The Rolex Submariner Buying Guide: References, Prices & Everything Else You Need to Know
In Bezel’s official Rolex Submariner buyer’s guide, we discuss everything you need to know when buying history’s most legendary dive watch.
March 9, 2023
10 min read
As one of the first watches designed specifically for diving, the Rolex Submariner effectively pioneered the category, inspiring countless other watchmakers to produce water-resistant timepieces capable of spending extended periods of time below the water’s surface. For that reason and others, the Submariner is arguably history’s most important dive watch, famously featuring an iconic unidirectional rotating bezel and a highly legible luminous dial and handset, all housed within Rolex’s patented Oyster case design.
With such legendary status and renown amongst collectors, and so many different references to choose from, the process of narrowing down which Submariner is right for you can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know when buying a Rolex Submariner, plus a few extra pointers for good measure.
First introduced in 1953, the Rolex Submariner was one of the very first purpose-built dive watches ever made. This pioneering status has afforded the Sub a special place in both the history of watches and the sport of diving, after decades of reliably keeping time, tracking time spent underwater, and ensuring watertight durability below the ocean’s surface. It’s now seen as the quintessential dive watch, forever the leader in its class.
Featuring Rolex’s patented Oyster case construction since its release, the Submariner has always boasted impressive water resistance ratings, ranging from 100 meters on the earliest references, to 300 meters, or roughly 1000 feet on the latest production models. Knowing the great depths it's capable of descending to without a sweat, you’ll have nothing to worry about when taking a Submariner into the water.
Iconic and Influential
Similar to everyone’s car crush, the Porsche 911, the overall silhouette and appearance of the Submariner has remained unchanged since its earliest days. By historically taking an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to the watch’s aesthetics, Rolex has repeatedly reinforced the genius of the original design to the point of icon status, inspiring every dive watch that followed it in one way or another.
It also doesn't hurt that there’s an illustrious list of names who have notably worn the Swiss dive watch over the years, including Jacques Cousteau, Steve McQueen, and Sean Connery as James Bond. More recently, the Submariner has been sported by celebrities and athletes like Tom Holland, John Mayer, Queen Latifah, and Roger Federer, among others.
The White T-Shirt of Watches
Underwater capabilities and icon status aside, the Rolex Submariner is one of the single most versatile watches available in today’s market. Regardless of what metal it’s executed in, or what colors its components may be, a Submariner never looks out of place, and can be worn with just about anything. Whether you’re dressed up for a gala, or taking your dog out for a walk, a Rolex Submariner will always feel right. For that reason, we like to think of the Submariner as the white t-shirt of watches.
Unlike dress watches reserved for specific occasions, or tool watches so overbuilt they verge into the territory of novelty, Submariners strike the perfect balance between smart and sporty-looking. This makes investing in one an even easier decision, knowing that you’ll be able to wear it in a wide variety of situations.
Fitted with a black Cerachrom unidirectional bezel, made of a nearly scratch proof, corrosion resistant ceramic proprietary to Rolex
Produced in Oystersteel as the Ref. 126610, two tone Rolesor as the Ref. 126613, yellow gold as the Ref. 126618, and white gold as the Ref. 126619
Water resistant to 300 meters, or roughly 1000 feet
Also offered as the Ref. 126610LV or “Cermit” with a green Cerachrom bezel nodding to the design of the Ref. 16610LV “Kermit”
Should You Buy a Modern or Vintage Submariner?
Despite the fact that modern and vintage Rolex watches are drastically different animals, Rolex tool watches have always been designed and produced with durability and reliability in mind, making it quite easy to wear a something like a vintage Submariner on a daily basis without having to be too careful about babying some fragile relic, like you would with a vintage Patek Philippe, for example. Still, vintage Rolex watches are highly sought after by collectors and command significant prices in today’s market, meaning you’ll likely want to avoid wearing a vintage Submariner as often as you would a modern Submariner, to protect your investment.
If you’re after the absolute latest and greatest, with all of Rolex’s advanced contemporary tech, modern is without question the route for you. After continually being improved upon over several decades of research and development, the current range of Submariner references features better construction, uses more advanced materials than ever before, and is powered by Rolex’s latest Caliber 3230 movement. All of this should inspire a sense of confidence that you can truly go anywhere and do just about anything with a Submariner on your wrist, always reliable no matter the circumstances.
Maybe you’re after a little bit of column A, and a little bit of column B, too. Something that’s aesthetically nearer to a vintage Rolex Submariner, but with a more modern movement and more durable construction than a four digit Submariner reference, like the Ref. 1680 or Ref. 5513. In this case, consider five digit, “neo-vintage” references like the Ref. 14060 and Ref. 16610, bridging the gap between the vintage Submariners of yesterday and the modern references of today with singular style.