The Rolex Submariner is often considered to have one of the most consistent designs in all of watchmaking. Although its appearance has changed significantly since it first appeared in 1953, the Rolex Submariner watches produced today are immediately identifiable as being the direct descendants of the original models that first appeared more than half a century ago.
With that in mind, the Submariner’s design has constantly been changing over the years, and while many collectors and enthusiasts were most recently dwelling on the fact that it’s case grew by approximately 1mm to its current 41mm proportions, another detail worth noting is that the gold dial text has disappeared entirely from the Submariner collection with the most recent round of updates from 2020.
Gold Dial Text on 5-Digit Rolex Submariner Watches
If you look at the various Rolex Submariner watches with 5-digit reference numbers, you will find that there is gold colored text on the dials of both the two-tone and solid 18k gold versions. Additionally, this statement applies to both the blue and black variants of each model, meaning that among the 5-digit Submariner watches, the stainless steel models all have black dials with white text, while the precious metal versions had gold text to match their 18k yellow gold components, regardless of whether the dial itself was blue or black.
Given that the hands and surrounds for the applied hour markers are both crafted from 18k yellow gold, having the dial text in matching gold letters would seem to make sense from an aesthetic standpoint. However, this seemingly straightforward approach to dial text color would change on the subsequent generation of Submariner watches with 6-digit reference numbers.
Gold Dial Text on 6-Digit Rolex Submariner Watches
The 6-digit Submariner watches represent a significant aesthetic update from the previous generation. While much of the attention was placed upon their chunkier cases, “maxi dials” with larger hands and hour markers, and redesigned bezels with inserts made from Rolex’s proprietary Cerachrom ceramic material, details such as a change in the color of dial text could easily get overlooked.
The blue dials of the 6-digit Submariner watches retained their golden text for both the two-tone and solid gold references, but when it came to the versions fitted with black dials and bezels, the color of their printing saw a small update. With the exception of the diamond-set “Serti” versions that still featured gold printing, the black dials on both the two-tone and solid gold Submariner watches from the six-digit series now featured white text.
Goodbye to Gold Printing
With the most recent update to the 6-digit generation of date-displaying Submariner watches, which brought about larger 41mm cases and the Caliber 3235 movement, the blue dials have now followed the trend first established by the black Submariner dials on the previous generation. On the blue dials fitted to both the two-tone and solid 18k yellow gold versions of the Rolex Submariner, all printing is done in white, which means that all of the various Rolex Submariner watches - regardless of metal type or color - now have white text on their dials.
Personally, I’m a bit sad to see the gold text no longer featured on the Submariner collection, as I thought it nicely complimented the yellow gold hands and hour markers. While there is an equally strong case to be made for the use of white text on the two-tone examples, I find that the bright white printing almost looks slightly out of place on full-gold versions, where the only other thing white on them is the Chromalight luminous material filling their hands and indexes. That being said, the white text does offer a better contrast against the black or blue surfaces of the dials, and it ultimately does look a bit more modern compared to the golden text that had been featured on the precious metal versions of the Rolex Submariner for the last fifty-plus years.
Regardless of your preference (or mine) gold dial text on Submariner watches is now one of those discontinued traits such as holes-cases, tritium dials, or aluminum bezel inserts that no longer exist in Rolex’s contemporary catalog. Additionally, while no premiums are attached to this particular trait at the present time, that could eventually change at some point in the future, in much the same way that vintage glossy gilt dials or “Red Submariner” dials are now accompanied by significant price premiums on the open market due to the different color of their text.
All images courtesy of Bob’s Watches.