Rolex is unarguably the most famous luxury watch brands, associated with prestige, top-quality, and extreme precision. If you ask people to mention a luxury watch brands, you’ll find that most people will instantly think of Rolex.
Over its roughly 100-year old history, Rolex has established itself as the ultimate luxury watch brand, uncomparable to its competitors. Over the years, Rolex has also released a number of iconic models which have almost become the definition of a watch made for respective fields.
The Rolex Submariner is certainly one of those.
The Rolex Submariner is unarguably the most iconic watch of Rolex, with distinct shapes and a design that has become the definition of a diver watch.
Rolex has become the leader in dive watches with its Submariner models, and many other brands have picked up because of the immense success that the Rolex Submariner is.
The Rolex Submariner is a diver’s watch, originally (and technically still) made for divers to use as a tool while diving. But the fact is that the vast majority of people who buy the Rolex Submariner never use it to go diving. While some people do, the majority are attracted by its iconic design, its beautiful shapes, and the distinct look.
But over the years, the Rolex Submariner has changed quite a lot in design. The Submariner model was first showcased at the Basel Watch Fair in 1954. and first came into production in 1953, and this time has allowed Rolex to constantly improve and innovate the Rolex Submariner over the years, leaving us with the Submariner design and model that we have today.
The Submariner has undergone a number of aesthetical changes over the more than 50 year period it has been in production, but maybe most importantly is the technical innovation that has been done to the watch, with new movements, new bezel function, improved water resistance, and more. Over the course of the Submariner’s production, Rolex has introduced countless of reference numbers, and if you are planning to buy a Rolex Submariner, it can be worth knowing that there are actually a whole spectrum of Submariner models out there that may vary slightly or quite substantially from the previous model.
Some of the older Submariner models have become extremely sought-after collector’s items, while others have not quite become as popular. But one thing is certain, and that is that the Rolex Submariner is one of the Rolex watches that hold their value the best, and certain reference numbers, in particular, have skyrocketed in price immensely.
In this article, we’ll share a complete list of Rolex Submariner models and reference numbers, we’ll introduce you to them and tell you what makes them different from the previous and the following Submariner models.
You’ll also get a deeper introduction to the history of the Rolex Submariner and a little bit about what makes it unique.
Introduction to the Rolex Submariner
The Rolex Submariner is distinctive in design, and even those who know little about watches are often able to point out the iconic design of the Submariner.
As mentioned, since the Submariner has been in production for more than 50 years now, the design has evolved, however, you can very much recognize the iconic design that the modern Rolex Submariner has, with the original and first Rolex Submariner.
Today, the modern Submariner is distinctive by its “cathedral” or “Mercedes” hands, featuring a rounded piece near the point of the hand. On the flip side, the early Submariner models didn’t have this type of hands, but instead, they have plain pencil hands.
The modern watch has the text ”Submariner” on the dial, but this has not always been the case. The modern Submariner is recognized by its unidirectional Cerachrom bezel which allows you to track immersion time, and this is the main feature of the watch that makes it a diver’s watch, including the fact that it is rugged and waterproof down to a great depth.
The modern Rolex Submariner is powered by the reliable and high-precision in-house Rolex caliber 3130, and this is obviously something that hasn’t been the case all the way since the beginning of the Submariner production.
The watch has a perpetual rotor and is part of Rolex’s Oyster Perpetual self-winding watches line.
Today, the Rolex Submariner is available in stainless steel, two-tone (gold and steel), and gold. Originally, the Rolex Submariner was only available in stainless steel, because frankly, diver’s didn’t wear full-gold watches while diving, and they didn’t see any point in doing so either.
Due to the importance that the Rolex Submariner has played in the history and innovation of watch designs, in particular, dive watches, if you ask essentially any watch collector, you’ll find that keeping one such in their collection is always a must. This is because the model has played such an importance for not just dive watches but also for the watch industry as a whole.
In the luxury watch market, the popularity of a brand and a model can be measured in the number of fakes watches that are made as replicas of a particular model, and the fact is that the Rolex Submariner is the most replicated luxury watch in the world. While this is anything than positive, it says something about the immense popularity of the Submariner.
