Rolex Submariner Date: The Ultimate Diving Watch
The Rolex Submariner Date is the quintessential diving watch, easily identified by its Cyclops lens. Overall, the watch has performed well as an investment, but highly-traded collector's items like the "Smurf" sometimes show losses.
A Diving Watch With a Cyclops Lens
The Submariner Date is one of the most popular watches in the Rolex catalog. For many, the date display and accompanying Cyclops lens at 3 o'clock are indispensable features of this popular diving watch. Rolex first added the date function to this line in the late 1960s, starting with models under the reference number 1680, over a decade after the first Rolex Submariner was released.
The Oyster case of the current Submariner Date models features a screw-down case back and the patented Triplock crown, lending this timepiece its water resistance to 300 m (30 bar, 984 ft). The large, luminous indices and hands are easy to read, even under poor lighting conditions. This Submariner also has a unidirectional bezel with 60-minute graduation. Rolex outfitted each watch with an aluminum bezel inlay until 2010. They then switched to an inlay made from their proprietary ceramic, Cerachrom, starting with the ref. 116610.
Compared to the Submariner No Date, Submariner models with a date display offer a much wider variety of design options. The case and bracelet of the Submariner Date come in stainless steel, yellow gold, white gold, or Rolesor, a two-tone variant that combines stainless steel and 18-karat yellow gold. The Submariner Date also offers a variety of different dial and bezel colors such as black, blue, and green.
In September 2020, Rolex introduced a number of new Submariner Date models measuring 41 mm in diameter, i.e., 1 mm larger than their predecessors. Another change was made inside the case, which now houses the in-house caliber 3235. This movement boasts a 70-hour power reserve and chronometer certification.
The Submariner Date is in huge demand, so prospective buyers can expect to spend a long time on the waiting list at authorized dealers. Prices on the secondary market have been steadily climbing as a result, especially between 2020 and 2022. As with almost all Rolex watches, many Submariner Date models have experienced a significant price decline since the spring of 2022, to varying degrees.
The "Smurf" ref. 116619LB, for example, was 22,000 USD cheaper in April 2023 than it was just one year earlier. By contrast, the ref. 1680 now changes hands for around 6,600 USD more than it did in the spring of 2022. Despite the price corrections, the investment potential of these timepieces looks good in the long run; whether it's worth investing in a Submariner Date is really a question of when to buy.
Reasons to Buy a Rolex Submariner Date
- Iconic design with date display and Cyclops lens
- In-house, chronometer-certified calibers
- Available in stainless steel, white gold, yellow gold, and two-tone variants
- Various color options available for the dial and bezel
Prices at a Glance: Rolex Submariner Date
|Submariner Date reference||Price (approx.)||Material, dial color, caliber|
|116619LB "Smurf"||45,600 USD||White gold, blue, 3135|
|126618LB||44,500 USD||Yellow gold, blue, 3235|
|16618||37,200 USD||Yellow gold, blue, 3135|
|116610LV "Hulk"||25,600 USD||Steel, green, 3135|
|16610LV "Kermit"||23,600 USD||Steel, black, 3135|
|126613LB||23,600 USD||Steel & gold, black, 3235|
|1680||22,000 USD||Steel, black, 1570|
|116613LN||18,400 USD||Steel & gold, black, 3135|
|126610LN||14,600 USD||Steel, black, 3235|
|16610||13,200 USD||Steel, black, 3135|
|16800||13,200 USD||Steel, black, 3035|
How much does a Submariner Date cost?
In the spring of 2023, prices for the Rolex Submariner Date ranged from around 13,200 to 45,700 USD. The most affordable versions are those made in the 1980s, like the ref. 16800. You can buy a current Sub Date variant with a black dial and bezel for around 14,300 USD. If you want a more colorful or two-tone model, plan to spend between 17,600 and 25,500 USD.
You'll find gold models and rare vintage watches at the higher end of the price spectrum, meaning you can expect an investment of between 36,000 and 45,000 USD. However, some rare editions may exceed this amount.
