When it comes to prototypical Rolex watches, the Rolex Submariner is in a league of its own. Released in 1954, the Rolex Submariner combines ruggedness, precision, and the latest watchmaking technologies into an iconic wristwatch. Rolex adds to the Submariner’s aura by keeping the watch fresh with redesigns and updated in the latest watchmaking and waterproofing technologies. Along with the Rolex Daytona, the Rolex Submariner is one of the most recognized copied wristwatches in the world.
The Rolex Submariner is considered a classic diving watch. Released in the mid-1950 when Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) diving was becoming more accessible and not just to military types, the Submariner oozed adventure as it was designed for depths not attainable by most wristwatches. The 1954 Submariner had a black face, silver hands, in what was then considered a large 40mm diameter face, and in all stainless steel including the bracelet, and was waterproof utilizing Rolex’s patented screw-down Triploc winding crown and Oyster case. During the 1950’s, men’s wrist watches hovered in the 34-36mm diameter range and a 40mm watch was considered gigantic, starting a tool-watch watch design category emphasizing utilitarian characteristics such as a rotating bezel, large high contrast face for readability, luminescent hands, and the ability to withstand the elements and abuse.
More than 50 years later, the classic Submariner elements remain the same even though the watch has evolved into three, very general categories; Submariner’s with precious metal cases, Submariner’s with colored faces, and the No-Date Submariner. Despite the differences in case material and color, the Rolex Submariner still emanates “tool watch” through and through. Rolex modernized the Rolex Submariner by adding Cerachrom, a ceramic bezel insert that is both fade and scratch resistant, unlike the original aluminum bezel insert. The Cerachrom bezel rides on ceramic bearings rather than being compressed onto washers like the original providing an ever-smooth feeling as the bezel turns. The Oyster bracelet and clasp was updated to solid links rather than hallow, and a Glidelock clasp, allowing quick adjustment in 2mm increments to the bracelet -a feature only found on the Rolex dive watches. Rolex updated the watch face utilizing larger white gold hands complete with Chromalight luminescence making it more visible for a longer period of time in dark conditions. The Submariner’s watch movement is the Rolex tractor 3135 with an updated Parachrom hairspring both proven to be plain reliable.
Wearing the modern Submariner is always a pleasure. The caseback is somewhat raised from the wrist because it has thicker than standard casebacks to increase the water pressure rating. A raised caseback lifts the watchcase away from the wrist, making it a little more top-heavy, but the easy adjustability of the Glidelock clasp makes adjusting the bracelet a breeze. Even though a slightly raised caseback might be a liability, in actuality it helps with comfort by preventing the larger Triploc crown from digging into the top of your hand. The 40mm watch face in this day and age is a good size for readability yet is not so large that it feels that one has a pocket watch strapped to their wrist. The 40mm size is also not so small that there is no watch presence, and it easily slips under a shirt cuff. The watchcase has been redesigned such that it is slightly boxier, but heavier giving it greater presence on the wrist.
Without question, wearing a Submariner brings a mix of its’ iconic and groundbreaking past, yet possesses the modern technical elements that will make it outlast its owner.