Every day I receive numerous press releases from watch companies, filling my email inbox with superb images and lengthy text. I spend much time dissecting each press release, separating the marketing-fuelled hyperbole from the actual specification of the timepiece.
Taking the said text to the cynical operating table located in my study, I surgically remove the froth and try to expose the substance. The press releases often employ the words “legend” and “iconic”, but show little evidence to support the vocabulary used. Ultimately, I ask myself whether the watch is worth writing about and, if so, take steps to procure the watch for temporary ownership and detailed appraisal. In terms of the Submariner, the words “legend” and “iconic” are richly deserved.
Fortunately, a friend, and fellow watch collector, provided the means to get “hands-on” with a “legend”.
Rolex Submariner Date – A legend since 1954
The iconic Rolex Submariner was launched in 1954 and over the years it has subtly evolved, remaining instantly recognisable to legions of admirers but with numerous variants in existence.
Indeed, it is the subtle differences which can cause frenzied action in auction houses. Collectors will desperately try to secure a rare reference that to the lay-person appears identical to a “regular” Submariner. For instance, text depicted on the dial in red, rather than the typical white hue, has spawned the terms “single red” and “double red”. A central sweep seconds hand resembling a lighting bolt indicates the watch is a Milgauss model with enhanced resistance to magnetism.
Then there is the special word “Comex” depicted on some dials, denoting a series of Submariners created for a French diving company. These particular models regularly fetch huge sums as demand outstrips the supply of vintage models in circulation.
Date or non-date, is a further question Rolex has posed to would-be buyers over the years. Whilst early models were solely available in steel, precious metals later appeared. Different coloured dials also extended the choice available to prospective purchasers.
Many years ago I owned a Submariner Date in steel, but foolishly sold it to facilitate the purchase of another timepiece. A moment of madness that I have regretted ever since. It therefore proved interesting to have a pleasurable period of temporary use, courtesy of my friend, of the latest Submariner Date. This particular version is delivered on a bi-metallic bracelet and features the shiny allure of a Cerachrom bezel insert.
Rolex Submariner Date – The Dial
A key attribute of the Submariner Date has always been the peerless legibility of the dial.
The hour hand features a Mercedes-like symbol, enhancing ease of read-off. The hour and minute hands are luminous proving very legible in restricted light. The luminous material also features on the hour markings and has a blue emission which is particularly attractive. I remember my Submariner of the 1990s had a green emission and whilst it appeared satisfactory at the time, the evolution of the Submariner has definitely brought with it improvement.
The hour markings are circular dots, outlined with gold, save for 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock, where rectangular batons reside, and at noon where a triangular index features. The date aperture, located at 3 o’clock, is presented on a white date disc and magnified (2.5 x) by the legendary Cyclops lens.
Adorning the dial are various words specifying the name of the model, maximum water resistance and place of origin, all presented in clearly defined white text. In addition, the watch carries the statement, “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified”. The Submariner is officially certified as a Swiss chronometer (COSC), meeting all the criteria demanded by this independent body.
A further difference on this modern Submariner is the inner flange with the text, “Rolex” spanning its sharply sloping surface. It was a detail I first saw on my Rolex Deepsea a few years ago and it continues to look very appealing.
Rolex Submariner Date – The Case
Rolex has not used 316L stainless steel typically employed within the watchmaking industry but a higher grade 904L steel. I suspect few customers will notice, but it reaffirms Rolex’s credentials for making high quality and incredibly robust timepieces. In this instance, the steel is combined with yellow gold that features on the bezel, bracelet and crown. The blend of the two metals works well and imparts a charming warmth to the watch.
The case measures 40 mm in diameter and was once considered large, yet now appears relatively restrained. The benefit of a 40 mm case is that it provides a suitable fit for a broad section of potential customers.
The bi-metallic Oyster bracelet offers endless possibilities for fine-tuning the sizing to accord a comfortable fit. A further enhancement to this Submariner is the Rolex Glidelock extension system which provides a user-friendly and quick means of adjusting the bracelet without the need for tools.
Rolex has repeatedly imparted small improvements to the Submariner over the years. Comparing the bracelet of this recent model with the Submariner I previously owned, the three-row bracelet feels more substantial. The bracelet of my 1990s Submariner felt wonderful at the time, but Rolex has evidently expended much effort continuously improving its products. This philosophy is something that appears to be part of the Rolex DNA and, in my opinion, leads me to think the best models to bear the Rolex crown are its most recent, albeit I suspect some purists may disagree.
Rolex Submariner Date – The Movement
The Calibre 3135 is a self-winding movement. It features a hacking seconds, allowing the wearer to precisely set the time.
Rolex has fitted its Parachrom Hairspring to this model. The unusual blue colour of the hairspring is hidden from view as the Submariner Date has a solid case back, in common with many diver’s watches. It is Rolex’s own hairspring and is said to be “insensitive to magnetic fields and up to 10 times more resistant to shocks”.
This brings me to another key attribute of Submariner ownership, the incredible robustness and reliability of its models. I recall dropping my Submariner on several occasions, accidentally banging it against objects and wearing it in swimming pools, saunas and jacuzzis, all of which, I might add, are not to be recommended. However, despite my sometimes harsh treatment, my Submariner performed faultlessly and never showed any evidence of my sometimes negligent care.
Clearly, I do not wish to subject my friend’s factory fresh Rolex to this aforementioned destruct testing regime, but I am confident this latest Submariner will deliver similar resilience to any adverse treatment.
Rolex Submariner Date – Closing remarks
I find myself feeling a moment of sadness as I conclude this article. I am reminded of my foolishness at parting with my faithful 1990s Submariner Date. However, as I hold this latest bi-metallic Submariner Date in my hands I am reminded that this true legend continues to improve with subtle enhancements and clever innovation.
Rolex clearly understands the iconic status of this watch and continues to ensure that despite imparting discreet enhancements to the Submariner Date, it does not lose the essence of the 1954 original model that is affectionately admired by watch lovers around the globe.
Rolex Submariner Date – Technical Specification
Model: Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner Date
Reference: 116613 LN
- 904L steel and 18-carat yellow gold;
- Diameter 40.00 mm;
- Water resistant to 30 bar (300 metres);
- Sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback.
Functions: Hours; minutes; central sweep seconds; date.
Movement: Calibre 3135, self-winding movement
Bracelet: Steel and 18-carat yellow gold bracelet with folding clasp and Rolex Glidelock extension system