Rolex Submariner History

An image of a Rolex Submariner with a gold case and blue face. The Rolex Submariner is placed on a wooden table next to a black mug.

The Rolex catalogue is an impressive and innovative curation admired by many, with a selection of premium timepieces coveted by watch collectors worldwide. From classic, versatile styles made to be worn every day to specialist designs manufactured to aid performance in various sports and activities; there is a Rolex to suit everyone.

The Rolex Submariner is considered one of the most recognisable and influential watches in the brand’s catalogue. A milestone timepiece for any watch collector, its distinctive aesthetic and consistent performance make it an excellent watch to aspire to. This guide will explore the history of this iconic watch, from its introduction to its latest updates. Read on to learn more about Rolex’s best-loved timeless watches.


  1. When was the Rolex Submariner introduced?
  2. Evolution of the Rolex Submariner

2.1. 1950s

2.2. 1960s

2.3. 1970s

2.4. 1980s

2.5. 2000s

When was the Rolex Submariner introduced?

First introduced in 1953, the Rolex Submariner was one of the first ever specialist diving watches that was water-resistant to 100m. Its original design featured a durable stainless steel casing, a black bezel and a black time-only dial, which created a sleek, neutral exterior that offered quality and practicality. It was fitted with a rotating 60-minute timing bezel so that divers could accurately track how long they had been underwater, to improve their diving experience. The Submariner also featured luminous material to ensure the time was visible in murky waters. 

Over the years, the Submariner has gone from being a watch made for divers to a popular luxury timepiece worn daily by people from all walks of life. Today, the catalogue features many classic and modern designs, colours and materials to cater to various requirements and tastes.

An image of a man's wrist wearing a Rolex Submariner watch with a gold case and blue face.


The Evolution of Rolex Submariner


The first version of the Submariner underwent rigorous testing before being released and embarked on several deep dives, returning to the surface each time in perfect running order and with no signs of water damage. It was released to the public as Reference 6204, which offered timekeeping excellence. 

Over the next decade, the Submariner went through a period of fine-tuning, which improved its design immensely. 1954 saw the release of the Reference 6205, which featured a thicker case and a larger crown. The size of these also increased upon the release of the Reference 6200 in 1955, which was waterproof to 200m. After various other amendments, the case size increased again in 1959 to 40mm, and crown guards were added to the design.


In 1962, the Submariner made its debut in the James Bond film ‘Dr No’, with the Reference 6538 design worn by actor Sean Connery. It went on to feature in four more Bond films throughout the decade and was showcased with an array of smart and casual outfits. This level of exposure meant that the Submariner surged in popularity, helping it to become the iconic timepiece it is today.

The 60s were some of the Submariner’s most formative years. The Reference 5513 design was also released at the beginning of the decade, providing even more choice to Rolex fans. The dials of the Submariner were also changed from gilt to matte in 1967, providing it with a new, upgraded aesthetic. In 1969, Rolex introduced the Submariner Date – the first to feature a calendar function complete with a ‘Cyclops’ magnification lens. The updated model offered customers more of a status symbol than a purpose-built diving watch, appealing to a wider audience. The Submariner Date was also the first gold Submariner, bringing a touch of luxury to the collection.


Throughout the 70s, the Submariner continued its role in the James Bond franchise, appearing in two more films. The premium timepiece continued to evolve in design, with red-dial versions produced until 1975. Following this, the watch underwent a major update with the introduction of Reference 16800. This new generation featured an updated Caliber 3035 movement and a unidirectional bezel. It was the first version to have a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal as opposed to the original acrylic design. As it had a more robust case design, it had a depth rating of 300 metres (1000 feet), which is the standard rating in today’s models.

An image of a man wearing jeans and a long sleeved top with his hand in his pocket. On his wrist is a Rolex Submariner watch with a black face.


The new generation of watches welcomed the first two-tone Submariner in 1984 – the Reference 16803. The late 80s also introduced the Rolex ‘Oystersteel’ material, a 904L stainless steel used to manufacture all modern Submariner dive watches. This durable material is corrosion-resistant, making it ideal for the brand’s stainless steel cases and bracelets. While the aesthetic of the original Submariner has always remained the same, the date versions have allowed Rolex to be more creative with metal types and colour combinations.


The Rolex Submariner continued to evolve throughout the 2000s, with new and innovative designs being produced to expand the category’s offering. In 2003, the brand released the first Submariner featuring a green bezel (Reference 16610LV). Since its release, this timepiece has become one of the most sought-after Rolex watches, with collectors giving it the nickname ‘The Kermit’. 

Another major update was made to the Submariner in 2010 when the watch’s bezel was upgraded to Cerachrom. Cerachrom is a proprietary ceramic material that is fade-proof and scratch-proof, which improved the Submariner’s quality to keep it looking as good as new. 2020 saw the timepiece’s most recent upgrade, with its case increasing to 41mm. This upgrade allowed the iconic timepiece to make more of a statement, quickly becoming a favourite with customers looking for a larger Rolex watch.

At Miltons Diamonds, we pride ourselves on providing our customers with an extensive range of preloved Rolex Watches. We offer an exquisite selection of Rolex Submariner watches for you to choose from. Explore our collection today to learn more about this iconic timepiece and choose a design to suit your taste.


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