The beginning of the Rolex Submariner
The fact is that even before the introduction of the Rolex Submariner, there were predecessors in the Rolex collection. These were water-resistant watches which were made from the early 1930’s, but they were not complete tools for divers.
Eventually, Rolex came to start a partnership with Panerai which sold diving equipment and Rolex watches. Panerai Radiomir was combined with Oyster-shaped cases with caliber movement provided by Rolex.
One of Hans Wilsdorf’s employees, Jeanneret came up with the idea of making an entirely new division of Rolex which would make sports watches, including a diver’s watch. Since Wilsdorf was known for listening to his employees, he agreed with the idea and came up with the idea of a self-winding movement as well as a screw down crown.
Eventually, Jeanneret developed a friendship with Jacques Cousteau, a famous explorer, and diver. The result of this relationship was that he tried to convince Rolex to make a watch specially designed for professional divers. Since Costeau was a valuable resource in the development of a professional diver’s watch who know the needs and demands of a professional diver, the Submariner was developed.
It is not clear whether the first Rolex Submariner had the reference 6204 or 6205. It’s not clear which of these came first, because to a large extent, they’re identical.
As for the first models, you won’t find the name ”Submariner” on the dial. Some 6204 do, however, have the Submariner text printed below the center pinion, while others don’t, and it is believed that the reason why some of the watches feature the Submariner name and others don’t is that Rolex faced unexpected trademark issues with the ”Submariner” name.
Maybe one of the most important reasons for the Submariner’s success is not because of its rotatable bezel or its high-quality movement – eventless things have probably been contributing factors as well, however, the most important factor is probably due to the fact that the Rolex Submariner is a universal timeless icon which features a design that is just as relevant today as 50 years ago, and it is also a watch which can be used for many different occasions as it is, despite being a diver’s watch, a universal watch. While the model has changed since it was first released, the distinct design and looks of the watch remain the same, and this is something that contributes to its immense popularity, as well as its heritage.
While most Submariner watches will never touch the ocean, we cannot forget the technical innovations and improvements that made the Rolex Submariner a tool used by the most demanding divers.
The Rolex Submariner became, upon its launch an important tool watch, made for a specific purpose, and featuring helpful characteristics and functions.
As the model was launched, the Submariner was popular among divers and oceanographers.
First of all, we have the rotating bezel, which nowadays is unidirectional to ensure that the time can only be less, and thus making sure that the diver doesn’t run out of oxygen while under water since this is the main usage area for the Submariner’s rotating bezel.
Furthermore, the flip lock clasp of the Submariner was specifically built to be handled with neoprene gloves, allowing for easy operation. From having no crown guards, eventually, the Submariner came to include crown guards to protect the crown of the watch from being damaged.
Since diving on great depths results in a great pressure, a demand for a diver’s watch’s with a greater waterproofness eventually came around. As a result, Rolex introduced the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller Submariner 2000. This model was the first edition of what is today known as the Sea-Dweller (and which is still in production), and this featured a 610m/2000 feet water-resistance as it was launched in 1967. The Sea-Dweller was built on the already existing Submariner model and made for Comex S.A. industrial deep-sea diving company. Rolex achieved the increased the water profess by making the crystal thicker. The watch got the reference 1665.
Rolex’s Submariner model also featured more iconic traits, including the ”cyclops” on the date, which works as a magnifying for improved legibility, especially underwater, and luminous markers to allow checking the time underwater.
Innovations of the modern Rolex Submariner
It’s safe to say that the Rolex Submariner has been subject of plenty of innovations, changes, and improvements over years which ultimately has improved the watch on a number of areas.
In more recent years, from the 1970s and beyond, Rolex started making the Submariners in yellow gold or two-tone. Furthermore, Rolex also introduced new colored dials as opposed to the black dial they had used since the beginning. Rolex introduced in 2004 their the 16610LV with a distinct green bezel to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Submariner.
Now, Rolex has also started using their 904L steel made in their foundry, and the fact that Rolex goes so above and beyond and makes its own steel since other else is good enough is proof of Rolex’s great attention to detail and never compromising. The 904L steel is corrosion-resistant and extremely hard, and this makes it the perfect steel for a diver’s watch.
