submarinerThe Rolex Submariner History

The Rolex Submariner is one of the most iconic, well known watches in the world today and is part of Rolex’s Oyster Perpetual line. It has been iconic almost from when it came to life in 1953 as the Ref 6205 and the Ref 6204 with the honeycomb dial. Also around that time the Ref 6200 came to live and its debated on wether it was before or after the Ref 6204 and the Ref 6205. Expert now say its the 6204 that came first.

It is the start of an almost not to map early history of the Submariner to say the least as it comes in so many different varieties of dials, like for instance the 3,6,9 dial, materials used for the dials, and the printing on the dials with for instance meters/feet or feet/meters in white or red, or no depth indication at all.

Rolex already made the diving watch Panerai Radiomir for the Italian navy in the 1940’s and with the specially designed Rolex Deep Sea Special attached to the exterior of the Auguste Piccards’s bathyscaphe in 1953, taking it to a depth it 3115 meters in the Mediterranean, Rolex showed it has the know-how of how to make watertight watches. On the 26th of March 2012 Rolex went again to the deepest point on earth descending to 10908 metres into Challenger Deep within the Mariana trench. The expedition Deepsea Challenge of film-maker James Cameron took with it the experimental divers watch the Rolex Deepsea Challenge.

The first Submariners introduced in 1954 at the Basel Watch Fair could according to Rolex be taken to a depth of 200m or 660ft. The Submariner was the first watch made for a specific purpose like the GMT at a later stage was a watch designed for pilots, the Submariner was designed for diving with its rotating bezel divers are able to track the elapsed time spend under water.

The history of Rolex is intimately tied to mans conquest of the Ocean

The name Submariner, probably because of trademark issues, was not always mentioned on the dial. Some of the early models of Submariners have it, some don’t.

By 1955 the Ref 6536 and the Ref 6538 in 1957 replace the originals. Heavier cases for both, but the 6536 with a thinner case then the 6538. The 6536 waterproof up to 100m, the 6538 up to 200m. Both with the “Mercedes” hands and both with the famous 1030 movement. The 6538 being of course the James Bond Rolex.

The same, but upgraded 1030 movement in the 6536/1 from 1957 made it earn the chronometer title
Rolex experimented and improved the Submariner rapidly as only approximately four years later in 1958 and in 1959 two new Submariners the 5508 and the 5510 with all new movements the Cal 1530 and the Cal 1560 are introduced. Although the 5510 for only a short period which makes it a rare find these days because of the limited numbers it was produced in, only 300 to 600 is believed.

The Ref 5512 chronometer and the “normal” Ref 5513 coming to the market in 1959 and 1962 respectively, the appearance of the modern Submariner becomes very clear. With the oversized crown becoming the standard look for all the Submariners after and the shoulders added for protection of the winding mechanism.

Sea Dwellersubmariner advertisement

Rolex had a history of working together with the diving company Comex until it went out of business in 1997. And from 1970 until 1997 Rolex made Submariners for the company. Initial models included an helium escape valve which also appeared on the Rolex Sea Dweller introduced in 1971.
The Sea Dweller is the “heavy duty” version of the Submariner able of depths of 1220 metres and with the same helium escape valve allowing it to be used for helium-based breathing gas mixtures in saturation diving. In 2008 the Rolex DeepSea Sea Dweller came out surpassing the Sea Dweller by being able to be taken to depths of 3,900 metres.

A big change to the Submariner comes with the introduction of the Ref 1680, it was featured with a date window and the either you love it or hate it cyclops to help you read it. The 1680 still had the same depth rating as its many predecessors until it was followed by the16800 which could be taken down to 1000ft.
The same depth for the rare 168000 which was produced after the 16800 for a short period of time around 1988 to 1989 out of the new 904L stainless steel and was the transition model to the 16610 Submariner, the “modern day” Submariner.

50th Anniversary

Rolex celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Submariner in 2003 with the 16610LV with its distinctive green ceramic bezel and Maxi dial. Before the anniversary model went out of production in 2010 Rolex came to the market with the latest Submariner. With the “supercase” based on the GMT II and its cerachrom bezel the new Submariner launched in 2008 comes as the Submariner or as the Submariner-Date. The 3130 movement with its blue parachrom hairspring in the modern day Submariner is like all Rolex movements today developed and manufactured by Rolex. Click here to find our present selectionDial-of-Red-Rolex-Submariner