Dive watches from Rolex are highly sought after. And it’s no wonder with such an exciting history, a number of noteworthy collaborations, unique designs and robust, accurate in-house movements. We explore the various models in this feature from the WatchTime archives.
Rolex currently produces four different dive watch models: the Submariner and Submariner Date, Fake Watches the Sea-Dweller and the Deepsea (listed here in order from lowest to highest in both size and price). The Submariner and Submariner Date share the same case size. Almost all watches in this collection offer versions with different materials, dial and bezel colors. The Submariner without a date indication is the entry-level piece and is priced at $7,500. Introduced in 1953, it was the first dive watch from Rolex. At that time, it had a bidirectional rotating bezel for measuring dive time. Initially, the Submariner was water resistant to 100 meters, but by 1954 Rolex had already increased this level to 200 meters. In 1955, the English Royal Navy began using the Submariner as its official dive watch and the Royal Canadian Navy followed suit the following year.
Rolex first became famous in 1927 for its water-resistant watches with their patented screw-down crown, and the ingenious Oyster name was an effective marketing tool. During her more than 15-hour attempt to swim the English Channel, Mercedes Gleitze wore a water-resistant Rolex that withstood the ordeal. Rolex took out a front-page ad in the London Daily Mail to publicize the event that won the omega replica watches great acclaim.
Rolex also developed the Deep-Sea Special watch to explore the ocean depths. Between 1953 and 1960 it participated in several maritime expeditions, attached to the outer hull of submarines. The high point (or low point) was reached in 1960 when Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh maneuvered their Trieste submersible vessel down into the Mariana Trench to a depth of 10,916 meters, just a few meters short of the deepest point in the sea. The Deep-Sea Special survived unscathed. Although several pieces of this model were built, it never went into serial production. With a semi-spherical crystal and an overall height of 35 mm, it would still be too large to be considered wearable.
Today’s Submariner measures 40 mm in diameter and 12.5 mm in height, which is slim for a dive watch. The watch without a date indication is powered by the self-winding in-house 3130 movement and with a date, by the 3135. Both calibers boast a power reserve of 48 hours. Chronometer certification from the independent testing agency COSC guarantees accuracy, alongside the company’s own stricter standards, which specify that every Rolex watch may not gain or lose more than 2 seconds per day. The Glidelock system can extend the bracelet for a precise fit and allows the Submariner to be worn over a wet suit. Like all Rolex dive watches, it has a metal bracelet and a unidirectional rotating bezel with a ceramic inlay.
Saturation diving was developed in the early 1960s. When working at deep-sea locations, professional diving companies took advantage of the fact that after 24 hours under pressure, the human body will not absorb additional nitrogen, thereby limiting the time required for decompression. So to prepare themselves for working for extended periods at deep locations, professional divers would spend several days inside a pressure chamber filled with a helium-nitrogen-oxygen mixture. Once their underwater task had been completed, the pressure in the chamber was gradually reduced to normal levels. During this process, crystals from the divers’ watches would often pop out of their cases due to the helium trapped inside the watches. Divers in the Sealab program experienced this problem while helping the U.S. Marines carry out research on the effects of high pressure and various breathing gases on the human body.