Today, the Rolex Submariner is unarguably the most hyped and popular model of Rolex, but the Submariner hasn’t always had the huge popularity that it has today. In fact, it wouldn’t take until the 1960s when the popularity for the Submariner would come to surge when the Rolex Submariner was featured in several James Bond films, on his very own wrist. The Submariner was actually also used in a number of underwater scenes which proved that the watch was extremely durable for the greatest of spies and his missions, but also classy for a suit and tie – something that continues to remain the case to this day.
Even though many different Submariner watches having been manufactured over the years, there are two Submariners, the 5512 and 5513 which are very similar to each other that are considered to be the most iconic vintage Submariners. The reason is that these watches have been the Submariner watches which have been produced for the longest time, and has thus become classics.
Now, without further ado, let’s look at our complete list of Rolex Submariner models.
Rolex Submariner reference numbers
Rolex Submariner reference number 6204
This may or may not be the first Rolex Submariner. The reason is that it is unclear whether the 6204 or 6205 came first but it’s safe to say that this is one of the earliest Submariners and the starting point for a model that would see immense success and become the most popular and well-known watch model in the world.
The 6204 was in production between 1953 and 1955.
This Submariner reference looks a bit different from what you’re used to when you think Rolex Submariner, but have in mind that more than 60 years have passed since.
The 6204 examples can vary between each other, so don’t be surprised if you find Submariner 6204s that have different visual appearances. For example, the text on the dial may vary, the type of dial may vary (for example honeycomb dial or regular matte dial, and so on.
The Submariner 6204 has pencil hands unlike the ”Mercedes hands” you’re used to today, and on most of the watches, it has the text ”Rolex Oyster Perpetual: Submariner” (but this may also vary between watches. The watch has a gilt dial, which means that all the text is made in a yellowish/goldish color. It is thought that Jaques Cousteau wore this model.
Rolex Submariner Reference number 6200
This Submariner was in production between 1953 and 1954, in other words just one year.
This Submariner used the old style bubble back cal.A296/775 movement as well as the old non-dash bezel insert. It also featured a ”big crown” of 8mm without crown guards.
It is said that Hans Wilsdorf thought that this Submariner which was unusually thick-cased for the market and retailers to like it, and as such, the Submariners 6204 & 6205 were introduced to replace the 6200 during Basel in 1954.
Rolex Submariner Reference number 6205
This Rolex Submariner was in production between 1953 and 1955. The watch is essentially the same as the 6204, but the only difference is that the watch is slightly bigger and has a different crown on the dial.
The 6204 features the same movement as the 6204 and the water profess of the watch is the same. The problem, however, was that these watches weren’t very waterproof since the technology for making waterproof watches was very new, and Rolex was very much still developing and experimenting. As such, unlike now, Rolex didn’t hesitate to discontinue models and introduce new ones as soon as they found a new improvement etc. This is also why you’ll find considerably more Submariner models in the early days compared to in more recent times when everything has been refined to perfection.
Rolex Submariner reference number 6536 and 6538
The Rolex Submariner 6536 and 6538 were in production between 1955 and 1959.
The reason why we list them together is that of the fact that both of these watches featured a new, revolutionary movement, the Rolex Caliber 1030 which could rotate in both directions.
As such, this movement’s efficiency and power generating were significantly improved.
While the 6536 and 6538 are similar, there are a few differences between them. The 6536 has thinner lugs and a smaller crown. This was only waterproof to 100m, but the 6538, on the other wand, was waterproof down to 200 meters.
An interesting thing to point out at this time is that Rolex used all their parts. Therefore, you can see that Rolex has, in some cases, used the 6538 as a 6536.
Rolex Submariner reference number 6538
This Rolex Submariner was in production between 1956 and 1959.
The watch featured a non-chronometer movement with two lines on the dial – meters/feet, and ”Submariner”
The rotating bezel has a red triangle at 12 o’clock to improve legibility and a dash index to 15 minutes. In one way, the 6538 Submariner has become one of the most iconic vintage Submariners, because it was this watch that James Bond used in several films, and Bond wearing the Submariner is said to have had a huge impact on the popularity of the model, since bond showed that it was rugged, durable, and looked just as good with a suit as with relaxed clothes or diving equipment.
