The word “iconic” is bandied around too easily in the watch world. However, if there’s one watch that’s worthy of such a tag, it would be the Rolex Submariner. In my opinion, it is not only the most iconic dive watch around, but probably the most iconic wristwatch of all time. And it’s not just me, a vintage Rolex trader and aficionado, who believes this – a great many collectors will gladly give up the rest of their watches and keep just the Submariner if they were hypothetically posed the question.
There have been numerous Submariner references that have appeared between the launch of the Ref. 124060 two days ago and the first model from 1953, which was back then the first diver’s watch depth-rated to 100 meters. Since much of the talk around the new release has been around the redesigned case, let’s take a look at how the case has evolved over the years.
The first references 6204/6205 measured a modest 37 mm in diameter, but the design was streamlined and it soon set the template for diver’s watches. When the case width breached the 40-mm mark in 1959 with the Ref. 5512, it was against the prevailing zeitgeist for smaller case sizes. Reference 5512 was followed by the most celebrated Submariner of all time, the Ref. 5513 which was produced over a period of 30 years. It’s hard to believe that the 40 mm case width endured for all these years, from the Ref. 5512 to the 1680 (which was the Submariner Date version).
Rolex is known to make only incremental changes to their models, but when it rolled out the Submariner with the Maxi case in 2010 (the Submariner Date Ref. 116610), purists were outraged. The Maxi case, for those unfamiliar with Rolex nicknames and myths, is a reference to a new case that Rolex introduced with the GMT-Master-II in 2005. The Maxi case was the same width (40 mm), but because of its stockier lugs, wider bezel, and thicker case, it didn’t sit as well as the older Oyster case models on the wrist. The shape changed immensely and for the first time looked chunky and out of proportion.
Which brings me to the new Submariner, the Ref. 124060, which has a redesigned case and bracelet. Even though it is 41 mm now, the lugs are slimmer and the bracelet is wider – the case design just looks better resolved now. Personally, I’m happy that 10 years from the introduction of the Maxi-case Submariner, Rolex has decided to pay heed to the aesthetics of the original Oyster case again. The redesigned bracelet and the new movement make this a significant update in the evolution of the icon.