This is the new Rolex Submariner Date Ref 126610LN. It’s one of the eight new Submariner references unveiled by Rolex for 2020. At first glance, it looks almost identical to its predecessor the Ref 116610LN. But there are a few subtle changes that set the new Ref 126610LN (and its variations) apart. And in the conservative world of Rolex, subtle changes can be earth-shattering. Join us as we go deep into the new 2020 Rolex Submariner collection.
A (Very) Brief History Of The Rolex Submariner
The Rolex Submariner is the most iconic sports watch ever created. Its design is synonymous with the entire dive watch genre. Yet it transcended its humble roots as a tool watch long ago. Despite what Rolex would have you think though, it wasn’t the first of its kind. There were several other brands developing similar watches around the same time. Some even a year or two earlier. But Rolex was much better at marketing its products.
So, how did it all come about?
Well, here’s what the legend says. In the early 1950’s, a gentleman by the name of René-Paul Jeanneret was indulging his passion for scuba diving. A close personal friend of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, he had good idea of what a diver’s watch needed. And what it didn’t. He also happened to serve on the Board of Directors of a little company called Rolex. Jeanneret came up with the idea for a sporty yet elegant everyday watch that would be waterproof. He saw it as an opportunity to pursue his hobby and expand Rolex’s customer base at the same time.
This was right around the time Rolex was developing the Explorer too. A model which proved very popular, but was more tool watch than sports watch. As such, the Submariner would be the brand’s first definitive foray into the world of the sports watch
Development began in earnest and by 1953, Rolex was ready to begin production and testing. But they needed a way to get the word out about the company’s ability to produce water-resistant watches. They came up with an ingenious but somewhat risky publicity stunt. It included Swiss physicist, inventor and explorer, Auguste Piccard. When he took his Bathyscape deep-diving submarine down to a mind-bending depth of 3,131.8 meters, a specially-designed Rolex went with it. The watch emerged from the successful dive completely intact and running fine. Point made.
The next year, in 1954, the Rolex Submariner Ref 6204 made its debut at the Basel watch fair. The dial design was practical and easy to read, yet also very attractive. Upside-down triangle at 12 o’clock. Baton-shaped markers at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. And dot markers for the remaining hours. Around the periphery ran a chapter ring for the minutes and running seconds. A lay-out which has not seen major change in almost 70 years.
The 38mm steel Oyster case offered unprecedented water resistance at 100m (300ft). Ten meters more than the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. Which had debuted the year earlier. A rotating bezel allowed divers to keep track of elapsed time. There was no date window with a cyclops at this stage though. That development wouldn’t happen for a further sixteen years!
Over the years Rolex has continued to evolve and improve the Submariner. And the later Submariner Date. To the point that it is now one of the most popular watch collections on the planet. If not the most. Although watch lovers remain divided about which is better: date or no date. Throughout that time there have been several notable variations. Two of which are making a reappearance of sorts in the new arrivals for 2020. So without further delay, let’s get to the new models.
Rolex Submariner Date Ref 126610LN
This is the classic Rolex Submariner Date. Black dial with 18ct white gold hour markers to prevent tarnishing. Unidirectional rotatable bezel with scratch-resistant Cerachrom insert in black ceramic. Oystersteel case with screw-down caseback and crown. Solid Oyster bracelet with Oysterlock folding safety clasp and Rolex Glidelock extension system.
It’s a winning combination, so why mess with it? Well, for one thing, it hasn’t changed in over a decade. The now superseded Ref 116610LN came to market in 2010. And it wasn’t without its detractors. For a start, collectors have been complaining for years that the ‘Super Case’ is too bulky.
For those not in the know, the ‘Super Case’ refers to the new style of case Rolex debuted for the Submariner in 2008. This first appeared on the white gold Submariner, nicknamed the Smurf. More on that reference in a minute. Like the earlier Rolex Submariner models, it still measured 40mm in diameter. But this new case was squarer, with thicker lugs and a chunkier profile. The difference is very noticeable when you put a Ref 116610 next to a previous generation 16610. (See picture below.)
L: The 16610LN with thinner case and lugs. R: The discontinued 116610LN with ‘Super Case’
To address this, the new Ref 126610LN features a redesigned case. It’s larger (gasp!) at 41mm but the lugs are thinner and more tapered. Much like on the popular references from the 1990s/early 2000s. Many hoped Rolex would go smaller with the case not bigger. But alas it was not to be. Still, the Ref 126610LN remains 2mm smaller than its larger sibling, the Sea-Dweller.
The case isn’t the only things to change on the Ref 126610LN. The classic 3-link Oyster has also grown. By a full millimeter width along its entire length. It’s now 21mm between the lugs, which some are already complaining about. According to Rolex though, this will ensure comfort on the wrist. And to be fair, there’s nothing worse than a thin-looking bracelet.
