Submariner (No Date)
Submariner Yellow gold
Submariner Ceramic Bezel Dark
Submariner Ceramic Bezel Light
Submariner White gold
Submariner James Bond
Swiss watch manufacturer Rolex introduced the Submariner, one of the world's first diving watches, in 1953. These high-end tool watches are still setting standards to this day. They are also coveted collector's items and boast an iconic design.
The release of the Submariner in 1953 left the watch industry speechless. Rolex had presented an entirely new type of wristwatch; one that continues to define the diving watch genre to this day. The manufacturer advertised the very first model (ref. 6204) as "Submariner – The Diver's Friend." It more than lives up to the tagline thanks to its luminous oversized second, minute, and hour hands; luminous indices; and matte black dial.
In time, the Submariner made its way to Hollywood. The refs. 6538 and 5513 would go on to aid both Sean Connery and Roger Moore in their roles as James Bond. Actor and recreational race car driver Steve McQueen also wore a Submariner both on and off-screen. He was particularly fond of the ref. 5512 without a date display.
Many collectors dream of getting their hands on one of the Submariner models Rolex developed specifically for the Compagnie maritime d'expertises (or COMEX), a French company renowned for their underwater exploration technology. These watches (ref. 5514) were produced from the 1970s to the 1990s and have since performed well financially, making them sound investment pieces.
The same can also be said of the so-called "Red Sub" – the Submariner ref. 1680 with a date display. Known for the red "Submariner" inscription on its dial, Rolex manufactured this timepiece between 1967 and 1974. Prices for select watches have more than doubled in recent years.
As you can see, the Submariner is so much more than a diving instrument. It pairs just as well with a racing suit as it does with a tuxedo – just ask Steve McQueen and James Bond. Thanks to its long and storied history, this "Archetype of a Diver's Watch" is widely popular and makes a fantastic investment.
|Ref. 6538||141,000 USD (pre-owned)||"James Bond Sub"|
|Ref. 6204||117,000 USD (pre-owned)||First Submariner from 1953|
|Ref. 5514, COMEX||53,000 USD (pre-owned)||Made for the Compagnie maritime d'expertises, "COMEX" inscription on the dial|
|Blue, ref. 116619LB||36,500 USD||White gold case, blue dial and bezel, date|
|Ref. 1680, "Red Sub"||35,000 USD||Red "Submariner" inscription, date|
|Ref. 5512||30,500 USD (pre-owned)||McQueen Submariner|
|Kermit, ref. 16610LV||21,000 USD||Green bezel, black dial, date|
|Hulk, ref. 116610LV||16,500 USD||Green dial and bezel, date|
|Ref. 5513||14,000 USD (pre-owned)||Watch from the James Bond movie "Live and Let Die"|
|Ref. 16610||11,500 USD||Date display|
|Date, ref. 116610LN||11,500 USD||Date display|
|No Date, ref. 114060||10,500 USD||No date|
The Submariner No Date with the reference number 114060 costs around 10,500 USD in mint condition. Pre-owned pieces demand only slightly less at about 9,400 USD. The Submariner Date has a date display and goes for around 11,500 USD new and some 11,000 USD pre-owned. Prices for both models have been on the rise in recent years.
In general, prices for new and used Submariners have steadily increased over the last few years. Date editions tend to be more popular, which explains the larger price gap between mint-condition and pre-owned models compared to the gap experienced with No Date watches.
Green Submariner watches are especially popular among collectors. Connoisseurs differentiate between the so-called "Kermit" (ref. 16610LV), which has a green bezel and a black dial, and the "Hulk" ref. 116610LV with a green bezel and dial. The latter changes hands for around 16,500 USD new. Pre-owned examples are a bit more affordable at 15,500 USD. Kermit models are even more difficult to find and, thus, more expensive. Be sure to have at least 21,000 USD on hand for a never-worn timepiece. You can find pre-owned "Kermits" for roughly 16,000 USD.
Fans of gold watches will also find what they are looking for in the Rolex Submariner collection. This luxury diving watch is available in yellow or white gold. If you prefer white gold, your only option is the so-called "Submariner Blue" (ref. 116619LB) with a blue dial and bezel. You can purchase this model for about 36,500 USD in mint condition. The same watch sells for around 31,500 USD pre-owned.
The yellow gold version (ref. 116618LN) features a black dial and bezel. It costs about 33,000 USD new and 30,500 USD used. There are also two-tone Submariners, which give off a real 1980s vibe. A never-worn version will set you back around 13,000 USD.
Like most vintage Rolex watches, old Submariner models are especially highly coveted. Two popular vintage references are the 5512 and 5513, which debuted all the way back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, respectively. Even though both models were produced for a number of years, there are currently very few pieces on the market. You can get a ref. 5513 for around 12,500 USD, while you will need well over 23,500 USD for a ref. 5512. Examples with the reference number 16800 or 168000from the 1980s are more affordable and sell for as little as 10,500 USD.
Vintage Submariners like the so-called "Red Sub" or the "COMEX" are especially rare and, therefore, in high demand. Plan to spend at least 17,500 USD for a "Red Sub" ref. 1680 and almost 47,000 USD for a "COMEX." That being said, prices vary greatly, meaning you may come across a "COMEX" in very good condition that demands over 117,000 USD.
In February 2001, Christie's auction house sold the original Submariner 5513 from the 1973 James Bond movie "Live and Let Die" for 25,850 GBP (approximately 38,000 USD at the time). The same watch went on the auction block again in 2015, this time at Phillips. When the bidding was all said and done and the premiums added, it nabbed an impressive 363,000 USD. That means its price increased almost tenfold in only 14 years.
