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A Substantial Shoal of Subs

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    A Substantial Shoal of Subs

    I’m not even sure I should admit to this, but here goes… Confession: A little over two years ago, I had no idea what a Rolex Submariner was. I wasn’t even aware that they existed; and as far as I was concerned, James Bond’s watches were just black watches fitted with gadgety bits. My interest didn’t extend beyond cheapies and smart watches – and the last time I’d collected any was way back when Swatch first launched. The world of prestige brands had entirely passed me by.

    Then, pretty much at random, I came across the rep forums. And from there, the TD stores. I decided to order a couple of reps, to see what they were like. So, I ordered 3 watches: An Omega Snoopy Silver Award, a PAM fiddy, and a DSSD D-blue. I did bugger all research, just picked some watches I liked the look of.
    But my first rep was a no date Regmariner, bought M2M on RG while waiting for my TD order. When the Regmariner arrived, I was upset that it was broken – I couldn’t pull the crown out! I contacted the seller, who explained the concept of the screw-down crown…

    Fast forward from that inauspicious start to now. And it’s pretty clear that the Sub was THE watch for me! I currently own 80+ watches, and 36 of them are Rolex dive watches – Subs and Sea-Dwellers. (They’re not all shown here btw – a few are in bits being modded.)

    Here’s some pics, and a few details about the watches in the current collection. Please let me know if I’ve made any glaring errors in the text!

    Here’s a bit of info about each watch.


    1. “Single Red” Sea Dweller 1665 (Cartel: BP/JKF)

    There were approximately a dozen Single Red SDs made by Rolex when production began in 1967, exclusively for use by “aquanauts” working at extreme depths for extended periods. The watch was rated 500m. This means that anyone who knows anything about the brand will either be hugely impressed by what you’re wearing, or know instantly that it’s a fake. So, it’s a bit of homage/fun that’s nice to own, as a reminder of Rolex’s serious dive heritage.

    This example is stock Cartel. It features fetching stuck-on dial lume plots which make it even more obviously fake. The dial also lacks the enlarged word “DATE” of the gen dials (a date complication was unusual on a serious dive watch, so this word was enlarged on the dial, supposedly for emphasis!). I’ll get round to modding it one day – age the whole thing appropriately and improve or replace the dial.

    I’ll refer to these un-modded, future project watches as TBM (To Be Modded).

    2. “Double Red” Sea Dweller 1665 (Cartel: BP/JKF)

    The Double Red improved on the original 1665 by being rated to 610m (2000ft). This watch is stock JKF, so it’s TBM.

    3. COMEX dial 1665 (JKF)

    The COMEX dial watches were issued around 1977 for employees of COmpagnie Maritime d'EXpertise, a French deep-sea diving company. The dials are also known as “600 dials” due to their depth designation. This is one of my favourite watches; I absolutely love the dial with the COMEX logo. This example is one of the latest JKF versions and has improved dial print and crown size. I’ve modded this one, drilling the lugs and ageing the whole watch: case, insert, plexi, dial, and hands. But it’s a bit of a crude job! I’ll definitely be going back and reworking this one again.

    4. Sea-Dweller Deepsea Challenge (Gate Special)

    Absolutely bonkers addition to James Cameron’s 2012 Deepsea Challenger expedition, it travelled with the sub to a depth of almost 11,000 metres, strapped to a robot arm by a specially enlarged oyster bracelet. It’s essentially the Rolex Deepsea after a massive steroid injection. The case is a vast block of 904L stainless, 51.4mm wide and 28.5mm thick. The sapphire crystal is 14.3mm thick. This massive watch can cope with 13.6 tonnes of pressure, and is rated to 12,000m (39,370ft). The watch incorporates the Oyster style caseback and the Rolex Ringlock system. The rear of the case is in grade 5 titanium.

    My example however is a DHGate special (the only place you’ll find these reps), which would probably struggle to stay water tight if worn during a light shower. Saying that, it’s not a bad rep really – hey, the rehaut alignment is spot on. The dial font details are pretty woeful, but at least they spelt everything right. It’s okay to wear for very short periods, and handy for hammering in nails.

