Buying a Rolex Submariner

Rolex Submariner Watch

It’s time…  You’ve been checking out luxury watches for a long time and you’re ready to take the plunge.  You want a reputable and prestigious brand, and you landed on Rolex.  You’re off to a good start.   You want a watch that can withstand your busy life while looking ridiculously good…  And maybe with fantastic water resistance, so you can wear it to the pool this summer or while scuba diving on your honeymoon…  So you land on the iconic Submariner.  You’re on a roll with amazing choices!  But once you land there, you are left with some questions: 

  1. What kind of specs do you want your Submariner to have?
  2. Where can you buy it from and how much should you expect to pay?

Let’s “dive in deep” and tackle them one at a time so you can walk away with your dream watch and no regrets. 

What kind of specs do you want your Submariner to have? 

Rolex Submariner

The Submariner has been in existence for almost 70 years, making its debut in 1954.  While it wasn’t Rolex’s first water-resistant watch, it quickly rose as the flagship model of the company – a symbol of durability and luxury.  As you can imagine, there are dozens of variations you can find – in terms of model year differences, features, and rarity.  

Most of the major design differences came during the Submariner’s early years.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Rolex experimented greatly with different crown sizes and case thicknesses in the Submariner models.  In 1959; however, Rolex found the major design specs that stuck, with the release of the ref. 5512.  From that point on, the visual design of the models stayed relatively consistent.  

That is, with one major exception: the ref. 1680. Rolex fanatics may recognize that reference number.  Released in 1969, the ref. 1680 included the addition of a date window.  Whether you love, are indifferent to, or are not a fan of the date window, Rolex has released a much higher number of date models than no-date models.  Rolex has released a whopping 24 Submariner date vs. 6 Submariner no-date models as of now. Of those 24 date models, only 9 were released prior to the year 2000. All other models were after the 50th anniversary in 2003. 

While the design did not change much after the ref. 5512, there were variations inclusive of updating materials or movements, as well as some nuanced design revisions.  Aside from those, the next major changes didn’t come until 2010 and 2020, with the release of the Super Case and the increase of the case size to 41mm respectively.  Visually speaking, the Super Case and 41mm changes were the biggest since the invention of the date wheel in 1969. 

Where can you buy your Submariner from and how much should you expect to pay for it? 

As a general rule of thumb, there are 3 common ways to buy a luxury watch.  You can buy from an Authorized Dealer, from a grey market watch reseller, or from online listings.  If you want to learn more about the difference between AD and grey market, check out the Grand Caliber’s podcast – Beyond Timepieces – episode 2.  Here’s how the price scale typically pans out: 

Online listings – the cheapest 

Authorized Dealers – “retail price” a.k.a. middle of the pack in price 

Grey market – slightly higher than the “retail price” 

That being said, there are some distinct advantages to some methods of purchase over others.  For example, buying from an Authorized Dealer or the grey market will usually  guarantee you a end up with a legitimate, authentic timepiece.  As long as you use due caution and vet out your source, you shouldn’t be walking away with a “Faulex.”   

Buying from a grey market reseller also has a distinct advantage of having an incredible selection.  If a grey market reseller doesn’t have a watch, chances are solid that they can get it for you.  And most (if not all) of their inventory is in-stock and available now.  So no wasting time “playing the game” with Authorized Dealers, buying timepieces you don’t really love to “trade up” to your dream watch.  You may pay a hair more but you’ll walk away with your dream watch today.  Oftentimes, paying a bit more at a grey market reseller is still a smaller overall payment than buying multiple watches to get to your grail watch. 

A couple of great places to start your search are:

Joma Shop

The Luxury Closet

Before you start your journey to acquire a Submariner, you’ll want to set aside at least $10k – $15k. With that ballpark, you should be able to snag a standard, modern Rolex Submariner – like the Date 16610 with a black dial and a black bezel or a “Kermit” green bezel.  If the no-date look is your style, you should be able to snag a 14060, with a black dial and a black bezel. Both will have a lot of the iconic visual features you’d expect on a Rolex Submariner as well as some modern improvements like a scratch-resistant sapphire bezel.  

Will that $10k – $15k buy you any Submariner on the market? Definitely not; if you have a heavy bankroll weighing you down, you have options. Options like the original “King Sub” a.k.a. ref. 6200 with the big crown, which was only in production for a year and fewer than 300 are in existence. That model may set you back $600k or so. In addition, an immaculate-condition vintage reference will probably set you back over $1 million. 

The excellent thing about the Submariner is the range of models in between. If you want to spend $10k on a Submariner, you can find one for that. If you want to spend $250k on a Submariner, you can find one for that.  


Heads-up: this page may include affiliate links. If you click and purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. That being said, I only recommend companies I have personally vetted and believe in.

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