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The Legend of The Sea, ‘Rolex Submariner’

By Gary Cole

A detailed history of The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner

Before we talk about the new generation of Rolex Submariners, it is appropriate for those who are unaware of this iconic timepiece to go back to the very beginning of it’s history…

1953 was a year to remember for both Rolex, and watch enthusiasts across the world. This was the birth of a very iconic timepiece, the original model of the Rolex Submariner. It was launched in this very year, and was the first divers watch waterproof to a depth of 100 metres (330feet).

The picture above is a stunning example of that first generation Submariner. Note the beautiful simplicity of the overall design, complete with it’s bi-directional rotatable bezel allowing the diver to read their immersion time. I have recently heard the Rolex Submariner described aptly as a “Survival tool”. With a simplistic black dial and pencil style hands completed with a lollipop tipped second hand, the diver needs no more!

But of course there is always more technical feats with Rolex. In 1953 the diver (like today) requires that vital requirement of luminescence. In 1953 and for about  several decades later a now redundant tritium luminescence was used on both the hour dots and hands for divers to identify the time of immersion. Rare examples of these Submariners with the tritium still in good working order are now highly desirable.

The 1953 Submariner was  launched with a three link steel tapered bracelet. Rolex have this to say, which crystallizes the sheer DNA of this intrinsic part of the majority of their past, and present watch collection.

Oyster Bracelet

Introduced in the late 1930s, this robust metal bracelet with its flat three‑piece links remains the mainstay of the Oyster collection. It is fitted on the entire range of professional watches, but also on some classic models such as the Datejust, Day-Date and Sky-Dweller. It can be equipped with a variety of Rolex clasps (Oyster clasp, Oyster lock and Crown clasp) and can include the Easylink comfort extension link system. (c)

I will expand on this further in this feature when you read through the details of the new 41mm 2020 submariner.

With no Rolex 904L oystersteel available until 1985, the 1953 bracelet was much slimmer with no easy option to increase the size like we are now accustomed too (the Glidelock extension system). Nevertheless for diving there are always alternatives to switch to; a professional NATO or rubber straps secure enough to protect that ground breaking 6204 movement, and waterproof oyster casing.

Submariner… Rolex Submariner…

This fine timepiece built initially for scuba divers was however soon to be famous! Nine years later a Rolex Submariner 6538 “Big Crown” would adorn the wrist of Sean Connery in the 1962 first outing for the worlds most famous secret agent. “His name of course is Bond, James Bond”. Ian Fleming’s book ‘Dr No’ has made it to the big screen. Yes, the Rolex Submariner was well and truly evolving.

Below we see a 1960 Rolex Submariner model 007 would wear in 1962.

A good time to pay homage to Sean Connery who died aged 90 this October 2020. Arguably in every aspect the best portrayal of James Bond 007 ever. With his handsome looks and robust character, (like the Submariner), he was the first James Bond to wear the now coveted Rolex Submariner diving watch in 1962. It started a relationship with Rolex lasting 33 years. Hans Wilsdorf the founder of Rolex never lived to see a great marketing collaboration with Bond and Rolex, (unfortunately passing in 1960). His mastery in marketing his brand right from the very beginning is legendary, when you look through the origins of Rolex and their famous relationships you can understand why the brand is so successful.

THE 2020 ROLEX SUBMARINER 41 (from this point forward)

Every word you have already read in this blog pays relevance to this sensational new diving timepiece crafted by Rolex. To get to the impeccable quality you can now experience with the new Submariner, it came indirectly from it’s 67 year heritage from 1953 to 2020.

The new Rolex Submariner 41 professional diving watch does not disappoint in quality of movement, case and bracelet architecture, and of course diving application. Rolex cleverly give a thorough makeover inside and out. The Submariner hosts an upgraded movement. The 3235 calibre boasts a powerful 70 hour power reserve. Ideal for on land or for sea expeditions.

The perpetual mechanical self winding movement includes the very best in chronometer timekeeping. Guaranteed -2/+2 seconds per day after casing.

The movement’s specifications are given below. Proof that Rolex have always taken the heart of their watches very seriously. Every detail is carefully designed, developed and assembled to give you quality reputation and service at the highest level. Both by the manufacturer, and a Rolex accredited dealership: such as ourselves, “R.L. Austen, Chichester”.

Centre hour, minute and seconds hands. Instantaneous date with rapid setting. Stop-seconds for precise time setting.

OSCILATOR: Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring. High-performance Paraflex shock absorbers.

POWER RESERVE: 70 hours.

WINDING: Bidirectional self winding via perpetual rotor.

BRACELET: Oyster flat three piece links. 904L Oystersteel.

CLASP : Folding oyster lock safety clasp. With Glidelock extension system. Rolex Glidelock mechanism is a convenient delight for the user. It gives simple technical genius by slide action of 2mm per adjustment. Up to 20mm maximum over wetsuits.

I describe it like this – “Safe technology discreetly hidden”.

LUMINESCENCE: Highly visible Chromalight.

“Once darkness falls the Chromalight display comes to life. Exclusive to Rolex. The luminescent material used to fill the hands and hour markers emit blue light that is exceptionally bright and long-lasting. Allowing a clear reading of the time regardless of the conditions.” 

CRYSTAL: Scratch resistant sapphire. Cyclops lens over the date.

First introduced in 1970 replacing the acrylic glass we  see on that 1953 Submariner. Again going slightly back on the detail 1953 is a significant year once more with the launch of Rolex cyclops lens. Seen first on a Rolex Datejust model. This is yet another significant part of Rolex making their identity clear to the watch .

Now we come on to one of the most important features of any watch- The DIAL. This needs to be clinically correct when it comes to a diving watch. There is no room for error. When you look at the Rolex Submariner it is simplistic, concise, no overcrowding and features Chromalight. It confirms two words: Safe and Superlative.


  • 18ct  Yellow Gold
  • Available also with black dial
  • 18ct gold and Oystersteel
  • Available also with blue dial
  • 18ct White Gold
  • Green Bezel  Oystersteel
  • Date Oystersteel
  • Non Date Oystersteel

A significant part of Rolex diving history, an experiment into technology.

Ambassador Don Walsh made history in 1960 with this unique Rolex diving watch on board all the way down to the Mariana trench in the Pacific Ocean…Known affectionately as ‘The Old Lady’ Sixty years later Rolex are still breaking the barriers through exploration of the sea in partnership with their iconic diving watches.

Caring for your Rolex…How can I look after my Rolex?

People also ask: “How can I maintain my Rolex watch?”…”How do I clean my Rolex”…

You can help preserve its lustre by cleaning it occasionally with a microfiber cloth. You can also wash the case and bracelet (except leather straps) from time to time using soapy water and a soft brush. After wearing your watch in the sea, it is important to rinse it with fresh water to remove any salt and sand deposits. Before cleaning your watch, always ensure that the winding crown is screwed down properly against the case to guarantee waterproofness.

Outside of general husbandry servicing is key to keep your Rolex performing in peak condition. Between services we recommended approximately 10 years till it requires its next service, due to the efficiency of the lubricants used.

If you want to know more about the Rolex Submariner range and more. Please contact us on 01243 957282, or pop in store. Our passionate and knowledgeable staff look forward to helping you choose a Rolex that will last a lifetime.