    5. Sea-Dweller 16600 (unknown factory – probably Noob)

    The 5-digit 16600 SD was produced from 1988 to 2008. It retained the 4000ft depth rating of the preceding model - the 16660 or “triple six” - which was also known, unsurprisingly, as the “4000”. It’s hard to keep up with all these nicknames.

    My first example has a Z-serial case with all the correct markings. It’s running on a gen Swiss ETA 2836. The case and crownguards have been reshaped by a previous owner or a modder. The lume has a nice patina on this one.

    6. Sea-Dweller 16600 Franken (Noob with aftermarket/gen parts)

    This one is a lovely piece by tripdog. The base watch is a Noob 16600 with A2824. It’s fitted with a Rolex MKIII 16600 dial, restored and relumed by trip. It has a Rolex 16600 Luminova insert and Rolex 704 crown. The hand set is upgraded aftermarket, to fit the movement. And it’s got a TC MKIII DWO.

    7. Deepsea Sea-Dweller 116660 (ARF v2)

    In 2008 Rolex introduced their heavy-duty sea-dweller’s watch, the Deepsea, with a rating of 3900m (12800ft). I picked up this ARF example M2M as a C&R from a TD. I love the chunky feel of these, but if I wear it for more than a couple of hours I start to lose the feeling in my arm…

    And that’s the Sea-Dweller row all done and dusted.


    Next, we move on to the early Sub row – all examples of the “4 digit” models.

    8. 6204 “James Bond” (JKF)

    This early model, with the single word “Submariner” on the dial (it’s also known as the “no chronometer” for this reason), dates from 1954. This early Sub pre-dates the introduction of crown guards. It has stick hands with an unusual lollipop seconds hand. The 6204 had a small crown.

    This stock JKF rep is TBM; The case has no chamfers, the pearl is horrible, and it all looks way too shiny and new. It also has a gold-printed dial; ideally it needs a true gilt dial to really shine.

    9. 6538 “James Bond” (Cartel: BP/JKF)

    This is a familiar classic, and dates from 1959. The crown size jumped to 8mm on this model, hence its nickname - the “Big Crown” Sub. This is one of my earlier modding efforts. I documented the project here.

    10. 5513 (JKF)

    The no date 5512 and 5513 with their “modern” crown guard-adorned case shape ran from 1960 through to the introduction of the 5-digit Sub range in 1990, when the 5513 was replaced by the 14060. A 30-year run… not bad eh?

    The 5513 here is a stock JKF piece, TBM. I have a nice Vietnam true gilt dial on a Singer plate to go in this one eventually.

    11. 5512 “feet first” (JKF)

    The dial of the 1973 5512 is a rarity, because the depth rating is inverted from the norm, reading “660ft = 200m” and is therefore known as the “feet first” dial. It’s speculated that this was a marketing nod to the UK/US market and “Anglo Saxon” units of measurement.

    This example is stock JKF, and another one TBM.

    12. 5517 “MilSub” (Cartel)

    In 1977, Rolex produced a model exclusively for military use. The 5517 had sword design hands, tritium lume (hence the circled T on the non-chronometer feet first dial), a 60-minute marker bezel, and welded bar lugs for use with the NATO strap. The example I have is possibly BP – it’s got the welded lugs which are absent from the more recent JKF model. I’ve superficially aged the case and insert on this one, I need to return to it some day and do a proper vintagizing job on it, so: TBM.

    13. 5513 tropical dial build by tripdog (Vietnam/various)

    I had to own this one! It’s a tripdog build. It’s a tropical dial 5513. And trip described it as representing a watch from 1964 – my birth year! I’m adding the description from trip’s sale post here, as this is such a special piece.
    • 5513 case with Pointed Crown Guards from Vietnam, made to genuine specifications. Case has been refinished; a light patina added.
    • Rolex 703 crown in very good condition, new aftermarket gen spec tube.
    • Rolex T39 service crystal, reprofiled to the same shape as a Rolex T19 Superdome - the correct crystal for this model.
    • Specially commissioned true gilt tropical dial, dial surface reworked for a more authentic look. For those that don't know, tropical refers to dials, or sometimes inserts, that turned varying shades of brown due to a breakdown in the chemical structure of the paint, turning from black to sepia or varying shades of brown. All tropical dials are unique, some retain their smooth finish, some end up looking like the surface of the moon.
    • They are very hard to recreate artificially, I've done a few in the past, this is undoubtedly the most successful one I've done. The dial changes colour according to the light, the central part is satin whilst the outer edges have more of the original gloss finish. Hands, pearl and dial were all lumed to match - lume does not glow, this is supposed to be a 55-year-old tritium dial watch.
    • Fat font insert 'aged' to dark chocolate brown, Athaya pearl.
    • Swiss ETA 2842 with bespoke movement ring.
    • Gilt hand set with patina.
    • 2 mm gen spec spring bars.
    • The watch is in excellent working condition, bi-directional non-clicking bezel assembly functions as per gen - push down to turn, release and it locks in place. Crown screws down smoothly on its threads, movement keeps excellent time.
    And it’s on a Vietnam folded link rivet bracelet, which cost as much as a decent spec rep… gulp.

