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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.

By

Isaac Wingold

October 18, 2022

/

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. 

Shop All Rolex Submariners

What Makes a Submariner a Submariner?

  • The Benchmark for All Dive Watches
  • Iconic and Influential
  • The White T-Shirt of Watches

Key Submariner References to Know

Should You Buy a Modern or Vintage Submariner? 

Bezel's Submariner Picks 

The Rolex Submariner Ref. 126610LV-0002, channeling the aesthetics of the 50th anniversary "Kermit" Submariner.

What Makes a Submariner a Submariner?

The Rolex Submariner has been of instrumental importance to the advancement of diving for exploration and sport.

The Benchmark for All Dive Watches 

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. 

In one way or another, all modern dive watches have been inspired by the Rolex Submariner.

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.

Rolex's Submariner is a true go anywhere, do anything watch, never looking out of place.

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.

Key Submariner References to Know

Rolex Submariner Ref. 6204.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 6204 

Shop Rolex Submariner Ref. 6204

Dates: 1953-1953

Price range: $40,000-$1,000,000

Highlights:

  • The very first Submariner reference, kicking off the interage lineage of history’s most legendary dive watch 
  • An evolution of the Ref. 6202 Turn-O-Graph 
  • One of the very first watches water resistant to 100 meters, or roughly 330 feet
  • Powered by Rolex’s Caliber A260 movement 
  • Notably features a small crown, pencil-shaped hands, and a black and gold accented “gilt” dial 
  • Fitted with a black aluminum, unidirectional rotating bezel  
  • Offered exclusively in stainless steel
Rolex Submariner Ref. 5512.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 5512

Shop Rolex Submariner Ref. 5512

Dates: 1959-1980

Price range: $15,000-$200,000

Highlights:

  • The very first Submariner to feature crown guards, yielding the framework of the Submariner design as we know it today  
  • Water resistant to 200 meters, or roughly 660 feet
  • Notably features chronometer certification, ensuring timekeeping accuracy
  • Powered by Rolex’s Caliber 1530, 1560, and 1570 movements
  • Offered exclusively in stainless steel
  • Fitted with a black aluminum, unidirectional rotating bezel  
  • Produced in a wide variety of configurations 
Rolex Submariner Ref. 5513.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 5513

Shop Rolex Submariner Ref. 5513

Dates: 1962-1989

Price range: $11,000-$200,000

Highlights:

  • The second Rolex Submariner reference to feature crown guards
  • Essentially identical to the Ref. 5512 Submariner, save for its non chronometer certified Oyster Perpetual movements
  • Water resistant to 200 meters, or roughly 660 feet
  • Powered by Rolex’s Caliber 1520 and 1530 movements
  • Offered exclusively in stainless steel 
  • Fitted with a black aluminum, unidirectional rotating bezel  
  • Produced in a wide variety of configurations
Rolex Submariner Date Ref. 1680.

Rolex Submariner Date Ref. 1680

Shop Rolex Submariner Date Ref. 1680

Dates: 1969-1979

Price range: $13,000-$100,000

Highlights:

  • The very first Rolex Submariner reference to feature a date complication, seen using a cyclops magnifier at the three o’clock position
  • Features a distinctive acrylic crystal, which collectors say resembles the silhouette of a top hat 
  • Earliest executions of the reference feature red “SUBMARINER” text on their dials, now highly sought after by vintage Rolex collectors 
  • Powered by Rolex’s Caliber 1575 movement
  • Water resistant to 200 meters, or roughly 660 feet
  • Offered in stainless steel, yellow gold, and white gold
  • Fitted with a black and blue aluminum, unidirectional rotating bezels  
  • Produced in a wide variety of configurations
Rolex Submariner Ref. 14060.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 14060

Shop Rolex Submariner Ref. 14060

Dates: 1988-2012

Price range: $9,000-$13,000

Highlights:

  • The successor to the Ref. 5513 Submariner
  • Notably features a more durable, scratch resistant sapphire crystal in place of the acrylic crystals seen on earlier Submariner references
  • Fitted with a black aluminum, unidirectional rotating bezel  
  • Powered by Rolex’s Caliber 3000 and 3130 movements, available with and without chronometer certification 
  • Now seen by Rolex collectors as a “neo-vintage” reference 
  • Water resistant to 300 meters, or roughly 1000 feet
  • Offered exclusively in stainless steel
  • Produced in a wide variety of configurations
Rolex Submariner Date Ref. 16610.