The "James Bond Sub" ref. 6538 is another popular model among collectors. Sean Connery wore this timepiece as James Bond in 1962's "Dr. No." If you're lucky enough to find one of these watches, you'll need well over 117,000 USD to call one your own.
Today's Submariner models look almost the same as their predecessors. Over the years, the case has grown and a crown guard was added (in 1959) to protect the screw-down crown. In 1966, a version with a date indicator joined the collection. Other changes or additions have been small such as polished bracelet components and cases or blind lugs (i.e., lugs that are not drilled through all the way). Although its design is from the 1950s, the Rolex Submariner remains a modern timepiece.
Over time, these automatic watches have progressed to a water resistance of 300 m (984 ft) and feature rotating bezels with 120 clicks. The bezel can only be turned counterclockwise, which is a requirement for all modern diving watches. Its insert is made of Cerachrom ceramic, which is particularly scratch-resistant. Rolex's proprietary luminous material, Chromalight, fills the bezel's zero marker. This substance glows blue in the dark and is brighter than SuperLuminova. Furthermore, Rolex's watchmakers add platinum dusting to the bezel's numbers and indices.
Both the index markers on the dial and arched hands are made of gold. The hour and minute hands glow in the dark, as does a spot on the second hand. Compared to earlier models, the sapphire glass barely sticks out, protecting it from jolts. A Glidelock clasp enables the wearer to adjust the size of the bracelet in 2-mm increments. Therefore, the watch fits just as well on bare wrists as it does over wetsuits. The clasp, which is slightly larger than those found on previous versions, also features a safety mechanism, ensuring it can't be opened accidentally.
The Submariner with a Cyclops lens over its date indicator is run by the in-house caliber 3135. The manufacturer has been producing this movement in Biel since 1989. It was designed to be a robust, highly accurate movement and is protected by a stainless steel case back. It still offers aesthetically pleasing details, however. The red aluminum winding wheel and the blue Parachrom hairspring stand out the most, while the sunburst pattern on the winding rotor and automatic bridge are more subtle. Models without a date indicator are powered by the caliber 3130. Both movements are classified as chronometers, having passed the tests of the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute).
Both calibers are considered among the best in the entire industry. Rolex managed to improve the overall accuracy of their watches by optimizing important components, such as the balance spring. They achieved this by using an anti-magnetic alloy, which protects the watch against the influences of magnetic fields. A special Breguet overcoil allows the balance spring to "breathe" and improves its precision. Master watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet introduced this innovation to the balance spring back in 1795. It involves lifting the spring's final coil and bending it to reduce its curvature, thus improving the timepiece's accuracy and consistency. Unlike most mechanical movements, which are adjusted using a regulator, this caliber is regulated via Microstella nuts located on the inner side of the balance wheel.
Some Rolex watches are irresistible to fans and connoisseurs alike. The so-called "Red Sub" is one such highly sought-after collectible. Rolex produced the Submariner with reference number 1680 between 1967 and 1980. The word "Submariner" was written in red on the dial until 1974, thus earning it the nickname "Red Sub." You can determine a real Red Sub from a fake by examining the dial.
Between 1967 and 1974, Rolex used six different dials labeled Mark I through Mark VI. The biggest change occurred between Mark III and Mark IV. Experts call Mark I to Mark III dials "meters first" because the depth rating is written as "200 m = 660 ft" on the dial. Beginning with Mark IV, the dials are known as "feet first" because the meter and foot measurements switch places. Models with Mark I dials are the rarest versions of the Red Sub. They can be recognized by the closed sixes in "660 ft."
Further identifying features are the "tropical" dials that appear on the Mark II and Mark III. Due to exposure to direct sunlight, humidity, and heat, the dial and the bezel color has changed over the years. This has most likely occurred due to a special color mixture provided by the supplier at the time. These tropical dials are highly prized among collectors and increase in value with the intensity of the color change from white to yellow and, ultimately, brown. You should also make sure that the color of the hands and indices match, as that is a sign of a genuine Rolex.
When buying a "red" Submariner, it's also important that the reference and serial numbers are readable. Earlier models also have their production date on the case, which should correspond to the serial number. Bold-type numbers and indices on the bezel are further indications of a real Red Sub. However, later versions feature a thinner typeface. It is less important whether the zero marker's luminous point is missing or damaged.
These vintage Submariners are powered by the automatic movement 1575, which, unlike the 1570, has a date indicator. The caliber 1575 also ticks away inside the Sea-Dweller with reference 1665 and the GMT-Master ref. 1675.
The Submariner has spent the last six decades making watchmaking history. It has also developed into an icon and one of the most well-known watches of all time. In 2012, the special Deepsea Challenge model plunged into the Mariana Trench, reaching an impressive depth of about 36,000 ft (nearly 11,000 m). Before the first Submariner, there was the ref. 6200. This timepiece is water-resistant to 100 m (328 m) thanks to its distinctive Twinlock crown. It has a bidirectional bezel that enables divers to keep track of the length of their dive with a quick glance.
Swiss watch manufacturer Blancpain improved upon this bezel in 1953 with their Fifty Fathoms model. Its bezel is unidirectional, meaning it only turns counterclockwise so that the dive time can only be shortened and never lengthened.
Rolex took the advice of René-Paul Jeanneret when designing the Submariner. The former Rolex director was an avid recreational diver and gave helpful suggestions for the dial, bezel, and case. The watch survived various tests and 132 dives to depths of between 12 and 60 m (39 to 197 ft). It was even dropped on a concrete dock from a height of just over six-and-a-half feet (two meters) and continued to function. The only damage was the loss of a small part of the luminous material from one of the hands. The successor to the original Submariner was water-resistant up to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft) and used to be the official watch of the British, Australian, and Canadian navies.