costs well over six figures.
Rolex replaced the gilt dial of the Submariner with a matte dial in the 1960s. Unlike the gilt variation, the matte dial has white text and tritium luminous episodes on top and a slightly textured, flat (non-glossy) finish. Matte dials can be found on several iconic Rolex Submariner models, including the first Rolex Submariner with a date complication (model 1680; aka “Red Submariner”), the first Submariner with crown protection (model 5512), and the first Submariner with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and 1,000-foot water resistance rating (model 16800).
Although matte dials are only found on vintage Rolex Submariner watches, they do have a slightly more modern and functional look than the glossy gilt dials of their predecessors. Moreover, matte dials are somewhat less common than their gilt predecessors. While they are still quite valuable and highly sought after by collectors, they are still significantly more accessible (and affordable) on the secondary market.
The first “modern” generation of Rolex Submariner watches began production in the 1980s. During this period, the matte dial gave way to the glossy dial, which featured a glossy black face with white text and hour markers, surrounded by white gold around its luminous section. The application of 18K white gold markers and the glossy finish of the dial gave this generation of watches a decidedly more luxurious and modern aesthetic that continues to dominate the secondary market.
If you’re new to collecting replica rolex watches, chances are you’ve seen the lustrous dial Submariner. The most common variants are the classic Submariner Date and Dateless models. 116610 and the “dateless” version of the same generation, ref. 14060, are similar in appearance, but without the date window on the dial and the cyclops magnifying glass on the crystal.
The Maxi dial is Rolex’s latest generation of Submariner dials, following the overall aesthetic of its predecessor but featuring larger hour markers (along with wider hands.) The Maxi dial first appeared in the Submariner collection in the 50th anniversary Submariner ref. 16610LV “Kermit” also features a vibrant green aluminium bezel insert. It continues to be produced with the current 6-digit Cerachrom ceramic bezel reference. It can be found in various colours on all modern Rolex Submariner watches, depending on the specific reference.
Rolex’s Maxi dial is now also paired with a “Super Case” and a new style bracelet, giving current production Submariner watches a larger overall appearance on the wrist. If you are looking for a bold statement piece with classic style, then the Maxi dial Submariner may be your best bet. While the Rolex design has stayed true to its roots, the iconic Rolex dive watch dial has gone through many updates over the years. Whether you’re looking for a rare vintage version or a modern professional dive watch, there’s guaranteed to be a Submariner reference for your wrist.