Rolex Submariner Date Ref. 16610

Shop Rolex Submariner Date Ref. 16610

Dates: 1988-2010

Price range: $9,000-$70,000

Highlights:

  • The most significant step forward for the Submariner Date since the introduction of the original Ref. 1680
  • Notably features a more durable, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal in place of the acrylic crystals seen on earlier Submariner references 
  • Water resistant to 300 meters, or roughly 1000 feet
  • Powered by Rolex’s Caliber 3135 movement, featuring chronometer certification 
  • Now seen by Rolex collectors as a “neo-vintage” reference 
  • Offered in Oystersteel as the Ref. 16610, two tone Rolesor as the Ref. 16613, and yellow gold as the Ref. 16618
  • Also offered as the Ref. 16610LV, with a green bezel insert commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Submariner
Rolex Submariner Ref. 116610.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 114060

Shop Rolex Submariner Ref. 114060

Dates: 2012-2020

Price range: $10,000-$15,000

Highlights:

  • The first Rolex Submariner reference to feature the thicker and proportionally heftier Maxi case design
  • Fitted with a black Cerachrom unidirectional bezel, made of a nearly scratch proof, corrosion resistant ceramic proprietary to Rolex 
  • This generation of Submariner references introduced solid link Oyster bracelets, in place of the hollow links seen on earlier Submariner references
  • Powered by Rolex’s Caliber 3135 movement, featuring chronometer certification 
  • Water resistant to 300 meters, or roughly 1000 feet
  • Offered exclusively in Oystersteel, Rolex’s proprietary alloy of highly durable and corrosion resistant 904L stainless steel 
Rolex Submariner Date Ref. 116610.

Rolex Submariner Date Ref. 116610

Shop Rolex Submariner Date Ref. 116610

Dates: 2010-2020

Price range: $10,000-$30,000

Highlights:

  • The first Rolex Submariner Date reference to feature the thicker and proportionally heftier Maxi case design
  • Fitted with a Cerachrom bezel, made of a nearly scratch-proof, corrosion resistant ceramic proprietary to Rolex 
  • This generation of Submariner references introduced solid link Oyster bracelets, in place of the hollow links seen on earlier Submariner references
  • Powered by Rolex’s Caliber 3135 movement, featuring chronometer certification 
  • Produced in Oystersteel as the Ref. 116610, two tone Rolesor as the Ref. 116613, yellow gold as the Ref. 116618, and white gold as the Ref. 116619
  • Water resistant to 300 meters, or roughly 1000 feet
  • Also offered as the Ref. 116610LV or “Hulk,” with a green Cerachrom bezel insert and matching green dial
Rolex Submariner Ref. 124060.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 124060

Rolex Submariner Ref. 124060

Dates: 2020-Present

Price range: $10,000-$15,000

Highlights:

  • The latest evolution of the Rolex Submariner
  • Powered by Rolex’s Caliber 3230 movement, featuring chronometer certification
  • Fitted with a black Cerachrom unidirectional bezel, made of a nearly scratch-proof, corrosion resistant ceramic proprietary to Rolex 
  • Offered exclusively in Oystersteel, Rolex’s proprietary alloy of highly durable and corrosion resistant 904L stainless steel 
  • Water resistant to 300 meters, or roughly 1000 feet
  • Produced in a wide variety of configurations
Rolex Submariner Date Ref. 126610.

Rolex Submariner Date Ref. 126610  

Shop Rolex Submariner Date Ref. 126610

Dates: 2020-Present

Price range: $10,000-$25,000

Highlights:

  • The latest iteration of the Rolex Submariner Date
  • 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”  
A modern Submariner alongside an early, vintage example.

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. 

Bezel’s Submariner Picks

Rolex Submariner Date Ref. 116610LV “Hulk”

Rolex Submariner Date Ref. 116610LN

Rolex Submariner Date Ref. 126610LN

Rolex Submariner Ref. 114060

Rolex Submariner Ref. 124060

Rolex Submariner Ref. 14060

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