In 1953, the Swiss manufacturer Rolex introduced the Submariner, one of the first diving watches in the world. These watches, with rotating bezels, matte black dials, and water resistance up to 100 m, are highly coveted collector's items today.
- One of the first and most well-known diving watches in the world
- Coveted collector's pieces: Red Sub and COMEX
- High-quality chronometer: in-house calibers 3130 and 3135 (date)
- Characteristic Rolex design with recognition value and prestige
- Maintains value and has potential to appreciate
A Watch for Secret Agents and Racers
Experts were amazed when they first saw the Submariner. Rolex
had presented a completely new kind of watch
, one which continues to define the term "diving watch"
today. The watch with reference number 6204 had oversized luminous second, minute, and hour hands, as well as luminous numbers and indexes, all against a matte black dial. The watch was presented with the slogan "Submariner - the diver's friend." The Submariner has traveled from Europe all the way to Hollywood. In the first James Bond film, Agent 007 wore a watch with reference number 6538, the so-called "James Bond Sub
." It is not clear which watches Bond wears in the subsequent films. One exception is the Submariner with reference number 5513, which was auctioned off in November 2011. Roger Moore wore this model in the 1973 Bond film Live and Let Die
. The author of the original novels, Ian Fleming, only mentions the Rolex Oyster Perpetual in one of his 14 books. Otherwise, he just refers to the brand. Since 1995, Bond has worn watches made by the Swiss manufacturer Omega
in all of his film appearances.
Steve McQueen wasn't a secret agent, but the actor and racecar driver also relied on the sturdy and precise Submariner. In one photograph, he is clearly wearing a watch with reference number 5512. Revolutionary Che Guevara also relied on a Submariner. The watch is so much more than just a diving instrument; it complements everything from racing suits to tuxedos. Looking back at its long history, Rolex holds it to be the archetypal diving watch.
Buying Advice for the Rolex Submariner
If you're looking for a diving watch with serious recognition value, then the Rolex Submariner is the perfect choice for you. Its design is world famous and has remained consistent over the past decades. Newer models have been improved by changes such as ceramic Cerachrom bezels. The best mechanical movements worldwide tick away inside these timepieces. The calibers are robust, reliable, and incredibly precise. Purchasing a Submariner is an investment. Highly sought-after models only increase in value over the years. Used models in good or excellent condition go for 4,000 to 5,000 euros. New watches, on the other hand, cost around 6,000 euros. Bicolor stainless steel/18-karat yellow gold models start at around 20,000 euros. Coveted vintage models, such as the Red Sub with reference number 1680, vary in price depending on their condition. They can cost anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 euros, or more. The Submariner model produced for COMEX (Compagnie maritime d'expertises) is in the same price range. Well-kept models from the 1970s cost more than 100,000 euros.
- Introduction to the Submariner world starting at 4,000 euros (pre-owned) or 6,000 euros (new)
- Bicolor versions available starting at 9,000 euros; 18-karat yellow gold versions starting at 20,000 euros
- Coveted, rare vintage watches: Red Sub, Tropical Dial, COMEX
- Waterproof to 300 m (30 bar)
- Alternatives: Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 (1,220 m) and Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea (3,900 m) without Cyclops lens and with improved waterproofness
Similar Models from Other Brands
A Classic Design with Modern Technology
Today's Submariner models look almost the same as their predecessors. Over the years, the case has become bigger and a crown guard was added (1959) to protect screw-down crowns. In 1966, a version with a date indicator joined the collection. Other changes or additions to the watch have been small, such as polished armbands and cases, or blind lugs. Although the Submariner's design is from the 1950s, it remains a modern timepiece.
These automatic watches have meanwhile progressed to a water resistance of 300 m and feature rotating, scratch-resistant Cerachrom bezels with 120 clicks. The bezel can only be turned clockwise, which is a requirement for all modern diving watches. The bezel insert is made of Cerachrom ceramic, which is a particularly scratch resistant material. The zero marker, as well as the hour markers, are filled with the luminous material Chromalight. They glow blue and are more luminous than SuperLuminova, the material typically used in watches. Furthermore, the watchmakers have added platinum dusting to the numbers and indexes on the bezel. The hands are domed and made of gold, as are the index markers on the dial. Aside from the hour and minute hands, the second hand also has a luminous spot. Compared to earlier models, the sapphire glass barely sticks out; this makes the bezel better protected against jolts.
In total, the stainless steel Submariner weighs 150 g. The backside of the case, the bracelet, and the inner side of the folding safety clasps are all smooth. The Glidelock clasp adjusts the size of the bracelet in 2 mm increments and is slightly larger than in previous versions. Therefore, the watch can be worn directly on the wrist, as well as over diving suits. The clasp features a safety, ensuring it can't be opened accidentally.