The big, big news though, is the new movement inside. It was a forgone conclusion that Rolex would upgrade this aspect of the Submariner this year. The outgoing Calibre 3135 has been powering Submariners for more than two decades. A solid workhorse no doubt but not up to spec with today’s modern standards.
In its place comes the new generation Rolex calibre 3235. This is the same movement used in the Rolex Datejust 41 and the Sea-Dweller. This self-winding mechanical movement boasts 14 patents in total. Including the Chronergy escapement. This escapement combines high energy efficiency with greater dependability. Made of nickel-phosphorus, it is also insensitive to magnetic interference. New barrel architecture and superior efficiency means a power reserve of 70 hours.
Like the 3135, the 3235 gets the Superlative Chronometer certification. Meaning it is very accurate (−2/+2 seconds per day) and reliable. It also features an instantaneous date at 3 o’clock with secure rapid-setting.
Even with the changes, the Ref 126610LN is the still the classic Submariner Date we know and love. So, if you’re looking for something a little different, you might want to check out its sibling. The Ref 126610LV.
Rolex Submariner Date Ref 126610LV
The new Ref 126610LV is identical to the Ref 126610LN, bar one not so subtle difference. Instead of a shiny black Cerachrom bezel insert, it has a rich, moss green one. To the casual observer, this is nothing more than a slight variation on the same theme. But there is so much more to the story than this. To get the full picture, we need to go back almost two decades to 2003. When the now iconic Rolex Kermit made its debut.
If you’ve been following along, the Rolex Submariner first came to market in 1954. According to Rolex though, the model was already in production in 1953. As such, that’s the ‘actual’ year of its birth. Hence the reason Rolex marked the 50th anniversary of the Submariner in 2003. Not in any official capacity of course. Instead, the brand debuted the Ref 16610LV. Since nicknamed the ‘Kermit’ by collectors.
This model was significant for several reasons. Not least of which is the fact that it introduced the first steel Submariner with a colored bezel. The aluminium insert was a distinctive lime green colour and divided opinion. Even today collectors can’t decide whether the Kermit is a future classic or not. Its dial was still black though, which is important to note.
Production of the Kermit was short-lived. After seven years, Rolex discontinued the Ref 16610LV. And replaced it with the Ref 116610LV. Better known as the Hulk. This model featured a sunburst green dial to match the (new for the time) Ceramic green bezel. It was also the most outrageous steel Rolex anyone had ever seen. Again, it divided opinion, leaving many to speculate Rolex would replace it this year. Which is exactly what they have done.
In its place comes the Ref 126610LV. Some people are already calling it the Kermit 2.0. (Although there’s definitely not consensus on that.) That’s because it features a black dial with a green ceramic bezel. Once again opinion seems divided on this new model. Many lament the loss of the green dial. While others point out that it made the watch less versatile. And in fact, less attractive. That doesn’t seem to be having a dampening effect on secondary market prices for the Hulk though. But we’ll get to that in a bit later.
The other point of contention seems to be the shade of green used for the bezel. The Ref 16610LV was a lighter, limey green. Whereas the Ref 126610LV seems to use the same dark green bezel of its predecessor. That make sense from a production point of view of course. After all, why would Rolex create a new colored bezel? Still, it’s not sitting well with some.
Only time will tell if the new 126610LV proves to be as popular as the 116610LV or 16610LV. Of course, this is not the only color change in the new Rolex Submariner line-up.
Rolex Submariner Date Ref 126619LB
The Rolex Hulk was not the only Submariner Date model replaced this year. After all the hints of a blue Sub, Rolex has introduced a new version of the Ref 116619LB too. Better known as the Smurf. (Don’t you love all these nicknames by the way?)
The Smurf made its debut in 2008 and was the first Submariner to feature a white gold case and bracelet. Its dial meanwhile was a flat blue, framed by a shiny ceramic blue bezel insert. This combination gave rise to the somewhat unfortunate nickname (white and blue – get it?). Although an impressive watch – both in the physical and visual sense – the Ref 116619LB was never a strong seller. Its design was too divisive. There was nothing subtle about this watch. Some people loved it. Others not so much.
To address this, Rolex is introducing the Ref 126619LB. Same blue ceramic bezel but now with a more understated black dial. All the other changes are the same as the Ref 126610LN. Except of course the Ref 126619LB continues to be the only Submariner in white gold. It seems like it’s nickname might change too. Blueberry is a popular contender. Although whether that’s better than Smurf is up for debate.
As expected, there are also new precious metal versions in yellow gold and yellow Rolesor.
