Rolex Submariner Date: The Ultimate Diving Watch
The Rolex Submariner Date is the quintessential diving watch, and is easily identified by its Cyclops lens. With certain collector's versions like the "Hulk" doubling in value, this timepiece has proven to be a great investment.
A Diving Watch With a Cyclops Lens
The Submariner Date is one of the most popular watches in the Rolex catalog. For many, the date display and accompanying Cyclops lens at 3 o'clock are indispensable features of this popular diving watch. Rolex first added the date function to this line in the late 1960s, starting with models under the reference number 1680, over a decade after the first Rolex Submariner was released.
The Oyster case of the current Submariner Date models features a screw-down case back and the patented Triplock crown, lending this timepiece its water resistance to 300 m (30 bar, 984 ft). The large, luminous indices and hands are easy to read, even under poor lighting conditions. This Submariner also has a unidirectional bezel with 60-minute graduation. Rolex outfitted each watch with an aluminum bezel inlay until 2010. They then switched to an inlay made from their proprietary ceramic, Cerachrom, starting with the ref. 116610.
Compared to its sister model without a date display – the Submariner No Date – models with a date display offer a much wider variety of design options. The Submariner Date's cases and bracelets come in stainless steel, yellow gold, white gold, or Rolesor, a two-tone variant that combines stainless steel and 18-karat yellow gold. The Submariner Date is also available in a number of different dial and bezel colors, such as black, blue, and green.
In September 2020, Rolex introduced seven new Submariner Date models. These watches are 1 mm larger than their predecessors, and thus measure 41 mm in diameter. Another change took place inside the case, which now holds the in-house caliber 3235. This movement boasts a 70-hour power reserve and chronometer certification.
The Submariner Date is in huge demand, so prospective buyers can expect to spend a long time on the waiting list at authorized dealers. Prices on the secondary market have been steadily climbing as a result. In the last 12 months alone, current models have appreciated by 30–40%. Particularly rare vintage models and coveted collector's items have even more than doubled in value. With such value increases, it's no wonder that investors have been turning more and more toward the Submariner Date as an alternative investment piece.
Reasons to Buy a Rolex Submariner Date
- Iconic design with date display and Cyclops lens
- In-house, chronometer-certified calibers
- Available in stainless steel, white gold, yellow gold, and two-tone variants
- Various color options available for the dial and bezel
- Highly likely to appreciate in value
Prices at a Glance: Rolex Submariner Date
|Reference||Price (approx.)||Value appreciation (2020–2022)|
|116619LB "Smurf"||62,000 USD||+95%|
|116610LV "Hulk"||32,000 USD||+122%|
|16610LV "Kermit"||25,500 USD||+40%|
How much does a Submariner Date cost?
As of spring 2022, prices for Submariner Date watches ranged from around 11,000 USD to 61,000 USD. The most affordable models are those from the 1980s, such as the ref. 16800. You can buy the current Sub Date variants with a black dial and bezel for around 17,500 USD. If you're on the lookout for a colorful or two-tone model, you'll need to budget between 20,500 USD and 31,500 USD.
Gold models and rare vintage watches come in at the higher end of the price scale, meaning you can expect an investment of between 51,000 USD and 61,000 USD. However, there are some particular rarities that can even exceed this amount.
The Stainless Steel Submariner Date
Many Rolex sports watches in stainless steel have seen a significant price increase in the last several years. These timepieces are in high demand, but the demand by far outpaces production. The ref. 116610LN, for example, was released in 2010 and the first Submariner model with a ceramic bezel. Prices for this watch rose rather slowly from its debut in 2010 until 2020, with mint-condition pieces costing between 5,000 USD and 10,000 USD. The watershed moment came when Rolex replaced this model with the new ref. 126610LN, and since then, prices have climbed. In May 2022, the ref. 116610LN required an investment of around 16,500 USD. This reference has thus appreciated by 65% in just two years.
A similar trend can also be seen with the most affordable Submariner Date, the ref. 16800 from the 1980s. While you would have been able to buy one of these vintage watches for around 8,300 USD in May 2020, prices in May 2022 are closer to 12,000 USD.
