The word “iconic” may be bandied around a lot, but the word is never more relevant than when describing the Rolex Submariner. The Submariner is a watch that anyone with even a passing interest in watches has on their “bucket list” of treasured possessions to own throughout their lifetime.
A “divers watch” may be quite an ordinary thing for many people to own these days, but when you purchase a Rolex Submariner you are also buying into a little bit of watch-making history.
The Submariner was the result of Rolex’s second great breakthrough in the technical mastering of waterproofness for a wristwatch, following on from their invention of the Oyster, the world’s first waterproof wristwatch in 1926. The Submariner represented a historic turning point in watch-making history and set the standard for divers watch.
When the Submariner first came out of the Rolex workshops in 1953, the watch was an immediate success with many pioneering deep-sea professionals such as Rebikoff being asked to test the watch specifically for the brand. Rebikoff reported the watch as “performing outstandingly well” in trials and that it had given “entire satisfaction in tough and particularly murderous diving conditions for the material used”.
Since the Submariner was created, the watch has constantly evolved meaning the waterproofness, robustness, and functionality has been enhanced, along with the case enlarging from 38mm to 40 mm. The Submariner is equipped with a “Triplock” winding crown which means that the watch is fitted with a triple waterproofness system – it screws down securely against the case, ensuring watertight security to keep out the most minute particles and to ensure the watch is watertight for those diving experiences.
When it was originally created in 1953 for diving and underwater expeditions it was the first divers’ wristwatch with a guaranteed waterproof depth of 100m. This was increased to 300m in 2008. Since then the Rolex Submariner has in many ways defined not only the dive watch category, but the sport watch category also.
The Rolex Submariner is available in Oystersteel – which belongs to the 904L steel family and is more commonly used by the high-technology, aerospace and chemical industries than by watchmakers.It has anti-corrosion properties, and is more robust and comfortable than other grades of steel. Rolex also choose to only use 904L steel as they need this quality of raw material to ensure they can achieve the high levels of finish they apply to each and every watch. The Submariner is also available in yellow gold, white gold and Rolesor - a trademarked combination of yellow gold and Oystersteel together.
When it comes to divers’ watches the Submariner is definitely the most recognised and coveted, often spotted on the wrists of the most stylish of famous men, including Sean Connery who was one of the first to introduce it to a high profile role in a film when he wore the watch in the 1962 James Bond movie Dr.No.
The look of the watch is tirelessly copied by other brands, large and small. The famous unidirectional bezel is fitted with simple shapes such as circles and triangles to enable divers to be able to easily read the watch, ensuring there is no confusion whilst underwater. The bezel is also created with graduations to mark each minute for the first quarter hour and with more pronounced knurling to ensure a better grip on the bezel with diving gloves, notch by notch, accompanied by distinctive clicks. To ensure extra safety whilst diving, the Submariner is equipped with an Oysterlock safety clasp to prevent accidental opening.
The watch’s bezel is made from a material called Cerachrom, which features graduations in gold or platinum that are virtually scratchproof. This is a corrosion-resistant ceramic and its colour is unaffected by ultraviolet rays, seawater or water that is chlorinated. A true divers’ watch, the Submariner paved the way for Rolex deep-sea diving watches, namely, the Sea-Dweller and the Rolex Deepsea.
The Submariner’s distinctive dial is equipped with large luminescent hour markers so the watch face can be easily read in dark underwater environments and the Rolex Glidelock extension system on the clasp allows divers to adjust the watch, without tools, to fit over wetsuits when diving and to revert back when on dry land.
Both models are equipped with calibre 3130 and calibre 3135 self-winding mechanical movements entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex and both models – the Submariner and Submariner Date have remained faithful to the original model launched in 1953.
Even in the days when divers rarely use a wristwatch for diving purposes, the business of recording time and oxygen used under water having largely been taken over by computers, the popularity of the Rolex Submariner has never been higher. As I said, it is truly iconic, and the beauty of an icon is that it doesn’t date.