History of the Rolex Submariner: How the Dive Watch Has Changed Over Time

We take a look at how the world's most famous watch has evolved over the past three generations.

rolex submariner history
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Rolex isn't the type of company to introduce sweeping changes in one of its flagship products simply for the hell of it — rather, small, incremental adjustments and updates are the norm. In fact, the changes can be so incremental that a novice watch buyer (or even a watch nerd!) might have trouble identifying them. To that end, we thought a guide to the changes to the more modern Subs — those that have come out since the retirement of the reference 5513 in 1989 — might help you better wrap your brain around this most iconic of watches.

There are six watches to discuss, but it's not all that difficult to get a hang of the reference numbers once you understand the convention: the no-date model that followed the 5513 is the 14060, and the date model that followed the date-equipped 16800 is the 16610. The following generation included the 114060 and the 116610, while the latest generation, released this week, includes the 124060 and the 126610. There are other, more niche models — special anniversary editions, precious metal versions, as well as no less than seven new variations of the Date model — but we're going to focus on the simplest, steel date and no-date versions of each generation.

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1 No-Date Ref. 14060 and 14060M (1989-2009)
rolex submariner 14060
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In production from roughly 1989-1999 and then from roughly 1999-2009 in its "M" version, the 14060 is the successor to the long-lived ref. 5513.

Diameter: 40mm

Bezel: Aluminum

Bracelet: Oyster 93150 with 501B end links and dive extension; stamped

Lug Holes: Yes (drilled)

Rehaut: Not engraved (14060); Engraved (later "M" versions)

Lume: Tritium (most 14060s); Super-LumiNova (most "M" versions)

Movement: Automatic cal. 3000; then automatic cal. 3130 ("M" versions); 48-hour power reserve; hacking

Chronometer-Certified: No (14060); Yes (most "M" versions)

2 Date Ref. 16610 (1987-2010)
rolex submariner 16610
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In production from roughly 1987 through 2010, the 11610 lived alongside its no-date cousin, 14060.

Diameter: 40mm

Bezel: Aluminum

Bracelet: Oyster 93150 with 501B end links and dive extension, stamped (early); 93250 with 501B end links and dive extension, stamped (later)

Lug Holes: Yes (early), then No (later)

Rehaut: Not engraved (early); Engraved (later)

Lume: Tritium (early); Lumi-Nova (later); Super-LumiNova (later)

Movement: Automatic cal. 3135; 48-hour power reserve; hacking

Chronometer-Certified: Yes

3 No-Date Ref. 114060 (2012-2020)
rolex submariner 114060
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The 11460 replaced the no-date 14060 in 2012, upsizing its case proportions and introducing new materials. It was replaced by the 124060 in 2020.

Diameter: 40mm (thicker lugs and crown guards than previous gen.)

Bezel: Cerachrom (ceramic)

Bracelet: Oyster with Oysterlock clasp, Glidelock extension system and solid end-links

Lug Holes: No

Rehaut: Engraved

Lume: Chromalight

Movement: Automatic cal. 3130; 48-hour power reserve; hacking

Chronometer-Certified: Yes

4 Date Ref. 116610 (2010-2020)
rolex submariner 11610
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Introduced in 2010, the 116610 replaced the 16610 as the date-equipped Sub in Rolex's lineup. It was replaced by the 126610 in 2020.

Diameter: 40mm (thicker lugs and crown guards than previous gen.)

Bezel: Cerachrom (ceramic)

Bracelet: Oyster with Oysterlock clasp, Glidelock extension system and solid end-links

Lug Holes: No

Rehaut: Engraved

Lume: Chromalight

Movement: Automatic cal. 3135 with Parachrom hairspring; 48-hour power reserve; hacking

Chronometer-Certified: Yes

5 No-Date Ref. 124060 (2020-)
rolex submariner 124060
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New for 2020, the 124060 replaces the 114060, ups the case size to 41mm for the first time, and adds a new movement.

Diameter: 41 mm (thinner lugs than previous gen.)

Bezel: Cerachrom

Bracelet: Oyster with Oysterlock clasp, Glidelock extension system and solid end-links (satin finish; wider center links than previous gen.)

Lug Holes: No

Rehaut: Engraved

Lume: Chromalight (Rolex crown now featured at 6 o'clock on dial, also)

Movement: Automatic cal. 3230 with Parachrom hairspring; 70-hour power reserve; hacking

Chronometer-Certified: Yes

6 Date Ref. 126610 (2020-)
rolex submariner 126610
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Also new for 2020, the 126610 replaces the 116610 and upse the case size to 41mm. It's available in seven different iterations.

Diameter: 41 mm (thinner lugs than previous gen.)

Bezel: Cerachrom

Bracelet: Oyster with Oysterlock clasp, Glidelock extension system and solid end-links (satin finish; wider center links than previous gen.)

Lug Holes: No

Rehaut: Engraved

Lume: Chromalight (Rolex crown now featured at 6 o'clock on dial, also)

Movement: Automatic cal. 3235 with Parachrom hairspring; Paraflex shock absorbers; 70-hour power reserve; hacking

Chronometer-Certified: Yes

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