NEWS: Rolex Introduces A New Generation of Submariner

It’s been 8 years since we’ve seen a new Rolex Submariner released, when they introduced the reference 114060 in 2012, a date-less variation of the 116610. That changes today with the reveal of 8 new Submariner references that bring a few small changes which I suspect will have a big impact. The Submariner is the icon it is today in part because of its unimpeachable diving bona fides that date back to 1953, as well as the mark it’s made in shaping the visual identity of the dive watch as we know it today. The Submariner is a bit like the Porsche 911 in that it changes gradually over time, with late models clearly containing the DNA of early models. The newest generation of Submariner stays true to this ethos, but the changes it does make aren’t without controversy. We’d expect nothing less. 

The new Submariner is being released with 8 references right off the bat, 3 in stainless steel, and 5 in precious metal or Rolesor (their term for two-tone watches). As you’d expect, a black dial and bezel option will be available, together this time, both with and without date, in the references 124060 and 126610. The biggest surprise here is the new 126610LV, which adds a green (Verde) bezel against a black dial, heralding the return of the so-called “Kermit” colorway which we first saw in 2003 in the reference 16610LV, a 50th anniversary model that served as a transitional reference, bringing the first appearance of a maxi dial in a 5 digit Submariner, which has since appeared in all 6 digit references.

The new Rolex Submariner ref 126610LV

What is perhaps the most anticipated new precious metal Submariner is the reference 126619LB, and places a deep blue bezel against a black dial with date, the first time we’ve seen such a look in the Submariner family. A blue bezel has only appeared on precious metal Submariner references in the past in the white gold 116619LB aka Smurf, the full yellow gold 116618LB, and the Rolesor 116613LB, (all of which also received updates today) so this is a welcome if not entirely shocking addition to the Submariner collection. 

WG Submariner
The new white gold Submariner with blue bezel

Other new references include the full gold with blue dial and bezel reference 126618LB; a two-toned steel and gold with blue dial and bezel (aka Bluesy) in the reference 126613LB; a two-toned steel and gold with black dial and bezel in the reference 126613LN; and a full gold with black dial and bezel with the reference 126618LN.

The Movement

The new Submariner will finally receive the Rolex caliber 3230, a movement we’ve seen slowly make its way into other collections in recent years, and is signified by the small crown placed between the “Swiss Made” at the bottom of the dial. It replaces the 3135 which has been faithfully serving within the Submariner in various forms since the ‘80s (press F to pay respects). The 32XX caliber was introduced in the Day-Date in 2015 with the 3255, the date only 3235 followed in time and date models. That means the 3230 has had plenty of time in production in one form or another and is well understood these days so no need for any first generation jitters when it comes to the new Submariner. 

So what changes can you expect in the 32XX series calibers? Quite a bit, actually. The new movement contains 90% new parts and 14 patents, including a few highlights worth knowing about. First up is the bump in power reserve to 70 hours, from the 48 found in the 3135. This is achieved thanks to a higher capacity barrel, which features thinner wall sections for a longer mainspring so as not to take up more space within the movement. That move comes at a cost, however, as the mainspring itself cannot be replaced without replacing the entire barrel. 

Among the new bells & whistles found on the 3130 is the Chronergy escapement, which increases efficiency in how it doles out the power to the gear train thanks to thinner pallet stones, a hollowed out notches on the escape wheel, and the use of nickel-phosphorus to shield against the effects of magnetism. The efficiencies added here lend to the larger power reserve as well, and keep the watch to within +/- 2 seconds per day in accuracy. In my personal experience with these movements in watches like the new GMTs, accuracy has been even within that claim. 

The Case

Moving to the exterior, things get a little more subjective. The new Submariner has grown to 41mm in diameter. As someone who has owned every generation of Submariner post gilt era, that’s a sentence that pains me to write. The 40mm case of the Sub has been the benchmark for wearable tool watches, and while the lugs have grown and the case shape has evolved through the years, they’ve each remained wearable in their own way. I consider it one of the watch’s greatest strengths. Rolex doesn’t take these types of moves lightly however, and without hands on time (and a set of calipers) it’s difficult to pass too much judgement here. After all, the U50 is also 41mm and I’d consider that a watch that wears as small if not smaller than the 114060 (see them side by side in this review). Further reason for optimism is found in the new lug design. 

The more elegant lug design of the new Submariner

Since the first 6 digit Submariner references were released they’ve been consistently criticized for their broad, thick lug design. It’s a love it or hate type feature that has defined the ceramic generation of Submariners. Until now. The new references have reigned in the lugs to more classical proportions, including a graceful taper toward the bracelet at their ends. This move will satisfy the 5 digit devotees among us, while I suspect the move to 41mm will simultaneously be heartbreaking for the same crowd. It’s worth noting that many Submariner buyers have been asking for a larger case for years, so this will be great news to many buyers who’ve held off or simply haven’t wanted to move into Sea-Dweller territory. The thinner lugs accentuate the larger diameter dial, and we’ll look forward to comparing with the last generation when we get the chance, but it’s a decision that will likely broil over in the forums for years to come, just like the bigger lugs did, and the white gold hour surrounds did before that (wherever enthusiasts gathered to discuss such things in the mid ‘80s, at least), and I’d wager the same happened when they put a date on the Sub in 1969*, along with that cyclops which has since become synonymous with the brand at this point.

Price & Availability

The three new steel Submariner models will be priced from $8,100 for the base model, and $9,550 for the Date models. Precious metal references start at $14,300 and go up to $39,650 for the white gold with blue bezel. As far as availability goes, well, you’ll need more than a bit of luck on your side if history has taught us anything when it comes to new steel sport models from Rolex. Learn more about the new Submariner from Rolex right here and keep an eye out for our hands on impressions coming soon.

*We know that some sources place the first Sub date appearance in 1966, however the earliest recorded serial number more accurately dates it to 1969.

Images from this post:
Related Posts
Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent his professional life covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seiko to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.