Queen of the seas, queen of watches
It is rare for a single product to be so influential and so important in its particular world. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner (also known as the “Sub”) is the most durable, most sought after, most appreciated, best adapted, best known and most acclaimed watch in its segment: that of diving watches. How has Rolex managed to achieve so many superlatives, so many sales and so many variations in almost 70 years of uninterrupted history, accompanied by the undying approval of an ever-expanding fan base?
There is no flattery in stating facts; simply a recognition of the relentless work on a design that has changed little, especially since 1963. It cannot be said that the Sub is the first of its kind ever: it was Blancpain who created the first modern diving watch with a rotating bezel, waterproof case worthy of the name (water resistant up to fifty fathoms, or 91 meters) and optimized readability. However, the Submariner can legitimately lay claim to primacy in terms of design and pursuit of constant improvement, and it is these qualities that have placed it squarely at the center of every debate about professional watches and deep water resistance, generation after generation. The fact is that alongside the basic versions, Rolex has always developed models with better, sometimes extreme, technical capabilities. Enlisting the help of diving professionals (as befits a model belonging to the so-called Professional family), Rolex has regularly linked its iconic watch to occasional or regular exploits that have strengthened its reputation by putting it to the test (or in some cases through the trial of fire).
By supplying models to a large number of armed forces, Rolex persuaded the military to award the highest “wristwatch” accolade to the Submariner. Supplying divers working for professional diving pioneers Comex, the brand has received the seal of approval from the most experienced deep-sea workers. By fixing a prototype of the Deep Sea Special to the hull of the research bathyscaphe Trieste in 1960, bringing it to the effective depth of 10,916 metres, a record was obtained which remained unbeaten for another 59 years. And by attempting to break that record in 2012, this time aboard an ultra-fast mini-submarine with James Cameron at the helm, Rolex once again brought the Submariner’s self-referential history back to center stage. It is a narrative cycle that places the clock above the norm, above the competition and, to a certain extent, above reality itself. Who can really understand what it means to accomplish the feat of resisting a pressure of 1,100 bar, immersed in an environment where the pressure exerted on an area the size of a postage stamp exceeds one ton?
The Submariner was born in 1953 as the logical culmination of a process that began 27 years earlier with the creation of the Oyster case, followed by the adoption of the screw-down crown and, subsequently, the use of flexible gaskets to create the different parts of the dial. waterproof case. In 1953,Cheap Rolex Replica extrapolated its rotating bezel model, the Turn-o-Graph, and in doing so brought together the ingredients for underwater casting: its ref. 6204 had a diameter of 36 mm and was water resistant to 100 meters. Featuring a rotating bezel with black aluminum insert, triangular 00 indicator and luminous hands, it encapsulated everything that has come to define the modern dive watch, although the design became more stable in 1959 with the ref. 5512. It had a bezel with a deeply serrated toothed edge, “Mercedes” hands (these had emerged on an intermediate generation), and marked the transition to a 40mm diameter case (complete with crown guard) that was water resistant to 200 m thanks to the Twinlock seal on the crown.
The kinship between a 1959 Submariner and a 2022 Submariner is obvious: Despite countless changes, their family resemblance is immediately distinguishable. Seen this way, due to its constant presence in the collective imagination of all those interested in watches, the Submariner is an archetype. As such it evolves, not only with each new generation but also with each new version. It has developed through more than twelve generations, each iteration adding a change in material, new-look hour markers, a different dial finish, or perhaps a new strap system or movement. But the great strength of the Sub is precisely that of allowing variations on a theme: a family, a collection and even a brand in the sense of a name that contains a set of identifying attributes and coherent, stable and powerful connotations.
The variants in question include materials. Although the Sub was originally (and generally still is) a steel watch, Rolex also introduced its usual range of alternatives. Already in 1969 the Submariner was available in an all-gold version, obviously in yellow gold! Ref. 1680 used one of the brand’s recipes for success: marketing solid gold watches as symbols of prosperity and success, particularly for the United States. In 1983 the ref. 16803 introduced a mixture of gold and steel that would later be known as Rolesor. The watch also featured one of the first blue dials in contemporary history, surrounded by a bezel in the same shade, marking a radical change from the almost commando look of its contemporary, the Ref. 16800. The gold was shiny, yellow and abundant , the bright blue. Then in 2008, the ref. 116619LB was released in white gold, once again with a blue dial and bezel, although this time in a slightly more subdued matte shade.
The Sub was also appreciated for its functional variants. The Submariner is undated, but the same can’t be said of the Submariner Date, which has always had the infamous “Cyclops” magnifying glass with its Marmite effect on the community – you either love it or hate it. Those who hate it have long found refuge in the more virile, more professional, more robust and no-nonsense SeaDweller version, first released in 1967. Until the introduction of the ref. 126600 in 2017, the other watches that took this approach were the Cellini. Meanwhile, the dial variants Single Red, Double Red, Comex and other microspecialties that drive enthusiasts crazy represent the hardcore side of the Submariner, a timepiece that did not deviate in the slightest from the tacit canons of what had yet to be known as the replica watches of the instrument.
This 51.4mm diameter and 28.5mm thick prototype watch was exceptional in every way, including its guaranteed water resistance to a depth of 12,000 metres. The sapphire crystal alone is 14.3mm thick, thicker than an entire Submariner today. This technical feat and publicity coup illustrate how the Sub is exceptional in every way for Rolex, despite the brand having no room for exceptions to its rules. It is a tool that dominates the world of underwater watchmaking: an environment in which to explore, excel and perform, amid fierce competition that nevertheless remains relegated to second place, held back by the irresistible force of the Rolex machine, launched at full steam to support what is perhaps the brand’s most iconic watch.