Vintage Models: Financial Performance
If you are in the market for an early, vintage model like the first Submariner Date ref. 1680, you will have to dig a little deeper into your pockets, as prices are climbing continuously for this model as well. For example, you could buy the standard edition of the ref. 1680 in May 2022 on Chrono24 for about 26,500 USD. Two years earlier, however, a well-maintained piece cost significantly less at around 17,500 USD.
The "Red Sub", which get its nickname from the red Submariner logotype on the dial, can also be found under the ref. 1680. This variant has increased in value by 10,000 USD, and now costs close to 30,000 USD.
Of the "Red Sub" models, those with a tropical dial have experienced an even more remarkable price increase. Over the years, various environmental factors have caused these dials to fade from black to brown. As of spring 2022, you can expect to pay 60,000 USD if you manage to find one of these rare pieces. In 2020, the Red Sub with a tropical dial sold for just over half that amount.
Current Model Performance
September 2020 saw the release of a new stainless steel model with a classic black bezel. This timepiece, the ref. 126610LN, has a 41-mm case, and is thus 1 mm larger than its predecessor. Despite this, the watch feels slimmer overall thanks to its narrower lugs. Like the other new Submariner Dates, its power comes from the in-house caliber 3235.
This new movement has a 70-hour power reserve and boasts Rolex's proprietary Chronergy escapement. This escapement is made of a nickel-phosphorous alloy, which is more resistant to magnetic fields and allows for more precise timekeeping.
At its release, the ref. 126610LN had an official list price of 9,150 USD, which Rolex then hiked up to 10,100 USD in 2022. Unfortunately, trying to buy this watch from an authorized dealer will send you on a wild goose chase. The high demand and the global delivery situation has led to current Submariner Date models with a black dial changing hands for over 17,000 USD on the secondary market (as of May 2022). If you are one of the lucky ones who bought this watch at the regular price from an official dealer, you're currently looking at a return of up to 82% – not a bad investment.
The Green Team: The Submariner Date Kermit and Hulk
Collectors flock to the reference numbers 16610LV and 116610LV. Rolex introduced the former in 2003 in celebration of the Submariner's 50th anniversary. Fans were quick to dub this model the "Kermit" because of its green bezel. Its black dial is also slightly different from the standard Submariner Date. Rolex outfitted this model with a "maxi dial," which has larger indices. The popularity of the "Kermit" ref. 16610LV has shown no signs of slowing down, and market prices have climbed accordingly. While you could have called a Kermit your own for about 4,000 USD back in 2010, in spring 2022 you're looking at an investment of around 25,500 USD.
Rolex breathed new life into the Submariner collection in 2020, unveiling a new Submariner Date with a green bezel and black dial. This new "Kermit" bears the reference number 126610LV and is 41 mm in diameter. This watch features the in-house caliber 3235 with a Chronergy escapement and 70-hour power reserve. Unlike the original "Kermit," the ref. 126610LV has a ceramic bezel inlay. One unfortunate similarity, however, is that demand greatly outweighs supply. Market prices in May 2022 fall in at around 25,000 USD, which is roughly two and a half times the MSRP.
The direct predecessor of the ref. 126610LV is the ref. 116610LV, better known by its nickname, the "Hulk." This model was launched in 2010 and, like the new Kermit, has a green ceramic bezel. The Hulk takes the green theme a step further, however, and features a matching green dial. This timepiece has joined the Rolex hall of fame among fans since its discontinuation in mid-2020, and prices have skyrocketed as a result. In summer 2020, the Rolex Hulk cost around 18,000 USD. By May 2022, this amount had exceeded 31,000 USD.
Gold and Two-Tone Submariner Date Models
The first Submariner Date with a yellow gold case and bracelet debuted in 1988 and bears the reference number 16618. Rolex offered this watch with a black or blue dial and bezel.
In 2008, Rolex replaced the ref. 16618 with the ref. 116618, which was then swapped out for the ref. 126618 in 2020. You have the choice between a black bezel (indicated in the reference number with LN "lunette noir") or blue bezel (LB "lunette bleue"). As usual with Rolex, the differences between the individual references are subtle. The ref. 16618 and ref. 116618 are both 40 mm in diameter. However, the latter has a "maxi case," which is characterized by somewhat heftier lugs. The ref. 116618 also features the maxi dial that can be seen on the Kermit.
