You might wonder why Rolex developed the Submariner when their flagship Oyster case was already renowned for its water resistance. The answer is straightforward; a member of the Rolex board of directors was an avid diver and a friend of Jaques Cousteau, the world-renowned oceanographer. He wanted an elegant watch that had the necessary diving features.
Hans Wildorf, founder and president of Rolex was not easily convinced. He stood by the fact that the existing watches in the Rolex family were already water-resistant and elegant. However, his board member persisted because these timepieces were not purpose-built dive watches. He wanted a watch that could time his dives and still be appropriate to wear to high-level business functions, say like Board of Director meetings.
It took some time, but Mr. Wildorf was eventually convinced and the first Submariner was introduced at the 1954 Basel Watch Show, now known as Basel World. Since that introduction, the design has remained largely unchanged. Owing to its popularity, the Submariner has spawned a whole host of knock-offs and counterfeit watches.
One interesting note is that it wasn't until 1981 before Rolex added a uni-directional rotating bezel. In the fiercely competitive watch world, the reason was rooted in capitalism and intellectual property rights. In other words, another manufacturer had the patent on this feature, Blancpain.
As noted, the Submariner has remained virtually unchanged since its introduction in 1954, externally anyway. Throughout the ensuing decades, Rolex fine-tuned many elements of the watch. Today, The timepiece benefits from all the advances in horology technology, including synthetic lubricants, CNC machining, polymer seals, and more.
A few of the Submariner's feature set includes:
- Powering the Submariner is the Rolex automatic caliber 3235 with an impressive 70-hour power reserve.
- A date window appears at the 3 o'clock position with a magnifier on the crystal for easier viewing.
- The watch is available in two variants, with and without a date display.
- For those so inclined, a gold case and bracelet are available. Although, I'd be a bit reluctant to take a nearly $40,000 watch on a dive. Call me paranoid.
The Submariner is only available with a bracelet. Dial color choices are either a flat black or a royal blue. The watch eschews the use of numerals for the hour markers, instead using small domes and geometric shapes filled with lume.
A triangle with a dome sits at the 12 o'clock position with two luminous rectangles at the 9 and 6 o'clock positions. The hands have evolved over the years to the easily recognized "Mercedes" style. Use of lume on the three hands provides visibility on dives and at night.
Three bezel color choices, black, royal blue, and green in high-gloss ceramic provide additional personalization choices. Rather than using lume to highlight the minute indices, Rolex coats them in platinum and limits lume to a triangle that matches the one at the 12 o'clock position on the dial.
The case and bracelet of the GX-Diver's are machined from solid 316L stainless steel for corrosion resistance and reduction or elimination of allergic reactions by wearers. It is the same alloy used in surgical implants. Luxurious ionic plating is available in either charcoal or silver-gray.
The bezel is constructed from either matte or gloss ceramic precisely fitted into a 316L steel ring. Generous amounts of BGW9 Super Luminova lume are applied at the minute markers, starting at 20 minutes on the matte bezels to assist in timing decompression, keeping tabs on oxygen reserve, and other dive functions. The gloss ceramic bezels feature lume at all minute positions.
The dial is cut-out at the 12 and 6 o'clock positions. Small domes mark the remaining hour positions with the exception of a slender rectangle at 9 o'clock. BGW9 lume is used in each position for maximum visibility at depth and at night.
The GX-Diver's provides many more options in colorways and straps. Black, cobalt blue, signature orange, TJ blue (shown near the top of this section), and full-lume (shown below) dial choices are available.
In addition to the 316L stainless steel bracelet, strap options include hand-curated leathers with contrasting stitching, NATO nylon, and black rubber.
I've already stated that the GX-Diver's punches well above its weight class. And, to compete against the legendary Rolex Submariner, it has to. It's a real David and Goliath matchup. So, without further ado (drum roll please), the following table pits the two watches on several key characteristics.
Points go to Rolex for name recognition and power reserve from an in-house caliber. LIV Watches takes the honors for style, personalization options, and limited edition status.
The Bottom Line
The head-to-head results are impressive. From a strict performance perspective, both watches provide nearly identical functionally, reliability, and durability. Saying that, Rolex occupies a piece of high ground by virtue of being a grail watch for the collector looking to wear a Rolex.
However, scratching that itch comes at a cost. The Rolex Submariner will set you back $9,150.00 (MSRP). The LIV Watches GX-Diver's can be yours for $690.00 (current web price). Let me see, that's a premium of $8,460.00. Where I come from, that qualifies as real money.
Another way to look at it is this, you can buy 13 GX-Diver's for the price of a single Submariner. Meaning you could outfit each enlisted person in a US Navy SEAL team with a GX-Diver's. The Classic Black on a rubber strap would do quite nicely.
For my money, I'll take the GX-Diver's every time. Not only does it make sense financially, but my dive watch will also be more unique than the Rolex. That sounds pretty good to me.
SELECT REVIEWS OF THE LIV GX DIVER'S
"Ordered my GX divers in tj blue on a Friday. Delivered to my door the following Tuesday, on the other side of the world (Australia) Absolutely delighted with the quality and the detail. Even matched the limited edition number with my birth year! I have 3 sons and was pondering heirloom 40th birthday gifts. I think I’ve found them."
- Thomas O. from Australia
"I am very impressed with LIV! The watch is even better in person. Already thinking about my next one. I can’t believe I just heard about them… sure glad I did. Time to get the word out. Thank you Chaz!"
- James A. from the US