Submariner: the first and second generations

In 1953, Rolex decided to produce a professional diving watch: Submariner. This idea came from the design department. The main designer, Jacques Cousteau, served in the Navy in the past and was also a diving enthusiast. He had been to the deep sea and knew what features were the most important for a realiable diving watch. So Submariner must meet the following requirements:

1, Good visibility in the deep sea, high contrast ratio black dial & big luminous hands.

2, Good antimagnetic, waterproof and anticollision structure.

3, Good corrosion resistance and be resistant to intense temperature difference.

As the first generation Submariner, Ref. 6204(1953-1956) was different from 6202, Ref. 6204 was water resistant to 100m. In the appearance, the hand was changed, simple straight tip hand replaced the “Mercedes-Benz” hand. To be convenient to identify, the header of the second hand was round luminous dot, not biting.


During the same period, Rolex produced the Ref. 6205(1954-1956), compared with 6204, not only 6205 had the “SUBMARINER” words, but it also marked 100M=330FT waterproof depth on the dial, 6205 still used A260 movement. Ref. 6200(1954-1957) was a special edition of Submariner. The difference between it and other ordinary Submariner featured Roman numeral hour markers at 3, 6 and 9. In my opinion, I didn’t think these numerals had a higher recognition than the common sticks at 3, 6 and 9, but rarity enhanced value. 6200 was equipped with A296 movement, in addition, between 0 and 10 minutes on the bezel, there was no minutes scales that could be found on other Submariners.


From Ref. 6538(1956-1964), Submariner came to the second generation. The same as the earliest 6202, this generation Submariner also had the iconic “Mercedes-Benz” hand. 6538’s case diameter was increased to 38mm, the watch used Cal. 1030 Butterfly Rotor movment, the best movement at that time and had passed the COSC test. Below the “Crown” logo on the crown, “+” was changed into “BREVET” words. The more important thing was 6538 could be water resistant to 200M, it created a new waterproof record. Ref. 6536(1956-1964) was 6538’s cheaper no COSC version, although it also used Cal. 1030 movement, 6536 didn’t have COSC, featured 37mm case diameter, water resistant to 100M and much cheaper than the 6538.


In 1953, Auguste and Jean Piccard dived to 3,150 meters in the sea and created a new submarine diving record. At the same time, a super star was born in the watch world: Rolex Submariner, because this deep sea diving watch that was just developed by Rolex in that year was attached on the surface outside the submarine, and dived to 600 metres. This marked the success of the second cruel experiment after the crossing of the English Channel in 1927.

October 21, 1954, CBS broadcasted the black and white movie – Casino Royale(Barry Nelson acted), this was the first time that 007 appeared on the screen, what he wore was exactly the Rolex Submariner, which was just released in previous year. After, Dr. No, in the film, Sean Connery was still wearing a Submariner watch. But ROLEX didn’t want to sponsor a Submariner to Sean Connery, so the director had to lend its own NATO Strap Submariner to Sean Connery. Because of this story, today some watch fans also change their own SUBMARINER’s original Oyster bracelet into a NATO cloth strap.

Submariner: the third and fourth generations


The third generation Submariner was ref. 5508(1958-1965), it used the Cal. 1530, case diameter is 37mm, water resistant to 100M. To view from its whole features, 5508 was already mature. Attention, the “SUBMARINER” words on the dial had the red version and the price was also higher. Besides, the “SWISS” logo at 6 was changed into “T<25″. Because the change of luminescent material, the radioactivity increased. The subsequent ref. 5510(1958-1960) was only produced for two years, but 5510 was water resistant to 200M.


The ref. 5512(1959-1977) was an epoch-making product, from this time, Submariner entered the fourth generation, the following was its difference between it and the previous versions.

1, The material of the bezel was changed from mixed rubber to steel.

2, The flutings of the bezel were widened and much bigger.

3, Because of a submarine accident in the late 50’s, the crown of a Submariner watch was smashed, so 5515 added guards on both sides of the crown, this feature was still in use.

4, Added a waterproof apron on the tube.

5, Below the “Crown” logo on the crown, there were three round points to be used as the sign of the sports models.

6, Bracelet was obviously improved.

7, The case diameter was modified into the real sports watches’ size: 39.5MM
Note: 5512 used COSC level Cal. 1570. This movment was Rolex’s most advanced product at that time. Whether accuracy or durability, it still had a good reputation until now.


Ref. 5513(1964-1985) was the cheap version of 5512. it had a quite long lifeline, the production was also very large. The early luminous hour markers didn’t have frames, later they had but not the metal frames. 5513 was equipped with 1530, after several years, it used the famous 1520 movement, on the balance wheel’s beam of this movement, there were two weights. Ref. 5517 was 5513’s military version, it was very expensive, used the much stronger sword hands and was equipped with the canvas military strap. It is worth noting that, during the long production of 5513, International Organization for Standardization made detailed requirements on diving watch’s specifications, the following is its details(July 1, 1981):

1, Readability: in the dark, distance of 25cm from the watch, can still identify the time, the time span on the bezel and the watch’s working statement.

