Hans Wilsdorf was a prominent businessman and market guru. He would become president and founder of Rolex in part because of his willingness to embrace new ideas. One of his employees, Rene-Paul Jeanneret, was an accomplished diver, as well as a member of the Rolex board of directors. It would become the driving force behind the design of a watch that could not only be worn underwater, but would also be considered appropriate for everyday wear.
Wilsdorf was known for listening to his employees and when Jeanneret launched the idea for diver’s watches, a completely new division of Rolex was created: sports watches. Many types of sports were included in this collection and Rolex grew exponentially. Wilsdorf contributed ideas for the automatic movement and the screw-down crown. These touches made the Rolex Submariner watch a stylish choice for discerning buyers.
The Rolex Submariner watch has an interesting history. The most recent Rolex Submariner watch introduced four years ago is the evolution of the first one designed more than 60 years ago. Although this first model was introduced in 1953, many of today’s standards are seen in the male case with a steel bracelet and ceramic bezel, just like its ancestors.
There were predecessors to the Submariner in the Rolex collection. These watches were water resistant and had been around since the early 1930s. This beginning led to the association with Panerai, which traded with Italian Rolexes but also sold diving equipment. The Panerai Radiomir combination produced oyster-shaped cases with caliber movement provided by the Rolex Company. Jeanneret’s Rolex Submariner was inspired by this earlier model.
Interestingly, Jeanneret developed a friendship with the famous diver and explorer Jacques Cousteau. This relationship reinforced attempts to persuade top Rolex leaders to develop a professional diver’s watch. Cousteau was an invaluable source of information on the special needs and demands of a diver. Even in the 1950s, tests and experiments were carried out on a daily basis to produce an authentic diver’s watch. The Submariner name was free, so history was made.
Rolex announced to the world in September 1953 that they had developed the best in diver’s watches. This was spectacularly demonstrated. A diver named August Piccard dived to a depth of 3,131 meters in his deep dive submarine. Attached to the ship’s heavy shell was the Rolex watch. It featured a clearly legible Rolex logo and an illuminated dial. Dramatically, when the submarine emerged from the ocean, the Rolex marked the correct time, leaving viewers speechless.
Again, in 1960, Rolex sought to demonstrate the durability and precision of the Submariner. It was placed on the Trieste submarine and dived into the Challenger Deep, which is the deepest bath in the ocean. Complete with an Oyster case and the ability to withstand pressure of 1,125km, this watch looked and performed exactly as it had on water. The public was amazed at the construction of this new type of watch. Advertisers touted it as the newest phenomenon in everyday watch wear. This would eventually lead to the popularity of other sports-related watches, such as those that can withstand cold or heat.
Achievements like these dives created a lot of interest from the public. Rolex followed up with an exhibition at the Basel fair featuring a wristwatch, with rotating bezels and a black dial. The zero position was enhanced by an arrow holding a bright pearl in the center. This watch boasted a water resistance equal to 100 meters, proclaimed as the ultimate diver’s watch.
The commercialization of the watch began after the Submariner had undergone formidable field tests. The Deep Sea Research Institute produced a report in 1953, in which it described the numerous tests it had carried out. The results were from 132 dives carried out in 12-60 meters of water. Some of their conclusions are as follows:
- The Submariner did not show any corrosion, despite the high salt content and tropical temperatures found in Mediterranean waters. It also successfully withstood high tropical temperatures and humidity.
- No water was detected inside the watch.
- The watch was used on dives with the crown pulled out to adjust the hands and was not affected by the pressure of the dive.
- We used a cable to drop the Submariner to a depth of 120 meters over a period of one hour and no leaks were detected or …