The Rolex Submariner is the world's most famous dive watch. As the Rolex watch that most watch buyers think of when they think of "Rolex," the Submariner may also be the world's most famous watch of any kind. Launched in 1953, the Submariner has faced many dive watch rivals, but none are as enduring as the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. Launched in 1953 or 1955, depending on who you believe, the Fifty Fathoms is a pure luxury play against the Submariner's blue-collar roots. In tonights show, I review and compare the world's most famous dive watches.
Rolex redesigned the Submariner (124060) and Submariner Date (126610) in 2020. For the first time, a 41mm case was employed for larger wrists and modern tastes. Newly refined, the Submariner also gained a Rolex caliber 3235 automatic movement with 70 hours of power reserve. In a break with precedent, Rolex chose to launched both the No-Date Submariner and Date model simultaneously. Each includes 300-meter water resistance, a unidirectional diving bezel, and a Glidelock clasp with 20mm of incremental adjustment in 2mm increments.
In terms of price, a standard Rolex Submariner costs $9,100; the Submariner Date costs $10,250. Higher prices are charged for green bezel Subs and various precious metals, but the steel Submariners always set the baseline for the aftermarket. To that end, a preowned Rolex Submariner with partial warranty remaining often sells for $3,000 to $5,000 over its retail price as a used watch. The 2023 arrival of official Rolex Certified Pre-Owned watches from authorized dealers may increase the premium commanded by pre-owned Rolex Submariners.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms reference 5015 launched in 2007, but the model remains among the most recognized and respected luxury dive watches to this day. In 2023, Blancpain has marked the 70th anniversary of the Fifty Fathoms with a series of limited edition models, but the concurrent launch of the Blancpain x Swatch Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms has done the most to catapult the dive watch into the popular consciousness. Mainstream media attention to the collaboration between the Swatch brand and Blancpain has redirected a certain amount of attention from the $400 Scuba Fifty Fathoms to the $15,300 Fifty Fathoms 5015-1130-52a.
Blancpain, which produces fewer than 10,000 watches per year, is a brand defined by the Fifty Fathoms dive watch. Unlike the Rolex Submariner, each Fifty Fathoms is assembled by a single watchmaker after the individual components have been decorated and checked by human hands. The Blancpain caliber 1315 offers five days of power reserve, automatic winding, an an antimagnetic silicon hairspring. Extensive decoration includes snailing across the bridges, black polishing of screws, and beveling of bridges. Also unlike the Rolex Submariner, many versions of the Fifty Fathoms include sapphire display casebacks that permit viewing of the movement.
As a dive watch, the Fifty Fathoms features a 300-meter diving depth that matches but does not exceed the Submariner. The Blancpain's unidirectional dive bezel includes a famous sapphire cap that permits extensive use of luminous paint on the bezel itself - a feature Rolex cannot match. While Rolex always includes a bracelet on the Submariner, most versions of the Blancpain 5015 include a durable sailcloth strap. For extra cost, the Blancpain X71 bracelet always has been available, but it adds considerably to the Fifty Fathoms' already sizable price premium over the Rolex.
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