Unlike the first Submariner models, this watch featured a ”Mercedes” hand that is still used today and iconic for the model.
The Submariner ref 6538is powered by a caliber 1030 which is a 25 jewel movement. The watch has sweep center seconds.
Rolex Submariner reference number 6536
This Submariner was in production between 1954 and 1958.
The Submariner ref 6536 did not feature a big crown but instead started featuring a smaller crown. The size of the case, however, increased from its predecessors and was now 38 mm.
For this model, Rolex replaced the A260 movement in the 6536-1 and started using its first bi-directional automatic movement of which the rotor could rotate in both directions, more effectively powering the watch. The Caliber 1030 movement eventually also became Rolex’s first movement that was ”officially certified chronometer”. This would also come to be revealed by the ”Officially Certified Chronometer” text printed on the watch’s dial.
Rolex Submariner reference number 6536/1
As revealed in the previous reference number, this reference is only an updated version of the 6536.
The 6536 was quite a big success with its smaller crown and its 38mm case, and the difference between the predecessor is that this watch now featured Rolex’s officially certified caliber 1030.
Rolex Submariner reference number A/6538
In production in 1957, the 6538 was the first big crown model and the model which, as mentioned, James Bond wore in a number of films.
The 6538 has a number of different variations, and the A/6538 is one of them. The watches can vary with 2-lines and 4-lines of text printed on the bottom of the dial.
Rolex Submariner reference number 5508
Production years 1958 to 1965.
The Submariner 5508 was the last Submariner that would feature a small-crown and no crown-guards. This watch would come to become the last watch which featured many of the Submariner’s iconic and original traits.
The watch features an automatic movement, domed acrylic crystal, waterproof screw-down crown, and no crown guards.
Rolex Submariner reference number 5510
The Rolex 5510 was in production in 1959 and is the rarest watch among the big crown vintage Rolex Submariner watches.
The watch was only produced for one or two years, and this means that the number of examples made is limited, making the demand for them extremely high, and the prices equally so.
It was only made for a short time as it was then replaced by the 5512 and 5513 which featured larger cases.
It is said that only 400 to 600 examples of the Submariner reference 5510 were ever produced.
The watch featured the Rolex Caliber 1530, had a thicker case to fit the movement and slightly different shaped lugs.
Rolex Submariner reference number 5512
The 5512 was in production between 1959 and 1978. The 5512 and 5513 are often spoken about together, and the reason is that the watches are essentially the same, they both featured movements based off of the caliber 1530. The 5512 and 5513 came to introduce the crown-guard of Rolex’s Submariner watches. The crown guards protected the crown from shock and other damages, and this is something that is still used to this very day on most of Rolex’s Sports watches and has been used on all following Submariner models.
The reference 5512 ceased its production in 1978, however, the 5513 continued to be manufactured. Since the 5512 stopped its production before the 5513, the price for the 5512 tends to be slightly more expensive.
The first iterations of the 5512 did not have the text Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified on the dial, because the fact is, they weren’t chronometers. Eventually, though, the ref.5512 Submariners were equipped with a chronometer certified caliber 1560 and 1570 movement, and with the introduction of these movements, it also started to feature the chronometer writing on the dial – the four-line writing.
Now, here’s the difference: the 5513 also used the caliber 1030 movement, however, it was then also equipped with the different non-chronometer caliber 1520 movement quite quickly after it had been introduced.
Rolex Submariner reference number 5513
The Submariner reference 5513 was in production between 1962 and 1990. In other words, it was in production for a whopping 30 or so years.
Since the production of the 5513 was so long, Rolex made a number of different changes to the watch over the years, which means that even though the reference might be the same, two watches can be different in a number of ways.
For example, Rolex replaced the gilt gloss dial in 1966 with a “meters first” matte dial. Furthermore, Rolex introduced a non-serif version of the typography which was printed on the watch’s dial in 1970. The luminous dots on the indexes of the watch increased in size in 1976, and this has come to be known as Maxi-dials, due to the large indexes.
