Rolex Submariner – buyer’s guide

The Rolex Submariner has somewhat of a cult following – thanks to its sleek lines, excellent craftsmanship, stylish appearance and reasonable price. It crosses the line of a great investment and a fantastic timepiece you can own and wear. When buying or pawning one, there are a few things you need to be aware of.

Rolex Submariner 116610 LN

History and birth

Despite the admiration of the Rolex Submariner story, it was not the first water resistant watch Rolex crafted. The Submariner story traces back to the 1930’s, when the ‘tool watch’ was produced in affiliation with Panerai (who specialised in diving equipment at the time) – a 47mm cushion-shaped Oyster case watch fitted with a pocket watch movement. The Submariner that we know today hasn’t changed enormously since its release at Basel Watch Fair in 1954. It has gone on to become not only become one of the most iconic timepieces in the world, but also one of the most desired and emulated. Between 1953 and 1954 three different versions were produced, the 6200, 6204 and 6205, which all differed slightly from each other.

First came the 6200 ‘Big Crown’, a Submariner that was only produced in small numbers. The 6200 had a thicker case in comparison to the 6204 and 6205 models. It also had a larger winding crown and was marked ‘Brevet’, derived from the French word ‘brevette’, meaning ‘patented’. The 6200 was made with an explorer type dial, pencil shaped luminous hands and a ‘lollipop’ second hand. These explorer dials also featured an equilateral triangle at 12 o’clock, whereas later models would go on to have a more elongated triangle. Earlier versions didn’t have the word ‘Submariner’ or any depth indication printed on the dial, although the watch had been tested and depth rated to 200 metres.

The 6204 was also produced in 1953 and had slight differences to the dial and crown. It was the first of all the models to display ‘Submariner’ in small print on the dial. This version also had a larger gap between the words ‘oyster’ and ‘perpetual’ and had a more elongated crown in comparison to the 6200. The crown was smaller and displayed a Swiss cross instead of the former ‘Brevet’. In 1954 the 6204 was re-launched with a larger Submariner logo and was issued to the British Royal Navy.

The 6205 was the third model to be produced. This watch was very similar to the 6204 model but not all watches displayed the Submariner logo. Confusingly and for reasons unknown, there are a few 6204 models where the Submariner logo has been masked by black paint; consistently in the same place and of the same size. This suggests it was done at the time of manufacture. However by late 1954 all Submariner watches were being fashioned with the Submariner logo, and in 1960 the Submariner name was finally registered to Rolex.

Newer models: 1990-2019

Most second hand models were produced during this period. It is often possible to obtain one for between £6 – £8k. The difference is once again in the reference number.

Submariner 16610

The 16610 is the classic submariner with a black face and fully rotational bezel, made of oyster steel. The date is displayed in a bubble and the watch is water resistant to 300 metres. As you know, variations in the reference number mean changes in colour and material.

Submariner 16610LV

Fondly known as “Kermit” and sporting a black face and loud green bezel, this Submariner was released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the watch. It has proved a popular addition and often fetches more than its brothers. The LV stands for “lunette vert”, French for “green bezel” – it is not a roman numeral as claimed by many.

Submariner “no date” 114060

Another classic Submariner – which as of 2019 it is still in production, but rumours say will soon cease. Much like its brother 16610 in every way, except it has no date. It can be bought new from Rolex.

One of the great things about the Submariner, other than its look and toughness, is that the resale market is very strong. Having one in your safe or around your wrist is a guarantee of a same day cash loan for a London pawnbroker such as Suttons and Robertsons. We know they can resell fast for a great price, so you will get a loan much faster compared to other items.

If you ever find yourself in in a position to buy a 16610LV, you should. The limited 8 year run of production means they are a great investment and likely to climb in price.