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5 Of The Best Steel Rolex Submariners To Buy | Chrono Hunter
Some wise soul once said, “When I picture the word ‘watch’ in my head, it’s the Rolex Submariner that I see." No wonder, because the Rolex Submariner is perhaps the most recognised, successful and popular watch in the world. Originally designed and created for the scuba diving market, the appeal of the Rolex Submariner has gone far beyond its original universe, reaching sports enthusiasts and adventurous types; filmstars, celebrities, musicians, and of course, watch collectors.
The Submariner was designed to go where no watch had ever gone before: underwater. Early models were waterproof to depths of 330 feet, and the Rolex Submariner gave divers the ability to keep track of their immersion time. This was critical to the success of diving, as the divers could gauge accurately how long they had been underwater and when they needed to surface.
Today, the Submariner is riding a wave of popularity ‘topside’. Truth is, many of their owners will never even let them get wet, they’re so precious (especially the vintage varieties). But once you’ve made your decision to buy one, and when you are looking for the best Rolex Submariner watch to give you that classic, aesthetic appearance, look no further. Here are our top 5 best Rolex Submariner buy suggestions from the illustrious line of Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariners.
We call them Subs.
When you think of the best Rolex Submariner watches to buy it would be a crime not to include the Submariner 16610, Production of the Rolex Submariner 16610 began in 1987 and it was to be a staple feature in the range until 2010. Along the way, Rolex tweaked various aspects of the watch’s design but all the while it was powered by Rolex's longest serving movement, the brilliant Rolex calibre 3135. Tritium dials were eventually phased out in the late 90s in favour of dials with SuperLumiNova filled hour markers and hands. Where early 16610s were fitted with the 93150 oyster bracelet with folding clasp, from 2000 onwards the 93250 oyster bracelet was fitted. The Rolex Submariner 16610 also originally featured lug holes but these were deleted in 2003. Late examples of the Rolex Submariner 16610 - from 2008 on - also feature the engraved inner rehaut displaying the serial number at the 6 o'clock position.
All that noted, the most appreciated feature of the vulnerable Rolex Submariner 16610, in all its iterations, might just be its overall appearance and style. Wearers often comment on their love of its versatility. This versatility gives Rolex hunters an easy choice, as the Submariner model can be worn anytime during the day or night. Submariner 16610 prices vary from approximately £6,000 to £13,000, depending on the quality and condition of the watch. This is certainly one Rolex Submariner that we could not leave off this list of best Rolex Submariners watches to buy.
Rolex Submariner 116610LV
If you are looking for the best Rolex Submariner to buy and you’re attracted by a little more colour then the green Rolex Submariner 116610LV would be the perfect pick. Taking its nickname from its unique green dial and bezel the “Hulk” delivers a breathtaking look to the Submariner, playing up the traditional features of the Submariner 16610.
It was unveiled in 2003 to celebrate the Submariner line’s 50th anniversary. This special-edition Rolex was discontinued in 2020, making it now a valuable collector’s piece. The redesigned dial and thicker lugs of the “Hulk” give it a larger, chunkier feel than many Subs - and it’s certainly unmistakable as any other watch. Surrounding the dial is a unidirectional rotatable bezel in green to match with the dial. The bezel is made in a high quality ceramic material that provides impressive scratch-proofing and corrosion-resistant properties.
You should probably plan to pay approximately £10,000 to £15,000 for a “Hulk” in mint condition. This is a fair price for such a unique timepiece and experts are tipping the value of the anniversary watch to remain solid for the very foreseeable future.
Submariner 5512 and 5513
Rolex produced the reference 5512 for nearly 20 years, from 1959 to 1978. While it maintains the classic style of the early 1950’s Submariner references, it was also one of the first Submariners to feature crown guards, bringing a slightly different aesthetic to the line. You might look at it as the first ‘modern’ Submariner. Throughout its production run, the Submariner 5512 was fitted out with the calibres 1530, 1560, and 1570 movement, all of which were COSC certified. Its sibling, the non-COSC reference 5513, which was identical in almost every way, was produced alongside the 5512, offering a more affordable price tag and resulting in the 5512’s eventual discontinuation.
Many avid collectors speculate that the shorter production run has made the 5512 quite rare on the secondary market and this is arguably why it should be on the list of best Rolex Submariner watches to buy. Purists may point to the two lines of text on the 5513 dial as being more balanced and desirable than the four-line COSC rated 5512, but whichever you choose these ‘transitional’ models straddle the early and modern era of Submariners in a very appealing way, a feature which makes them well worth seeking out.
