Let's take a journey back in time to the year 1967. Imagine yourself walking into a watch shop, determined to purchase a Rolex. The watch that catches your eye is the iconic dive watch, sporting a black bezel, a simple black dial, and notably, no date function – all elegantly complemented by a steel bracelet. In those days, leather straps were considered a thing of the past. The salesperson quotes you a price of "$225." Not an insignificant amount, but hardly enough to break the bank. You decide to make the purchase, unknowingly leaving the store with a ref. 5513, a two-line Submariner. Little did you realize that this watch would not only outlive you but also appreciate significantly in value over time.
In recent times, watches have transformed from objects of fascination and collection to commodities for trade. Throughout much of the 2010s, owning a steel Rolex often yielded better returns than investing in the stock market. However, this was a far cry from the situation in the 1960s when it took nearly four decades for steel sport models like the early Submariners to reach their full investment potential.
Now, let's delve into the past four decades and analyze how the value of both vintage and modern Submariners has appreciated, both in new and pre-owned markets. To provide context, consider that if you adjust the $225 price tag from 1967 for inflation, a new Rolex Submariner should cost approximately $2,000 today. However, the actual price far exceeds this, often fetching around $7,000 more. But before we explore the current prices, let's first understand how these figures have evolved over the years.
Even in 1967, $225 didn't classify the Rolex Submariner as a luxury watch. It was a quintessential tool watch designed for diving and swimming, and it was issued to various military units worldwide. This was a watch meant to endure rigorous use, and service members could even obtain it at a discounted price.
During this era, all watches were mechanical, with no digital or quartz alternatives in sight. This kept the prices of mechanical timepieces relatively low as the industry thrived. However, the Quartz Crisis in the 1970s saw the rise of battery-powered, highly accurate, and affordable watches from brands like Seiko, challenging the Swiss watch industry and its pricing.
In the mid-1980s, the Submariner crossed the four-figure mark, reaching $1,000, then doubling to $2,000 in the early '90s, and more than doubling again as the aluminum-bezel and stamped-clasp era drew to a close. Some of this price increase can be attributed to design changes, with matte dials giving way to glossy dials and applied markers with white gold accents. This led to a fourfold price increase in a decade, setting the stage for the Submariner's vintage status.In the mid-1980s, the Submariner crossed the four-figure mark, reaching $1,000, then doubling to $2,000 in the early '90s, and more than doubling again as the aluminum-bezel and stamped-clasp era drew to a close. Some of this price increase can be attributed to design changes, with matte dials giving way to glossy dials and applied markers with white gold accents. This led to a fourfold price increase in a decade, setting the stage for the Submariner's vintage status.
In 2012, a significant shift occurred with the release of the no-date ceramic Submariner ref. 114060. Unlike its predecessors, this watch featured a four-line configuration. This marked a new era for luxury, defined by a ceramic bezel filled with platinum and a robust bracelet with a fully milled-out clasp and an unparalleled adjustment system. The price increased by $800 between 2012 and 2020, adjusting for inflation.
The COVID-19 pandemic halted Rolex's price hikes temporarily, with prices for the 41mm ref. 124060 maintaining at $8,100 in 2020 and 2021. However, in February 2022, Rolex increased prices by 10.5%, bringing the cost to $8,950. In less than two years, the Submariner's price had increased more than its predecessor did in eight years. Today, a new Submariner can be purchased for $9,150, showing a slowdown in price increases.
It's noteworthy that despite Rolex's 10.5% increase, the price of a no-date Submariner from 2013 to today has largely kept pace with inflation, a contrast to the pricing between 1975 and 1986. The pre-owned market has also witnessed a transformation, with 2013 marking a turning point when used watches began to surpass the value of brand-new pieces. Factors like social media exposure and increasing demand led to significant premiums, sometimes reaching $4,000 for a pre-owned modern Submariner.
In recent times, economic factors have caused a slight dip in prices, and authorized dealers have reported an influx of products. This has led to a decrease in premiums, with pre-owned Submariners now fetching around $13.5k, similar to a decade ago.
With the introduction of Certified Pre-Owned programs and ongoing market shifts, it remains intriguing to observe how the value of the Submariner will fare in comparison to CPO prices and monitor Rolex's future retail price increases. It seems likely that both will eventually meet somewhere in the middle, unless the secondary market experiences another price surge.
Returning to the $225 Rolex Submariner ref. 5513 from 1967, it's astonishing to find these watches still commanding prices upwards of $20,000 today, representing a staggering 1,000% increase in value when adjusted for inflation. While it may take several decades to fully appreciate the value of a modern Submariner, recent history demonstrates that it continues to be a reliable and appreciating investment.
In conclusion, the Rolex Submariner's journey from a practical tool watch to a luxury icon and investment piece showcases its enduring appeal and value, making it a fascinating subject for horology enthusiasts and investors alike.
To gain further insights into the Rolex Submariner and its rich history, don't miss our in-depth Used Rolex Submariner Guide.
Explore the world of Rolex by visiting our dedicated Rolex hub, where you can delve into the brand's legacy, craftsmanship, and timeless elegance. Collecting vintage Rolex timepieces goes beyond a mere hobby; it's a journey into the world of horological artistry. Whether you're a passionate collector or simply admire fine watches, the Rolex Submariner ref. 5513 stands as an enduring symbol of excellence in the watchmaking realm.