January 6, 2021

A Design Evolution at Rolex

With time seemingly at a standstill, watch design is receiving a lot of looks. Accordingly, Rolex recently unveiled the latest iterations of its storied Submariner wristwatch, the brand’s staple professional divers’ watch. And while the Oyster Perpetual Submariner and Oyster Perpetual Submariner Date evolve the classic design with a notably larger case, the Subs of today are the product of a years-long pursuit of function and design balance. To better understand the design significance of the latest models, we turned back time to highlight the 10 most evolutionary updates throughout the chronometer’s almost 60-year history.

The Original Diver’s Watch

Photography courtesy of Rolex.

The Oyster case made the Submariner the first diver’s wristwatch waterproof to a depth of 100 meters, or 330 feet. Developed in 1926, it uses a patented system of screwing down the bezel, case back, and winding crown against the middle case to keep it watertight.

A Dial for Divers

Photography courtesy of Rolex.

The Submariner’s form is a direct result of its function. The dial’s hour and minute hands are differentiated by size and shape, and hour markers rendered in straightforward geometric shapes in order for it to be legible at any ocean depth.


Photography courtesy of Rolex.

In addition to being an integral part of the Oyster hermetic sealing process, the Submariner bezel is also a functional tool. The rotatable bezel with graduated time markings allows the wearer to monitor immersion and decompression time, ensuring their safety while diving. The Submariner was just updated with a new Cerachrom bezel, paying homage to the original’s aesthetics while simultaneously bringing its construction into the modern day.

Going Deeper

Photography courtesy of Rolex.

The first Submariner was released in 1953, but by the following year, Rolex had already increased its capability, doubling the waterproofness of the Sub to a depth of 200 meters, or 660 feet. It wasn’t until 1979 that the Submariner achieved its current day depth rating of 300 meters, or 1,000 feet.

Guiding Light

Photography courtesy of Rolex.

Rolex continued to perfect the Sub with incremental advancements, one being the addition of a luminescent disc on the hour hand. Not only did this addition make the time easier to read in low light situations, but it also drew a clear distinction between the hour and minute hands.

Protecting the Crown

Photography courtesy of Rolex.

Among the early advancements to the Submariner was the addition of crown guards, added in 1959. Crown guards help avoid unintended adjustments to the crown, ensuring accuracy.

Telling More Than Time

Photography courtesy of Rolex.

In 1969, Rolex expanded the Submariner line with the introduction of the Submariner Date increasing its functionality both above and underwater.

Crystal Clear

Photography courtesy of Rolex.

In further improving upon its design, Rolex changed the Submariner crystal from acrylic to a virtually scratchproof sapphire. The Submariner Date features Rolex’s innovative Cyclops lens as well, allowing the date to be enlarged without necessitating a larger space on the dial.

A Marriage of Two Metals

Photography courtesy of Rolex.

Rolesor has been a signature of the Rolex brand since its introduction in 1933. The name means “two metals” and refers to the combination of 18-carat gold and Oystersteel that’s marked by its impressive resistance to corrosion.

Beyond a Chronometer

Photography courtesy of Rolex.

Early into the Submariner’s life, Rolex began to display the chronometer certified text on the wristwatch’s dial. Eventually, Rolex decided to increase the accuracy of the certification process, developing Superlative Chronometer Certification. This in-house testing process is of the order of −2/+2 seconds per day, twice that required of an official chronometer certified wristwatch.

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