How to Choose Your Dream Rolex Submariner

The Rolex Submariner isn’t a subject that typically sparks controversy. While asking a group of music, design, or fashion aficionados to name the most significant album, building, or collection of the 20th century might lead to heated debates, querying a gathering of watch experts would likely yield a unanimous response: the Rolex Submariner.

Since its inception in 1954, the Rolex Submariner (affectionately known as the “Sub” among collectors) has transcended its origins as a mere diving instrument to become the epitome of luxury tool watches, embodying the quintessential desk diver. Striking a harmonious balance between being a proficient diving companion (it was the pioneer in dive watches rated to 100 meters) and a symbol of style (offered in solid gold since 1969), the Submariner has undeniably cemented its position as one of the most coveted horological treasures over the past seven decades.

This revered status is no coincidence. The Rolex Submariner boasts a plethora of premium features, including a 904L stainless steel (also known as Oystersteel) case, Chromalight luminescence, and a Cerachrom bezel (a superior version of ceramic). Furthermore, it has been continually enhanced over the years with ingenious improvements such as the user-friendly Glidelock bracelet and a variety of vibrant dials and bezels, in addition to iterations in gold and two-tone (known as Rolesor). However, what truly ignites the passion of watch collectors, elevating vintage Submariners to the realm of highly sought-after watches, boils down to one factor: consistency.

“During the ’60s, every watchmaker produced a diving watch, but the Submariner stands out as the ultimate icon because it has remained largely unchanged,” explains Sacha Davidoff, a vintage watch expert based in Geneva. “It’s akin to the Porsche 911: the core design remains constant, but the internal mechanisms evolve.” Davidoff elucidates that incremental advancements over the years have rendered the Submariner more dependable and durable than its predecessors, yet its fundamental essence – the geometric hour markers, the “Mercedes” handset, the rotating bezel, and the Oyster bracelet – remains virtually unaltered since 1960. “This is why the Submariner holds such significance,” Davidoff asserts. “Rolex has preserved its DNA while enhancing its technological prowess.”

For individuals contemplating the acquisition of a replica Rolex Submariner, the initial decision revolves around opting for a new model or delving into the realm of vintage watches. If the former is preferred, choices include the classic Submariner model in Oystersteel without a date or the Submariner Date, offering a broader selection of metals, colors, and the distinctive Cyclops date window. However, venturing into vintage Submariners introduces a realm of complexity.

With numerous models (referred to as references in Rolex terminology) spanning decades, distinguished by nuances as subtle as the text arrangement on the dial or the design of the crown guards, navigating the world of vintage Submariners can seem as daunting as exploring the Mariana Trench, albeit with financial risks. Regardless of the path chosen, delving into the universe of Submariners entails immersing oneself in a trove of terminology and lore. Below are some of the most coveted references among collectors, along with reputable sources for acquiring them:

Rolex Submariner Ref. 124060: The quintessential choice from the current catalog, featuring a 41mm Oystersteel case, a sleek black dial, and Rolex’s latest automatic movement. For those who actively utilize their replica watches, this is an exemplary option.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 16610LV: Introduced in 2003 to commemorate the Submariner’s 50th anniversary, this model features a green bezel, earning it the endearing moniker “Kermit” among enthusiasts.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 116610LV: Following the discontinuation of the Kermit, Rolex introduced this steel Submariner with a vibrant green hue, affectionately dubbed the “Hulk.”

Rolex Submariner Ref. 116610: Unveiled in 2010, this model brought significant changes to the Submariner Date, including a ceramic bezel, Chromalight luminescence, a new movement, and a sturdier case with enlarged lugs and crown guards.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 116619LB: Marking Rolex’s 2008 centenary, this Submariner features a case and bracelet crafted from 18k white gold, adorned with a blue dial and bezel, earning it the playful nickname “Smurf.”

Rolex Submariner Ref. 6538: Produced from 1959 to 1959, this early Submariner is distinguished by its oversized winding crown and absence of crown guards. Notably, it was the watch worn by Sean Connery onscreen in iconic films like Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Goldfinger, forever immortalizing it as the “Bond Sub.”

Rolex Submariner Ref. 168000: Dubbed the “Triple-Zero,” this Submariner introduced a case crafted from upgraded 904L steel, marking the transition between vintage and modern designs. Its limited production in the late ’80s renders it one of the most coveted modern-era Subs.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 1680: The debut of the first Submariner Date, produced from the late ’60s to 1980, signified the Submariner’s evolution from a utilitarian tool to a stylish desk accessory. Available in full gold and two-tone variants, certain versions, known as “Red Subs,” featuring the Submariner name in red ink on the dial, are highly sought after by collectors.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 5513: Ideal for those entering the realm of vintage Subs without breaking the bank, this reference, in production from 1962 to 1989, offers a more accessible entry point into the world of Submariner collecting. Notably, it was also worn by James Bond in several films, further enhancing its allure.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 5512: Regarded as a pivotal reference in the Submariner’s history, produced from 1959 to 1979, the ref. 5512 marked a significant milestone with its modern-sized 40mm case and introduction of crown guards. Notably, it was favored by the legendary Steve McQueen.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 1680/16800/168000 “Comex”: Partnering with the French underwater engineering firm Compagnie Maritime D’expertises, Rolex produced several Submariner Date references for COMEX divers from the ’70s to the ’90s, featuring the COMEX logo on the dial. While debatable in terms of aesthetic appeal, these references are among the most coveted (and expensive) Subs in existence.

Enthusiasts can embark on their journey to find the Rolex Submariner that resonates most with their preferences and aspirations, whether diving into the contemporary catalog or delving into the rich history of vintage treasures.