The Complete History Of
The Rolex Submariner & SEA-DWELLER
Rolex's Conquest Of The Ocean
Part 7: The Rolex Submariner Through Time
The Evolution Of The Rolex Revolution
In This chapter we are going to take a detailed tour through the history of the Rolex Submariner, from the early 1950s, up to present and learn what makes the most icon watch in history so outstanding.
I decided to arrange this chapter in chronological order so we can walk through the timeline of the Rolex Submariner and its SEA-DWELLER variant. I also thought it made sense to include as many vintage Rolex magazine ads to show how Rolex advertising evolved as well.
The Silent World & Rolex Submariner Debut in 1954
Though We Are Strangers In Your Silent World
In 1953 Jacques-Yves Cousteau wrote a book named The Silent World: A Story Of Undersea Discovery & Adventure and in late 1953 and early 1954 Jacques Cousteau turned it into a movie named Le Monde Du Silence (The Silent World) which debuted in 1954 and went on to win an Academy Award in 1956 for Best Documentary.
This revolutionary documentary was the first of its kind and was one of the first underwater documentaries to be shot in color. The Silent World was shot in the Mediterranean Sea as well as in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and in the Indian Ocean.
This next photo was taken on Calypso's bridge during the shooting of The Silent World with Captain Cousteau peering into the hood of a radar screen to locate a sunken ship located in the Red Sea. Calypso means "Water Nymph" and the ship was originally built in the United States during World War II in 1942 as a Minesweeper J-826 for the British Navy.
After much careful research, I believe the Rolex Submariner Jacques-Yves Cousteau is wearing in the photo above and below could be an early Rolex prototype Submariner [Reference 6204]. Jacques-Yves Cousteau was close friends with Rene-Paul Jeanerrete who in 1953 was the Director of Rolex Geneva.
Rene-Paul Jeanerret was the man at Rolex who came up with the idea of dedicated tool-watches. In 1954 Rolex introduced the Rolex Submariner at Basel Fair, but I believe Jacques-Yves Cousteau was testing an advanced prototype Submariner models aboard the Calypso for Rolex. I would go so far as to say, that in my personal opinion, I think it is likely that Jacques Cousteau's career achievements inspired Rolex to develop the Rolex Submariner diving watch model.
The French Diving Revolution
Calypso Meets COMEX
The photo was taken in Southern France in Fontaine de Vaucluse in 1955 and it shows a young Jacques-Yves Cousteau at 45 years of age standing in front of a much younger Henri-Germain Delauze–at age 26–who would go on to found the revolutionary French diving company, COMEX. At the time Dalauze was a Cousteau team diver.
This image is so profound I decided to crop and zoom it in for you. What makes this image so profound? It is an image of two French revolutionaries. Two men who would forever change the world of diving. Jaques-Yves Cousteau co-invented the Aqua-lung which brought SCUBA Diving to life and Henri-Germain Delauze ended up being perhaps the greatest beneficiary of this technology.
French Diving Pioneers Jacques-Yves Cousteau & COMEX founder Henri-Germain Delauze in 1955
Lloyd Bridges go so into scuba-diving, he ended up doing most of the stunts on underwater stunts on SEA-HUNT. Many famous actors began their careers including Larry Hagman (Dallas), Robert Conrad (The Wild Wild West) Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek) and Jack Nicholson.
Lamar Boren did the underwater cinematography and went on to work on other Ivan Tors' productions which included the TV show Flipper as well as three James Bond movies: Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me.
Movie #1. Dr. No [Sean Connery,1st] 1962
• Rolex Submariner [Reference 6358]
U.S. NAVY DEEP-SEA Divers
The Development of The Rolex SEA-DWELLER with SEA-LAB
This History of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER has been falsely attributed in the past by writers who did not do their own research. The myth that was perpetuated was that Rolex developed the SEA-DWELLER with the French Diving Company named COMEX. This is not true.
The Rolex SEA-DWELLER was co-developed with the U.S. Navy SEA-LAB program and in the upcoming Part 10 of this series we will go into great detail on this history. For this section we will take a brief overview of the development of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER and Rolex's relationship with the U.S. Navy.
The United States Navy has an amazing diving history, most of which is poorly documented and not known today. The history exists, but you won't find it anywhere. How do I know? Because I keep digging it up.
In the photo below we see The U.S. Naval School for DEEP-SEA Divers located in Washington D.C. at the EDU (Experimental Diving Unit), most of which wore Rolex Submariner watches. I want to introduce you to the man standing third from the left. His name is Bob Barth.
Bob Barth is the most significantly historical figure in the development of the Rolex Submariner and Rolex SEA-DWELLER. As we will examine in Part 10 of this series, Bob Barth was the not only the first SEA-DWELLER, but he also worked with Rolex to Develop The Rolex SEA-DWELLER. As strand as it may sound, Bob Barth is the not only the Father of the SEA-DWELLER, but also the living manifestation of the SEA-DWELLER.
I have spent a great deal of time interviewing Bob Barth and in Part 10 you will hear Bob's story in his own words, in a podcast I completed with him.
This next image is the official U.S. Navy SEALAB logo. It is designed to communicate, that the objective of SEALAB was to put a man safely on to the ocean floor to live and safely return him topside.
