Now that Rolex has released watches and ended that dreadful rumour that they were sitting 2020 out, the important work begins. Nicknaming them. The one that has perhaps caused the most contention, is this one, the Submariner ref. 126619LB in white gold.
We’re going to tell you everything you need to know about it below. But first, some data. We asked Instagram what its nickname should be. Our favourites are as follows: Sonic. BMW (or Beemer). Blueberry. Sega. Add to these a decidedly not-catchy suggestion of “I wish the stupid nickname game would stop and availability happens.” The winner, however, was overwhelmingly clear.
It’s the Cookie Monster. Settled. Now let’s talk about the size.
The iconic Submariner will for many always be pitch perfect at 40mm. Is the size increase as vast as we are told, and is it the end of the enthusiasts’ embrace of the Crown? The most coveted watch today becomes too large by a gut-wrenching, teary-eyed millimetre? From the vast traffic on forums, Facebook groups and Instagram, the 1mm difference is seemingly best illustrated by this monster – of a gargantuan 1mm in size, sharing its underwater habitat with the Submariner. Meet the gargantuan 1 millimetre Tardigrade.
But the Tardigrade doesn’t scare me. While my personal belief in the perfect 40mm case does make me perplexed, I also understand the innate luxuriousness of such an irrelevant worry in 2020. And, if I am honest, I can’t help being respectful of the ubiquitous nature the ever-expanding halo of Rolex has created.
When Revenge Spending kicks in after the pandemic, and Joe from Wisconsin wants the watch of his life, 41mm is not largesse. At the same time as customers in Asia or Russia cheer loudly, markets where 42mm+ is considered just right, and the 58 is marketed as a ladies’ watch.
This is a customer base infinitely larger in volume than the beautiful small geosphere of Watch Enthusiasm many of us inhabit. And maybe that’s OK? I’m feeling the Back, Home and Close buttons being pushed by you at any time now, but please refrain and read on.
When I see this new reference 126619LB, I know very well that 38-40mm suits me best, and if I was the head of Rolex design, I’d do a two-tone 38mm. But knowing the minute details underlining the pure ergonomics of a Submariner case — even without touching the delicate bevels of the side profile and lugs, or the wrist-hugging profile — it will sit like a dream.
The lighter sheen of 18k gold juxtaposed with the black dial and an unfamiliar dark blue bezel is a welcome change up from a lighter blue on blue, even with the added millimetre of gold. I have the feeling it will sit just as spot-on as the 40mm Submariner I tried on two months ago, which was at home on the wrist after four seconds. No half-millimetre each side of the case will change that.
I will still question the reasoning behind it when the 3235 movement also fits within a 36mm Datejust, but unlike the thickness and width that Tudor shaved off the Black Bay to transform it, a Submariner is still a Submariner at 41mm. The blue Cerachrom bezel is a rich navy, and even from the renders I am absolutely secure in the knowledge that this would not have to be forced upon me should budgeting and availability match up. The brilliance of white gold paired with the immaculate comfort in the Oyster bracelet would no doubt make me forget the perceived vastness of the extra millimetre and the extra weight of the gold. I might even forget a pandemic or two.
What other details are changed, except the bezel, which in its new darker hue seems to straddle the line of perfection between bright blue in sunlight and opulent darkness in the evening? The white gold framed applied indices are still setting the bar for legibility and precision, and the charming cyclops is here to stay. Even if I make a concerted effort, I couldn’t pretend that a slight 0.5mm each side of the current Submariner makes it more agile as a tool or, better yet, makes it slip more unnoticeable under a shirt cuff.
Let’s admit it, an 18k white gold Submariner with a dark blue bezel in Cerachrom is not very likely to be used in any tool-ish situations. Let’s make that one of the reasons I’m saying 41mm is OK, while mostly being intrigued by how the blue bezel pops against the new black dial. For me, this circle of ceramic colour on a monochrome background makes it even more interesting than the current white gold all-blue Sub. So there you have it, I’m sold on the aesthetics; what about the new-for-Submariner swap to a 3235 caliber, surely we will get an incremental performance upgrade?
The 3235 caliber is a solid workhorse with small but significant details like the pallet stones being half as thick as the 3135 caliber, yet with much larger contact surfaces of the escape wheel contributing to an increased power reserve of 70 hours. A still perfect level of detail and an increased ease of servicing puts another green tick for me in the book of acceptance for the increase in width. If I dare admit it, my New vs Current Rolex Submariner list seems to have more green ticks than red crosses, making the number 41 seem irrelevant, all things considered.