Watch news doesn’t get much bigger than this. There isn’t some world-first complication; a record auction price hasn’t been shattered by a celebrity-owned grail; a beloved independent watchmaker hasn’t been acquired by one of the big groups. The news is way bigger than that: Rolex has just released a brand new Rolex Submariner.
The watch you see here is the ref. 124060, the newest iteration of the stainless steel Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner without a date display. The entire Sub line-up has been updated, including a few models in precious metals and variations with the date as well, but this watch is the foundation of it all. It’s a new size (41mm), it has a new bracelet (which is a bit wider), and it’s powered by a new caliber (the 3230). Otherwise, it’s very much a Submariner through and through.
This is what makes Rolex’s “new releases” so interesting and different from what most watchmakers do – Rolex has a winning formula and isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here. The temptation to do something crazy must be there, but Rolex’s steely resolve wins out, and we end up with iterations on classics that, in general, offer objective quality improvements without messing with the je ne sais quoi of a given model.
The last time the Submariner received an overhaul was back in 2012, with the introduction of the ref. 114060, a no-date companion to 2010’s ref. 116610. The 116610 was the first Submariner to use a ceramic Cerachrome bezel insert and to use the broader-lugged “maxi”-style case. The 114060 brought those features to the no-date Sub, and it’s been a mainstay in Rolex’s collection ever since.
This time around, we’re getting an update to the whole Submariner line-up all at once. It’s got a new look and feel, a new movement, and a new perspective on what a modern Rolex sport watch can be. Let’s dig in.
What Sets It Apart
The most headline-grabbing update to the Submariner is the new case size. The Submariner has measured in at around 39-40mm going back to the 1950s, and this is the first time we’ve ever seen a 41mm Submariner. Now, you might be asking yourself why Rolex decided to increase the size by a single millimeter, and that would be a totally reasonable question. I can’t even begin to venture a guess into Rolex’s rationale, but I can say that the difference is slight but noticeable. This is neither an on-paper-only change, nor a monumental shift. The watch looks and feels a tiny bit bigger, but it still feels like a Submariner. This isn’t a Sea-Dweller by another name.
If you only looked at that diameter number, you’d be missing some of the finer points of the update. The lugs have gotten slimmer, giving the watch an overall look and profile much more similar to a vintage Sub than to its immediate predecessor. It’s a small thing, but I think it makes a huge difference. The choice to pair the watch with a slightly broader Oyster bracelet accentuates this change too – the proportional width of the bracelet to the lugs grows even more, making a much more shapely and contour-rich watch.
There is also a slight change of the proportions of the dial and the bezel. I do not have exact measurements from Rolex, so this is all based on my own observations, but the bezel appears to be a bit wider in relation to the dial aperture, which I think gives the watch a slightly bolder look. It’s subtle, but so are all of the changes we’re talking about here.
As far as actual dial changes go, you have to look really close to spot any. The only outright change is the text at the bottom of the dial. Instead of simply saying “Swiss Made,” it now has the Rolex coronet between those two words, and they’re positioned at the very bottom of the dial, with the minute markers peeking out above them instead of below them. Across the board, the typefaces used have gotten a bit shorter and wider, with the depth rating and such appearing sturdier and bit more modern. If you look really closely, you’ll also see that the minute hand is just a hair longer, as are both sides of the seconds hand. It’s almost imperceptible (this isn’t like the change to the Explorer’s hands), but it’s there.
While you can’t see it, and many people won’t even think to ask about it at their local Rolex AD, the new movement might be the most important change introduced to the Submariner with the ref. 124060. Over the last few years, Rolex has steadily been updating the calibers across all of its watches, often as a part of quiet, but significant changes to models like the Datejust. The introduction of the new caliber 3230 is just that – quiet, but significant.
Getting To Know The Chronergy Escapement
Back in 2016, Jack did a deep dive into the modern Rolex Day-Date 40 and the Caliber 3255 that powers it. There are plenty of beautiful photos of the Day-Date, but Jack also provides tons of technical insight into how the Chronergy escapement works and why it’s quietly such a big deal. If you want to really understand the new Sub, this is seriously valuable background reading.
