Then and Now: The First Rolex Submariner vs. The Current Rolex Submariner

For this installment of our Then and Now series where we compare the very first Rolex model with its newest counterpart, we take a look at the Submariner. It’s no secret that the Submariner is one of Rolex’s most coveted sports watch models. Highly recognizable, immensely popular, and just downright cool for many to own a Submariner is the ultimate #watchgoal. But how much has Rolex’s flagship dive watch changed over the 65 years? Let’s find out by comparing the first Rolex Submariner vs the current Rolex Submariner model.

The First Rolex Submariner

In 1953, Rolex presented a brand new watch model to their lineup. This would prove to become an absolute legend in the watch space. The new watch was dubbed the Submariner. Its mission was to accompany divers deep underwater, and its reference number was 6204. In fact, building upon the Rolex’s record of introducing the world’s first waterproof watch (the Oyster) in 1926, the Submariner ref. 6204 was the world’s first diving watch water resistant to 100 meters. This beat the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms by less than 10 meters. Built as a utilitarian timepiece for scuba divers, the Submariner boasted a host of practical traits for underwater explorers of the era.

Rolex Submariner Ref. 6204
Credit: Rolex

For instance, from case to bezel to bracelet, Rolex constructed the Submariner ref. 6204 from tough stainless steel. This material can handle being submerged in salty water. It sports a 37mm Oyster case, no crown guards protecting the screw-down winding crown, and a black aluminum rotating bezel that allows divers to measure immersion times. Furthermore, the black dial includes highly luminescent (radium) indexes and hands so divers could easily read the watch in dark waters. It’s worth noting that these early models of the Submariner had straight pencil-style hands. But, these were eventually replaced with the now-familiar Mercedes-style hands on subsequent Submariner references. Protecting the face of the Submariner 6204 watch is an acrylic crystal.

As a time-only watch, the vintage Submariner ref. 6204 runs on the automatic Caliber A260 movement. Rolex only produced the Submariner ref. 6204 for one year. Then they replaced it with the following ref. 6205 and 6200.

The Current Rolex Submariner

It’s been six years since Rolex has launched a new Submariner watch. The latest to join the collection is the Submariner ref. 114060, which made its debut at Baselworld 2012. Like the majority of Rolex watches—and in our opinion a key reason for the brand’s success—the newest version of the Submariner looks a great deal like the first. But now it’s packed with cutting-edge innovations and design enhancements.

Similar to the first Sub ref. 6204, the Submariner ref. 114060 is a no-date model, available exclusively in steel. As many of you already know, the Submariner range includes plenty of date models and those are the ones available in a range of materials and different colors.

The 40mm Oyster Case

Rolex Submariner Ref. 114060
Credit: Rolex

In the late 1950s, the Submariner case not only grew to 40mm but also featured protective shoulders around the screw-down winding crown. So continuing the tradition, the newest Submariner ref. 114060 does also have a 40mm Oyster case and crown guards. However, due to the broader shape of the case, it wears larger than vintage Subs that have the same official size. Sitting on top of that case is one of Rolex’s newer materials, Cerachrom ceramic. In 2005, Rolex introduced Cerachrom, its patented ceramic alloy, that promises to not scratch or fade in the sun. Similar to all modern Subs, the ref. 114060’s bezel has the first 15 minutes marked, followed by markings every 5 minutes after that.

Water Resistance Rating

Rolex Submariner watches have offered a water resistance rating of 300 meters since the late 1970s and the Submariner ref. 114060 has the same impressive depth rating achieved in part because the Triplock screw-down winding crown and fluted screw-down caseback keeps the water out. Encased within the dateless Submariner ref. 114060 is the Rolex Caliber 3130 self-winding movement with about 48 hours of power reserve.

The “Maxi” dial of the Submariner ref. 114060 is still in classic black but features the modern blue-glowing luminescent material Rolex calls Chromalight on the now-standard white gold surrounded round indices and Mercedes-style hands. As is the case with all Submariner watches from the early 1980s onwards, the current Submariner ref. 114060 is fitted with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.

Although it’s known that the Submariner is enjoyed more by desk divers than scuba divers, Rolex still designs their signature diver’s watch with the original audience in mind. As a result, the Oyster bracelet includes the practical Glidelock extension system to permit the wearer to easily lengthen the bracelet to accommodate thick wetsuits.

The Rolex Submariner Evolution, Then and Now

When comparing the first Rolex Submariner vs the current Rolex Submariner model, we find the Submariner has undergone plenty of modifications over the last six decades. However, Rolex has stayed true to the watch’s core design hallmarks and technical details. And the current Submariner ref. 114060 is a worthy decedent of the one that started it all, the original Submariner ref. 6204.

Stay tuned for our next chapter of our new Then and Now series where we’ll compare the very first Daytona with the latest Daytona.