The Rolex Submariner is the most famous dive watch in the world. It’s arguably the world’s best-known timepiece. The Sub has evolved over the years to include different sizes, date and no date versions, as well as various metals for its case, its bracelet, and its bezel. It’s been a tough and durable tool watch, and it’s been a symbol of luxury all at once. The Submariner can be sometimes subtle, sometimes not. This year, we were offered a glimpse of the future of the Rolex Submariner in an updated collection that uses a slightly larger case size – it’s now 41mm in diameter, following up on the 40mm case of the previous generation. Today, we’re taking a closer look at the ref. 126619LB, the all-white-gold Submariner with blue Cerachrom bezel, black dial, and 70-hour automatic movement with date.
The new ref. 126619LB isn’t the first white-gold Submariner Date to feature a blue bezel in Cerachrom, of course. Most readers will be very familiar with the previous iteration of this watch, the ref. 116619 “Smurf,” which the watch you see above replaces. But while the Smurf had a matching blue dial that seemed instantly to convey that it’s heavy white-gold luxury, the watch you see here manages to retain a bit more of its tool-watch character by virtue of its comparatively austere black dial. Place it on your wrist, of course, and you’ll instantly know exactly what you’ve gotten yourself into. There’s lots of gold in that case and bracelet.
As a Batman GMT lover, this is a color scheme that I can easily get behind. To my eye, it’s an improvement over the Smurf that better achieves what, at least in my mind, people seeking out a solid white-gold sport watch want. Which is to say, low-key luxury. I mean, there are plenty of yellow-gold options out there.
Two of the most talked-about aspects of the new Submariner watches are their implementation of a new case size, which features thinner lugs, which I think make for a more balanced watch, as well as the implementation of an automatic movement featuring the more efficient Chronergy Escapement and a power reserve that’s been stretched out to 70 hours. While the movement in the new no-date Sub (which was also seen in a range of new Oyster Perpetual models) was indeed new, debuting just this year, the movement in this and the several other Submariner Date models is one that we know well, the cal. 3235. It’s in the latest generation Sea-Dweller, many executions of the Datejust, and other Rolex watches too. Nonetheless, it’s new to the Submariner Date, a watch that was due for the Chronergy upgrade, and it represents a significant upgrade over the previous-generation Submariner Date.
There was a bit of controversy surrounding the release of the 41mm Submariner, of course, stemming from the fact that Rolex’s most instantly recognizable timepiece had crossed the 40mm Rubicon. I myself have to admit that I was pretty shocked when I read the headline to our own initial coverage of the 2020 Sub launch. Wasn’t 40mm a sacrosanct number when it came to watch size? Why would they do this? After reading much of the coverage and thinking about it myself, I came to the conclusion that Rolex is probably a bit more interested in how its watches wear than in the psychological effect, positive or negative, that one millimeter might have on die-hard aficionados. The lugs are now slimmer than they were on the previous version of the Submariner, and some have observed that the new version wears more comfortably than its 40mm predecessor, too.
Hallmarks on the undersides of those slightly slimmer lugs tell you that this new watch is solid 18-karat white gold, but I think that many casual observers unfamiliar with blue-bezeled Submariners would probably assume it’s made of stainless steel. To my mind, this is about as low-key a precious metal Rolex sports watch as I have seen since the original white gold, Oyster-braceleted Pepsi GMT when it debuted with a black dial.
In order to accommodate the slightly svelter lugs and the fact that the case is a touch larger, Rolex has drawn on a broader bracelet (the lug width is 21mm now, as opposed to 20), which makes for a more stable wearing experience. The bracelet has a slight taper to it, as you’d expect, as well as the familiar Glidelock clasp, which allows on-the-fly adjustments of up to 5mm without a tool. As with the “Smurf,” the white gold Oyster bracelet has links featuring a brushed finish to the outer links and contrasting polished finish on the central links. This contrast is particularly noticeable in the two photos above.
I believe that on a philosophical level, you’re either in the gold sports watch camp, or you’re not. I’m not quite there yet. And while I think I could be persuaded in that direction, this watch’s price tag is high enough that, for now, it remains a purely academic question. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a cool watch and prefer it to the Smurf, but the no-date Submariner is a watch I’d sooner seek out. And that’s coming from somebody who bought a Black Bay Fifty-Eight recently and considered his dateless dive watch itch scratched. What I will say is that I can definitely see the new white-gold Submariner converting people who had been circling the around the Smurf with glancing interest, perhaps kicking a tire or two, but just couldn’t get down with the full blue treatment.
The Rolex Submariner Date ref. 126619LB. White-gold case with black dial and blue Cerachrom bezel. Water resistance to 300 meters. Rolex manufacture cal. 3235 with Chronergy escapement and 70 hours of power reserve vibrating at 28,800 vph in 31 jewels. White-gold Oyster bracelet with Glidelock clasp. Price: $ 39,650. For more, visit Rolex.