Transformation Story of the Mighty Rolex Submariner

July 22nd, 2022

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Watch nerds mostly run out of adjectives when they talk about the Rolex Submariner. The reasons are obvious! It is almost like the Submariner is a staple in the brand’s long list of innovations and secures a special position for its pitch-perfect ‘Evolution’.

rolex submariner story

There are numerous waterproof watches in the market. Then what makes the Submariner so influential and iconic? Is it for the incredible amount you fetch when you sell the watch or because you can always take a loan against Rolex watches for financial security? Well, several factors justify the superlative treatment given to this model.

Over 20 years of its existence, the Submariner has seen over 20 variations in metals, sizes and colours. So, it’s safe to say that the Rolex masterpiece has always led a colourful life. Whether a modern or a hyper-vintage model, the Sub has come a long way into being.

Today, we aim to acknowledge the transformation the famous dive watch has had so far.

History of the Submariner

Rolex’s association with the sea goes before the Submariner came into existence. The hurdle started at the beginning of the 20th century, and the brand finally came out with the Oyster case in 1926. The innovation of the Oyster case allowed customers to wear a wristwatch every day through various challenging conditions.

René-Paul Jeanneret (Rolex’s PR Director) proposed the idea for the Sub. After all, he was a diver himself. He proposed that a watch can function much more than just telling the time. This amazing concept soon gave rise to legendary references like the Milgauss, GMT-Master, Explorer and others.

Even though the Submariner came out as a diver’s watch, collectors love the iconic design and wear it on multiple occasions.

Now that is the benefit of getting things right the first time. You do not have to strive to make new changes now and then. Introducing subtle modifications and taking a measured approach cracks the deal.

This is the case with the Rolex Submariner. The visual aesthetics of the watch remains pretty much the same. Only the internal movements go through evolutions.

Let’s take a look at the various updates over the years.

Various Submariner updates over the years


The Submariner models released in 1953 had the serial number and stamp on the inside of the case back. The early Subs like Ref. 6204 had two iterations:

  • One has the words Oyster and Perpetual apart
  • Another one with Oyster and Perpetual words together

A Rare one with the words ‘Sub Aqua’ written on it instead of Submariner

Other than this, there were the honeycomb Sub dials with a matte finish.


The modern Submariner models have Mercedes hands instead of Pencil hands. The Mercedes’s hands have a round element at the point, whereas the earlier pencil models were plain. Moreover, the second hand in the early Sub models had a lollipop at the hand’s tip.


As said, a watch as perfect as the Submariner has seen the most updates in its movement. It is the precision in its movement that make the watches so reliable. During the early years, the vintage Sub Ref. 1680 housed the movement Calibre 1575.

Today, the new variants, Submariner and Submariner Date, use Calibre 3230 and Calibre 3235, respectively. Additionally, blue Parachrom hairspring offers up to 10 times more protection from shocks than traditional hairsprings.


Originally, one could buy the Submariner only in stainless steel. This is because the divers didn’t want to risk the precious 18ct gold during diving. Today, you can get the Sub in various gold types (yellow, white, two-tone), stainless steel, and Oystersteel.

This is another reason why collectors love this watch. Apart from sporting some of the best Rolex functions, the watches are available in many metal options.

These are some key updates you can spot in the Submariner range.

No matter which Sub variations appeal to you, there are some key terminologies any Sub-fanatic must be aware of.

Aiso Read: What Happened To Rolex Submariner 116610LV Hulk?

Important Submariner Terms

  • Gilt Dial: It is a black dial whose indexes appear gold due to the production process. It exposes the brass dial present beneath it. Rolex used the gilt dials on the early Sub models during the 50s-60s before it switched to the matte dial at the end of the 60s.
  • Crown Guards: These are the projections around the steel case that protects the crown. Rolex added the crown guards in 1959.
  • Glossy Dial: This is the dial with a glossy texture, painted white text, and white gold surrounding the luminous indexes. Rolex used the glossy dial type in the mid-1980s and continues to use it today.
  • Matte Dial: The dial with a black-grey polish, white text and tritium indexes is a matte type that Rolex started using in the mid-1960s.
  • Pencil & Mercedes Hands: The straight hands present on a few early Sub models are the Pencil hand type before Rolex switched to Mercedes’s hands. As the name implies, Mercedes’s hands have tips designed with the famous auto company’s logo. Rolex started using the Mercedes hand type in the mid-1950s.
  • Dive Bezel: Aiming to warn the divers when their oxygen level is low, the dive bezel rotates and has a minute scale that counts upward. This bezel type came with dive watches during the early 1950s.
  • Crown: Rolex drew the design inspiration for the screw-down crown from the 1920s when it used a receiving tube and a gasket on the Submariner. The Twinlock system used 2 ‘O’ rings, and the modern Triplock used 3 ‘O’ rings, increasing the water resistance from 100m to 300m.
  • Super Case: The Submariner with a super case flaunts a heavier design. You can see it in Ref. 114060. The 40mm watch released in 2012 now has crown guards and thicker lugs, giving a more beefy look and feel.


The Submariner is one of the most versatile and stylish watches in the Rolex catalogue. Over the years, the star model has welcomed numerous changes to retain its popularity as the best. Moreover, today many collectors and buyers consider investing in the Sub as they can always take a loan against Rolex to meet any immediate cash crisis.

The Rolex Submariner remains a timeless example of the Crown brand’s excellent craftsmanship and will forever be the benchmark of watch evolution.