Submariner 14060 and 14060M
In 1989, Rolex finally got around to replacing the glorious 5513. The model that superseded it was the 14060, widely seen (with the available hindsight) as the last of the ‘classic’ Submariners. Like every Sub beloved by the purist collector, the 14060 is a no-date model. The bezel insert is aluminium, still especially robust but prone to fading (which many fans love) when exposed to prolonged seawater immersion or UV light, bringing with it an appearance that’s distinctive to each individual watch.
The case has a more slender, sweeping profile than the visibly more muscular models in today’s range. And, for an extra cherry on top, it is the 14060 is the last Submariner to have drilled lugs which means switching the original hollow link Oyster bracelet for a leather strap or a NATO is simplicity itself.
The 14060 was also the first no-date Sub to have both a sapphire crystal and a Triplock crown, the components working together to ensure a waterproof rating of 300m, up from the 5513’s 200m. Inside, the former Calibre 1520 movement was replaced with the Calibre 3000, bringing the watch into line with the standard Rolex balance frequency of 28,800vph. This is certainly one of the best Rolex Submariner watches to buy and keep in your collection for the years to come.
While the Calibre 3000 was certainly a more modern movement than before, it was missing a couple of features which were standard on most other Rolex calibres. So, nearly a decade later, Rolex made enough of a change to the reference 14060 to warrant adding a suffix to its reference number, but not one big enough to merit a new number altogether.
Standing for ‘Modified’, the reference 14060M was released in 1999 with a revised caliber, 3130. The Breguet overcoil was reinstated, a larger balance wheel fitted and the balance cock replaced with a full balance bridge. This gave the calibre 3130 improved performance, and its physical size (28mm diameter and 6mm in height) lent the 14060M an inherent strength; perfect for the toughest of tool watches.
Like the 14060, the 14060M preserves the iconic shape of the great vintage Submariners of the past. Each has the classic dial uncluttered by date windows and ‘cyclops’ magnifying lenses. Yet both also contain modern movements, with the sort of bombproof reliability upon which Rolex has long built its reputation.
Do these two references provide the best of both worlds when it comes to the Rolex Submariner? There are certainly plenty of points in their favor. The caliber in the 14060M is the same one that was used right up until 2020. And those patina-prone bezels will continue to set each watch apart as time goes on. Perhaps best of all, they are still some of the most attainable examples on the pre-loved Rolex market today. Entry into the ‘last of the best’ club starts at around £7,500 to £12,000.
The newest iteration of the stainless steel Rolex Submariner is the 124060, released in 2020. Indeed, Rolex updated the entire Submariner line-up in 2020, including a few models in precious metals and variations with the date as well. But the 124060 is the bedrock model. In true Rolex style there’s nothing revolutionary about this new Submariner. Rather it’s another example of the glacial approach to change that Rolex like to employ. The 124060 has been beefed up in size (from 40mm to 41mm), there’s a new bracelet (which is a fraction wider), and it's powered by a new caliber (the 3230). Otherwise, it's very much the Submariner we’ve become so familiar with.
It’s worth saying a few words about that new movement because in some ways it’s the biggest change to the Submariner in years. Now you get a 70-hour power reserve where the previous calibre 3130 offered only 48 hours. Rolex's proprietary Chronergy escapement makes for a more efficient and reliable watch over time and one that delivers much greater service intervals. Like all Rolex sport watches, this new Sub likely won’t be easy to get your hands on, but for first-time Submariner owners or die-hard collectors, it really won’t disappoint and is definitely one of the best Rolex Submariner watches to consider buying.
The Submariner never disappoints. With a history going back over six decades, each reference of the Rolex Submariner is a watchmaking masterpiece. Purposeful, practical and ever-popular, there is no such thing as choosing the ‘wrong’ model when you choose to wear a Rolex Submariner.
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While it’s worth pointing out that a little bit of research goes a long way in terms of choosing a watch that is likely to accrue in value, the good news is that Patek Philippe models are renowned for holding their own...
Owning a Rolex is also about owning a piece of history. Each model is a link to a moment in time, which can be cherished forever and passed down through the generations - think of your Rolex as an investment in you and your loved ones’ future: