Did Rolex ruin the Submariner by making it 41mm?!

Did Rolex ruin the Submariner by making it 41mm?!

A little over a year ago, the watch world lost its mind when Rolex released the redesigned Submariner 124060 and 126610. I’d like (or hope) to think that size doesn’t matter, but the amount of hysteria that ensued over a 1mm case size increase was outrageous! Cries from Rolex fanboys and girls from around the world could be heard for miles. Their weepy voices exclaimed, “They ruined the Submariner! It’s been 40mm for years!” So, did Rolex really ruin the iconic Submariner? Is a 1mm size difference such a big deal? Let’s take a look at three generations of Submariners on our way to my thoughts on this controversial Rolex topic. 

3 rolex submariner watches

(Source European Watch Company)

And so it begins...My First Rolex

My first experience with Rolex took me straight into the six-digit references and came with the purchase of my Submariner 114060. I’m one of those people who can’t remember the date, so the 114060 quickly changed to the Submariner 116610. Coming from wearing a Panerai, I appreciated how the six-digit references had the more robust “Maxi” case to help me get used to the size difference. Along with that came a ceramic bezel, “Maxi” dial, solid link bracelet, and a glidelock clasp. Honestly, what's not to love? 

rolex watch on a rubber strap on a cup of espresso

Six years later, I took the plunge into five-digit territory with the acquisition of a pre-ceramic 16610 Submariner. It was one of those “Instagram made me do it” purchases. I was skeptical of whether I would like this watch all the way up until the Fed-Ex driver dropped the box into my hands. Less than 24 hours later, the 16610 Submariner became a “top five” watch I’ve ever owned. There was something about the lack of modern features that really sang to me. The slightly faded aluminum bezel and perfectly proportioned round case that seamlessly transitioned into the "tin can" bracelet (Man, I loved that bracelet!) combined to make one hell of a watch. It’s not hard to see why this reference is a favorite amongst Rolex collectors.

rolex submariner watch on wrist with gray sweater

The new Rolex Submariner 41

Fast forward to today and I’ve owned the new Submariner 41 for over a year. I’m still processing how I feel about this watch. I love the new hands, updated movement, and seamless case and bracelet transition compared with the previous generation. What I don’t love is the new 21mm bracelet with less taper and a chunkier glidelock clasp. A big part of watch collecting for me is comfort and wearability. This is a category where the new 126610 and 124060 fall short.  Aesthetically and on paper, the differences between the new Sub 41 and the previous ceramic generation are subtle. However, there are differences that you can definitely feel on the wrist. The new Submariner noticeably feels bigger, heavier, and often a bit clunky thanks to the wider glidelock clasp.  

rolex submariner watch on wrist next to a black jacket cuff

Some days, I’ll start off the morning with the Sub 41 and change later in the afternoon to my 116610LV. The difference in comfort between the two is immediately noticeable. The 116610’s 20mm bracelet, more drastic taper, and thinner glidelock clasp create a more comfortable wearing experience. My “wristometer” also feels like the case and clasp are better balanced compared to the Sub 41. However, the ultimate winner in comfort goes to the pre-ceramic 16610 Submariner. The hollow rattle can bracelet, smaller case, and perfect proportions make the watch lighter and more svelte on the wrist than its two younger brothers. I’m not saying the new Submariner 41 is unbearably uncomfortable and you should all remove your names from your dealers’ waiting lists. Far from it. I just happen to find the previous generations less noticeable and a bit more comfy on the wrist. 

two rolex submariner models side by side for comparison

rolex submariner bracelet comparisons

Rolex Submariner Bracelet comparison photo (Left is Rolex Submariner 126610 bracelet and the right is the Rolex Submariner 116610 bracelet)

So, did Rolex ruin the Submariner by making it 41mm?

For me, the answer is both yes and no. Overall, the new Submariner 41 is a great watch. It’s the modern version of a five-digit Submariner and it’s done quite well. What I think Rolex “ruined” was the opportunity to go back to its heritage and release what I consider a true modern implementation of a five-digit Submariner - a Submariner with the exact proportions of the five-digit Subs but with all the modern amenities. 

Humor me for a moment. I want you to close your eyes and imagine a 16610 Sub with a ceramic bezel, maxi dial, solid link bracelet, and glidelock clasp. BOOM! Billion year waitlists! 

Do you own a Submariner 41 and can’t wait to swap out the bracelet for a rubber strap to cut down on some of that extra metal? We will have straps available soon. Sign up to be notified here

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