The new Rolex Submariner has excited many, and ruffled some feathers — but that's to be expected. The watch world collectively freaks out whenever the Crown tweaks the formula, however slight, to their most precious of timepieces. Hell, even some of us freaked out, and we write about new watches all day, every day (amongst many other things, of course). Thankfully, the new Sub is available in so many iterations that conceivably, there's something for everybody — so long as everybody is cool with a 41mm Sub, that is. But enough internal dialogue. Here's what watch experts — and several GP staffers — have to say about the new Sub:
Founder, Wind Vintage
"While I am thrilled that Rolex has focused attention on what is arguably its flagship model, increasing the size to 41mm in diameter feels about a decade behind the times to me, back to when people legitimately debated whether to buy a Panerai or a Submariner as their first luxury watch. Granted, I am not a fan of the “maxi” cases with gargantuan lugs from the last decade, but I feel like like the increase in Submariner diameter only makes vintage Submariners more desirable and special. I believe the new Submariner models only makes vintage and neo-vintage Submariners more desirable across the board and I guess, as a lover and dealer of vintage watches, I cannot be sad about that."
International Specialist & Head of Perpetual for the Americas, Watch Department, Phillips
"Given that the Submariner is arguably the most important dive watch ever produced, we would never hope to see a complete reinvention of its design. Accordingly, the new Sub releases represent a modern-day evolution and not a revolution. Rolex faithfully blended old and new. On one hand, with thinner lugs, the watches seem far more vintage-inspired.
Yet at the same time, the case was modernized further by slightly increasing its diameter to 41mm, approaching its appropriately larger Sea Dweller cousin. Today, too often we see brands simply creating perfect carbon copies of vintage watches from their heritage. With the new Submariners, however, Rolex expertly blended the elegance of vintage along with progressive modern enhancements, including utilizing its most advanced movement. I particularly love seeing the Rolex crown appear twice on the dial for the first time, now seen also at 6 o'clock as part of the traditional 'Swiss Made' designation."
Associate Designer, Gear Patrol
"A Sub is a Sub is a Sub is a Sub. However, the new lug proportions on the 2020 Submariner is nice, and really ties back to the classic, pre-maxi case Submariners. I have a feeling that the new model will wear really well. The green dial has my vote. What will the community call it? Maybe the 'Hermit' (Kermit + Hulk)? Would be an appropriate name considering the release was during a shelter-in-place."
Founder, Analog/Shift and Partner, Red Bar
"With its revitalization of the Submariner collection for 2020, Rolex has once again proven their 'Very Swiss' approach to product development. Revolutionary design changes to their best-known model were never in the cards, perhaps disappointing those who were hoping for a 39mm slimline case devoid of crown guards or a chapter-ring/exclamation/point/red text, vintage-dial homage, but their sensible and scientific examination of the outgoing model's weaker points (bracelet fit, ultra-thick "Maxi" lugs) was taken incredibly seriously, and the subtle but notable finessing of these points and others speak for themselves in the new models. Some on the outside might consider this approach to simply be "progress for the sake of progress" which lacks some amount of soul or creativity seen in the evolutions of other timepieces; but there's a reason the Submariner formula works, and this tried and tested approach to improvement is it. Now, where's my 39mm slimline case?"
Manager of Editorial Products, HODINKEE, and Co-Author of The Watch: Thoroughly Revised
"It's hard to imagine a way that Rolex could have updated the iconic Submariner that would have been more quintessentially Rolex. This watch is their flagship in a fleet of flagships and there was absolutely no way they were going to do anything rash. What they did do is take an already great watch and make it just a little bit better. Everyone wants to focus on the increase in size from 40mm to 41mm, but the bigger story is the change in case profile. It now has slimmer lugs and integrates better with the bracelet, so it's more comfortable. The movement also got a major upgrade, so it has a longer power reserve and will keep better time, longer. So, yes, it's basically the same watch as the old Submariner. Only better. Would you really want anything else?"
Staff Writer, Watches, Gear Patrol
"I know I won’t be alone in lamenting changes to what was essentially the perfectly proportioned Submariner at 40mm. In its new 41mm case with thinner lugs and a wider bracelet, the Sub has a substantially different look — and feels a little closer to some vintage models (which was certainly intentional). Somehow, a millimeter makes a big difference. Rolex isn’t the kind of brand that just changes something for no better reason than wanting a 'refresh' or does so carelessly, so you have to assume that these changes are based on extensive market research and that the people want a larger Sub (that’s not a Sea-Dweller). I’d say give Rolex the benefit of the doubt and reserve judgement until trying one on the wrist."
Co-Founder and Chief Content Officer, Gear Patrol
"It's hard to feel too heated about anything before trying on the watch. The jump to a 70-hour power reserve is a tangible improvement that all buyers will notice, but it's not exactly revolutionary. From what I can tell based on the images, the new Sub feels slightly more proportionally balanced. The slimmer lugs, in particular, are the most significant aesthetic improvement in my eyes. At the same time, it looks sportier now than ever. My dream would have been to see these new lugs paired with a slightly smaller 39mm case. I was born with chicken-sized wrists (thanks, Mom!), so I have minor concerns that the slightly larger case size will make the new Sub wear worse for me, especially given how used to 40mm I am thanks to my GMT Master II. That said, I can understand why Rolex went bigger instead, and realistically, I don't expect the larger case to be a deal-breaker on the wrist."
Founder, Beyond the Dial and Contributor, Gear Patrol
"The new Rolex Submariner is in perfect keeping with the snail’s pace at which Rolex has always changed their watches. So, in that regard, the new Sub is carrying on a rather long tradition. The new movement brings the watch up to current specs, and that 70-hour power reserve is significant and useful. Those who obsess over size at the expense of understanding fit may find the larger diameter off-putting, but I’d hold out for wrist-time before judging the new form-factor. I’m glad Rolex didn’t hop on the vintage-inspired bandwagon and instead chose to maintain the tradition of slowly advancing the Sub. That feels authentic, humble even, and very Rolex."
Associate Editor, Watches, Gear Patrol
"I'm very lucky to own a 14060M Submariner from 2001 — the no-date, five-digit serial, and the last of the old case style before the proportions got inflated a bit. It's one of my most prized possessions given both its associations and utility. Personally, I think this pre-Super/maxi case is where it's at — the proportions are perfect, and though I haven't held the new Sub in my hands yet, the images, at least, don't really capture my imagination. That being said, I have no doubt that for millions of people, the new, 41mm-cased Subs will hold the same sorts of memories and allure that my watch does for me. Hopefully folks (myself included) will reserve judgement until they've held the new watch in person."
Watches Editor, Robb Report
"Like any storied luxury brand that has maintained staying power and brand cache for generations, Rolex barely has to lift a finger to create a must-have product. It simply executes small tweaks on already coveted designs. The new Submariner is no exception. A 1 mm case size increase (after a decades-long run in 40 mm), slimmer lugs and the new caliber 3230 that extends the power reserve is hardly innovative, but it’s likely just enough to send die-hard Rolex lovers over the edge of reason. While I prefer the 40 mm sizing, the slimmer lugs and updated movement should appeal across the board. I’m looking forward to seeing the excessive price tags that are bound to appear in the secondary market. Word on the street is that Rolex’s new models will be even more elusive this year, to even the most devoted clients, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which should only heighten the hype."