The Traditionalist: Hands-On With the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner

This article is from the WatchTime Archives and was originally published in 2021.

As of 2020, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner with no date display, which many view as the archetypal dive watch, is slightly larger and has an updated movement yet remains true to its original design. This is our first encounter with the new watch.

We had to wait a long time for the latest Rolex innovations in 2020. Rolex presented a new generation of Oyster Perpetual Submariner and Submariner Date watches in September. These timepieces are slightly larger and are now equipped with new movements — the Submariner has the recently unveiled Caliber 3230 and the new Submariner Date versions are using the Caliber 3235 for the first time. The Submariner Date offers a surprising array of color combinations while the Submariner with no date display stays true to its original design. We were able to preview the new Submariner shortly after its introduction.

Upgraded Details Result in New Proportions
If you think a Rolex innovation means a revolution, you’ll be mistaken. But the Submariner has been modified so that the sum of the various details has resulted in a new watch. The diameter of the watch has grown from 40 mm to 41 mm, or more precisely, from 40.6 mm to 41.36 mm, measured across the diagonal from 2 to 8 o’clock. The crown guards and lugs are slimmer, but this has increased the lug width by a whole millimeter, to 21 mm.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner - angle

These seemingly minor upgrades have changed the proportions of the entire watch — including the main body of the case, bezel, dial and bracelet. This means you’re looking at an entirely new model. If you place the new Oyster Perpetual Submariner next to its predecessor (which is being discontinued) the changes become apparent. The new Submariner looks much more than just a millimeter larger than the older version, which is due to the numerous modifications of even the tiniest detail.

Not quite so apparent is the new in-house self-winding movement, Caliber 3230, because just as with any Rolex watch, it is covered by a finely grooved caseback that is screwed down hermetically with a special key, and which can only be opened by a Rolex-authorized watchmaker. The difference in the Caliber 3235 is that there is no date display on the Submariner dial.

Otherwise all other features are the same. The new Submariner is equipped with a Rolex-patented, innovative Chronergy escapement, made from a nickel-phosphorous alloy. It provides superior functional reliability with high energy efficiency and is resistant to the effects of magnetic fields. The movement also has an optimized version of the Rolex Parachrom hairspring.

Rolex produces the hairspring in-house from a paramagnetic alloy, which makes it up to 10 times more precise than conventional hairsprings. It also has a special Rolex overcoil that ensures a stable rate in all positions. The oscillator is supported by the excellent Rolex- designed and patented Paraflex antishock system. Thanks to the higher efficiency of the escapement and barrel design, both the Caliber 3230 and the Caliber 3235 have a power reserve of 70 hours. In addition to the chronometer test from COSC, the watch must also pass the strict internal Rolex test for a “Superlative Chronometer” which, according to the current specifications from 2015, permits a deviation of no more than 2 seconds per day.

The Submariner comes from a time when dive watches were used more for professional applications than for recreational diving. For this reason, they remain true to their original appeal today — since reading the time clearly during a dive is a matter of life and death. The clear and simple Submariner dial has therefore remained unchanged. The hour and minutes hands are adapted from the Rolex Deepsea and are distinct from one another in order to prevent any confusion. The triangle, circle and rectangle markers are designed to provide orientation and increased legibility, and to prevent possible mistakes underwater or on dry ground. The hands and markers are coated with Rolex Chromalight luminous material and glow bright blue in the dark. The prominent dot at the end of the seconds hand serves as a function check and is also luminescent. In addition, the zero marker on the dive bezel is also filled with the same luminous material to provide better orientation when setting dive times.

The Dive Watch Stands Out with Technical Features
The bezel ratchets perfectly, counterclockwise, in crisp half-minute increments. Deeply knurled grooves around the edge provide a secure grip for wet hands or diving gloves. The rotating ring has a numerical Cerachrom insert made of a special black ceramic. The recessed numerals and markers on the 60-minute track are coated with a thin layer of platinum using a PVD process. Rolex developed expertise and an innovative manufacturing process to create a sturdy, color-saturated and extremely scratch-resistant special ceramic for the production of monobloc bezels and tracks, and now has its own fully independent production of ceramic components.

