September 30, 1953 – The vision of Rolex to create a watch that could hold out thousands of feet under the ocean materialized when an experimental watch known as the “Deep Sea Special” was braced to the outside of Professor Auguste Piccard’s famous bathyscaphe FNRS-2. It was successfully tested to a depth of 10,336 feet on this date. This success allowed Rolex to introduce the world’s first divers’ watch commercially. This watch was named “The Rolex Submariner”. All the early Submariner models namely the 6200, 6204 and 6205 introduced during 1950s were highly publicized.
However, Rolex wanted to push its limits further and come up with something even more vital. In fact, it became successful in its endeavor when Piccard’s new bathyscaphe, the Trieste made its journey to the world’s deepest ocean floor, the Challenger Deep of the Marianas Trench on January 23, 1960. This time, the Rolex Model 7205/0 known as “Piccard” also accompanied it and successfully withstood pressures at a depth of 35,798 feet or 11,000 meters (during both its descent and ascent). With this, Rolex made its name in the world of reliable diver’s watches. The media press applauded the win of “Piccard”. It became the news buzz of that day.
Today, Rolex has to its credit the popular Submariner and the Sea-Dweller models, meant for deep sea divers. A handful of companies have attempted to produce watches that match the perfection and accuracy of this waterproof watch.. A message from Rolex Geneva in “Keeping in time with Oceanography” states , “The history of Rolex is intimately tied to mans conquest of the ocean.”
After many tests, Rolex introduced the Submariner at the 1954 Basel Watch Fair. The first production model, available for sale to the public that same year, was the reference 6204. The 6204 looked almost identical to a similar Rolex watch, the Turn-O-Graph reference 6202. The reference 6204 was water resistant to 600 feet, and used the Rolex Caliber A260 movement.
Reference 6200 lived only a short life. The watch was created in 1954 only, and contained the caliber A296. The Rolex Research and Development department must have been processing these watches many years before official introduction, and the Rolex Submariner appears in the underwater documentary “Le monde du silence” in 1953. Thus IMHO the first Submariner to be produced by RWC was the Model 6200. The younger reference number adds substance to the logic.
The Rolex Submariner, introduced in the early 50’s, laid down the tracks upon which most of their competitors would follow. From the rotating bezel, (used to gauge air-time when submersed), to the flip lock clasp and extension link (to wear outside a wetsuit with the minimum of fuss) – all Rolex innovations.
Rolex created this model as a lasting standard in the business community. The company with a first to market advantage with a new product typically wins. It is unimportant at that stage if the product has design faults or it does not live up to the guarantees made because these could be dealt with the introduction of a new and improved product. Remember the George Foreman Grill, Microsoft, and Windows.
For commercial reasons they opted to hold back the ref. 6200 in favor of the Submariner ref. 6204 which had a slimmer case and a smaller winder. They determined that the world was not ready for a thick cased large winder Rolex Submariner. This is the watch that would become famous from the James Bond movies also. Check out October 2003 issue of International Wrist Watch, page 83 for the complete story.
Summarized below, you will find a short list of Submariner watches from 1953 – 1982:
- 6200 – Original Submariner
- Launched in 1953. Depth rated to 200m (660 ft) with an 8mm crown. No crown guard and no depth rating on dial. Submariner not printed on dial. Dial very much alike to Explorer style dials of same period. Non-Chronometer A296 movement with 18 Jewels. Larger case than the 6204 or 6205. Larger crown marked Brevet.
- Updated in 1955 – The Mercedes hands. Larger case than the 6536 or 6538.
- 6204 – Launched in two versions
- Launched in 1954. Depth rated to 100m (330 ft) with a 6mm crown. No crown guard and no depth rating on dial. Submariner printed on dial. Dial revised from 6200. Used the upgraded non-chronometer A260 movement with 18 Jewels. Smaller than the 6200.
- Updated in 1954. Model name “blacked-out.”
- Launched in 1954. Depth rated to 100m (330 ft) with a 6mm crown. No crown guard and no depth rating on dial.Model name not printed on dial. Dial revised from 6200.Adopted the upgraded A260 movement. Same size as the 6204. Smaller than the 6200
- Updated in 1955. Depth rating now printed on dial (white).
