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An Underwater Story – The Rolex Submariner

Posted: 22/10/2020

The Rolex Submariner is one of the most instantly recognizable watches ever. Using the old saying, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, the case shapes, sizes and profiles have been tweaked, but the essence of the original Oyster case is this the same. Let’s compare it to the Porsce 911. The current iteration of Porsche’s most famous sports car, the 992, is essentially a car has been tweaked, improved, streamlined – but all based on the same recipe that Porsche has used for the past half-century.

The 2020 Rolex Submariner

Last month Rolex unveiled the newest versions of its most celebrated sports watches. The revamp of the collection encompassed all models, in all metals with the common feature being a new case profile and the inclusion of the new in-house movement. As one would expect, these watches are an evolution rather than a revolution of the Submariner, but the tweaks are important. The Submariner has for the first time since the late 1950s had a size increase from 40 to 41mm and the proportions of the bracelet are a little different too, with a slightly broader presence. The Submariner is fitted with calibre 3230, whilst the Submariner Date houses calibre 3235. The Submariner Date comes in a number of version, with a style sure to suit all buyers. The classic Sub Date in steel is available with black dial and black ceramic bezel plus there is also a version with black dial and green ceramic bezel. The Rolesor (steel and gold) version is now available with a royal blue dial with blue ceramic bezel as well as a blck dial and bezel option. The full gold watches are available as yellow gold with blue dial and bezel as well as the black version and the white gold Submariner Date has been updated with a black dial with blue bezel. All the watches feature the new 41mm case and redesigned Oyster bracelet.

New Submariner Date for 2020 in Rolesor and White Gold

A Watch Born For Swimming


Rolex Founder Hans Wilsdorf was a genius in many ways, one of the most notable being his vision for marketing his watches. By having the watches tested in real life conditions through collaborations with adventurers who would test the watches to their limits, Wilsdorf was able to field-test his watches and also capitalize on the exposure. Early examples include Merecedes Gleitze, who wore an Oyster whilst completing her landmark channel swim in 1927; the Oyster she wore endured 10 hours in the sea and worked perfectly. Similarly, the first expedition to conquer Mount Everest in 1953 was timed by Rolex Oysters, as the Hillary Team were all equipped with reference 6098 Pre-Explorer watches.

Mercedes Gleitze in 1927

The first Oyster watch from 1926


But how was such a brilliantly durable watch made possible? The Oyster is waterproof and so therefore dustproof, and this makes it the perfect watch for explorers of any terrain or environment. Essentially there are three elements that make the Oyster: a solid middle case, screw-down crown and case back and a friction-fitted crystal (via a bezel ring. The same theory behind the Oyster that was conceived in the early 1920s, is still in play today.

A Rolex 6098 worn by Sir Edmond Hillary on Everest

Here Comes The Sub


The Submariner’s legacy began in 1953. The watches were depth rated to an astonishing 100 meters. The watches were partly a response to lifestyles, especially the advent of recreational diving, which was growing in tandem with commercial divers. It’s important to remember that this was long before the advent of wrist-mounted dive computers and these watches were life and death tools of the trade. The rotatable bezel allowed the divers to measure elapsed time and monitor how long they were under the water. Timing was everything and a diver’s watch was the difference between life and death.

The First Rolex Submariner from 1953 – note the early pencil hands

There are iconic styling cues that have remained, albeit in slightly different guises. With its combination of round and rectangular markers with an inverted triangle AT 12, the Rolex Submariner dial is seen by many as the most iconic sports watch dials ever made. Add to this face the Mercedes-pattern hour hand and sword-esque minute hand and the aesthetic is pure Rolex. Often copied, but never bettered…or even equaled!

A 200-meter Rolex Submariner reference 6200

Always seeking to improve, by 1954 Rolex was offering a 200-meter depth rated Submariner as standard, which continued right through until the late 1970s and even later on the non-date Sub. It was the development of the sapphire crystal, introduced on the Submariner Date ref. 16800 in 1979, that meant that the Submariner could be depth-rated to 300 meters as standard.  This 300 meter rating is still in use today and marks the Submariner out as a watch that really can stand up to the rigors of professional diving. But whether you are using it professionally, a recreational diver timing our holiday dives in the Maldives or a wearing it on your yacht in the South of France, the Submariner will be keep you on time above or below the water!

The first Submariner Date ref 1680 


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