3 minutes

10 Surprising Facts About the Rolex Submariner

By Barbara Korp

The Rolex Submariner has been a legend for decades. Every watch enthusiast knows it and loves having the “Date or no date?” discussion. Thanks to its long history and popularity, there’s near endless Submariner trivia. We’ve gotten to know the ins and outs of all things Rolex Submariner and will share the ten most impressive facts with you below.

In 1953, the “The Institute for DeepSea Research” went on 132 dives with the Rolex Submariner in the course of five months. The institute then wrote a report on their experiences with the watch and confirmed Rolex’s superiority. Unlike other diving watches that they’d tested in the past, there wasn’t any water in the Submariner’s movement and there was never any moisture between the crystal and the dial.

The first models of the Rolex Submariner are hardly recognizable. These early versions still didn’t have many of the watch’s defining features. For example, they had pencil-shaped hands instead of the legendary Mercedes hands. And the large crown and crown guard weren’t a part of early models, either.

One of the first Rolex Submariners – Before the addition of some of its iconic features

They did of course already have rotating bezels. However, they were bidirectional, meaning that if the bezel was accidentally moved, the wearer might spend too much time underwater. It was only later that unidirectional bezels were introduced – now, of course, they’re standard.

When the Rolex Submariner came on the market in the 1950s, you could get one for just $150. Even correcting for inflation, that would be just $1,500-$2,000 today. It was only after the quartz crisis that prices shot up. While you could get a Submariner for just $230 in the 1970s, in the 1980s the price went up to $1,324.

The most someone ever paid for a Submariner was $1,068,500. The watch in question was a Submariner Reference 6538 from 1956 that was sold at auction in 2018. One of the things that makes this watch so sought-after is its “explorer dial,” which has Arabic numerals at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock instead of the typical Submariner index markers.

Rolex Submariner with the explorer dial – Rare and valuable

The case of every Submariner is made from a single block of stainless steel. This is supposed to make it very robust. And, of course, we’re not talking about just any stainless steel. All Rolex watches are made from 904L stainless steel, which is highly resistant to corrosion and thus perfect for a diving watch that’s frequently immersed in salt water.

The Rolex Submariner made its big screen debut shortly after it was launched. The famous oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau wore one in the film “Le Mond du silence.” The award-winning 1954 documentary brought audiences to the colorful depths of the ocean for the first time – and also showed them that the Rolex Submariner is THE diving watch par excellence.

In 1961, James Bond showed the world that the Rolex Submariner isn’t just a robust and functional diving watch – it also pairs well with a tuxedo, or a walk on the beach with your sidekick. Sean Connery also proved that the Submariner even looks good on a too-small NATO strap. No matter how or where you wear it, the Rolex Submariner will always make you look good!

The legendary Bond Submariner 6538

Paul Newman made the Rolex Daytona world-famous. But did you know that he also had a Rolex Submariner? Numerous pictures show that he wore his Submariner often. But Newman stopped wearing the watch at some point, as later pictures show. Why? Well, he gave his Submariner to his stunt double, Loren Janes, as a thank you for their great work together – a generous show of appreciation!

You’ll normally only find a helium escape valve on the Rolex Sea-Dweller. But there was also a Submariner model with one, namely the Rolex Submariner Ref. 5514. It was developed with COMEX, a French diving company, and was never available for public sale. Rolex supposedly only produced 154 pieces. No wonder that this is one of the most sought-after models among collectors!

Rolex Comex Submariner Ref. 5514
Rolex COMEX Submariner

About the Author

Barbara Korp

The moment I learned that watches were a lot more than just simple jewelry, I was hooked; I become enamored with the elegance of timekeeping. But there was one small hitch: most models were just too big for me to wear! That didn't discourage me, however. In fact, I developed quite a niche interest.

Read more

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