2, Anti-magnetic: must have a DC anti-magnetic capacity of more than 60 Gauss.

3, Crashworthiness: no damage to fall from 1 meter height to a hard wood.

4, Attachment’s resistance to external force: plus 20 kg force, test the attachment.

5, Resistance to salt solution: under 23℃, immerse the watch in 3% salt wate for 24 hours, the watch’s case and other attachments must retain the former state, the operational parts can work properly.

6, Resistance to heat shocks: must be able to withstand the 40℃-5℃-40℃ intense temperature change cycle.

7, Waterproof, water pressure: 100M waterproof specification requires the watch under 125M depth of water for one hour, then places it in a pressure equivalent to 300M depth for one hour. Plus 2 atmospheric air pressure and test the amount of air inside the case, check the case’s long-term waterproof performance.

8, The 1 graduation and 5 graduation on the bezel must be clear.

9, Operation in water: can act freely under 30cm depth of water.

10, Stability: plus 12.5 atmospheric air pressure in the water, test for 20 minutes.

11, For the diving watches that added helium, must pay attention to their normal timing damage risk.

The timepiece that meets the above requirements is the real diving watch, but the diving watches, like the Submariner for professional divers, are rare.


Ref. 1680 was the earliest Submariner model that had the date function, it was the fist generation Submariner Date. Its production was from 1965 to 1980. 1680 used Cal. 1570 movement, COSC, water resistant to 200M. Acrylic glass with large bubble special for Rolex, Case size was 39.5*14MM. 1680 also had another version, it was the famous “Red Sub’. Its origin was the “SUBMARINER” words on the dial were red, this version was the hot model that was speculated worldwide, and was also rushed by all the Submariner watch fans.


The subsequent ref. 16800(1979-1989) used sapphire crystal, the water resistance was increased from 200M to 300M. Case size was 40*13.5MM, it was equipped with the famous 3035 movement, the balance frequence was up to 28800, more accurate and stable, the balance wheel had four micro-adjusting screws, the rotor added a blue adjustable screw, the whole movement looked like more advanced. In 1989, there also produced a model called the 168000, its lifeline was very short and was replaced with 16610 immediately.


Submariner was born corresponded to the development of ocean and the exploration business, they all have superior capabilities to meet the requirements of the times. Although Submariner was not as gorgeous as the Daytona, also had not many functions, Submariner was a hidden paradise for adventurers. As a tool, it also had a powerful practical value.

1, The Ads in 1973: the cultural anthropologists took a reed boat “Ra II”, after 57 days and nights, finally conquered the Atlantic. During the voyage, on which they relied, was the Submariner. In addition, each country’s Navy also used Submariner.

2, Harbour Village theme ads: in order to explore the sea, Marine Science and Technology Center conducted large-scale undersea living experiments during 1972 to 1975, this was called the Harbour Village plan. What the divers wore while working in the sea were exactly the Submariner diving watches.

3, The ads about Luis Marden diver who discoverd the HMS Bounty, which sinked in 1790. In the seabed of the Pitcairn Islands, which was 1300 miles south of Tahiti in Oceania, where the Luis Marden discoverd the Bounty wreck remains and he was very fond of Rolex watch.

4, Marine archaeologist theme ads: he went to the sea to search for the Spanish and British galleons that sinked between the fifteenth century and the seventeenth century. He often used Rolex while working in the sea.

These ads all indicated that: Submariner was an essential equipment when operating under the sea.

Submariner: the fifth generation


In 1989, 5513 was discontinued, a new Submariner, ref. 14060(1989-2001), emerged, it was the modern Submariner. Compared with 5513, this Submariner used sapphire crystal, this glass can prevent scratches that was caused by sports. But its hard brittle characteristic was not good to prevent collision. So there existed arguments in the watch industry. The waterproof depth of 14060 reached a new height: 300M, the movement was 3000. Note: before 1966, the six o’clock position was still the luminous radiation logo “T<25″, between 1966 and 1999, it was changed into “SWISS”, from 1999 till now, the logo has been alway the “SWISS MADE”. In 2001, Rolex’s new no date mechanism movement Cal. 3130 was released, it replaced the ordinary 3000, and 14060 was also renamed 14060M(2001-now). The present 14060M, at 6 o’clock, there was a laser engraved “Crown” anti-fake label, it was the most advanced Submariner, although had no COSC, 14060M has been tested in five positions at three different temperatures, no doubt about the accuracy and durability.



Ref. 16610(1989-now), this was the newest Submariner Date, 300M waterproof, sapphire crystal, but it used Rolex’s newest 3135 movement. Case size was 40*13MM. Note: before 2000, the words below the 6 o’clock position were labeled as “SWISS T<25”, after 2000, the words were “SWISS MADE”. In 2000, some details of the buckle also had small changes, the new bracelet was more comfortable. 2003 was Submariner’s 50th anniversary, Rolex published the 16610LV(green bezel) as the Submariner 50th anniversary edition. Submariner has experienced 50 years of rises and falls, experienced Swiss mechanical watches’ glory, failure to re-revival. Submariner’s success would be forever engraved on the milestone of Rolex.

Source by barbrine