Rolex 2020 novelties: Part 1 (Submariner)

Sep 08, 2020,14:18 PM

When Rolex presented a complete collection of new models on 1 September, the size of which differs little from that of a "normal year", it immediately answered a question: no, 2020 is not a transition year and this late presentation did not lead the brand to reduce its volume of new models. Submariner, Datejust, Oyter Perpetual, Sky-Dweller, these collections are either renewed or completed, which finally testifies to an active year. It is the symbol of the Rolex way of doing things. Whatever the circumstances, the brand delivers what it set out to do. It is powerful and above all creates events rather than being subjected to them. The only real question I have at this level is to imagine their plans for April 2021, because after all, Rolex is supposed to present new products at that time as well, and we are only half year away from that date. On the other hand, September 2020 seemed like an ideal shooting window. The expectation was at its height since Rolex had not unveiled anything since Basel 2019. Moreover, this date was fixed on all agendas thanks to a few skilfully distilled teasings. And despite the Geneva Watch Days, the media context was relatively calm. In any case, who would have overshadowed Rolex on this point? The new Rolex 2020 products, once discovered, took everything in their stride, concentrating the overwhelming majority of posts on social networks and blogs.

We could spend days and days discussing the reasons for this dominance. But at the base, there is one that is inescapable. Among the novelties is the new version of a legendary watch, the Submariner. And we could be sure that this 2020 edition of the Submariner was going to be scrutinised, analysed, dissected by observers of all stripes.

I propose to start this overview of the novelties with the Submariner... without any surprise.


I don't like to write about new Rolex products right away. I like to take my time and above all capture reactions and compare them to my own. In fact, the release of this new Submariner, available in several versions, reminds us of a fundamental point: you have to see the watches, touch them, understand them, to really appreciate them. I recall this point because when Rolex pressed the launch button too many comments described the Submariner 2020 as being the same as the previous one but a millimetre bigger. In fact, the exact opposite is true. The difference in size is anecdotal (I will come back to this point) but above all, the changes are numerous. To sum up, Rolex followed the precept of "everything must change so that nothing changes". And what doesn't change is that the Submariner remains the benchmark diver's watch, the pinnacle of excellence in this niche.

The Submariner differs from its predecessor from an aesthetic point of view not because of an enlarged diameter but by a subtle modification of proportions. The difference in diameter is invisible. The famous millimetre difference is a rounding because the difference is rather half a millimetre. And this is the magic and intelligence of Rolex: rounding up to the next millimeter is much more chatty than if the size were presented as the same. The opening of the dial and the black dial also make the difference imperceptible.

As usual, the ceramic bezel has very changing colours depending on the light conditions:

On the other hand, what is more concrete is the changing proportions. The most striking detail is the change in the width ratio between the bracelet and the lugs. The lugs are refined, allowing the bracelet to gain 1mm in width (21mm vs. 20mm). In fact, the visual rendering of the Submariner gains in balance. In terms of the caseband, Rolex has worked in the same direction since the crown guard is also refined and the lugs are more rounded. The watch thus gains in fluidity and elegance, which is consistent with the evolution of perceived quality over the decades. This is certainly played out in small touches, but when we compare the reference 124060 (Submariner Steel of 2020) to the reference 114060 (the previous one), the latter appears slightly more massive and angular. As always with Rolex, we are not in an aesthetic revolution but in a slight evolution. It is almost imperceptible when the two watches are taken in isolation. It is obvious when they are side by side. In case of doubt, the most infallible way to recognise the 2020 version is simply to look for the small crown between the words Swiss Made on the dial...

