This is it, the big one for Rolex this year, the new Submariner. Undoubtedly one of the most important watches of the last century, one of the most iconic sports watches ever, a watch that has transcended its diving instrument functionality and is now regarded as a design and status symbol recognised by most (and not just watch enthusiasts)… That’s right, for 2020, there’s a new Sub. And yes, the evolution is subtle. Today, we take a look at the new and long-awaited (which we hinted at in our predictions earlier this year) Rolex Submariner 41mm reference 124060, which we had the opportunity to see in the metal right before its official launch.
Before moving into our early review of the new Rolex Submariner 124060, we encourage you to have a look at our in-depth series of articles retracing the history of the Submariner – part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.
This year is the year of the Submariner for Rolex. And it is a special one indeed. When updating one of its models, the crown tends to move gradually; first, it introduces a precious metal version, followed by a two-tone model and finally the steel version. Not this time. Rolex has renewed the entire Submariner collection in 2020, with the present no-date Submariner 124060 but also an array of Submariner Date, with new coloured bezels and multiple materials (steel, white gold and Rolesor). But more on that in another article. Now, let’s focus on the main highlight, the classic no-date Submariner 124060 in steel with black dial and bezel, the successor of the reference 114060.
Born in 1953/54, the Rolex Submariner started life as a true diver’s instrument, a watch created with professionals in mind. As we showed you in our series of articles, although the evolutions are certainly important, the base concept of the Submariner remained the same and the design codes were always respected.
An early Submariner and a late generation model share multiple common traits, which went a long way in reinforcing the popularity of this watch. Today the Rolex Submariner is more than just a dive watch. It is a cult object, an icon of design, a watch that transcends the community of collectors. It is, without a doubt, one of the most famous watches ever created and its diving capacities, even though uncompromised, have become somehow less relevant in the present context.
The 2020 update is subtle and restrained. At first, you’ll hardly spot the differences between the new 124060 and the older 114060. The new model is more of an evolution than a revolution. This is Rolex after all. However, almost everything in the latest generation has been remodelled, redesigned, updated or changed. And as you’ll see below, the devil is in the details.
The case of the Rolex Submariner 41mm
As indicated in the name of the watch, the major update regarding the case concerns the diameter. For several decades, the Sub has measured 40mm across. Yet, a large number of customers were asking for an increased diameter and this year their requests have been met with the 124060 and its 41mm diameter. A minimal update for sure, however, the message is clear.
Beyond the increased size of the watch, there are many new things to see in the case of this new Submariner 41mm, most of them concerning shapes and proportions. One of the most characteristic features of the previous generation of Submariner was its so-called “super case”, with a squarish overall shape due to the large, robust lugs that almost follow the line of the casebands. In the same vein as multiple other updated Rolex watches, including the 43mm Sea-Dweller, the “super case” is gone and the new 124060 features more tapered lugs, which are thinner and more angled.
The second evolution regarding the proportions concerns the lug width, which has been increased from 20mm in the past to 21mm on the Submariner 124060 (these new proportions and design also concern the Submariner Date models). Finally, to give more consistency to the design, the crown guards have also been redesigned, and are now more angled than in the past.
The height of the case remains practically the same, around 12.5mm. Altogether, these updates create a watch that is more balanced, slightly more elegant and, surprisingly, that feels a bit more compact on the wrist despite the increased diameter.
The case of the 2020 Submariner, as you would guess from a modern Rolex, is made from Oystersteel – the internal name for 904L stainless steel. It is finished mostly with brushed surfaces, while the sides are polished. The crown is a so-called Triplock and the caseback is still solid steel and screwed. On top sits a flat sapphire crystal, which doesn’t feature anti-reflective coating – the norm for Rolex, and being flat, this isn’t too distracting. The case is, as usual, water-resistant to 300m or 1,000ft. And the execution, assembly and finishing are on par with all Rolex models… simply excellent.
The dial and bezel
Let’s get straight to the point, this is where the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner 41mm reference 124060 doesn’t evolve. Dial and bezel are almost identical to the previous Ceramic generation. Sorry for those expecting a red depth rate or some evolutions: this is not happening. The previous generation of Rolex Submariners was already fully equipped with the brand’s latest technologies and materials, including the glossy lacquered dial, the white gold applied indexes and hands as well as the ceramic bezel. All of these elements are reincorporated on the Submariner 41mm Ref. 124060.
Starting with the bezel, we have now a slightly larger diameter – to be consistent with the increased diameter. The unidirectional bezel is made of stainless steel with a knurled edge. The insert is made of black Cerachrom – the internal name for ceramic. The surface is polished and reflective, yet also scratch-resistant. The 60-minute scale remains the same as previous models, with a combination of batons and numerals for the tenth, as well as precise graduation for the first 15 minutes – crucial when diving.
The graduations are obtained by platinum PVD coating, giving the numerals and scale a luxurious appearance – the same process was already used on the past models. The bezel’s rotation operates with 120 clicks and feels, as expected, extremely precise and smooth at the same time – it oozes quality and robustness. A luminous pearl circled with 18k white gold is present at 12 o’clock.