The Stainless Steel Submariner Date
Many stainless steel Submariner Date models are in demand and have experienced a significant price increase in recent years, despite market corrections. The ref. 116610LN, for example, was released in 2010 and was the first Submariner model with a ceramic bezel. Up until 2020, prices for this watch rose rather slowly, with mint-condition pieces changing hands for between roughly 5,000 USD and 10,000 USD. The watershed moment came when Rolex replaced this model with the new ref. 126610LN; since then, prices for the 116610LN have climbed significantly. They peaked at around 16,000 USD in April 2022. One year later, you could buy this watch on Chrono24 for a more moderate 13,200 USD.
Vintage Models: Financial Performance
If you're looking for an early vintage model like the first Submariner Date ref. 1680, you'll have to dig a little deeper into your pockets, as prices are climbing steadily for this model as well. In May 2023, for example, you could buy the standard edition of the ref. 1680 on Chrono24 for about 26,500 USD. Two years earlier, a well-maintained ref. 1680 cost significantly less at approximately 17,500 USD.
The "Red Sub" variant, which get its nickname from the red Submariner inscription on the dial, can also be found under the ref. 1680. This version cost approximately 19,000 USD in April 2021, but now demands an investment of around 30,000 USD.
Of the "Red Sub" models, those with a tropical dial have experienced an even more remarkable price increase. Over the years, various environmental factors have caused these dials to fade from black to brown. As of spring 2023, you can expect to pay some 66,000 USD – if you manage to find one of these rare pieces at all. In 2020, the Red Sub with a tropical dial sold for just over half that amount.
Current Model Performance
September 2020 saw the release of a new stainless steel model with a classic black bezel. This timepiece, the ref. 126610LN, has a 41-mm case, and is thus 1 mm larger than its predecessor. Despite this, the watch feels slimmer overall thanks to its narrower lugs. Like the other new Submariner Dates, its power comes from the in-house caliber 3235.
This new movement has a 70-hour power reserve and boasts Rolex's proprietary Chronergy escapement. This escapement is made of a nickel-phosphorous alloy, which is more resistant to magnetic fields and allows for more precise timekeeping.
At its release, the ref. 126610LN had an official list price of 9,150 USD, which Rolex then hiked up to 10,100 USD in 2022. Unfortunately, trying to buy this watch from an authorized dealer will send you on a wild goose chase. High demand has led to current Submariner Date models with a black dial changing hands for over 14,000 USD on the secondary market (as of April 2023) – 20% less than the year before.
The Green Team: The Submariner Date Kermit and Hulk
Collectors flock to the reference numbers 16610LV and 116610LV. Rolex introduced the former in 2003 in celebration of the Submariner's 50th anniversary. Fans were quick to dub this model the "Kermit" because of its green bezel. Its black dial is also slightly different from the standard Submariner Date. Rolex outfitted this model with a "maxi dial," which has larger indices. The popularity of the Kermit ref. 16610LV has shown no signs of slowing down, and market prices have climbed accordingly. While you could have called a Kermit your own for about 7,000 USD back in 2010, as of spring 2023, you're looking at an investment of around 17,700 USD. Still, that's approximately 3,000 USD less than the Kermit cost in April 2022.
In September 2020, Rolex launched a brand-new Kermit edition. The ref. 126610LV keeps the Kermit's black dial and green bezel, but is 1 mm larger and has narrower lugs. As with the other 2020 Submariner Dates, this watch features the in-house caliber 3235 with a Chronergy escapement and 70-hour power reserve.
Unlike the first Kermit, the bezel insert on the 126610LV is ceramic. The demand for this watch also exceeds supply many times over. Nevertheless, price corrections resulted in a drastic drop in value: Whereas the new Kermit changed hands for roughly 26,700 USD in April 2022, one year later you could get one for just over 18,000 USD.
The direct predecessor of the ref. 126610LV is the ref. 116610LV, better known by its nickname, the "Hulk." This model was launched in 2010 and, like the new Kermit, has a green ceramic bezel. The Hulk takes the green theme a step further, however, and features a matching green dial. The watch has recently become a real fan favorite. When the model was discontinued in mid-2020, prices rose significantly, with some buyers willing to invest some 35,000 USD in April 2022. As of spring 2023 – thanks to a significant price correction – you can get your hands on a Hulk for just under 23,000 USD.