- Launched in 1955. Upgrade of the 6205 model.Depth rated to 330 ft (100m) with the 8mm crown.Crown guard and Depth rating were not found on this dial. Submariner printed on dial. First time use of the Mercedes hands. Movement upgraded to the non-chronometer 1030 with 25 Jewels.
- Updated again in 1956. No crown guard however depth rating now printed on dial (white). First time Bezel contained markers for first 15 minutes.
- Launched in 1956. Depth rated to 100m (330 ft) with a 8mm crown. No crown guard with depth rating printed on dial (white). Model name also present on dial. Chronometer 1030 movement with 25 Jewels.Bezel with markings for the first 15 minutes. Triangle on Bezel painted red.
- 6538 – James Bond Submariner – the first of many Bond Movies the watch would appear in
- Launched in 1955 with the movie Dr No - Fleming’s British Secret Service Agent – 007 – played by Sean Connery. Upgrade of the 6204 model. Depth rated to 100m (330 ft) with the 6mm crown. No crown guard and no depth rating on dial. Model name present on dial. Used the upgraded A260 movement.
- Updated in 1956.Rated down to 200m (660 ft) with 8mm crown. No crown guard with depth rating printed on dial (white). Upgraded to the 1030 movement. Case upgraded to same size as the 6200 (larger).
- Updated again in 1956. ‘Officially Certified Chronometer’ now painted on dial.
- Launched in 1958. Upgrade to the 6536/1 model. Depth rated to 100m (330 ft) with 6mm crown.No crown guard and depth rating on dial. Model name printed on dial. Upgraded to the new Chronometer 1530 movement.
- Updated in 1964.Luminous markers not encased by a circular border.
- Launched in 1958. Upgrade to the 6200 model. Depth rated to 200m (660 ft) with the 8mm crown. No crown guard and depth rating printed on dial.Submariner words printed on dial.The new 1530 Chronometer movement.
- Updated in 1964. Printing on dial changed to white.
- Launched in 1959.Rated down to 200m (660 ft) with 8mm crown. Crown guard.Depth rating (in feet) printed on dial. Chronometer. ‘Officially Certified Chronometer’ printed on dial.Submariner words printed on dial face. New 1560 Chronometer movement.
- Updated in 1965. Depth rating to 660 ft (200m) with 8mm crown. Superlative added to printing on dial.
- 5513 – James Bond Submariner (Live and Let Die) – Sean Connery model
- Launched in 1962.Rated down to 200m (660 ft) with 8mm crown. Crown guard. Depth rating printed on dial. Non-Chronometer. 1530 movement. Dial marked with Swiss.
- Updated in 1963. Non-Chronometer 1520 movement. Swiss T<25 printed on dial.
- Navy model launched in 1968. Soldered strap bars. Large hour and minute hands.Large T written above depth rating to explain that luminous material was made from tritium.
- Launched in 1971 for the British Marines. Depth rated to 660 ft (200m) with 8mm crown. Crown guard. Crown with triple-lock. Bezel with 60 minute markers. Soldered strap bars. Large hour and minute hands.Large T written above depth rating to explain that luminous material was made from tritium.
- Launched in 1966. Depth rated to 660 ft (200m) with 8mm crown. Crown guard.Depth rating marked on dial. Chronometer. New 1575 Chronometer movement with Date. Raised and flat crystal. Submariner printed in red.
- Updated in 1972. Crown with triple-lock added. Depth rating printed on dial. Chronometer.Dial lettering printed in total white.
- Launched in 1982. Depth rated to 1000 ft (300m) with 8mm crown. Crown guard. Crown with triple-lock.Depth rating marked on dial. Chronometer. New 3085 Chronometer movement with Date. Low-profile sapphire crystal. All dial lettering printed in white.
This guide can help you understand the vision & passion behind the Rolex Submariner series. In it’s conquest to rule over all waterproof watchwes, the Rolex redefined what man could create. Once again mankind triumphed through ingenuity and perseverance in this challenge. This blog on watches can give you even more information and video tutorials. Give your feedback and share your knowledge of the Rolex brand and other premium watch lines.