Les Rolex Submariner Red « Feet First » by Fabrice Guéroux

In this article we will be looking at three models from the 1680 "RED", equipped with dials that are more commonly known as "Feet-First".

What are we talking about ?

Rolex Submariner REDs are part of the Rolex legend, and stand out with their "Red" lettering on the dial, but it is still important to be able to tell the difference between the different versions of a red Submariner dial. There are no less than six different dials for this legendary model, which is the 1680 Submariner called "RED". Throw in three "white" dials and things can get a little confusing for amateur collectors.

Some background history

Towards the end of the 60's, the first Submariner makes its appearance and displays a 200 meters diving capacity on the dial, as follows: 200m - 660ft. Three dials will be produced for what we will call the "Meter First" ( an indication in meters in front of the indication in feet), respectively Mark1, Mark2 and Mark3 (names that are commonly used by collectors, amateurs, experts...).

After the Mark3 dial was produced, Rolex then decided (for reasons totally unknown to this day) to invert meters and feet. We now enter the era of "Feet First", which is the subject of this article. It is worth noting that these adjustments were of no importance at the time for clients. Nowadays however, this information is of utmost importance and can influence a watch's value.

There are three "Feet First" dials (being Mark4, Mark5 and Mark6). According to observations that remain unconfirmed by Rolex, it would seem that productions are something close to this order:

Ref.Year of Production
Mark11969 - 1970
Mark21969 - 1970
Mark31969 - 1970
Mark41972 - 1973
Mark51972 - 1973
Mark61972 - 1975

Some specialized sites are even more accurate:

Ref.Year of Production
MarkI2.07M to 2.2M
MarkII/III2.2M to 2.45M
MarkIV2.45M to 3.?M
MarkV2.?M to 3.?M
MarkVI3.?M to 4.0M

We don’t believe that anyone is able to formally verify such information at this point in time. We personally doubt that Rolex themselves are able to provide evidence of how their dials were stocked. Schematically, Mark 1 to Mark 6 dials were produced from 1969 to 1975 and several ("Mark" dials) could have been mounted on the Submariner "red" dials during the same year.

This article deliberately focuses on "Feet First" only and how to tell them apart.

Rolex Submariner « Feet First » dials

Rolex Submariner red Mark 4 (MK4) dial

The Rolex Submariner "Feet First" Mark4 dial has the following features :

The " Submariner " lettering in red is imprinted over a white undercoat. The white is very often visible on the sides and the red is quite bright. The two 6's in "660" aren't closed all the way. The first "E" in "Chronometer" is vertically aligned with the "D" in "Certified". The "F" in "Ft" is cut at an angle. The oval opening in the Rolex crown is pointed and the base comes down rather low.

Rolex Submariner Red Mark 5 (or MK5) dial

The Rolex Submariner "Feet First" Mark 5 dial has the following features :

The red "Submariner" lettering is imprinted directly onto the black dial. The red is less vibrant. The two 6's in "660" are much tighter and less open than on the Mark 4. The "RO" in "Chronometer" is vertically aligned with the "ER" in "Certified". The "F" of "Ft" are trimmed in a rounded shape and the F and T are aligned. The oval opening in the Rolex crown is rounded and the base is high up.

Rolex Submariner Red Mark 6 (or MK6) dial

The Rolex Submariner "Feet First" Mark 6 dial has the following features :

The red "Submariner" is imprinted directly onto the dial's black surface. The "S" in Submariner is rounded. The red is often more bright (with thicker paint). The two 6's in "660" are closed. The first "E" of "Superlative" is vertically aligned with the "O" in "Officially". The "F" in "Ft" is trimmed in a rounded way and the F and T are aligned. The oval opening in the Rolex crown is rounded and the base is low.

IMPORTANT: note that there is a service dial post-MK6. It is easily recognizable by its indexes which are no longer lit with Tritium but instead with Luminova. "Swiss - T - 25" is no longer written, and is just marked "SWISS". In that case, the value of the watch can drop significantly.

Exclusiveness of the various Submariner 1680s "RED"

We would like to provide you with a subjective classification based on 20 years of experience in watch collecting. These models are therefore classified as follows (rarity factor expressed on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being "very rare"):

Mark 15
Mark 24
Mark 34
Mark 41
Mark 53
Mark 61

It is worth noting that these "RED" models are of course much rarer than "White" dials which were produced after 1975 in much larger quantities. The Submariner "RED" is therefore a rare model regardless.

Settling for the right one

JI am always tempted to argue that "love at first sight" will always prevail in this type of purchase. Naturally, if you are interested in collecting while investing, I would recommend the 1680 MK5 version as there have been fewer of them ( as a matter of observation). More importantly, you should know that the price difference between these three models (MK4, MK5, MK6) is quite small and the factor that will really influence the price is the watch's overall condition, i.e. case, dial, wristband.

Remember, don't ignore advice from experts, since it will pay off in the long run.

Fabrice Guéroux

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