The dial of the Submariner 41mm reference 124060 witnesses no major evolution either. It retains the iconic combination of triangular, rectangular and circular markers – which greatly assist consulting the time in the dark. In the same vein, we find the Mercedes hour hand and the straight minute hand with a pointy tip. One thing to note is that hands have been slightly reworked. The minute hand is now longer (it touches the minute track now) and has a wider luminescent insert. The Mercedes hour hand is also slightly wider than in the past. The seconds hand retains its lollipop profile, with a luminous dot. All the elements are executed in polished 18k white gold and generously filled with Chromalight – Rolex’s own luminous, blue-glowing luminescent material. The markers and hands are certainly as large as in the past, meaning that the “maxi dial” layout has been retained. However, due to the extra 1mm, the dial feels (a bit) more open.
The Crown, Rolex logo and “Oyster Perpetual” mentions remain printed in white at 12 o’clock, while the 4 lines of text of the previous version have been kept at 6 o’clock. The main evolution, which was already seen on recently revamped Rolex watches, is the “Swiss Made” logo with a small crown at 6 o’clock.
While completely in line with past models, the dial and bezel of the new Submariner 41mm are once again a demonstration of savoir-faire, with precise and refined execution. Some would have preferred a bit of eccentricity, a touch of colour or smaller indexes/hands, however, the keyword here was consistency.
The Oyster Bracelet & Oysterclasp
Once again very traditional and consensual, the Rolex Submariner 41mm is worn on a typical Rolex Oyster bracelet, a solid and perfectly integrated 3-link bracelet made of Oystersteel. Being a sports/tool watch, it is entirely brushed on its flat surfaces, while the sides are polished – a finishing that is in line with that of the case.
As mentioned, the lug width has been increased by 1mm – now 21mm – meaning that the bracelet has also been redesigned. In fact, its entire profile has grown 1mm, from the lugs to the clasp. As such, it retains the balance of older Submariner watches and doesn’t feel too tapered at the buckle.
Like its predecessor, the Rolex Submariner 41mm is equipped with a solid and practical Oysterclasp, with security flip-lock and the clever Rolex Glidelock extension system. The length of the bracelet can be extended by 20mm, in increments of 2mm – making it one of the best fine-adjustment systems on the market. It doesn’t feature the extension blade “Fliplock”, which is reserved to instrument models – Sea-Dweller and Deepsea.
The new calibre 3230
The main update for the 2020 Submariner 41mm isn’t visual but mechanical. Like the Day-Date, Datejust, GMT-Master II, Sea-Dweller, Yacht-Master, Deepsea, the Submariner gets the brand’s new generation of movements, replacing its calibre 3130 with the new calibre 3230 – a movement that is installed for the first time in a watch. As with other models with this generation of engines, it features a long list of improvements:
- A new type of escapement, the Chronergy escapement – an optimised version of the Swiss lever escapement. The thickness of the pallet stones has been reduced by half while the contact surfaces of the escape wheel teeth have been doubled. The escapement system is no longer in alignment but slightly offset, thus multiplying the lever effect. The escape wheel has a cut-out design to make it lighter and reduce its inertia. The efficiency of the escapement is increased by 15%. It is made of nickel-phosphorus and is insensitive to magnetic fields.
- An efficient gear train, with optimized geometry and high-performance lubricants.
- A high-capacity barrel, with a longer mainspring without increasing the size of the barrel.
- A new self-winding module, for a for more rapid winding of the new high-capacity mainspring. The rotor is now rotating on ball-bearings.
This generation of movements has a longer power reserve – 70 hours vs. 48 hours – and more stability and resistance in most areas. The blue Parachrom hairspring is still present, meaning that it remains paramagnetic and extremely resistant to shocks. Even though not visible, the decoration of the movement has been upgraded too. Finally, the calibre 3230 is a Superlative Chronometer, meaning that it is chronometer-certified by the COSC and also receives an internal certification after casing. The precision is of the order of -2 /+2 seconds per day, or more than twice that required of an official chronometer.
On the wrist
As said, the devil is in the details with this new Sub 41mm and the increased diameter is almost imperceptible. What changes however is the feeling on the wrist and the look of the watch itself – not massively but enough to be visible. With more tapered lugs, the case gains in elegance and compactness, with a nicer feeling on the wrist. The watch appears more balanced. As such, it somehow goes back to the beloved look of the 5-digit references, such as the 14060 – with the addition of modern technical solutions and materials, though.
Here the watch has been photographed on an 18cm (7 inches) wrist and is indeed on the small side for the category, as the previous model was – and we’re certainly not going to complain about that. And if you’re looking for a larger Rolex diver, you have the option of the Sea-Dweller 43mm. Being relatively compact and thin for a dive watch, the case retains its daily-wear capacities and can easily become a watch for a business meeting. The modern Submariner is definitely one of the most versatile models on the market.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner 41mm No-Date Reference 124060 will be priced at CHF 7,700 – an increase of CHF 200 compared to the previous model. It will soon be available at retailers, however, expect it to be (as usual) quite hard to find. The watch comes with an international five-year guarantee.
More details at rolex.com.