Gold and Two-Tone Submariner Date Models
The first Submariner Date with a yellow gold case and bracelet debuted in 1988 and bears the reference number 16618. Rolex offered this watch with a black or blue dial and bezel.
In 2008, Rolex replaced the ref. 16618 with the ref. 116618, which was then swapped out for the ref. 126618 in 2020. You have the choice between a black bezel (indicated in the reference number with LN "lunette noir") or blue bezel (LB "lunette bleue"). As usual with Rolex, the differences between the individual references are subtle. The ref. 16618 and ref. 116618 are both 40 mm in diameter. However, the latter has a "maxi case," which is characterized by somewhat heftier lugs. The ref. 116618 also features the maxi dial that can be seen on the Kermit.
The current yellow gold ref. 126618 also has a maxi dial, but is slightly larger at 41 mm. Moreover, this Submariner Date edition was outfitted with the caliber 3235, a newer version of the caliber 3135 used previously.
The ref. 16618 is without question the most affordable Submariner Date model in yellow gold. Expect to pay around 36,300 USD for the black model or 37,400 USD for the blue. The ref. 116618 will set you back about 44,000 USD, regardless of dial color. This reference experienced a downward price correction of about 17% between early 2022 and April 2023.
The current ref. 126618 demands an investment of approximately 45,000 USD. That's more than 11,000 USD (or 24%) cheaper than in 2022.
The Submariner Date in White Gold
Rolex also updated the white gold Submariner Date in 2020 with the current 41-mm reference 126619LB. This new timepiece replaced the ref. 116619LB, which was nicknamed "Smurf" on account of its blue dial and bezel. The ref. 126619LB, however, combines the blue bezel with a classic black dial.
Officially, the watch cost 39,650 USD in 2020. Surprisingly, it was available on Chrono24 in the spring of 2023 for "only" 43,000 USD. This makes it about 9,000 USD cheaper than it was a year earlier.
Meanwhile, the Smurf ref. 116619LB has also seen some changes between 2022 and 2023. While you still had to shell out well over 50,000 USD for this model in April 2022, you could find it for just over 42,000 USD a year later.
Back to the 80s – Two-Tone Sub Date Models
Rolex calls their two-tone combination of stainless steel and yellow gold "Rolesor." These timepieces bear the reference number 116613LB or LN. Two-tone watches have made a real comeback in recent years. Both Rolex color variants in mint condition change hands on Chrono24 for roughly 16,000 USD, which is about 3,000 USD less than a year previously.
In September 2020, Rolex announced the ref. 126613LB and retired its predecessor. Its two-tone stainless steel and yellow gold case measures 41 mm in diameter and houses the caliber 3235. If you want to call this Submariner model your own, prepare to pay about 18,500 USD for the black version or 19,200 USD for the blue. A year earlier, prices for these models were in excess of 20,000 USD. As of 2023, the official list price is 15,670 USD.
Water Resistant to 300 m: The Oyster Case
Thanks to its careful construction, every Submariner Date since the ref. 16800 has been water-resistant to 300 m (30 bar, 984 ft). Older models could withstand up to 20 bar (200 m, 656 ft) of water pressure. Like all Oyster models, the case is composed of a single piece, known as a monobloc, and the case back is screwed onto the center section. The ref. 16800 also marked the introduction of scratch-resistant sapphire crystal to the series.
How well a timepiece can keep water out is a crucial characteristic of a diving watch. The crown is a possible weak point, as it requires a hole be made in the case. This is why Rolex equips the Submariner Date with their Triplock system, which features four rubber gaskets to keep out water and dirt. Furthermore, the crown screws down into the case when not in use. It is only unscrewed when the watch needs to be set or manually wound.
A counterclockwise unidirectional bezel is another mandatory feature for any diving watch. This allows you to easily keep track of how long you have been underwater. It's impossible to turn the bezel clockwise, meaning you can never accidentally lengthen the dive time. It's also important to be able to tell the time in darkness. This is why the Submariner is equipped with luminous hands and indices. Since the ref. 116610, Rolex has been using their own luminous material, Chromalight, which glows blue in the dark. Chromalight's color differs from the previously-used luminous substance, Super-LumiNova, which glows green.