Why is the Rolex Submariner so Popular?

Rolex Submariner 114060

Why is the Rolex Submariner so Popular? How the Submariner Became a Legend

The Rolex Submariner is one of the most iconic watches today.

But how did it come to get the legendary and iconic status that it has today? Let’s dive into the history of the Rolex Submariner and what has made it one of the most recognized and iconic watches ever made.

Timeless and iconic design

The answer is rather complex because when the Submariner was released, it wasn’t an iconic watch. It was just… another watch. Of course with a great design and great function, but it didn’t have a legendary status from day one. The Submariner first had to prove himself worthy of such status.

First Rolex Submariner. Photo courtesy of Rolex.

When most people think about a luxury sports watch, they think about the Rolex Submariner. This fact alone has made the Submariner the first watch to come to mind, and naturally the first watch to consider when they are looking to buy a luxury dive watch. This, of course, contributes to its increased popularity and its strengthened legendary status.

What has contributed to the legendary status of the Submariner is that when it was released, its design was unique and new, and following this, the Submariner design has become the definition of a diver’s watch. With that said, many watch brands have followed suit and taken inspiration from the Submariner design. But there is only one original. As such, regardless if you buy a homage or a watch with Submariner-like design features, most people will still peak at the Submariner, and aspire to own it, as it is the end-all-be-all.

Rolex Submariner 16610

The Submariner wasn’t the first dive watch, but it was one of the first. And it eventually became the dive watch.

Touching on the subject of a timeless design, the overall design of the iconic Rolex Submariner has changed very little since it was released – although revised and upgraded many times since. The latest design iteration of the Submariner still remains relevant and modern until this very day, despite the fact that its overall design is very similar to the original. This goes to show that the Submariner design is truly timeless and will likely never go out of style.

Each Submariner reference – from the first to the latest – is loved and appreciated by collectors – regardless if it is 50 or 5 years old. Of course some more than others. Having said that, there are not a lot of watches that are able to remain just as relevant and contemporary today as when it was originally released.

Rolex Submariner 16610

History and ethos

The history, ethos, and what the Submariner stands for is an important parts of the Submariner’s iconic status and popularity.

The first Rolex Submariner was released in 1953, and the model is still in production seven decades later. There are not a lot of watches that have been in consistent production for so long, and this has allowed the Submariner to build its image, and be a part of a whole lot over the years.

One of the most important parts of the Submariner’s history – at least from a standpoint of marketing – is that the Submariner has been worn by James Bond 007 in several movies. Before Omega became the official watch of James Bond, Rolex had a great partnership with the movie franchise. And what better watch suited for James Bond than the Submariner? The Rolex Submariner has made an appearance in eleven Bond films. In Ian Flemming’s novels, Rolex was also the watch of choice.

Sean Connery wore a Submariner in the first Bond movie Dr. No from 1962, as well as in From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, and Thunderball.

The Submariner’s association with James Bond further gave the watch prestige, and masculinity, and boosted its legendary status. This is especially considering the fact that in particular at the time, there weren’t many people who were considered cooler than James Bond, and Sean Connery, who wore a Submariner.

As an anecdote, James Bond, played by Roger Moore in the 1973 Live and Let Die movie, is tied up and left to die with a platform that is descended into a pit of sharks by the villain Kananga. But in true Bond fashion, he activates a button on his watch – a Rolex Submariner – which operates as a saw via the rotating bezel, and he is able to cut himself free. Thus saving his and his lady Solitaire’s life.

Then we have Rolex’s connection with the French COMEX (Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises), which is a company specializing in engineering and deep diving operation. For a long time, Rolex and COMEX had close cooperation where Rolex developed and supplied Submariner watches to the organization.

The company is known for its underwater exploration at great depths, and the use of Rolex Submariner was a perfect testament to Rolex that their watches endured and performed exceptionally well for even the most professional divers. After all, that is what the watch was intended for. And whilst most people won’t take advantage of the true durability and water resistance of a Submariner, it’s a label of prestige and durability that has contributed to the Submariner’s established popularity and status. 

Rolex Submariner 14060

Simplicity and versatility

Originally, the Submariner was a dive watch made for professional divers, diving deep down the oceans. But today, the closest to water most Submariners come is when the owner washes their hands.

The Submariner has gone from a professional tool watch to a luxury sports watch, and inevitably – considering its iconic reputation, price, and legendary status – a status symbol.

Rolex Submariner 116613LN

In terms of design, the Submariner is clean and classic, and despite being a dive watch, it has been proven many times that it looks just as good with a smoking as with a diving suit. It is said that perfection is met when there is nothing left to omit, and this certainly is the case for the Submariner. It’s clean, it’s elegant, and it is surprisingly versatile. If you are looking for an ”only watch” to wear every day regardless of the occasion and outfit, the Submariner is the one.

And for those who believe that the day window and cyclops are elements that should be omitted, it’s great news that Rolex also offers a no-date variant of the Submariner in modern times – the 114060. Additionally, many vintage examples such as the references 5512, 14060, and the 5513 are available without a date as well.

Rolex Submariner 16610 VS 14060

What is so impressive about the Submariner is that it can handle the harshest and most demanding conditions, but also looks great in the least demanding conditions such as at an evening dinner.

Today, the Submariner is available in a number of different colors and metal types, including full gold variants. This means that there is a Submariner for everyone. But if you ask any collector, they will say that a stainless steel Rolex Submariner should be part of any enthusiast’s collection.

Rolex Submariner 16613 VS Submariner 16610


With the many iterations over the years, the Submariner has only gotten better and better in terms of quality. The overall design of the watch has not changed much, but the built quality and longevity of the watch surely has. Originally, the Submariner was made in 316L stainless steel – an industry standard.

The issue with this steel is that despite the fact that it is stainless, over the course of the decades, it can tarnish and ultimately rust and corrode. To battle this issue, and to make the watches last perpetually, Rolex introduced 904L stainless steel. This steel is anti-corrosive and does not rust.

Rolex Submariner 116613LB

Rolex has also introduced a number of other improvements to the Submariner that both relate to performance as well as long-term quality. The Submariner has used many different calibers throughout the years, but the latest movements are naturally the most durable and reliable of them all.

This movement incorporates effective technical innovations such as Paraflex shock absorbers and a Parachrom blue hairspring that improves the watch’s resistance against magnetic fields, which may otherwise interfere with the watch’s precision and accuracy. The movement is a workhorse that has proven unlikely to fail and to be able to operate effortlessly for years and years to come.

Rolex Submariner 116610LN

You cannot argue that the modern Submariner is a watch of quality. It is made to perfection with extreme precision and quality control, it can operate for decades without a service (although it is recommended to service the movement at the very least every 10 years), and it is robust and solid without any rattle. The perfect size which has been updated over the years makes it a watch for any wrist size. The Submariner is like a car that you turn on and you know that it will never let you down.

So why is the Rolex Submariner so popular? What is it that has made the Submariner so iconic and legendary today? The answer, is, as discussed above, not dependent on one single factor. But one thing is certain – there are still clear similarities between the Submariner from 1953 and the modern Submariner watches currently in production. And with that in mind, it is a truly timeless design that will never go out of style. The Submariner has truly made a mark on watch history. It is a legend.

2 thoughts on “Why is the Rolex Submariner so Popular?

  1. Exceptional watch in all aspects. I’ve enjoyed wearing this watch nearly everyday since purchasing it. It has been on my watch for many years and I’ve finally gotten my hands on the 114060, no date version. I honestly do not have a desire to buy any other watch.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Dave! Many would certainly agree with you!

      Kind regards,
      Millenary Watches

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