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History of the Rolex Submariner

History of the Rolex Submariner

First debuted in 1953 at the Basel Watch Fair, the Rolex Submariner has a well-documented history from what we know it as today. It’s easy to assume that it was the first modern dive watch to premiere; however, that title belongs to Blancpain’s “Fifty Fathoms” which debuted just months before Rolex’s famed Submariner. Rolex was unable to reproduce Blancpain’s patented Unidirectional Bezel technology so instead they utilized their Bidirectional bezel. This had an adverse effect causing divers to unknowingly overextend their dive time. Though Rolex was unable to use the Unidirectional bezel technology, they were however the first company to produce a waterproof timepiece rated for up to 100 meters. At the time, The Fifty Fathoms Blancpain watch was only cleared for dives rated up to 91.44m.

Recreational scuba diving was a novel concept during the 50s and there were no functional watches available for the few that did enjoy the sport. Émile Gagnan and Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the creator of the Aqualung, which is what we know as the modern scuba diving gear today, was a close friend of Rolex’s Public Relations Director at the time Rene-Paul Jeanneret. Jeanneret also happened to be an emerging diving enthusiast and brought this idea of a functional diving watch to Rolex. This immensely influenced not only the idea of creating the first Rolex Submariner, but also the popularity of recreational diving. 


The Rolex Submariner has a classic design and offers 3 possible variations: 

Stainless Steel
Stainless Steel Rolex Submariner
Rolex Submariner Stainless Steel
Two-Toned Gold and Stainless Steel
Two-Toned Gold and Stainless Steel Submariner
Two-Toned Gold and Stainless Steel Submariner
18 Karat Gold
18 Karat Gold Submariner

Over the years, the designs have changed and improved by using materials made to withstand wear and tear of the watch over time.  For example, older Submariners featured aluminum bezels inserts which scratched more easily whereas more modern pieces (2007 and newer) feature a fully ceramic Cerachrom bezel which is more scratch resistant. The first few models of the Submariner lacked a crown guard or “shoulders” around the crown used to set or correct the time on the watch. Later realizing that the absence of these crown guards often caused Rolex’s watchmakers to service the watches more often due to the damage caused on the crown itself. Some models also started featuring date windows by the 3 o’clock marker to make the watch even more functional even for daily use. These improvements looked to make the Rolex Submariner withstand more than just a few scratches or damages to the case and give the wearer a durable yet functional timepiece to wear on a day-to-day basis. The classic design and look of the Submariner have served as inspirations for many watch brands alike and will forever be one of Rolex’s most recognizable watches for years to come.

From Sea Diving to Status Symbol

While sea diving was the Submariner’s true purpose, very few people nowadays wear the timepiece for diving and rather as a status symbol. With the design and look of the Submariner being one of the most recognizable among the Rolex line, wearers are often seen as accomplished and sharp. Gone are the days when owning a Rolex Submariner was only associated with recreational divers. If you happen to own a Submariner or plan to own one in the future, it can be beneficial to know the rich history of the timepiece.

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