The Rolex Submariner In 2020: What’s Actually Changed?
As it turns out, quite a lot.
Rolex had everyone on the edge of their seats this September when the brand released a thoroughly revamped lineup of Submariners. While many of the “Introducing” and “Hands-on” headlines were solely focused on the new colorways and slightly upsized proportions of the iconic tool watch, numerous changes and upgrades were hiding in plain sight.
Thanks to the team at Rolex USA, Watchonista was able to experience some quality time with a selection of pieces from the new Submariner 41mm collection. We were provided with three examples, the stainless steel (Oystersteel) no-date ref. 124060, the steel-case with green bezel Submariner date ref. 126610LV, and finally, the Submariner date in white gold with blue bezel ref. 126619LB.
Case Size Changes
One of the key talking points in the updated Submariner collection is its case size. When Rolex first released its Cerachrome (ceramic) bezel Submariner in 2010, the ref. 116610 Submariner Date, the brand kept the 40mm case size of its predecessor, the ref. 16610 Submariner. This trend continued with the 114060 no-date variant, released in 2012.
For 2020, Rolex has taken the entire Submariner collection and upsized it ever so slightly to 41mm. And while this marginal increase in size isn’t groundbreaking, it does go a long way in improving the Submariner’s design and comfort. Why is that, you say?
It’s All About The Lugs
The previous iterations of the ref. 116610 and ref. 114060 models both featured Rolex’s “maxi” style case with broad lugs and a robust tool-watch feel. With the 2020 versions, Rolex has chosen to focus many of its design improvements on the lugs to increase wearability.
And though the case may have gone up in size by 1mm, the lugs have been slimmed down by almost the same amount. Based on our measurements, these slimmer lugs account for a 0.8 decrease in overall length. They are essentially going from 27.5mm in length to 26.7mm. Furthermore, Rolex has added extra tapering to the lugs, which lends itself to a more comfortable fit on various wrist sizes.
While we’re on the topic of lugs, let’s talk about their width, which is a crucial measurement for enthusiasts. Like many of you, I love to change my watches' look with various aftermarket products like NATO and leather straps. And although Rolex doesn't officially endorse the use of these products, throughout their ownership, owners of these Submariners may opt to swap out the stainless steel bracelet for something more…colorful.
That being said, at first glance, you may not recognize one of the more noteworthy increases in the new Submariner 41mm collection. Rolex has indeed changed the lug width on these upgraded models. For decades, Rolex Submariners, GMT Masters, and almost every other Rolex Professional model featured 20mm wide lugs, which is coincidentally the industry-standard lug width for tool watches.
Not anymore! The new Submariner collection indeed features 21mm wide lugs. This change was made to make room for a broader Oyster bracelet, which the brand says is redesigned from clasp to lug. More on that later.
When you hear the terms "slimming," "width," "upsized," etc., you would generally think that with a watch such as this, the next logical change would be in the thickness of the case. However, based on our measurements, the new collection maintains the same thickness (approx. 12mm) as its predecessor.
Now that we’ve gone through the finer points of the Submariner 41mm’s case. Let’s talk about one final point, the crown. We would be remiss if we didn’t shine a light on this critical piece of dive watch hardware. The updated Submariner features small refinements to its Triplock crown.
As you can see in the images, the guards surrounding the Submariner 41mm's crown look slightly different from its predecessor. This is due to slight changes to these guards' design, causing them to become somewhat more angled as they taper towards the case.
Another central talking point of the Submariner 41mm is its Oyster bracelet, which has been redesigned. The majority of these updates were done to complement the updated case proportions. As we hinted at earlier, the bracelet was widened by approx. 1mm to fit the increased lug width. This widening is carried throughout the 3-link Oystersteel bracelet as it tapers from the Oysterclasp up to the integrated end-links.
One of the reasons collectors love the Submariner is the diverse assortment of color options available throughout the lineup. Any subtle changes to these models are long-rumored and discussed before their announcements and long-debated after their release.
Fans of The Crown always go crazy when the brand changes the beloved Submariner's color palettes. While the brand didn't bring forth any new color codes in the Submariner 41mm, it did make two very notable changes to its two most colorful models.
Firstly, the now-discontinued ref. 116619 Submariner Date (nicknamed “Smurf”) was an all-blue (bezel and dial) timepiece crafted in white gold. This piece has been replaced with the ref. 126619LB, which retains the blue bezel but adds a slightly redesigned black dial.
Second, the now-discontinued ref. 116610LV (aka “Hulk”) Submariner Date has been replaced with the stainless steel ref. 126610LV. Like its counterpart, it also features a black dial, but in this case, it brings over the green bezel from its predecessor.
Rolex has made very gradual improvements to the dials in the Submariner 41mm. One thing that struck my eye was the "Swiss Made" insignia at six o'clock.
As you'll see in the photos, the brand has opted to place the Rolex coronet (crown) between the words "Swiss" and "Made."
Due to the increase in case size, the dial does present slightly more surface area, which I found to be barely noticeable.
Lastly, Rolex has brought forward its latest movement innovations to the new Submariner 41mm. Notably, there are new calibres in play across this comprehensive lineup. The Calibre 3235 powers the Submariner Date models, and the Calibre 3230 is found in the no-date model. Both movements are automatic winding and COSC-certified.
This new movement boasts a power reserve of approximately 70 hours compared to its predecessor’s 48 hours. Also, these new movements include Rolex’s Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring and its proprietary Chronergy escapement.
For a brand that proclaims itself to be on a "Relentless Pursuit Of Perfection," these new Submariner 41mm models embody just that. Sure, the changes are marginal, but it was these types of small changes that got us from the original Submariner introduced in 1953 to today. It is Rolex's decades-long search for perfection that has made the brand what it is today. For more information, visit the Rolex website.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)