    14. 1680 Submariner date red (JKF, aftermarket mods)

    In 1967 Rolex launched the 1665 Sea-Dweller and the 1680 Submariner date, both with the model name printed in red. These were the first Submariners to feature a date complication. The newly designed B25-127 “top hat” plexi (so called because of its tall, flat-sided profile) featured a magnifying lens (the cyclops).

    I bought this modded JKF on RWI. Here’s the breakdown of the mods:
    • JK Factory 1680 Red base
    • WSO bezel assembly (bezel, insert, spring, & retaining ring)
    • Clark’s plexi
    • Clark’s hands
    • Athaya 702 crown and tube
    • 2mm spring bars
    • WSO 520 endlinks
    • Gen springbars
    • DG2813 low-beat movement
    • Fully relumed hands and dial
    • Matte textured dial
    • Reshaped case and CGs
    • Freshly cut lug bevels
    • Redrilled lugs
    • Fully repolished case
    • Lightly aged bracelet
    • Lightly aged insert

    15. 1680 red (JKF)

    A stock 1680 red from JKF, TBM.

    16. 1680 white (JKF)

    Around 1976-77, the 1680 got a dial facelift when the red text was dropped, and the dial print became all white. This is another JKF, TBM.

    17. Interloper! (JKF)

    Okay, to make the whole scene symmetrical, I’ve snuck a Tudor Sub in. Well, they’re Rolies too really, aren’t they. I have 3 Tudor Subs, all TBM: 9411 black (pictured), a blue 9411, and a 7016. The latter pair are already dissembled ready to mod. I have a MoChaCha dial for the blue and a Rafflesdials dial for the 7016.
    And that’s it for the 4-digits!


    Now we head into the 5-digit era. In 1982 the 16800 launched; the transitional model of a major update to the Submariner. The 5-digit Subs headline new features were:
    • Waterproof guaranteed to a depth of 300m
    • Caliber 3035 (created in 1977)
    • Unidirectional rotating bezel
    • Sapphire crystal

    The 1988/9 launch of the 16610 series saw the introduction of the 3135 movement.

    The 5-digit Subs hit the sweet spot for gen Rolex parts availability and haven’t been clobbered as yet with the designation “vintage” – which means those gen parts are also in the category of “affordable”. Thus, this reference is Franken Central in my Sub collection… Note that I’ve previously detailed some of these 5-digit Frankens in a photo article here. So, I won’t go overboard with the descriptions of them again in this piece.

    18. 16800 Franken (JF base)

    The first watches in the 5-digit Sub series had matt dials with printed tritium markers – similar in appearance to the 1680 model it replaced. Later models in the 16800 series were supplied with a gloss dial, and applied markers.

    The watch that represents the earliest 5-digit in my line-up is built around a nicely patinated gen gloss dial. It also has gen crystal, gen 704 crown, gen insert, Swiss ETA and Riyi DWO.

    19. 16610 Franken (JF base)

    In 1986, Rolex began production of cases for the new references 16610 (stainless steel), 16613 (stainless/yellow gold) and 16618 (18 carat yellow gold). The first of these watches used tritium lume and the dials are marked “SWISS – T < 25” to indicate this.

