Diving watches in general have always been in high demand among users and collectors. In fact, it is safe to say that out of all types of watches, they are the most popular choice. But why is it so? What makes diving watches so desirable? There are several reasons for this, the main probably being the practicality. Designed as tools, these watches are highly durable, and obviously, very water resistant. Combine this with good looks and you have an incredibly versatile watch that can be worn almost anywhere. Some of the most iconic diving watches include the Omega Seamaster, Oris Divers Sixty-Five, Tudor Pelagos and Seiko Prospex. But none of these models enjoys such an iconic status as the legendary Rolex Submariner.
The story of the Rolex Submariner begins in 1953. René-Paul Jeanneret, one of the directors at Rolex and a passionate diver himself, suggested the idea of making a diving timepiece that can also be worn in office or any formal occasion. Mr. Jeanneret was also a good friend with the great French explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, which was another reason to convince Rolex to manufacture a professional diving watch. To really put their new watch on the test, Rolex teamed up with the Swiss inventor and explorer Auguste Piccard. In 1953 he dived over 3100 meters in the ocean with his Bathyscaphe deep-diving submarine. Attached to the ship’s hull was a specially created Rolex Submariner. When the Bathyscape came out of water, the watch was still working properly.
The Rolex Submariner was officially introduced at the Basel Watch Fair in 1954. The first models were the references 6204 and 6205. These watches featured straight “pencil” style hands and had a water resistance of 100 meters. The early Rolex Submariners didn’t have crown guards. In 1955 Rolex introduced the ref. 6538 which brought the increased water resistance of 200 meters. This particular model was very popular as it was worn by Sean Connery in the very first James Bond movie – the 1962 Dr. No. Another important model from this era was the Rolex Submariner 5512. Released in 1959, this watch featured crown guards and an increased diameter of 40mm (was 36mm). The watch also had an oversized crown, which later became a standard feature of the Submariner range.
In 1965 Rolex released the ref. 1680 – the first Submariner to feature the date function. Four years later, the company introduced the first Submariner Date in 18k yellow gold – the ref. 1680-8. A few years later, in 1983, the Submariner becomes available in “Rolesor”, the brand’s term for combination of steel and gold. Another important milestone from that era came in 1979 with the release of the Rolex Submariner 16800. Featuring sapphire glass (instead of plastic crystal), this model was the first Submariner to be water resistant to 300 meters. In 1989 Rolex issued the ref. 16610 – the first Submariner with a movement beat speed of 28,800 vibrations per hour. Produced from 1987 to 2010, the ref. 16610 is one of the most successful Submariner versions. It is also the model on which most of the new Submariners are based on. In 2003, Rolex celebrated the Submariner’s 50th anniversary by releasing the ref. 16610LV. The anniversary model featured a green bezel and the brand’s signature “Maxi” dial.
Throughout the history, the Rolex Submariner has established itself as the most iconic diving watch, if not the most iconic watch period of all time. Over the years, Rolex avoided experimenting with its design. The company has made only minor cosmetic changes to the classic look of the Submariner but with steady improvements in functionality. After all, if they would have changed it drastically, the Rolex Submariner wouldn’t be what is today: a legend.