SUBMARINER

 

Having been a flagship model since its launch in 1954 the Rolex Submariner has enjoyed continued and virtually unrivalled success. First in production in 1953 a prototype went to depths of 10,335 feet attached to the outside of Professor Auguste Piccard's bathyscape. After been subjected to pressures of in excess of 600 atmospheres the watch had proved itself by returning in exactly the same condition as when it left two and a quarter hours earlier.

One of the main reasons for the success of this watch was simply it was the right time. Television and movies had started to feature underwater series such as "Sea Hunt" which consequently made the watch more appealing. The constant development of Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) had created a new sport towards end of the fifties. A diver needs a reliable watch as much as he needs air. The rotating bezel on the Submariner allowed the diver to keep an accurate track of how much time he had spent underwater. However Rolex were fortunate in the fact that one of its directors (Rene P. Jeanneret) was an enthusiastic skin diver and could give them a very interesting viewpoint that their competitors did not have.

The first Submariner (model 6204) is quite different from the model that we all know now. The very first model had simple parallel hands. No protective shoulders by the winding crown and the rotating bezel had only five minute markers. Apart from the bezel calibrations the watch looked remarkably like the "Turn-O-Graph" 6202. This original model went to depths of 600 feet. The production of this first Submariner lasted for less than two years before it was replaced by the 6538. This was the first watch to go to depths of 660 feet as standard and it was quite similar to the original.

Like today there were two submariners simultaneously on the market. You had the first the 6538 which was guaranteed to 660 feet, and the cheaper 6536 which only went to 330 feet. Theses two models along with the original 6204 are known to collectors as the "James Bond Submariners"

The next change to the Submariner was a dramatic one. This new model was much like the current one. The case had been enlarged, the bezel markings applied for the first fifteen minutes, a red triangle at "12" and they had now integrated the new "Triplock" winding crown. Mechanically behind the scenes this masterpiece had undergone some changes too! The watch now proudly stated "Chronometer Officially Certified" on the dial as this watch was now powered by the 1030 movement. Simultaneously with the launch of the new 6238, Rolex also launched the 6200, which was cosmetically identical to the 6238 except it used the old A296/775 movement and the old ungraduated bezel.

In the years that followed almost nearly all Rolex's competitors released watches that bore striking similarities to their Submariner. Blancplain introduced the "Fifty Fathoms" and Eterna came out with the "Kon-Tiki" However none of these could sustain quite the presence that Rolex had in this field.

1959 yet another model. This time it was the turn of the 5512. Again Rolex introduced some important changes, that made the watch look even more similar to that of today. The case now features protective shoulders which were an integral part of the case and body. They rose from the side of the case to al most completely cover the Triplock winding crown. The writing on the dial had changed from gold to white and the bezel was now in silver. The watch was available in a non chronometer or Precision model (5513), but was still waterproof to 660 feet.

Rolex's next Submariner was launched in conjunction with Jacques Piccard's latest venture in 1960. He had again attached the watch to the outside of another of his bathyscape's the "Triste" and had returned from depths of 10,916 meters (35,978) with the watch still in perfect working order with no evidence of moisture inside at all.

Five years on and there was to be yet another development in the world of Submariners. In 1965 Rolex launched the 1680 which via the 1565 movement gave the watch chronometer rating and a date function. Apart from that it was identical to the previous model the 5512. This was the first Submariner to be available a choice of metals. (18k gold or with a gold bezel). With the new model fastly becoming the premium Submariner the old 5508 was discontinued and the 5513 became the entry level Submariner.

In 1965 the 5513 became the first Rolex for quite some time to be used by the military. (Royal Navy) There were certain modifications though. They wanted a new dial featuring a large 'T' in a circle under the centre post. The bezel was to have no minute markers all the way round. The hands were much larger and a different shape to make them higher visibility. The hour hand was diamond shaped while the minute hand was much wider than normal and the second hand had a diamond luminous at its tip.

Towards the end of the 1960's the Royal Mariners had commissioned the Submariner. Like the Navy there were to be many changes for the frogman. The bezel now had minute markers right the way round the circumference. The watches were still plastic glass 5513 models, yet they had the hacking seconds feature.

Towards the end of the 1970's the Submariner was fitted with the quick set feature to bring it in line with Rolex's other models. Then in 1986 the Submariner was to receive its most significant update yet. The new model was numbered 16800, to fit in with the rest of Rolex's new numbering system. It featured a sapphire glass and was capable of reaching depths of upto 1,000 feet. The dial also featured white gold settings in which the luminous indicies were placed.

Three years on and the submariner was set for yet another change. The 16800 was replaced by the 16610 which externally looked identical but was now powered by the 3135 movement. The bezel was now fitted with safety features for divers, which allowed the bezel to only be turned anti-clockwise when a vertical pressure was applied to it. This meant that if the bezel was moved by accident it could only mean the diver has less time in the water and not more.

In 1993 Rolex launched their Submariner clone in the form of the "Yatchmaster" This watch differed only in cosmetics offering a solid gold bezel as opposed to the screen printed one and was available in an assortment of dial colours.( Blue, whit and champagne).

The Submariner has been a forerunner in style and achievement since its first launch. It has become one of Rolex's flagship models and is the standard in which all divers watches are judged by now.

Second time round © 2017