Rolex introduced a new Submariner in 2020 and it’s better in almost every way than the previous generation — but you might not even notice the differences if you don’t look closely enough.
Like with a Porsche 911 — which continually evolves between generations — the new Submariner has changed but in a subtle way. And while Rolex did not give us a remake with the vintage appeal of something like a Ref. 5513 or a 5510, they made the lugs thinner and gave the Submariner a flatter overall look that’s more reminiscent of older references than the outgoing generation. (It’s worth noting that if you like the look of the 5510 “Big Crown,” Rolex’s sibling Tudor offers the closest thing in the popular Black Bay Fifty-Eight and Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue.)
To achieve better proportions Rolex moved to a slightly larger 41 mm diameter case (after years of offering a 40 mm case). The stainless steel alloy used is still 904L, which has corrosion resistance properties that are said to be superior to 316L, and although not exclusive to Rolex very few watch companies make their steel watches with the more expensive alloy.
The lugs are thinner and the edges are more rounded than its immediate predecessor, plus the case appears to be thinner. Naturally, the Oyster bracelet has also been redesigned to match the new case proportions. Ultimately, these changes, however minor, result in a watch that’s less blocky and more comfortable on the wrist.
Even considering the aforementioned changes that give the Sub a subtle throwback to past generations, like the outgoing 114060 Submariner and 116610LN Submariner Date which have been in production since 2012, with a jet black polished ceramic bezel, a black glossy dial, white gold applied circular indices — the modern design remains.
As far as the dial, the 18K gold hands and hour markers appear to be almost identical to the previous generation. The bezel too is made with a steel or gold base (depending on the model), and the ceramic insert is the same, with PVD platinum or gold graduations. “ROLEX, ROLEX, ROLEX” is engraved on the flange (something we’ve often heard is not appealing but that’s representative of modern Submariners). Chromalight lume is used for the hands and markers, with a blue glow, same as before.
Driving the time only Submariner is Rolex’s all-new in-house caliber 3230, and caliber 3235 for the Submariner Date models, which represents a significant improvement over the last generation. Most notably, the power reserve has been increased to 70-hours, as it had been previously on other watches in the Rolex lineup over the years.
In order to increase the power reserve, Rolex engineered caliber 3230 and 3235 to utilize the Chronergy escapement, patented by Rolex, which combines high energy efficiency and dependability. Made of nickel-phosphorus, it’s also insensitive to magnetic fields. The movements are fitted with an optimized blue Parachrom hairspring, manufactured by Rolex in an exclusive paramagnetic alloy that makes it up to 10 times more shock resistant than traditional hairsprings which helps maintain precision. The movements are Superlative chronometers rated to -2/+2 per day which is over two times more precise than a standard COSC-certified chronometer.
In addition to the Submariner (Ref. 124060) and Submariner Date (Ref. 126610LN) — with a standard black dial and bezel — there are six other references that debuted at the launch (126610LV, 126613LB, 126613LN 126619LB, 126618LB, 126618LN).
In total, Rolex rolled out eight new Submariner references for 2020. One without a date (Submariner) and seven with a date (Submariner Date). Prices have climbed for the latest generation by approximately 4-5% across the Submariner line.
Being the most affordable (retail is $8,100) and coming with a dial sans date, the Rolex Submariner Ref. 124060 is one of the best ways to own a Submariner.
The watch felt heavy on my wrist, which can be easily rectified with aftermarket straps, although it’d be nice if Rolex offered the Submariner on an Oysterflex bracelet so there’s an OEM alternative to the steel bracelet. Also, while the new Ref. 126610LV “Kermit” with the green bezel, black dial, and steel case is $9,550 — it would be nice to see that as a thousand dollar cheaper no-date model. And the blue bezel and black dial of the Ref. 126619LB is another Submariner that would be awesome as a no-date, instead of being exclusively available in an 18K solid white gold case, with a date, that costs $39,650.
All 2020 Submariner references began arriving at authorized Rolex dealers in the United States starting September 2nd. Although by mid-October a prominent Rolex dealer we visited in Denver had not yet seen any new Submariners. Following that, in late October, we visited Watches of Switzerland’s two NYC flagship stores, one in SoHo and the other in Hudson Yards, and they had at least one Rolex each (already spoken for) and did not confirm whether any other Submariners were on-site.
The base price for the most basic, and quintessential, Submariner went up by three hundred dollars in 2020 — which is not that much considering Rolex made it better in every way.
Rolex, like Patek and Audemars Piguet, and many hot consumer brands in general, sell nowadays based on supply, effectively controlling demand. This and ever-rising auction prices keep the pre-owned, vintage, and new resale prices of the Submariner at record highs. So if you’re in the market for the brand new 2020 Submariner and are wondering if you should buy one, the question is not a matter of if you should — but if you can.