The world’s first waterproof watch
Rolex, although a deeply conservative, very Swiss sort of organisation, have never been shy of publicity. So when they developed the first waterproof wristwatch in the late 1920s, they looked for interesting ways to tell the world that not only could one have a chronometer on the wrist; you could now keep it on during water sports. (Bear in mind that the accurate wristwatch was only about 20 years old and some people still thought that wearing one was not the gentlemanly thing to do.)
For their dealers’ windows, Rolex created a special tableau – a glass bowl containing living plants, goldfish and a Rolex Oyster waterproof wristwatch!
Around this time, there was something of a hoo-ha about swimming the English Channel. You may recall that one Captain Webb was the first to swim across without artificial aids. He did it in just under 22 hours on August 24th, 1875 – his second attempt – and they named a box of matches after him.
It took until the 1920s for it to be considered acceptable for a woman to match his feat and one Mercedes Gleitze was the first Englishwoman to do it, swimming the channel in October 1927, about 7 hours faster than Captain Webb.
A few days later, another woman claimed to have swum the channel even faster than Mercedes, but her claim was later admitted to be a hoax, which led to public suspicion about any channel swim. To set the record straight, Mercedes said “I’ll do it again, then”. Rolex got word of this second crossing (The Vindication Swim, it was called) and offered to equip Mercedes with one of their new waterproof wristwatches so that she could test their water-resistance claims in a real, but extreme, situation.
The result was this note – that is still held with pride in the Rolex archives:
“You will like to hear that the Rolex Oyster watch I carried on my Channel swim proved itself a reliable and accurate timekeeping companion, even though it was subjected to complete immersion for hours in sea water at a temp of not more than 58 and often as low as 51. This is to say nothing about the sustained buffeting it must have received. Not even the quick change to the high temp of the boat cabin when I was lifted from the water seemed to affect the even tenor of its movement.”
Rolex immediately reserved the front page of the Daily Express and advertised their watch as being "... the wonder watch which defies the elements".
25 years after inventing the waterproof watch, Rolex staged another publicity event in which they attached six Oyster Perpetual watches to a board that was towed behind a speedboat. The watches spent a whole day splashing and buffeting behind the boat and, when checked at the end of the trial, were all working perfectly and showing the correct time.
Having perfected the Oyster case, Rolex set about developing a watch specifically for water sports and undersea exploration and it was in 1953, when scuba diving was first becoming popular, that the Submariner was launched.
Early models, both gents and ladies, were water resistant down to 100 metres (330 feet) and designed specifically for diving, with the patented Oyster case and a strong stainless steel bracelet.
Continuous development increased the Submariner’s water resistance to 300 metres or 1,000 feet by 1959 – and this is the level at which Submariners will operate today.
All Rolex Submariners have a rotating bezel to help measure dive time and decompression stops. The blue luminescent hour markers are visible in the darkest ocean chasms and, of course, the bezel can be used while wearing diving gloves. It has to be said, mind, that Rolex Submariners are more often worn with a tuxedo than with a wetsuit!
So should you buy a new Submariner? Or should you look into the (rather more interesting) world of pre-owned prestige watches, as found here on our website?
Well, given the capabilities of the Rolex Submariner, we’d suggest that a pre-owned watch is much the better choice. Not only is it very likely to hold its value or even appreciate, but you’ll also be able to speculate on the history of each individual timepiece.
Might this watch, whether a ladies or gents model, have actually gone diving, perhaps on the wrist of a wildlife camera operator or a wreck explorer? Or has it led a more sheltered life with a TV personality or business tycoon?
Whatever the story so far, it will be your responsibility to continue it if you buy a pre-owned Rolex Submariner from us.
In much the same way as owners of stately homes know that they are merely custodians of an asset that will outlive them and be passed down to future generations, so the owner of a Rolex Submariner knows that, barring serious accidents, the watch will be around for decades. Indeed, given regular servicing and expert care, there is no reason for a Rolex to ever expire.
So now let’s do a little calculation. Think about all the wristwatches you have bought in your life so far. 5? 10? More? What have you spent on these ordinary watches, do you think? And what would you continue to spend if you remained the kind of person who wears your average timepiece?
Now compare those amounts with what you’ll spend, once only, on a beautiful pre-owned Rolex Submariner.
It’s a no-brainer, as they say.
Here’s the link to our collection of classic Submariners, each one:
• Authenticated, serviced, cleaned and guaranteed for 12 months
• Unique, with an individual story to tell
• Likely to last longer than its owner
• Unlikely to depreciate