Pioneering NASA Mercury astronaut, Scott Carpenter is pictured below. After Scott fulfilled his NASA astronaut commitment, he switched gears and joined the U.S. Navy SEALAB program to become the first Astronaut/Aquanaut in history. The photo of Scott Carpenter below was taken in 1965 during SEA-LAB II, and Scott is wearing his Rolex SEA-LAB Submariner.
The photo below is of the U.S. Navy SEALAB team pictured in front of SEA-LAB II celebrating her commission. The ranking officers go up the stairs to the right. That is an U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier in the background.
Next we see the cover of the Saturday Evening Post Magazine from September 5, 1964 which features a story about the U.S. Navy SEALAB program. U.S. Navy SEALAB Aquanaut Bob Barth took the photo on the cover the magazine of U.S. Navy photographer Bernie Campoli from inside the SEALAB Habitat.
In this next photo we see Bob Barth standing in front of the U.S. Navy ship that has SEA-LAB I onboard, which you can see above. Bob is also wearing his SEA-LAB Submariner in this photo which was taken in 1964.
Bob Barth is pictured in a classroom sitting behind fellow U.S. Navy SEA-LAB diver Barry Cannon. You can see Barry wearing his Rolex SEA-LAB Submariner on its Oyster bracelet.
In this next photo we see U.S. Navy SEA-LAB diver Barry Cannon again. This time he is surrounded with fellow SEA-LAB teammates. Barry Cannon was an electrical engineer in the civil corps with the Navy.
In the photo below we see the U.S. Navy underwater habitat that was used during SEA-LAB I and SEA-LAB II. It was built in San Francisco at the Hunter's Point Naval Yard.
In this next photo we see The U.S. Navy SEA-LAB 3 habitat as she heads out for open ocean by passing under the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge for her journey down to the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. Bob Barth was on-board the SEALAB 3 habitat in the photo below.
As I mentioned, in the upcoming Part 10 of this series we will dive into great detail on SEA-LAB and its profound implications for the development of the Rolex Submariner and SEA-DWELLER.
Movie #3. Goldfinger [Sean Connery, 3rd] 1964
• Rolex Submariner [Reference 6538]
"Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action."
In Goldfinger, Sean Connery as James Bond wears a Rolex Submariner [Reference 6538] as pictured below, on a Regimental belt strap. Many people say Sean Connery wore his 6538 Submariner on a NATO strap. This is not true. There has NEVER been a James Bond movie in which James wears a NATO.
Note that the strap that Sean Connery wears has 9 stripes total consisting of Dark Navy Blue, Dark Olive Olive and fine burgundy stripes. The most interesting part of this story is that Daniel Craig was recently seen wearing and talking about his Rolex 6538 that he wears on a NATO strap. You can read about Daniel Craig an the mystery surrounding his Rolex Submariner by clicking here.
Single Red Submariner [Reference 1680]
1967 Introduction of the first Submariner Model with a Date
The Single-Red Submariner [Reference 1680] was the first Rolex Submariner model to come with a date. It was COSC certified and essentially replaced the Reference 5512. Rolex made the Single Red Submariner from 1967 to 1976. The Single Red designation came from the Single Red SEA-DWELLER which was developed to be tested in prototype for in early 1967.
Above Image Courtesey of David Concannon Collection
Movie #7. On Her Majesty's Secret Service [George Lazenby, 1st] 1969
• Rolex Submariner [Reference 5513]
• Rolex Chronograph [Reference 6238]
George Lazenby Submariner & Chronograph
George Lazenby only played James Bond once. Believe it or not, he was offered a 7 movie contract to play James Bond and he turned it down!?!?!
In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Lazenby wore two different Rolex Watches. He wore a Rolex Submariner as seen in the first three pictures below and in the last next two images that follow he is wearing a Pre-Datyona Rolex Chronograph.
Apparently Lazenby purchased the Rolex Submariner he wears in the movie to wear for his audition for the role of James Bond.
Above Image Courtesey of David Concannon Collection
Steve McQueen in 1973
Paul Newman Daytona
Movie #9. Live and Let Die [Roger Moore, 1st] 1973
• Rolex Submariner [Reference 5513]
• Hamilton Pulsar [P2 Digital LED]
In the photos above and below you see Roger Moore as James Bond wearing his Rolex Submariner Reference 5513.
Movie #10. The Man with the Golden Gun [Roger Moore, 2nd] 1974
• Rolex Submariner [Reference 5512]
Here is a wrist shot of Roger Moore's Rolex Submariner 5512 from The Man With The Golden Gun.
Steve McQueen wore his Rolex Submariner 5512 in the last movie he made which was named "The Hunter" which was released in 1980.
1981: Introduction of the first Rolex Submariner & SEA-DWELLER with Synthetic Sapphire Crystal.
Rolex debuted the two-tone Rolex Submariner in 1984 which had a reference number of 16803.
Table Of Contents
• NEXT >>> Chapter 8: The Birth Of The Rolex DEEP-SEA: Jacques Piccard & Captain Don Walsh aboard the U.S. Navy Bathyscaph Trieste Set The All-Time World Depth Record.
• Chapter 9: The First SEA-DWELLER's: Doctor Bond. U.S. Navy Project Genesis and Jacques Cousteau & Project Conshelf.
• Chapter 16: Dr. Robert Ballard: The Ultimate U.S. Navy DEEP-SEA Discovery Of The 20th Century–Finding The Titanic
• Chapter 17: Ralph White [Explorer and National Geographic Cameraman] Discovering and Exploring The Titanic