Beyond these aesthetic considerations, the big change is the use of the new 3230/3235 movement family (without date, with date) introduced with the Datejust in 2016 and whose performance is superior to that of the 313x family of the previous generation. Winding efficiency has been improved where necessary, but it is above all in terms of energy management that the modifications are concentrated. The combination of the Chronergy escapement and the new energy transmission system makes it possible to obtain chronometric performances significantly superior to those of the COSC with an announced range of -2/+2 seconds, justifying the Rolex designation of Superlative Chronometer. In addition, the movement's behaviour is at the same time more constant over the power reserve range, which is a crucial point because the power reserve is much longer: 70 hours as opposed to 48 hours previously. It is the intelligent design of the movement and the optimisations that explain this difference in power reserve. In fact, the movements' own diameter remains the same and this increase in power reserve is not due to a larger barrel.

Smoother lines and a more harmonious look, the new Submariner is a true success story:

The use of 3230 and 3235 movements is in any case part of a logical approach by Rolex, which aims to increase the power reserve of its models while being even more demanding in terms of precision.

As for the rest, the various Submariner 2020 models obviously meet all of Rolex's criteria of quality, practicality and comfort: bezel with Cerachrom ceramic disc, Triplock crown, Oysterlock safety folding clasp and Glidelock extension system... we are on familiar and trusted ground, making the Submariner very easy to live with on a daily basis.

We can never say it enough but the Submariner achieves excellent waterproofing performance (300 metres) while remaining within reasonable proportions. The Submariner 2020 ultimately accentuates this characteristic thanks to its more elegant and slender visual appearance than the previous generation.

The Submariner 2020 family consists of 5 models at this stage: 3 in steel, one two-tone and one in white gold. Personally, I still have a preference for the models without date but I must admit that I have a soft spot for the version with green bezel because it brings a nice contrast between the bezel and the dial. The two-tone version is, as always at Rolex, perfectly executed and is a cornerstone of the collection as it is very much in demand in certain markets. Finally, the white gold version is distinguished by its blue bezel and its weight. Of course, the latter contributes greatly to the pleasure because the watch is well supported on the wrist. I like heavy watches... except when they move on the wrist! The 5 models complement each other perfectly and I find the usual components of the collection. Some people regretted that a new version with a green dial was not part of the set. I think that it was absolutely not the timing to release particular models like the 116610LV. Rolex is focused on renewing this family, the first step is to bring out the basic models and not the special models. We will see in the next few years what Rolex will offer.

In any case, I consider the Submariner 2020 to be a great success. The subtle but relevant aesthetic changes and the use of newly designed movements make it even more accomplished than the previous version. Its status as the reference of the diver watches is thus renewed for many years to come.

I really like the feeling of weight of the Submariner in white gold:

One last remark concerning the delivery of the watches: deliveries to retailers of the steel models  begin immediately. Rolex is thus continuing its strategy of shortening the time between the presentation of new models and their theoretical availability. This is a global trend in the industry. Now the problem of the actual availability of these pieces remains, but we are entering another debate on which I have already written. In any case, Rolex cannot be blamed for steering the value of its brand with a masterful hand.


More posts: 114060116610LV65366536/1DatejustSky DwellerSubmariner

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Subtle changes...

 By: Cpt Scarlet : September 8th, 2020-14:47
But very effective. That’s the Rolex way.

Wonderful write-up

 By: JohnFM : September 8th, 2020-14:48
... a cut above.

Here’s a lume shot of the 124060

 By: Monopole : September 8th, 2020-21:15

Excellent presentation. Thank you FX.

 By: ChristianDK : September 8th, 2020-23:42
I look forward to seeing the new case. I am not a fan of the previous as I found it clumsy looking. I always hoped they would narrow the lugs.

thanks for this detailed write-up Fx...

 By: mahesh : September 9th, 2020-04:51
Rolex have been very disciplined in what they do & what they don't do... Personally i like that very much, not buckling to the need of the market & staying very focused on core of the brand itself. New Kermit is my favourite among the sub...i think it... 

Great analysis... [nt]

 By: nacelle : September 9th, 2020-05:27

Excellent write-up as usual.

 By: Rhyzen : September 9th, 2020-07:30
Thank you Xavier! Rolex indeed defines the market.