Review: The Rolex Submariner ref. 14060
Undoubtedly the world’s favorite dive watch, the Rolex Submariner has been available in two different types since 1969. That was the year the brand decided to introduce a date function onto the model (that model being the ref. 1680), a move that split both the range and opinions pretty much down the middle.
For some, it was a welcome and logical next step. Although the Sub was still marketed as a tool watch, it had been a good while since it had been used as such, and was commonly being bought instead as a status symbol. Evidence of that is the fact that Rolex would soon go on to release the ref. 1680 in all yellow gold for the first time.
A date complication added a nice touch of convenience for a piece worn with far more business suits than wetsuits.
The detractors on the other hand, even those who accepted the Submariner’s new role as a display of wealth instead of a highly capable underwater companion, missed the elegant symmetry of the former dials. The new window at the three o’clock, and especially the Cyclops magnifying lens over the top of it, seemed to throw off the balance of the whole thing.
Whether Rolex had plans to discontinue the original dateless versions altogether is unknown, but the outcry from the faithful was significant, with the upshot being that there has been both a date and a no-date Submariner in production ever since.
The replacement for the long running and legendary ref. 5513, ref. 14060 was released in 1990. Generally thought of as the last of the best, it was the final reference of the classic Sub line to retain the series’ svelte curves, before the brand brought in their Supercase, with its double-width lugs and crown guards. But while it shared many aesthetic elements with the previous model, it also benefitted from a number of technical upgrades that kept it in its rightful place at the top of the dive watch food chain. In that way, it acts as a bridge between the modern and the vintage, and it is a reference fast becoming many-a collector’s new favorite find.
Below we take a look in a bit more detail.
Rolex Submariner ref. 14060 Metals and Bezels
Since the Submariner range fragmented in the late 60s, Rolex has gone onto issue the dated versions in all steel, solid yellow gold, solid white gold and two-tone yellow Rolesor. In addition, it has been given different color schemes of black, blue or green, and even examples with diamond and sapphire accents on the hour markers, known as the Serti dials.
By contrast, the no-dates have always stayed absolutely faithful to their traditional roots. Every Submariner without a date function, including the ref. 14060, has been made in stainless steel only, fitted exclusively with a black dial and surround. It is the definitive look for a true dive watch, and the one emulated and copied by almost every other manufacturer you can think of over the years.
With the reference running from 1990 to 2012, the case is forged from 316L steel, predating the 904L Rolex switched to for the contemporary model. In the real world, the 316L is still an immensely strong metal and more than robust enough for a watch worn every day. It even has the advantage of a lower nickel content than 904L, which is good news for those with a sensitivity to it.
As for the bezel, again this precedes the most current material the brand uses, Cerachrom, and is formed from aluminum. While the modern ceramic boasts of being nigh-on unbreakable, the older surround has the advantage of gaining vintage character over the years, picking up the odd scratch and patina collectors yearn for.
Rolex Submariner ref. 14060 Movements
The ref. 14060 actually had two calibers during its 22-year production. The initial models, running up until 1999, were powered by the Cal. 3000, a replacement for the retiring Cal. 1520.
It was the movement to finally up the watch’s balance frequency to the now-standard 28,800vph, providing the familiar eight-ticks-per-second beat. While it was an improvement over the outgoing engine, it was lacking in certain elements we would now expect as a matter of course from Rolex. Most notably it used a flat hairspring, one without the Breguet overcoil which has been customary in the industry for more than 200 years. It is the feature that provides a broader range of mainspring tension as it unwinds, leading to a greater timekeeping accuracy. With the ref. 14060 being the entry level Sub, its omission was most likely a cost-cutting measure.
Even so, the Cal. 3000 itself would eventually go on to gain COSC certification, but not the ones used inside the no-date Submariner. Meanwhile, its date-equipped counterpart from the time, the ref. 16610, had the Cal. 3135 which was chronometer-rated from the get-go.
From 1999 to the end of its tenure in 2012, the ref. 14060 was driven by the Cal. 3130; in fact, it is still the mechanism at work in the present-day model. This movement, from the same family as the Cal. 3135, reinstated the overcoil as well as including a larger balance wheel and swapping the balance cock for a full balance bridge to increase stability.
The watches containing the upgraded caliber also received a new designation. Apparently not a big enough change to warrant a completely different reference number, they are classified as the ref. 14060M, standing for Modified.
Strangely however, even the first generation of these models were not sent off to get their chronometer endorsement. That wouldn’t happen until 2007, so the ref. 14060M contains models known as both ‘2-liners’ and ‘4-liners’, which we will explain in the next section.
Rolex Submariner ref. 14060 Dials
As mentioned before, the ref. 14060 (and all no-date Submariners) have only ever been available with black dial and bezel. It is the coloring, in combination with white handset and indexes, that provides for the greatest contrast—ideal for a dive watch.
By 1990, Rolex had switched from matte to gloss faces and, without the distraction of the date window and Cyclops lens, it is a beautifully uncluttered and particularly well proportioned fascia.
Readability is excellent, a mix of dots, batons and an inverted triangle making up the hour markers, all filled with generous amounts of lume and edged in white gold to prevent tarnishing.
As for the text, this is where the ‘2-liner’ and ‘4-liner’ descriptors come in. Those examples of the range containing movements without COSC certification—so, the whole of the ref. 14060 series along with the first run pieces of the ref. 14060M—were not able to display the usual ‘Superlative Chronometer Officially certified’ script on their dials. As a result, they only had ‘Submariner’ and ‘1000ft=300m’ written above the six o’clock marker; hence ‘2-liner’. Those later models which had passed their tests included that extra copy and became ‘4-liners’ in collector-speak.
Luminescence also changed throughout the watch’s two decades, starting out with tritium (marked ‘SWISS T <25’ on the very lower edge of the dial) before switching to SuperLuminova (marked ‘SWISS MADE’).
And finally, the ref. 14060 became the first of the no-date Subs to be fitted with both a sapphire crystal and a Triplock winding crown, working together to give a waterproof rating of 300m over the former ref. 5513’s 200m.
Rolex Submariner ref. 14060 Bracelets
Every Submariner produced has only ever been released on that most utilitarian of Rolex’s trio of metal bracelets, the three-link Oyster.
That too, as you would expect over such a long period, evolved during the ref. 14060’s stint.
The first examples of the no date Submariner were still using hollow links, making the watch noticeably lightweight. By the time the ref. 14060 came along, the bracelet had graduated to solid outer links, but the middles were still hollow and the end links were stamped. It gives the model that vintage rattle collectors love, while still holding perfectly secure on the wrist.
One other feature on the piece that gives a hint of nostalgia are the lug holes. This was the last series to have them, and it makes fitting different bands relatively easy. However, the gap between the case and spring bars is particularly narrow so if you were going to attach a leather or NATO strap, you will have to opt for the thinnest type you can find.
There is no name more revered in tool watch circles than the Rolex Submariner. The most popular of its type for more than 65-years, for many purists, only the no-date examples will do.
The ref. 14060 is really the best of both worlds, retaining all the old school visuals while gaining the modern-day mechanics.
It is something currently being realized on the preowned market and prices are on the increase, but you will still be able to find excellent specimens for a good price.