The bezel with its ceramic insert is part of the sturdy Oyster case for which Rolex guarantees a pressure resistance of 30 bar, corresponding to a water depth of 300 meters. It is the epitome of durability and reliability. Its case frame is manufactured from a single block of stainless steel that is extraordinarily resistant to corrosion, which Rolex calls “Oystersteel.” In addition to the hermetically sealed caseback, the Triplock winding crown also ensures the specified water resistance with its triple seal, screw-down design and protective crown guards. The top crystal is made of scratch-resistant sapphire. The Submariner Date adds a cyclops magnifier at 3 o’clock for enhanced legibility of the date.

The new Submariner is equipped with an Oyster bracelet, including its patented Oysterlock folding safety clasp and Glidelock extension system, which allows the bracelet to be simply extended up to 20 mm using a 10-step sliding element. So much perfection needs no revolution to remain the undisputed standard among dive watches.

Rolex S.A., Rue François Dussaud 3-5, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland
Reference number: 124060
Functions: Hours, minutes, center sweep seconds, dive bezel
Movement: Rolex Caliber 3230, automatic, chronometer, 28,800 vph, 31 jewels, Paraflex shock absorber, Rolex paramagnetic balance with four gold Microstella adjusting screws, blue Parachrom paramagnetic hairspring, COSC certification, Rolex Superlative Chronometer quality seal (+/- 2 seconds per day after casing), 70-hour power reserve, diameter = 29.3 mm, height = 6.20 mm
Case: Oystersteel, bezel with Cerachrom insert, sapphire crystal above dial, water resistant to 300 meters
Bracelet and cla­­sp: Oystersteel bracelet with Oysterlock safety folding clasp with Glidelock extension
Dimensions: Diameter = 41.36 mm, lug width = 21 mm integrated, height = 12.40 mm
Variations: Versions of the Submariner Date (details here )
Price: $8,100

To learn more, visit Rolex, here.

No Responses to “The Traditionalist: Hands-On With the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner”

Show all responses
  1. Gerry Dimatos

    These new 32xx series movements have a lot to live up to and in my opinion do not measure up to the 31xx series movements. I have 3 of the current 32xx series movements that run at -2 sec per day cumulative on the wrist. If you think this is good enough say after a week running -14s we’ll it’s not. After 2 weeks I’m out 30s in the negative. My 14000 Air King still runs almost to the second after 26 years and 2 services…
    Rolex can do better – the new movements are better on paper only – not in real life….

  2. Gerry Dimatos

    I’ve been on the waiting list for this watch since it was released – more than 5 years.

  3. Frits van der Veer

    I am a little flustered by the term perpetual, I expect a date/month complication. Is giving time “all the time” also considered perpetual by Rolex?

    • A piece of history: “Perpetual” had to do with the fact that with its newly patented rotor, the user did not need to wind ever anymore, as long as he would wear his Rolex. Hence the term “perpetual”

  4. George Joannou

    Love them or hate them you cannot deny it Rolex make great watches. I share everyone’s frustrations when it comes to trying to be able to actually buy one of these watch masterpieces by Rolex. Having said that I have been fortunate to be able to acquire a few over the years and only because I have been dealing with one of the best if not the best Australian AD . Their customer service is the best hands down they treat you like a valued customer regardless of your financial status or how often you purchase from them.

  5. Dear John,
    HEY! I’m writing a Dear John letter!!
    All kidding aside, I worked for two Rolex AD’s, and the “waiting lists” were BS, ESPECIALLY for the popular “sports steel” models (Sub’s, GMT’s, Explorers), the ONLY way to get one is either buy the gold models, instead of the steel models. If you want steel version, you better be a FREQUENT, well paying customer!!! If not, forget it. Sorry John. That’s how it works. I’m sure someone that worked at an AD will 100% back me up. It’s NOT fair. But, reality….

