Rolex Submariner Date 'Starbucks' History

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In 1953, Rolex started production of a new watch, after a man by the name of René-Paul Jeanneret, who sat on the board of directors at Rolex, came up with the idea to make a divers watch. The sleek yet sporty design used the Oyster case technology to make an everyday watch that had a rotating bezel, allowing divers to keep track of how much time had passed. The watch was unveiled at the Basel Watch Fair in 1954, and today is regarded as the staple of the modern tool watch. It is said to be ‘the reference among divers' watches’ by Rolex themselves.

In 2003, Rolex celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Rolex Submariner by making a special anniversary model of the watch. This anniversary model was based on the existing Rolex Submariner Date ref. 16610. A model that, with its painted black aluminium bezel and black dial, had remained unchanged since its launch in 1988. The new anniversary model featured an all new ‘Maxi’ dial, with larger hour markers, as well as larger hour and minute hands to improve legibility. However, the most noteworthy addition for the 50th anniversary model is its striking green bezel. Comprised of a painted aluminium insert fitted within a 904L stainless steel bezel, its construction was the same as the existing black bezel on the 16610, but the green colour gave the watch a whole new look.

As you would expect with a design that had been unchanged for so long, this shocking splash of colour divided opinion amongst the Submariners loyal fans, with the watch quickly being referred to by one of two names on watch forums and amongst collectors. Referred to as ‘The Vomit Sub’ by its critics, and ‘The Kermit’ by those more accepting of the addition of colour to the otherwise largely monochrome Submariner line-up. Thankfully the initial resistance to the commemorative piece was short lived, and before long the 16610LV was a success, and the name Kermit’ stuck.

Fast forward to 2005, and Rolex are celebrating the 50th birthday of another iconic Rolex sports watch; the Rolex GMT Master II. This brought with it more innovation with a brand new larger case, and a bezel made from scratch resistant ceramic. Fixing the problem of the aluminium bezels scratching, this new technology rather left the Submariner range feeling a little outdated, and so at the 2008 Basel Watch Fair, Rolex introduced the first Submariner to feature the new scratch resistant bezel, the ref 116613, available in yellow and white 18ct gold, with a blue or black dial and bezel.

It wasn't until 2010 that the steel versions of the Submariner Date would also get a ceramic bezel, but at a cost. The now beloved 50th anniversary ‘Kermit’ wasn't given a ceramic bezel in 2010, instead it was replaced with a newer variant of the ‘Green sub’, the 116610LV. This newer 116610LV along with the rest of the submariner Date range had the ‘maxi dial’, - a much bulkier case, a new Oyster bracelet and improved clasp. With the 116610LV having an eye catching green dial, with matching green bezel, it became affectionately known as ‘The Hulk’.

Like ‘The Kermit' before it, ‘The Hulk’ Submariner Date wouldn't be available for long, being discontinued after 10 years in 2020. On 1st September 2020, Rolex released their latest iteration of the Rolex Submariner. Replacing the previous line of Submariner watches, this new and improved model would have many new features, the most notable of which being the new movement, the calibre 3235. While this new feature was welcomed by the watch community, Rolex also offered up its latest Submariner Date to come with a dash of colour, the all new 126610LV. This new version of an already collectable and highly sort after watch brings a mix of new and old. With the updated movement, case and bracelet of the new Submariner Date, it has also kept the ceramic green bezel, but has paired it with a black dial. This harks back to the original 50th anniversary ’Kermit’ Submariner Date, with all the benefits of the modern 126610 watches. Its fresher looking ‘green on black’ colour scheme is almost identical to the colour scheme of a well-known coffee shop logo, earning it a new nickname, ‘The Starbucks’.

(The Starbucks next to the Hulk versions)

Author C. Lawson.

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