The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner is a line of watches manufactured by Rolex, designed for diving and known for their resistance to water. The first Submariner was introduced to the public in 1954 at the Swiss Watch Fair. Copied by other watch makers, the Rolex Submariner is recognised as a classic, and one of the most widely recognized luxury products in the world. The Rolex Submariner is part of Rolex's Oyster Perpetual Professional line. The watch has been part of expeditions both at sea (such as the Moana expedition) and overland in the Antarctic (where it withstood temperatures of 45 degrees below zero Celsius). In the Moana sea expedition it withstood in excess of a thousand dives. Thor Heyerdal, the Norwegian anthropologist, wore a Rolex Submariner in his 1970 Ra II sea expedition. The Rolex Submariner has appeared in eleven James Bond movies.
Early Submariners (1953-1967)
The Submariner model went into production in 1953, and was showcased at the Basel watch fair in 1954. The assigned case reference number of this first Submariner was either 6204 or 6205. It is unclear which model came first and, in any event, the two watches are nearly identical. Neither has the distinctive "cathedral" or "Mercedes" hands now so strongly associated with the Submariner line. Rather, both of these early submariners have straight "pencil" style hands. Few if any of the 6205 watches bear the name "Submariner" on the dial, a major distinction with modern Submariners. Some 6204 models have the Submariner logo printed below the center pinion, while others have the logo blacked out. It is believed that there were unexpected trademark issues connected with the name "Submariner" at the time the 6204 and 6205 were released which account for the inconsistent use of the Submariner mark on these early Submariners. Trademark irregularities notwithstanding, both the 6204 and 6205 are designated Submariner models in the Rolex product literature of the time.
In 1954, Rolex also produced a small number of ref. 6200 Submariners. This was the first Submariner (although not the first Rolex) to make use of the Mercedes hand set (a feature of all subsequent Submariners). The 6200 also featured an oversized winding crown (compared with the 6204 and 6205 models). Within a few years, Rolex revised its Submariner line, producing the 6536 (small crown) and 6538 (oversized crown) models. These watches had "improved" movements (the cal. 1030), including a chronometer version in some 6536 models (designated 6536/1), the now-familiar Mercedes hands, along with the Submariner logo and depth rating printed on the dial. By the early 1960s, these models gave way to the 5508 (small crown) and 5510 (large crown) models. All of these early Submariners used either gilt (6200, 6204, 6205) or gilt/silver gilt (6536, 6538) printing on glossy black dials. Radium paint was used for the luminous indices. The next wave of Submariners, the 5512 (chronometer version) and 5513 (non-chronometer) marked a significant change in the appearance of the popular Rolex design. "Shoulders" were added to the crown side of the case to provide protection for the winding/setting mechanism. In early watches—perhaps until 1964 or so—these shoulders were pyramid-shaped, ending in points. Later watches were manufactured with rounded shoulders. In addition, the 5512 and 5513 were both fitted with the oversized crown, which became a standard feature of the Submariner line thereafter. Sometime in the early 1960s, Rolex discontinued the use of radium paint for the luminous indices, switching to the safer Tritium-infused paint. In 1965-1966, Rolex discontinued use of gilt/silver gilt dials on the Submariner watches, switching to white printing. A final important change came with the introduction of the 1680 model in the late 1960s. The 1680 was the first Submariner to be equipped with a date complication, marking the completion of the transition of the Submariner line from specialist tool watch to mass market fashion accessory. While many professional and military divers used—and continue to use—Submariners in the most demanding underwater environments, by the late '60s the watch had undeniably become a mass market product as well. Throughout the next 40 years, the Submariner was updated with improved water resistance, new movements, and numerous small cosmetic changes. Nonetheless, the modern Submariner of today bears a very strong resemblance to the 5512 or 5513 of the early 1960s, and is an unmistakable descendant of the very first Submariners introduced more than fifty years ago. In 2003, Rolex celebrated the Submariner's 50th anniversary by launching the Rolex Submariner anniversary edition (16610 LV). Its distinguishing features were the green bezel and Maxi dial.
Model information and characteristics
- Is waterproof to a maximum depth of 300 metres/1000 ft.
- Has the Triplock system, featuring a triple gasket system, is identified by three dots on the crown which screws down tightly onto the case tube and against the Oyster case providing another layer of protection.
- Has a case made from a solid block of 904L stainless steel or gold. 904L steel is a corrosion-resistant stainless steel alloy. Rolex makes its gold in its own foundry where it can create new alloys and control the quality of the gold.
- As a true diving watch, the Submariner utilizes a unidirectional bezel that enables the diver to memorize and follow immersion time. Since the bezel only rotates counterclockwise, the dive time can only become "shorter" in case of accidental bezel movement, thus avoiding the danger of spending too much time underwater.
- Has the Perpetual rotor in the self-winding wristwatch mechanism which allows the watch to run continuously because every slight movement of the wrist winds the movement and the energy generated is stored in the mainspring which can allow the watch to continue to function with no movement for up to two or three days. Every movement is an officially certified Swiss chronometer by the COSC. At midnight the Rolex calendar mechanism advances to the next date in a single short rotation.
- As of summer of 2007 the 14060M non date version became a COSC certified Swiss chronometer.
- As of 2007, and more particularly, with the "Z" serial number series, there are no holograms on the casebacks.
- A new submariner based on the "supercase" used in the GMT II was presented at the 2008 Basel show. The first Submariner models offered are a yellow gold with blue face and bezel and a new white gold with blue face and bezel.
- More recent models of the Submariner (late 2008) have a distinctive "ROLEX ROLEX ROLEX" and serial number engraved on the "inner bezel" known more correctly as the "Rehaut"(French) or "Flange"(English).