Before we get into the more nitty-gritty technical details, the practical benefits of the 3230 are no joke and are things that your average consumer will likely notice and benefit from. You get a longer 70-hour power reserve (nearly 50% more than the 48 hours offered by the caliber 3130 in the ref. 114060) and Rolex’s proprietary Chronergy escapement, which makes for a more efficient and reliable watch over time. This means you still get the -2/+2 precision, you’ve still got the special Parachrom hairspring, and you’ve still got the Superlative Chronometer certification, but it also means that you should be able to get that kind of precision out of your Submariner for much longer before it needs a service.
Now, while the caliber 3230 is technically brand new, it is based on the caliber 3235, which debuted at Baselworld 2015 and features a date display. That movement was first used in the Pearlmaster (and premiered alongside the caliber 3255 which has a day-of-the-week display as well for use in the Day-Date), but it has since found its way into the Datejust and Sea-Dweller as well. The 3235 will power the latest generation of Submariner Date watches, and its new no-date cousin will power the non-date Subs. This is the kind of slow-and-steady technical development that feels quintessentially Rolex, and it’s good to see Rolex’s flagship watch get a current-generation movement.
The Bigger Picture
When I first heard that the Submariner was getting bigger, I was a little concerned. The maxi case already made the ref. 114060 wear like a much bigger watch than earlier Subs, so what would another millimeter do to this classic? I’m happy to report that my concern was for naught. I only got to spend an hour or so with the new Sub, but in that short period of time, I think it won me over. The new case profile, although bigger on paper, wears more comfortably, and I don’t think the watch looks that much bigger on the wrist. I think it’s probably a better and more helpful characterization to say that the Submariner’s case is now different rather than bigger.
Everything You Need To Know About The Rolex Submariner
The Rolex Submariner is one of the most iconic watches of all time, having gone through dozens of iterations since its 1953 release. In Reference Points: Understanding The Rolex Submariner, we dissect the Sub and the subtle details that make each version unique.
Within the broader line-up, this fills a hole in Rolex’s collection of Professional series dive watches. Rolex now offers a 40mm Yacht-Master, this new 41mm Submariner, a 42mm Yacht-Master, a 43mm Sea-Dweller, and a 44mm Deepsea (as well as one outlier – a 37mm Yacht-Master in precious metals). This means that you could, in theory, walk into a Rolex AD and get yourself some variation of a Rolex diver anywhere in the 40-44mm range, with a variety of metal, dial, and bezel configurations. Like all Rolex sport watches, this new Sub is likely to be tough to get, and the idea of walking into a Rolex dealer and having your pick of a bunch of in-stock options is pure fantasy, but that’s another story entirely.
In the same way that Rolex rolled out the latest generation of Chronergy-equipped movements over the last five years, it will be interesting to see if this new approach to the Professional case and bracelet make their way into other models. Honestly, it would surprise me if it didn’t. Rolex doesn’t do anything in a vacuum. Might the next GMT-Master feature slimmer lugs? Or will the next Explorer have a different style of Oyster bracelet? Only time will tell, but moving the Submariner off the maxi case is a bellwether, if I ever saw one.
For many people around the world, the Rolex Submariner is the platonic ideal of the “nice watch.” It’s what people think of when you say the word “watch” in many cases. The often-overused word “iconic” doesn’t even begin to do the Submariner justice, so any changes to it are a big deal. In classic Rolex fashion, the Geneva-based watchmaker has opted to whisper instead of shout, giving the Submariner substantive upgrades that won’t have fans of the Sub shouting for the good old days. The 40mm Sub is dead. Long live the 41mm Sub.
For more on the new Submariner ref. 124060, visit Rolex online.
Reference Number: 124060
Case Material: Oystersteel
Dial Color: Black lacquer
Indexes: Luminous circles, rectangles, and triangles
Lume: Yes, on hour markers, hands, and bezel pearl
Water Resistance: 300 meters (1,000 feet)
Strap/Bracelet: Oyster bracelet with Oysterlock folding clasp and Glidelock extension system
Caliber: Caliber 3230
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Frequency: 4 Hz (28,800 vph)
Superlative Chronometer Certified (Both COSC certification and Rolex certification)
Additional Details: Hacking seconds; Chronergy escapement; Paramagnetic pallet fork and escape wheel
Price: $ 8,100
Availability: Coming soon to all Rolex authorized dealers
Limited Edition: No, main production.