The current yellow gold ref. 126618 also has a maxi dial, but is slightly larger at 41 mm. Moreover, this Submariner Date edition was outfitted with the caliber 3235, a newer version of the caliber 3135 used previously.
The ref. 16618 is without question the most affordable Submariner Date model in yellow gold. Expect to pay around 36,500 USD for the black model or 39,000 USD for the blue one. The ref. 116618 will cost you between 48,500 USD and 55,000 USD, depending on the version. The current reference 126618 changes hands for between 52,500 USD and 55,000 USD. Each of these references have experienced a staggering increase in value. Between May 2020 and May 2022, prices rose by an average of 65% and this trend is expected to continue.
The Submariner Date in White Gold
Rolex also updated the white gold Submariner Date in 2020 with the current 41-mm reference 126619LB. This new timepiece replaced the ref. 116619LB, which was nicknamed "Smurf" on account of its blue dial and bezel. The ref. 126619LB, however, combines the blue bezel with a classic black dial.
This model officially lists for 39,650 USD, but as is the case with so many Rolex watches, this reference is hard to come by in brick-and-mortar stores, so this price tag is pretty hypothetical. You can expect to pay closer to 50,000 USD on the secondary market. In the same vein, the ref. 116619LB "Smurf" has become a highly sought-after rarity, appreciating by over 50% in the last 12 months. As of May 2022, the Rolex Smurf will set you back around 62,000 USD.
Back to the 80s – Two-Tone Sub Date Models
Rolex calls the two-tone combination of stainless steel and yellow gold "Rolesor." Watches with this finish can be found under the reference number 116613LB or LN. The letters "LB" and "LN" stand for "lunette bleu" (blue bezel) and "lunette noir" (black bezel), respectively. Two-tone watches are again gaining in popularity, which is reflected in the prices for the ref. 116613. While this Submariner watch with a blue dial and blue bezel changed hands for around 13,000 USD in May 2020, prices had surged to 20,500 USD by May 2022. The model with the black bezel and matching dial is slightly more affordable at around 19,000 USD, and has also seen an increase in value by almost 50% from 2020 to 2022.
In September 2020, Rolex announced the ref. 126613LB and retired its predecessor. Its two-tone stainless steel and yellow gold case is 41 mm in diameter and houses the caliber 3235. If you would like to call this Submariner model your own, prepare to pay about 20,500 USD for the black version and 22,000 USD for the blue. This means that the market price is already 45% above the official list price just under two years after the release. As demand clearly exceeds supply for these watches, it is highly likely that this trend will continue.
Water Resistant to 300 m: The Oyster Case
Thanks to its careful construction, every Submariner Date since the ref. 16800 has been water resistant to 300 m (30 bar, 984 ft). Older models could withstand up to 20 bar (200 m, 656 ft) of water pressure. Like all Oyster models, the case is composed of a single piece, known as monobloc, and the case back is screwed onto the center section. The ref. 16800 also marked the introduction of scratch-resistant sapphire crystal to the series.
How well a timepiece can keep water out is a crucial characteristic of a diving watch. The crown is a possible weak point, as it requires a hole be made in the case. This is why Rolex equips the Submariner Date with their Triplock system, which features four rubber gaskets to keep out water and dirt. Furthermore, the crown screws down into the case when not in use. It is only unscrewed when the watch needs to be set or manually wound.
A counterclockwise unidirectional bezel is another mandatory feature for any diving watch. This allows you to easily keep track of how long you have been underwater. It's impossible to turn the bezel clockwise, meaning you can never accidentally lengthen the dive time. It's also important to be able to tell the time in darkness. This is why the Submariner is equipped with luminous hands and indices. Since the ref. 116610, Rolex has been using their own luminous material, Chromalight, which glows blue in the dark. Chromalight's color differs from the previously-used luminous substance, SuperLuminova, which glows green.