Collectors find the 5513 very interesting to collect since the many iterations of the models make it so that you never really know what you will find, and you have to look at the small details that vary between them. The 5513 is because of its long production run quite easy to find, however, in more recent years, the price has increased significantly.
Rolex Submariner reference number 5513/5517
Produced between 1972 and 1978, the Rolex Submariner 5513/17 is a military Submariner. This is one of the most sought-after collection pieces of the Submariner range, because their caries an interesting history, and the production is very limited.
The watch is more commonly referred to as the Milsub due to the fact that it was made specifically for the military – ”Military sub”.
The Milsub is considered (and most likely is) the most famous military-issued dive watch.
The Brits were early to use divers for war purposes and various missions, and as such, the British military divers needed a robust and reliable dive watch for their missions.
As such, since Role was the leading watch company at the time when it came to waterproof watches, they were assigned the mission of developing the first military-issued Submariner.
As the reference number revealed, the Milsub was built on the Rolex Submariner 5513, because really, Rolex had no reason to change a winning concept. The Milsub is different from the original 5513 in a number of ways. First, it features fixed bars, a tritium “T” on the dial, sword hands, a 60-minute bezel, with hash marks for each of the 60 minutes as opposed to the first 15 minutes on your average diver’s watch.
Today, the Rolex Submariner Milsub is one of the most expensive vintage Rolex watches due to its extreme rarity.
Rolex Submariner reference number 5514
Produced between 1972 and 1978, the Rolex Submariner reference 5514 is a special release of the 5513 and is made specifically for COMEX – Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises, which is a French company which specialized in engineering and deep diving operations. As such, their diver’s needed only the best diver’s watches, and Rolex had proven that they made the best diver’s watches.
The 5514 is based on the 5513, however, there are a few differences and modifications done to the watch. The most important difference is that the 5514 COMEX Submariner has a helium escape valve on the left side of the case, which is a feature made for deep-sea saturation divers who worried about their watch becoming pressurized inside their suits.
The COMEX Submariner was only produced in 150 examples, and therefore, it’s certainly one of the most expensive submariners out there.
In a way, the Comex is essentially a Sea-Dweller due to the fact of the helium escape valve, however, since the COMEX watch is based on the 5513, you may say that it is either a Sea-Dweller or a Submariner.
The COMEX was never available for sale to the public, but rather made as tools for the divers, who wore them as an integral part of their gear.
Rolex Submariner reference number 1680
The Rolex Submariner 1680 was produced between 1966 and 1981. Before this time, Rolex didn’t see any point in having a date function on diver’s watches since divers wouldn’t have any need for it while diving, however, now, the audience of people who wore the Submariner had expanded to the everyday people who wore the Submariner because they liked the look of it, and never went diving with it. The majority of submariner owners never went diving, and as such, a date function would actually be helpful for the people wearing it. As such, with the 1680, Rolex introduced a date window featuring Rolex’s iconic Cyclops which is a magnifying bubble attached to the crystal with glue to magnify the date window 2.5x.
Rolex Submariner reference number 16800
The Submariner 16800 was produced between 1977 and 1987. It is considered a transitional model and was the first Rolex Submariner which featured a sapphire crystal as opposed to a plexi/plastic. The watch also has a high-beat movement.
Since it was a transitional model, it has a number of different elements that collectors love, including tritium lime and a matte dial.
The 16800 was the first Rolex Submariner that would be waterproof down to 300m.
Rolex Submariner reference number 168000
The 168000 was made in 1987 and is quite a rare version of the 16800.
The 168000 was only made for a short period of time (less than one year), but despite this, the watch has a number of tweaks, changes, and improvements to it. The most important difference is that with this model, Rolex went from using regular 316L steel to 904L steel in their watches – the steel which is now used in all of Rolex’s steel watches and produced in their very own foundry.
Rolex Submariner reference number 16610
The previous model, the 168000 came to be replaced by the reference 16610 after just 9 months in production.
The 16610 was very much the same watch, but the difference was that it sported the new 3135 movement.
The 16610 can be considered a fairly modern Submariner model since it was produced from 1987 all the way up to 2010 and is considered to be the mark of the modern era of the Rolex Submariner.