    This example built by Grimlocktime, with additional work by tripdog, has the following spec:
    • Gen T-dial with light spider webbing
    • Gen hands relumed
    • Gen crystal
    • Gen DW
    • Gen crown
    • Gen Tritium Insert
    • SH3135 V2

    20. 16610 LN “Swiss Only” Franken (TC v6 base)

    In 1999, the Tritium dial model began to transition to the A-Serial Luminova dial (SWISS MADE) model. But, just for the first half of 1999, the dials were marked “SWISS”. Hence, these rare examples are known as the “Swiss only” dials - and watches from this limited run are highly sought after.

    This watch started out as a stock TC V6 and has had the following gen parts added (by ado213):
    • Yuki 3135 with gen date wheel
    • Gen Rolex “Swiss Only” NOS dial and matching NOS gen hands
    • Gen insert
    • Gen crystal - no AR, no LEC
    • Gen crown
    • Gen 93150 clasp & divers extension - X7 date code - period correct for an A-Serial “Swiss Only” Sub
    • Italian made 93150 bracelet links - engraved 93150
    • Gen 501b end links
    • Gen spec 2mm shoulders spring bars
    • ado213 serviced the movement and drilled lug holes in the mid case

    21. 16610 LN (JF/TC/VR)

    A stock JF Sub, with a TC bracelet and a VR3135 movement.

    22. 16610 LN Franken (JF base)

    The Luminova illuminated version of the 5-digit Sub debuted in 1998. After briefly printing just the word “SWISS” on the dial, the more commonly seen “SWISS MADE” was used to designate these dials.

    This Franken built by Grimlocktime has:
    • Gen Luminova dial
    • Gen insert with Luminova pearl
    • Gen LEC crystal
    • Gen hands
    • Gen crown and stem
    • Gen datewheel

    23. 16613 LN Franken (JF base)

    This is a special watch. The dial on this one is breathtakingly beautiful, when it catches the light and you see the spider web crackle to the lacquer. The specs of this beauty:
    • Gen Tritium spider dial
    • Gen Tritium NOS gold hands
    • Gen Tritium heavily serifed insert
    • Gen NOS 18K crown
    • Gen champagne datewheel
    • Gen crystal
    • Solid gold 18K Star Time bezel
    • Noob gold wrapped bracelet
    • JF case with rehaut engravings removed
    • SH3135 movement
    • Gen clasp lock
    • Gen 3 end links - solid gold

    24. 16613 LB Franken (JF base)

    The beautiful “bluesy” Sub. This one was built by tripdog, with the bezel and crown gold plated by RWI veteran Johnny Depp.
    • JF 16610LN no rehaut
    • Bezel, crown gold plated by Johnny Depp
    • Gen dial
    • Gen hands
    • Gen champagne date wheel (NOS)
    • Gen crystal
    • Gen Insert

    25. 16613 Serti dial (BP)

    “Sertissage” is the term used for gem-set dials. The 5-digit Sub was available in FG or TT with a grey sunburst dial set with diamond and sapphire markers.
    This example is a stock BP job. It’s developed an interesting patina on the insert – or the paint’s falling off it. You decide.

    26. 16610 LV “Kermit” modded (JF base)

    The Kermit was introduced in 2003 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Submariner. The 16610 LV differed from the LN in featuring the green bezel and “maxi” dial and hands - chunkier than the standard watch’s – as can be seen in the photos. The value of gen Kermits has gone crazy, so getting gen dials/hands is too bloody pricey to contemplate. So, I’ve opted for light Frankening of mine.

    This is an early model Kermit, with no rehaut engraving and lug holes (drilled by ado213, who carried out the other work on these). It has:
    • VR3135 with gen-like DW
    • Gen LEC/no AR crystal

    27. 16610 LV “Kermit” Franken lite (JF base)

    This is the later model Kermit, with engraved rehaut and no lug holes. It has:
    Gen datewheel
    Gen LEC/AR crystal
    I have a gen NOS blistered LV insert – still haven’t plucked up the courage to open it up and use it on either of these Kermits…

    And on that froggy duo, the 5-digit round-up comes to a muppety end.


    In 2009 the 6-digit model Submariner launched – initially available as 116618 (FG) or 116619 (WG), the Stainless case models followed in 2010. The 6-digit Sub series was characterised by a heavier case, maxi dial/hands and a ceramic “Cerachrom” bezel insert, which led to them being known as the Sub-C.

    28. 116610 LN (Noob v9)

    I got this Noob v9 in a pretty scuffed up state and spent a long time polishing and brushing it so it’s now back to looking half decent. It’s running nicely on an SH3135.

