Mark I – or MKI – dials are the first in a series of dial variations for a single model reference. It isn’t uncommon for Rolex to make noticeable changes to a watch, whether it be to the dial, bezel, or another component, and continue to sell it under the same reference number. These changes are unofficially distinguished as Marks in the watch-collecting community. While some watches will have as many as 7 or 8 Marks, it’s the Mark I dials that we will explore in further detail today.
What Does a Mark I Dial Mean?
Mark dials are often listed in order of production. For example, a watch with multiple dial variations will be distinguished by collectors as Mark I, Mark II, Mark II, etc. It’s also common to see them with Arabic numerals instead of Roman numerals and even abbreviated as MKI, MKII, MKIII, etc. It’s important to note that the Mark system is a loose guide that is constantly evolving. As a result, it isn’t uncommon to find discrepancies in what defines each Mark from one watch collector to the next.
What Does a Mark I Dial Look Like?
Mark I dials look different for each Rolex model. For example, it might mean the difference between a red or white model logo, the length of the hands, or even the order in which the text is presented on the dial. Let’s explore Mark I dials further by taking a closer look at a few of the most iconic examples on the market.
Rolex GMT Master Ref. 1675
Rolex produced the GMT Master ref. 1675 from the late 1950s until around 1980. During that time, the company made several changes to the dial. Initially, ref. 1675 featured a glossy gilt dial, which was then replaced by a matte dial around 1965. There are two types of glossy dials, those with chapter rings and those without them. From there, they are categorized by “Types.” For reference 1675, the “Mark” distinction technically only applies to the matte dials.
The "Long E" Mark I Rolex GMT Master 1675. Photo Credit: GMTMaster1675.com
Ref. 1675 Mark I dials are also known as “Long E” dials featuring a longer middle bar in the “E” in Rolex. These dials also feature long arms on the Rolex coronet. Mark I dials were the earliest variations of the matte dial ref. 1675’s before the Mark 0 dial was discovered, which features a matte dial and similar printing as the glossy dial that immediately preceded it.
Rolex Submariner Ref. 1680
The Submariner 1680 was the first reference in the collection to feature a date display. It is easily one of the most important Submariner models in the Rolex portfolio. Rolex produced ref. 1680 for about a decade, first with a red logo and then all-white text. These dials are commonly referred to as the “Red Submariner” and the “White Submariner.” From there, many Mark dials exist between the two dials.
The Red Submariner ref. 1680 Mark I dial.
The Submariner 1680 has seven Mark dials (technically eight if you count the service replacement dial), with the first 6 Marks featuring a Red Submariner logo. Mark VII is widely recognized as the White Submariner, of which there are three additional sub-variations labeled as Mark I to Mark III. The Mark I Red Submariner features “meters first” text, closed 6’s, and a long, curved “F” in the depth rating. The Mark I dial on the White Submariner has “feet first” text and closed 6’s. Additionally, the Submariner logo is as wide as the depth rating.
Rolex Explorer Ref. 214270
This Mark I dial is an interesting one. When Rolex introduced the Explorer 214270 in 2010, it featured a larger 39mm case, up from 36mm. With the case upgrade, the centrally-mounted hands stayed the same length and appeared arguably too short for the 39mm diameter. Rolex released another version of the ref. 214270 in 2016, this time with slightly longer and wider hands to better suit the larger case. The company also swapped the white gold 3/6/9 Arabic numerals on the Mark I dial with fully lumed Arabic hour markers to match the rest of the dial. Reference 214270’s with the shorter hands and silver Arabic hour markers are referred to as a “Mark I” dial Rolex.
The Explorer ref. 214270 Mark I dial (left) and Mark II Dial (right).