  6. Justin Case

    Ok, Ron Howard, we get it since you seem obsessed with expressing your frustration over Rolex distribution. But your accusations and assertions are completely misguided and misplaced and your efforts should be directed towards getting yourself a life. Patek 5711 models for $15000? Why isn’t the FBI involved? Lighten up, buy watches that you prefer, and consider the contribution you can make by just keeping your silly conspiracy theories to yourself.


    Another Rolex “love” story to gin up even more demand for a watch the lemmings will lust after, but sadly that few will ever get the chance to own. This is due to Rolex’s reprehensible business practices and why I have divested myself of my Rolex watches. I am not a Rolex watch hater, I am a Rolex Corporation hater. I have owned upwards of 30 Rolex watches in my 6 plus decades and have enjoyed owning every one. But now, Rolex has changed to something unrecognizable from the brand I started wearing 40 years ago (Submariner Date $900 with a 10% discount). Times change but integrity and honest business practices should not. Omega has now earned my business as they still appreciate their customers and happily make as many watches as demand requires. I hope Rolex reverses course before it implodes.

  8. Jeff Smith

    Hi…Interesting overview of one of my favourite watches…Rolex seems to reinvent the breed with sutle changes bot, innovative and very well executed. I love the feel of a seems to say wear me? I guess the price of admission is worth that at least…Thanks for the article take care. Jefff Smith, Canada

  9. Denis Druker

    $8100? If someone has a new one for that email me I will buy it. Forgive me if I don’t hold my breath.

  10. John Nichols

    Sirs, I will be 75 years young this month. I am on two Rolex dealers waiting lists for either one of these watches. And sadly due to the nature of the beast what do you think the odds of me being able to obtain one of these watches are ? Slim to none or Few and far between? John

  11. Brad Rhoton

    3/21/2021 I love the First version of this Rolex Sub., with
    No date. I bought mine when it first cane out, and just arrived in Houston, Texas on 8/23/2012 , almost 9 years ago. They cost $7,500 then. It is the most comfortable watch I own. For the size increase, the $600 price increase is not bad. It is a great watch, that actually can, and Probably Will—
    Last— FOR- EVER.

  12. Ron Howard

    Your article about the ethically challenged and unprofessional conduct of this manufacture only puts you in the same class as the ADs who collude with the manufactured scarcity and the outrageous prices that the strategy, and now it seems, illegal actions of its ADs, has fostered. And all you do is to shill for them. You should be ashamed of yourself and your supporting of such behavior by not reporting what’s really going on and by offering effusive kisses to further your advertising fees while the only way to get the watch, unlike you, is to give in to the resulting illegal pricing schemes of the unscrupulous ADs. Again, you and your magazine have missed the real story in order to insure your own similar pocket stuffing scheme.

    • Dear Mr. Howard,
      Rolex is not a client or advertiser in the magazine (or here on the website). Rolex is, however, the largest Swiss watchmaker (both in terms of turnover and pieces sold), and also one of the world’s most recognizable luxury brands, due to what can only be described as overwhelming demand.
      Regarding the civil suit (“which cannot in itself turn into a criminal case unless authorities launch their own investigation”) that you’ve mentioned: our colleagues over at WatchPro have already covered this extensively, see
      Roger Ruegger

    • Justin Case

      Ok, Ron Howard, we get it since you seem obsessed with expressing your frustration over Rolex distribution. But your accusations and assertions are completely misguided and misplaced and your efforts should be directed towards getting yourself a life. Patek 5711 models for $15000? Why isn’t the FBI involved? Lighten up, but watches you like, and consider the contribution you can make by just keeping your silly conspiracy theories to yourself.

Leave a Reply