2023 marks the 70th anniversary of the Rolex Submariner. Although Rolex debuted the watch in 1954, they claim to have “launched” it in 1953. We can confirm this anniversary with the ‘Kermit’ Submariner (Ref. 16610LV): released in 2003 to celebrate the watch’s 50th anniversary. In case you didn’t know, Rolex loves these 10-year milestones. They usually celebrate with special editions: often colorful and/or made of precious metals. We’ve seen this with the 50th anniversary Daytona (Ref. 116506 in platinum, brown bezel, ice blue dial), 50th anniversary GMT-Master II (Ref. 116718LN in yellow gold, black bezel, green dial), 60th Anniversary Day-Date (Ref. 228239 in 40mm, white/Everose gold, olive green dial), and so on. It’s relatively safe to assume that we’ll see a new Submariner this year, but what will it look like?
The Submariner’s Identity
Image Source: swisswatchexpo.com
To predict the Submariner’s future, we have to examine its past. What materials have been used thus far? Bezel colors? Dial colors? What elements have been discontinued? The Submariner has gone through numerous iterations, but they all feature the same few components. For 70 years, we’ve only seen steel, white gold, and yellow gold Submariners (including Rolex’s two-tone ‘Rolesor’). Rolex has never made a platinum or titanium version, nor do I expect them to. A titanium Submariner would step on the toes of Rolex’s sister brand Tudor, namely their all-titanium Pelagos line. Similarly, a platinum Submariner would encroach on the Yacht-Master: Rolex’s dive-inspired luxury watch that has a 20+ year history of platinum components (dial and bezel).
In terms of color, we’ve only seen green and blue used on Submariners. Green dials, green bezels, blue dials, blue bezels – but only these two. While colored bezels have surrounded black dials, we’ve never seen the reverse (on the Submariner). This would be an interesting configuration, but I don’t expect it for the 70th anniversary. To the furious watch nerds who think I forgot a third color – don’t worry. One of the most beloved and easily recognizable Rolex Submariners is the Ref. 1680, also known as the ‘Red Sub’. This watch’s dial features red ‘Submariner’ text: beautifully contrasted by the otherwise black, white, and steel motif. Unfortunately, this adored reference was discontinued in the late 1970’s, but it’s not the only ‘red’ Rolex. We’ve seen red text on numerous Rolex Sea-Dwellers, Yacht-Masters, and even a Milgauss (Ref. 1019). We know the brand is open to reintroducing red text (i.e. the current Sea-Dweller Ref. 126600), but will Rolex bring it back to the Submariner?
As I said in my article predicting the new Milgauss, “the safest Rolex prediction is to predict nothing at all. But where’s the fun in that?”. I confidently believe that we’ll see a new Submariner this year, likely at Watches and Wonders Geneva 2023. This is where my confidence ends and my wishful thinking begins. I’d love to see red text on a modern Submariner, as would most fans of the brand. The 1680 is a timeless reference: one that Rolex is understandably hesitant to revisit. It seems likely that we’ll eventually see another red Sub, so the question is – does the 70th anniversary warrant its return? If it does, I predict that we’ll see a precious metal variant, likely white gold. A red-text Submariner in steel seems too good to be true. So there’s my prediction – white gold, red text, same old Submariner we know and love. Is this any more likely than a white gold Kermit, a gilt dial, or an LHD 126610LN? No. Only time will tell what Rolex truly has in store. Whatever it is, I’ll be at Watches and Wonders to cover it here on the Everest Journal.