Rolex rolled out a whole new Oyster Perpetual Submariners range last year, updating their historic diving watch collection. The changes are subtle rather than dramatic, such as a larger 41mm case, for both the Date and No-Date versions. There’s always excitement surrounding the Swiss brand’s yearly release of its new models.
It’s an event also tinged with sadness though. Creating new timepieces means older models stopped being produced and so it was last year, confirmed in September 2020. The Rolex Submariner Hulk 116610LV and the white gold Submariner Smurf 116619LB are now discontinued, the former especially being much sought-after.
The appeal of the Submariner and Submariner Date extends well beyond the diving world it was created with, and for. The first Submariner was introduced in 1953, the only watch at the time that was waterproof to a depth of 100 metres. The Submariner Date, with an added date function, was unveiled in 1969.
Twenty years later, both versions were waterproof to a depth of 300 metres (1,000 feet). That’s the case with this new generation of Submariners. The watches maintain reliability at this depth due partly to its Oyster case.
Robust and reliable, the Oyster case features a middle case crafted from a solid block of Oystersteel, a particularly corrosion-resistant alloy, or from 18 ct white gold. The case back is screwed down with a special tool making it watertight. Only Rolex watchmakers are able to access the movement. The waterproof Oyster case provides optimum protection for the watch’s movement.
Rolex have participated in and sponsored two of the world’s deepest dives, initially to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in 1960. Fifty years later, the brand’s timepiece accompanied film director, James Cameron, on his solo dive to a depth of over 35,000 feet.
It’s a collection that clearly features the company’s tradition of technical innovation. Another essential and revolutionary feature is the Chromalight display. The hands and hour markers are coated with a luminescent material that emits a long-lasting blue glow in dark conditions. On the bezel, the triangular zero marker is also visible.
For divers, being able to read the time with absolute certainty can be a matter of survival.
The new generation Submariner and Submariner Date models come equipped with movements at the forefront of watchmaking technology. The former features a calibre 3230, unveiled in 2020, while the Date has a calibre 3235.
These self-winding mechanical movements were entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex. Their architecture, manufacturing and innovative features make them singularly precise and reliable. The power reserve for both models extends to approximately 70 hours.
The special ceramic components used for creating the monobloc bezels and bezel inserts are exclusively produced and pioneered by Rolex. These materials are virtually scratchproof, with colours of a rare intensity and are resistant to environmental effects. The bezel’s knurled edge offers excellent grip, meaning divers can easily use it, even when wearing gloves.
It’s an excellent tool, allowing them to accurately and safely monitor diving time and decompression stops.
On these versions of the Submariner and Submariner Date, the unidirectional rotatable bezel is fitted with a 60-minute graduated Cerachrom insert in black, green or blue ceramic. The moulded, recessed graduations and numerals are coated with platinum or yellow gold.
As well as the increase in case size, from 40mm to 41mm, the Submariner 41s feature slimmer lugs and the remodelled Oysterlock clasp 21mm bracelet. The Glidelock system prevents accidental opening and allows for fine adjustments of the bracelet without using any tools. It’s designed to be worn comfortably over a diving suit.
The green Submariners included the Rolex 116610LV ‘Hulk’, with its green cerachrom bezel and green sunburst dial. These new models don’t feature such a colour combination, reverting instead to a black dial as used in the very first green Submariner. This cult model also took its name from another green icon, Kermit.
In a similar way, the older white gold Submariner Smurf 116619LB has a matching blue bezel and blue dial. The new white gold Submariner 126619LB features a black dial instead, contrasting with the blue bezel.
Demand for the new Submariner collection will undoubtedly be high, demand for new timepieces so often outstrips actual production. Some luxury watchmakers happily manufacture less just to increase value and limit access. For collectors in particular, getting hold of an old Hulk or Smurf may now prove quite the adventure.
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