Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner 41mm Oystersteel.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner 41mm Oystersteel.
Image: Supplied

In times of global political and market instability, investors seek out a measure of pleasure alongside pure financial returns on their investments. As we witnessed in the period following the financial crisis 12 years ago, there is growing interest again in alternative-asset classes such as art, classic cars, and watches, which spark joy while hedging bets. When it comes to watches, there are few brands that offer a return on investment quite like Rolex does. A steel Oyster Perpetual Submariner is one of the most desirable models, past and present. Anyone who bought a Rolex Submariner 10 to 15 years ago can attest to its at least holding its value.

When Rolex finally presented its 2020 novelties in September, the new-generation Oyster Perpetual 41 and 36 certainly grabbed our attention with their joyous array of on-trend, colourful-lacquer dials including coral, turquoise, candy pink, and yellow. Equipped with the new calibre 3230 self-winding mechanical movement launched this year, these pieces are direct descendants of the original Oyster from 1926 — the world’s first diver’s wristwatch, waterproof to a depth of 100m. However, the most anticipated reveal was the new-generation Submariner, a watch that, to the uninitiated, does not look very new at all.

Evolutionary rather than revolutionary, Rolex continues to improve on its achievements for everyday practicality and reliability while remaining faithful to its aesthetic heritage. To the enthusiast, however, the subtle changes — such as the 1mm increase in case diameter to 41mm, narrower lugs and wider bracelet, as well as the new calibre — are front-page news and have already fuelled spirited discussion. The entire collection gets a “redesign”, losing the maxi case proportions of its predecessor in favour of vintage styling. There are seven new references of the Submariner Date presented in Oystersteel or in precious metals, but our focus is on the no-date reference 124060 in Oystersteel, which is the purest representation in the latest evolution of the quintessential classic diver’s watch, and foundation of the brand’s professional models.

Conceived with professionals in mind, Rolex began making its pioneering tool watches in the ’50s at a time when deep-sea diving, aviation, mountain climbing, and exploration were the professions of truly hardened adventurers. It is from this period that the collectable pieces start appearing — the Submariner, GMT-Master, Sea-Dweller, Cosmograph, Explorer, and Milgauss — and establishing a lasting following based on their incredible innovation and associations with the great explorers and racing drivers.

The new Submariner features a black dial and unidirectional rotatable bezel with a matching 60-minute graduated Cerachrom insert in black, first introduced on the Submariner Date in 2010. Legibility is key for any diver, and all elements of this iconic timepiece perform the job so well. The “Mercedes” hour hand, minute hand, and lollipop seconds hand are clearly differentiated by their size and shape, as are the familiar bold yet simple geometric hour markers. Another small update is the insertion of the Rolex coronet between “Swiss Made”, positioned below the six o’clock marker. The Oyster case and Triplock winding crown guarantee the watch is waterproof to a depth of 300m. The watch comes with a robust three-piece-link Oyster bracelet, first seen in the late 1930s.

The calibre 3230 incorporates the Rolex-patented Chronergy escapement made from anti-magnetic nickel-phosphorous. This, in combination with a blue Parachrom hairspring and patented high-performance Paraflex shock absorbers, offers improved overall performance and precision. The Superlative Chronometer-certified movement also offers an extended power reserve of around 70 hours.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner Oystersteel, R115,400, rolex.com or Rolex Watch Co SA 011-784-9230

 From the December edition of Wanted, 2020.

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