2020 is a year which many of us would rather forget, but Rolex's refresh of the long-lived Submariner family will prove to be a memorable one.
Revealed earlier today, the new suite of models introduces new cases, upgraded movements and tweaked colour palettes. That might not seem like a huge deal, but when you're talking about one of the most successful watches ever made, even the smallest change makes a big difference.
So, if you'll pardon the pun, let's dive into the details of the famous Rolex Submariner.
One of the most influential watches ever made
The Rolex Submariner was first released in 1953, one of the first of a new breed of professional diving watches, with a 100-metre depth rating, and a black unidirectional rotating bezel.
In the same year the Submariner was released, Rolex, who were already industry leaders in waterproof (as they were then called) watches, sent a specially engineered timepiece down on Swiss scientist Auguste Piccard's deep-diving Bathyscaphe.
This vessel (and watch) made it down to the incredible depth of 3131 metres, an impressive way to prove your credibility in the space.
Since that time the Submariner has been a constant in the underwater world of Rolex, with new technology and the occasional new look being added.
The 'Mercedes' style hour hand was added in 1954, protective crown guards in 1959. Along the way the water-resistance got increasingly bumped up, in 1979 hitting the 300-metre rating it still holds today. A date was added in 1969, and various other minutiae of design and construction over the years.
The depth of scholarship around these watches is intense, which makes sense given the premium prices vintage models command.
But the striking feature of the Submariner is its incredibly strong family resemblance.
The latest 2020 releases look remarkably similar to the first 1953 model. The phrase 'evolution, not revolution' is one often evoked in relation to Rolex design philosophy, and given the continued popularity of this professional diver's watch, it's hard to argue the wisdom of this approach.
Why is the Submariner important?
The enduring popularity of the Rolex Submariner – a watch initially intended as an essential tool for divers – comes down to two main points: quality and culture.
'Quality' is perhaps the quickest to explain. The Rolex Submariner works, indefatigably. For all that, Rolex is a luxury brand, that brand is built upon a legacy of watches that are very well made indeed, and entirely fit for a rough and tumble life under the sea.
The fact that the majority of Submariners sold today won't make it further than the deep end of the hotel pool is beside the point.
The second strength of the Submariner is its not insignificant cultural impact.
Perhaps the most famous wearer of the watch was fictional spy James Bond. 007 has worn many brands over the years, but his first choice was a Submariner. The celebrity cachet of the watch has played no small part in ensuring the Submariner has evolved over time from an object of utility to status symbol.
What's new about the 2020 Submariner?
What's in and what's out? First, the Oystersteel (what Rolex calls the specific alloy of steel its uses) models. The classic black-dialled date and no date Submariners have been given an upgrade, while the popular all-green 'Hulk' model is out in favour of a model with a black dial and a green bezel.
There's also an entirely new Submariner Date – white gold with a black dial and a striking blue bezel – alongside the new Rolesor, cased in steel and yellow gold, with a royal blue dial and blue bezel, as well as the more demure black. Finally, if you really want to stand out, there are full yellow gold models in blue and black.
But what's actually changed? The most substantial upgrade is the movement.
It's been some time since the Submariner got a movement bump, and these models boast the brand's newest tech, in the form of calibre 3230 and 3235.
These movements use the new Chronergy escapement, improving efficiency and reliability. Power autonomy is also significantly improved, up to 70 hours, or around three days.
The other significant change is the case, which has been increased to 41mm, the largest the sub has ever been. This overall increase in size though is offset by the slimmer profile of the lugs and a slightly reworked bracelet.
This fresh batch of Submariners is another example of Rolex's slow and steady approach to product development: measurable mechanical improvements and design improvements, keeping the venerable diver feeling fresh.
Importantly, these minor modifications deliver. The Submariner is still an iconic 'hero' line for Rolex, and these models – especially the blue and the green bezelled options – are going to be hot tickets for years to come.