Last year, Rolex surprised us with a sudden novelty drop. While cynicism surrounding the Crown and its supply chain (or lack thereof) exists, the new designs were themselves rather neat. The Oyster Perpetual models brought us color and class, while the new Submariner brought us the kind of evolution the brand is known for. Subtle tweaks and minor updates were the orders of the day. Now, as the calendar ticks over to the first full year of having these Rolexes in the catalog, I’m taking my first look at the brand new Rolex Submariner Date 126613LN.

I got the chance to see this one in the metal recently. I’ve been mulling over it ever since. Cards on the table: I’ve never been a huge fan of the modern Submariner. Pretty much everything after the addition of crown guards leaves me a bit cold. Do I appreciate the design? Of course. Do I acknowledge that it is perhaps the icon of icons? Yeah, I mean, I’m a little bit tapped in the head but I’m not completely insane. I know a classic when I see one. I just don’t feel the need to own every classic I see…

Rolex Submariner 126613LN

My exposure to the Rolex Submariner in real-life intensified after I began working as a watchmaker. That was more than ten years ago but not too long after the release the maxi case. Those beefier models were doing the rounds in my early days at the bench. To be clear: I’m not sorry to see the Maxi case go. It was, in my opinion, the worst and most block-headed, mainstream-pandering era of the brand. I’m probably in the minority on that front, but that’s okay. I have a smaller than average wrist and a proclivity for sporty watches of a more demure diameter. I also hate fat lugs. As such, the Maxi era was not for me.

Rolex Submariner 126613LN

A bigger diameter but a svelter watch

The new lugs on the Rolex Submariners from 2020 are a brilliant update. The silhouette takes on a far more refined appearance because of them. It was exactly what the watch needed. And, as much as I would have liked to see a reduction in diameter instead of the 1mm increase we were given, the 41mm with is palatable simply because of the new, svelter outline.

Rolex Submariner 126613LN

There have been very few better mainstream examples in recent memory that clearly express the nuances of watch design. To non-watch folk, a watch case is a watch case. Many imagine they just exist. They apply the same level of importance to their design as they would a broom handle (yes, I know that somewhere on the internet someone on a broom handle aficionados’ blog is screaming into his or her cornflakes — apologies). We, however, do not. It should go without saying that every element of a case is connected and that any change to any element has consequences elsewhere. Rarely, however, is it so clearly seen from a brand as visible as Rolex.

Rolex Submariner 126613LN

All mod-cons

The new Rolex Submariner Date 126613LN represents the coronet’s finest entrant in the Submariner line yet. Is it my favorite? Of course not. To find the apple of my eye, one must journey back to the late fifties in search of a “big crown” 6538. However, in this modern line-up, it is right up there.

Bicolor watches rarely do it for me when we’re talking about other brands, but there is something so alluring, something so splendid about Rolesor. Maybe it is the subtle difference between the way 316L and 904L steel look next to gold? Maybe it is the quality of Rolex’s gold itself? Perhaps it comes down to machining, finish, or just pure design. Whatever it is, the Crown, above all other brands, in my opinion, gets the most out of this fusion and manages to turn my head toward watches I would seldom consider from other marques, time and time again.

Reference 126613LN is 41mm wide and crafted from 904L steel and 18-karat yellow gold. The black bezel insert of this model is ceramic with recessed golden numbers. The “traditional” cyclops lens magnifies the date ×2.5. I’ve always thought the Submariner could do without the date (perhaps save it for the saturation diving capable Sea-Dweller). I wish Rolex did more subs without a date instead of just one. The black/black set-up of the no-date Sub just bores me to tears. Seeing this yellow Rolesor model with a cleaner visage (or, better still, the white gold reference 126619LB) would be a real treat.

Rolex Submariner 126613LN

A fair price?

At €13,400 this cannot be described as an entry-level Rolex. For my money, I would choose a Root Beer GMT-Master II over the 126613LN for €450 more. That’s a small premium to pay for the GMT complication and, to my eye, a more striking colorway.

However, for traditionalists or genuine dive enthusiasts that wish to use this watch in the water, the Submariner Date 126613LN is certainly a capable tool. It costs what it costs and while I think it is a lot, you’d be thanking your lucky stars if that were all you had to pay to make one of these unicorns.

Rolex Submariner 126613LN

An awesome bracelet and clasp

The Oyster bracelet features an Oysterlock clasp, with the quite frankly awesome glidelock system. Glidelock clasps are significantly longer than regular Oysterlock or Oyster Clasp clasps, so I would advise those of you with slimmer wrists (sub 17cm) to try it on first and really think about whether that long bar of steel/gold on the underside of your wrist is going to annoy you.

However, should you find it comfortable enough, I can do nothing but commend its build quality. I really do rate the glidelock alongside the Tudor Pelagos and the Omega Ploprof buckles as the very best the industry has to offer.

Rolex Submariner 126613LN

In summary, I think the new Rolex Submariner range is a great step in the right direction. What I really want to know, though, is whether we’re going to see this new case middle pop-up elsewhere in the professional ranges? Will we see a 41mm GMT-Master II in the near future? As I said before, I’m against inflating the diameters but do wonder what my beloved Root Beer would look like with skinny lugs (stick it on a Rolesor jubilee and we might be talking perfection).

Will we see this new case on an Explorer II (or III), perhaps? The Explorer II’s expansion from 40mm to 42mm still pains me. Maybe some good can come of this 41mm if it were deployed as the savior of an otherwise overlooked family. Please let us know in the comments below what you think the future holds for Rolex in light of 2020’s new releases. Learn more about Rolex here.