Borro Benchmarks: The Rolex Submariner

Welcome to the first article in a new series for Borro Blog. Every week, I’ll be examining some of the most iconic and influential models from the biggest brands in the world, trawling through the archives in search of origin stories, significant moments in each model’s history, and the standout members of these very exclusive families. Unsurprisingly, the first brand to reach my bench is Rolex, so what better place to start than one of the world’s most-loved beaters: The Rolex Submariner.

Rolex Submariner

Let me start by saying this: Rolex is no longer a watch brand; Rolex is a phenomenon. I am asked on almost a daily basis how other brands can be ‘more like Rolex’. My answer is eternally facetious: Rewrite history. An industry based largely on intangibles and the manipulation of emotion is slave to heritage. You can’t synthesize it, no matter how hard you try (or lie).

Rolex Submariner

The Rolex Submariner was designed in 1953, and widely rolled out to the public the following year. An evolution of the Oyster, which had debuted almost three decades earlier in 1926, the Sub, as it’s affectionately known, took the idea of diver’s watch to new levels of functionality and reliability.

 

The very earliest pieces were without a few of the hallmark traits we regard as quintessential to the family today. The crown guards didn’t make an appearance until ‘59 and the date window with the now-famous ‘Cyclops’ magnifier wasn’t added until 1966.

There were also variations in crown size in the early days, with the bigger size generally more sought after by collectors.

The clean look of the nascent Subs is very desirable for many collectors, who appreciate the functional elegance of the earliest pieces in what was to become the archetype of all dive watches.

Rolex Submariner

The value of Subs varies wildly, from about $4,000 for a common or garden nineties piece, all the way up to the doorstep of a quarter million for a rare 6200 reference in good condition.

Poring over the above linked article is a great way to get the heart rate up before you visit another garage sale (just in case).

Whenever considering buying a vintage watch like a Rolex Submariner, please do your research. Hodinkee have produced a really handy guide to help you out, which you can read here. But don’t stop there. Talk to experts and others in your position. And above all remember to buy for yourself, not because someone told you to, not because you feel like you ‘should’. The only purchases you’ll regret are the ones not born of desire.

About the Author:

Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.