Powered by Rolex Calibers 3135 and 3130
The Submariner with a Cyclops lens date indicator is run by the caliber 3135. The manufacturer has produced this caliber in Biel since 1989. It was designed to be a robust, highly accurate movement and is protected by a stainless steel case back. It still offers aesthetically pleasing details, however. The red aluminum crown wheel and the blue Parachrom hairspring stand out the most, while the sunburst on the winding rotor and the automatic bridge are more subtle. Models without a date indicator are powered by the caliber 3130. Both movements are classified as chronographs, seeing as they've passed the tests of the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute).
Both calibers are considered to be among the best in the watchmaking scene. Rolex optimized important components, such as the balance spring, thereby improving the overall accuracy of their watches. They achieved this by using an anti-magnetic alloy, which prevents the watch from being affected by magnetic fields. The special Breguet spiral allows the balance spring to "breathe" and improves its precision. Master watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet introduced this improvement to the balance spring in 1795. He raised its last coil, thereby reducing the curvature. The caliber is regulated via Microstella nuts, which are located on the inner side of the balance wheel. Unlike most mechanical movements, the watch is not adjusted using a regulator, but rather the Microstella system.
- Chronometer-certified, in-house calibers 3130 and 3135 (date)
- Calibers 3130 and 3135 are considered the best automatic calibers in the world
- Anti-magnetic Parachrom hairspring with a Breguet overcoil
- Quickset date feature and balance stop for setting the watch to the exact second
- Microstella nuts for precision index adjustment
A Popular Collectible: The Red Sub
Some Rolex watches make collectors' hearts beat faster. The so-called Red Sub is one such highly sought-after collectible. Rolex produced the Submariner with reference number 1680 between 1967 and 1980. The name "Submariner" was written in red on the dial until 1974, thus earning it the nickname "Red Sub." One can distinguish a real Red Sub from a fake by examining the dial. Between 1967 and 1974, Rolex used six different dials, which were labeled Mark I to Mark VI. The biggest change occurred between Mark III and Mark IV. Experts call the Mark I to Mark III dials "meters first," because "200 m = 660 ft" is written on the dial. Beginning with Mark IV, the dials are known as "feet first," because the meter and feet measurements switch places. Mark I dials are the rarest versions of the Red Sub. They can be recognized by the closed sixes in "660 ft."
Further identifying features are the tropical dials that appear on the Mark II and Mark III. Due to exposure to direct sunlight, humidity, and heat over the years, the color of the dial and the bezel changed to brown. This most likely occurred due to a special color mixture used by the supplier at the time. These tropical dials are highly prized among collectors and increase in value with the intensity of the color change from white to yellow or brown. However, the color of the hands and indexes should be the same, as that is a sign of a true Rolex.
When buying a red Submariner, it's also important that the reference and serial numbers are readable. The manufacture date is also on the case back of earlier models and corresponds with the serial number.
Bold type numbers and indexes on the bezel indicate a genuine red Submariner. Later versions feature a thinner typeface. It is less important if there is a missing or damaged luminous point at the zero marker.
These vintage Submariners
are powered by the automatic movement 1575, which also has a date indicator, unlike the 1570. The 1575 caliber also runs the Sea-Dweller
with reference number 1665 and the GMT-Master
with reference number 1675.
Success Since 1953
The Submariner has gone down in watchmaking history during the last six decades. It's developed into an icon and one of the most well-known watches in existence. The special Deepsea Challenge model even went to an impressive depth of nearly 12,000 m in the Mariana Trench in 2012 - the world record for a watch. The predecessor of the first Submariner, reference number 6200, was water resistant up to 100 m thanks to its distinctive Twinlock crown. It had a bi-directional bezel that allowed divers to keep track of the length of their dive quickly and easily with just one glance. The Swiss watch manufacturer Blancpain improved this bezel in 1953 with their Fifty Fathoms model. The bezel is unidirectional, meaning it can only be turned clockwise and therefore the dive time can only be shortened and never lengthened.
Rolex took the advice of René-Paul Jeanneret when designing the Submariner. The former Rolex director was an avid recreational diver and gave helpful suggestions for the dial, bezel, and case. The watch survived various tests and 132 dives to depths between 12 and 60 m. It even fell on a concrete dock from a height of two meters and continued to function. The only damage was the loss of a small part of the luminous material from one of the hands. The successor of the original Submariner was water resistant up to 200 m and was the official watch of the British, Australian, and Canadian marines.
The year 1953 was a special year for the watchmaking industry overall. In August, New Zealander Sir Edmund P. Hillary and the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first men to reach the peak of Mt. Everest. An Oyster Perpetual from Rolex was with them on top of the mountain. Rolex had sponsored the expedition led by Colonel Sir John Hunt. The automatic watches were not simply gifts for the mountain climbers - they had been sent along in order to test their reliability and strength under harsh conditions. Sir Hillary sent his watch back to Geneva after the expedition with notes. Countless tests led to the creation of the Rolex Explorer, a watch for adventurers.