Rolex Submariner Date Ref 126613LB & Ref 126613LN
These are the classic two-tone, yellow Rolesor Submariner Date models. Rolesor is Rolex-speak for a combination of gold and Oystersteel. They both feature all the same updates of the Ref 126610LN. And in are in fact slight evolutions of earlier models.
Ref 126613LB features a gorgeous sunray brushed blue dial. 18k yellow gold indexes and hands. And a matching blue Cerachrom bezel with PVD yellow gold scale. It’s worn on an Oyster bracelet with 18k polished yellow gold central links.
Ref 126613LN meanwhile is the more traditional black on black variation. Meaning black dial with matching black ceramic bezel and PVD yellow gold scale. Again, it’s worn on an Oyster bracelet with 18k polished yellow gold central links.
Rolex Submariner Date Ref 126618LN & Ref 126618LB
Now for the full yellow gold Submariner Date models. Not for the faint of heart, these solid gold creations make a statement like no other. Outside of the standard changes introduced across the line, there’s nothing new here. You have the choice of either a sunburst blue dial with a blue ceramic bezel. Or a black dial with black ceramic bezel. Classic models that have been in the collection since the late 70s / early 80s.
Rolex Submariner Ref 124060
With so many new Submariner Date models it would be easy to overlook the non-date version. The good news is Rolex has not. Well, to be fair it depends on who you ask as to whether this is good news or not. The new Rolex Submariner Ref 124060 replaces the Ref 114060. And gets all the same updates as the Ref 126610LN. 41mm case. Thinner lugs and bracelet. And of course, a new movement inside.
It’s not the same Calibre 3235 as above. But rather the all-new Calibre 3230. It does offer pretty much all the same upgrades though. Bar the date function of course. This includes the new-generation Chronenergy escapement, longer power-reserve, and so on. It’s also certified as a Superlative Chronometer.
Purists are not happy about the increased case size. Even if it is only 1mm. They do like the thinner lugs though. Which hark back to the more elegant lines of the Submariners of yesteryear.
Price & Availability
Now we get to the fun part. At the time of writing, this is the manufacturer’s recommended retail pricing in the US:
- Rolex Submariner Date Ref 126610LN – US$9,150
- Rolex Submariner Date Ref 126610LV – US$9,550
- Rolex Submariner Date Ref 126613LB – US$14,300
- Rolex Submariner Date Ref 126613LN – US$14,300
- Rolex Submariner Date Ref 126618LB – US$36,950
- Rolex Submariner Date Ref 126618LN – US$36,950
- Rolex Submariner Date Ref 126613LB – US$39,650
- Rolex Submariner Ref 124060 – US$8,100
Pricing seems reasonable and somewhat in-line with expectations. Although the price hike on the Ref 126613LB will raise an eyebrow or two. According to Rolex, all models should be available in-store from Wednesday, 3rd September.
As you can imagine most watch lovers are sceptical about actual availability. So this will be a real test to see if Rolex has managed to get on top of some of their production challenges. It seems reasonable to assume that the steel models in particular will be in high demand. With all the extra time though, Rolex may have been able to build up something of a stockpile. Let’s see.
The Rolex Submariner Date is the brand’s most popular sports model. In fact, it’s fair to assume it’s the most popular model period. Long overdue an upgrade, there aren’t too many surprises here. Many expected the Ref 126610LN and its associates to have a larger case. As well as thinner lugs. And the farewelling of the Hulk and the Smurf also seemed a foregone conclusion. The introduction of black dial/coloured bezels is a nice touch. But whether these will hold as much interest as the originals longer term we will have to wait and see.
By all accounts it seems the new models fit better on the wrist. The ‘Super Case’ worked for some but was definitely a bit ‘blocky’. Combined with the more tapered lugs this looks to be a real winner for Rolex. Especially the traditional all-black versions. Good availability will also help keep pricing reasonable on the secondary market. Although prices on the Hulk and the Smurf are already heading for the stratosphere. Again, whether they will hold over time or come crashing back down is a great unknown.
All in all, these are good, if safe releases from Rolex. The Ref 126610LN continues the legacy of an iconic model. And introduces some subtle but needed upgrades.
Technical Specifications: Rolex Submariner Date Ref 126610LN
- Case: Oyster – 41 mm – Oystersteel – monobloc middle case, screw-down case back and winding crown – unidirectional rotatable 60-minute graduated, scratch-resistant Cerachrom insert in ceramic, numerals and graduations coated in platinum – waterproof to 300 metres / 1,000 feet..
- Dial: Black – 18ct gold hour markers – Chromalight display with long-lasting blue luminescence on hour markers and hands.
- Movement: New generation Calibre 3235 – bidirectional self-winding via Perpetual rotor – paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring – Chronergy escapement with optimized energy efficiency – 70-hour power reserve – certified as Superlative Chronometer.
- Price: USD 9,150.