    29. 116610 LN (ZZF v2S)

    This is a recent addition, straight from a TD. VR3135. On arrival it I found that it had a detached rehaut. I used a cheap tool to reattach it, and it didn’t fit back 100% aligned. I’ll have to try again or get the genuine Rolex tool.

    30. 116610 LV “Hulk” (Noob – probs v1)

    The Sub-C equivalent of the Kermit, the Hulk featured a green sunburst dial to compliment the green bezel insert.

    This one is a Nembo special from RG. I’ve never been a massive fan of the Hulk, so this relatively elderly lower budget version does me fine.

    31. 116618 LN (BP)

    The full gold Sub-C. I feel like a total Ray Winstone in this one. Laaav it, my saaaaan.

    32. 116610 Bamford Snowtrooper (unknown factory – modded)

    George Bamford used to make special custom versions of Rolex watches, until Rolex got arsy about it, and he moved away from them to work officially with other brands.

    I had one of these and sold it because it looked a bit too gimmicky and I didn’t like the full white finish. Then, rikracy over on RWG added a black insert to his, and I fell in love with the way it looked. So, he agreed to sell it to me. I don’t actually think I’ve worn it once since I got it – but damn it looks nice. I’ll wear it if it snows. At some point I’ll source a black datewheel for it.

    33. Tempus Machina 216A Red Depth (unknown factory)

    Tempus Machina – like Bamford – makes limited edition Rolex reworks. The 216A was limited to 50 pieces. The rep isn’t bad and is pretty eye-catching. Although seeing it in these photos has made me realise, I’ve got to get the polished centre link bracelet off it ASAP! The original came with brushed bracelet and a black NATO – the NATO might look quite snazzy on this retro modern model.


    And… THAT’S IT! If you ploughed on to the end – well done, and thanks for taking a look through this summary of Pop’s Sub Selection. I’ve put this one together mainly for love of the watches, but also as a record for my own reference, that I can come back to again, say in another year or so from now. Who knows what my collection will look like then…
    FrankenSubs! - Subs! - Kermits! - Daytonas! - Seamasters! - A 1675 Adventure - A Budget 6538 build - Tudors! (COMING SOON!)

    All I can say is WOW. Thanks for that, interesting read and you've mae me feel way less obsessed about another sub I have coming, I'm only getting started it appears.


      You crazy man


        What a post ! Amazing. Beautifull collection.

        Envoyé de mon iPad en utilisant Tapatalk
        Watch Addict


          It''s AWESOME ! !
          My wife says I'm crazy with my 10 watches....
          You have the collection of my Dreams!


            What an amazing collection! What’s the current fave?

            Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


              Thanks for this mate. Great read and great collection.

              TitleistRolex: my question wasn't to ask "Hey QueDick can you tell any flaws of this watch or that watch?!"
              I'll give you my cell and FaceTime me and I'll show you wealth you petty lil child



                Simply amazing...


                  Very nice presentation
                  Thank you !


                    Originally posted by Trowt View Post
                    What an amazing collection! What’s the current fave?
                    Thanks! My fave is the 16613 LN. The spider dial on it is just gobsmacking.
                    FrankenSubs! - Subs! - Kermits! - Daytonas! - Seamasters! - A 1675 Adventure - A Budget 6538 build - Tudors! (COMING SOON!)


                      Wow! That's impressive. I think you have one too many. Lol
                      Ps: 9.10, 11 and 13 are my favs.


                        It's good to see there are people worse than me!


                          Oh dear Lord...
                          You are Rick-rolled man. Oh no, wait. You are rolie-rolled!
                          What a great collection! And a what a great job to show us and describe your collection.
                          I've got 5 watches right now and I thought it's too much. HAHAHA! Ok, need to check my TDs website...
                          Wear it in good health mate.


                            Hi my name is popperini and I'm a watchaholic....and prob hope to never be sober! Great collection brother, I'm a lil jealous i aint gonna my friend have too much time on your hands


                              Mind boggling collection bro, crazy good pieces! Congrats. I have a gen Rolex RAT you can borrow for #29, haha! (Rehaut Alignment Tool).
                              We are all related in time since time is relative to us all.
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                              Double Nine Gonzo!