The watch features many of the traditional characteristics of the Submariner, but it now sported a new dial which used white gold for the metal surrounding the index markers.
Rolex Submariner reference number 16803
This is a gold/steel – two-ten version of the Rolex Submariner. The first two-tone Submariner was produced from 1983 to 1988
The watch is a transitional model which uses a sapphire crystal, but it is also special since it is the first two-tone Submarine model, since, previously, there wasn’t really any reason to use gold in the watches. It was only now when regular non-diving people started using them that it became popular.
Rolex Submariner reference number 14060
The Submariner 14060 was produced between 1990 and 2002. It is essentially the same watch as the 16610 but the only difference is that it doesn’t have a date function, giving a hint to the past of Rolex’s past dive watches. There are split options between people about whether or not the no-date or date version is best, but collectors often find themselves leaning towards no-date versions since it gives a symmetrical design and makes them visually balanced.
Rolex Submariner reference number 14060M
The Rolex Submariner 14060M is essentially the same watch as the 14060, but the difference is that it became a certified chronometer in 2007.
The 14060M was the last Rolex to bear an aluminum bezel insert. The model was produced between 2002–2012, and from 2007 to 2012, it became a Certified chronometer.
Another ”last of its kind” is the drilled lugs used on the watch, which no longer is used for any of Rolex’s models.
Rolex Submariner reference number 16613
The Submariner 16613 is another two-tone version of the Rolex Submariner.
It has a rotating bezel in aluminum, but unlike the other Submariner watches, it’s not black, but finished in a striking blue color, just like its dial.
The model was produced approximately from 1988 to 2010.
Rolex Submariner reference number 16618
The Rolex Submariner reference 16618 was made in 1990 and is the first Rolex Submariner in solid gold.
The 16618 has a solid 18-karat yellow gold case and bracelet, the standard rotating bezel but in gold
Since for divers, having a solid gold watch is completely unnecessary, this full-gold timepiece is the ultimate statement piece.
The model was made both in black and blue.
Rolex Submariner reference number 16610LV
The Rolex Submariner reference 16610LV is the 50th anniversary model of the Rolex Submariner and was produced between 2003 and 2010.
The watch is essentially a 16610 but instead of a black aluminum bezel, it features a green insert.
The watch was made to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Submariner and in more recent years, its popularity has increased, and so has the price for it.
Rolex Submariner reference number 116610LV
The Rolex Submariner 116610 LV is a modern Submariner watch with Rolex’s Maxi dial and Maxi case.
The watch has a green sunburst dial, a Cerachrom bezel, and is referred to by collectors as the ”Hulk” due to its green color.
The Rolex Submariner ”Hulk” has a date function, the iconic rotating bezel with minute marks till 15 minutes past. The hour markers are made in 18 ct gold to prevent tarnishing.
It is powered by the Rolex Caliber 3135.
Rolex Submariner reference number 116610
The Rolex Submariner reference 116610 is still in production and is simply built upon the previous 16610. You can say that the 116610 is the new generation of the 16610. It features a bulkier and larger case ”Maxi-case”, it features a Cerachrom bezel as opposed to an aluminum insert which is scratch-proof.
The case is 40 mm, features a black dial, a black, bezel, and white Luminova hour markers.
Rolex Submariner reference number 116613LB
The 116613 is the new generation of Maxi-case, and this model is essentially an updated version of the previous 16613 that featured a smaller and less bulky case, and an aluminum bezel.
The 116613LB has a striking blue sunburst dial, and the case and bracelet are made in 904L steel, contrasted by luxurious 18-karat yellow gold.
The bezel is also blue and made in scratch-proof Cerachrom.
Rolex Submariner reference 116618LN
The 116618LN was made in 2007. It is, just like the 16618 made in both black and blue, but with the new, modern Maxi-case and Cerachrom bezels.
The case and bracelet are made in solid 18-Karat gold and also features Rolex’s new gridlock clasp.
Rolex Submariner reference 116619
The Rolex Submariner 116619 is a popular (but pricey) Rolex Submariner watch. Also referred to as ”smurf” by collectors, this watch is finished in solid 18-Karat white gold and features a blue dial and blue Cerachrom bezel. It is made in Rolex’s new Maxi-case.