Rolex Submariner Watches
A quarter-mile offshore and 80 feet below the surface of Lake Superior, my friend, Chris, and I found the Madeira’s pilothouse — standing upright, its compass binnacle still intact, belying the violence of the ship’s demise. The rest of the wreck is strewn over an acre of lakebed — twisted bollards, winches torn free and the bow facing upright, its nose only 40 feet below the surface. November has always been a cruel month for sailors on Lake Superior, but November of 1905 was perhaps the worst since the big lake was opened to navigation in 1855. Seventy-eight lives were lost and 19 ships sunk in storms that month, including the infamous “Mataafa Blow”, which packed 60mph winds and sank a dozen ships. It was during this storm that the 436-foot steel schooner barge, Madeira, was driven against Gold Rock cliff on Superior’s rugged North Shore. Battered by short-frequency freshwater waves, Madeira quickly filled and sank, and her bones were scattered at the base of the cliff by ice and wave action over the ensuing decades. It is fitting, then, that on a chilly November morning, over a century later, I found myself exploring this historic wreck site, with an equally historic dive watch strapped to my wrist: the Rolex Submariner.
How does one review arguably the most ubiquitous, copied, clichéd and iconic watch ever made? It’s not easy, and it’s slightly intimidating. There is little about the Rolex Submariner that hasn’t already been written — its legendary use for exploration and combat, its famous wearers, its durable and accurate movement. But as hard as I searched, I couldn’t find any hands-on reviews of the watch being used as it was intended. So, I went back to its roots and took it diving. And there, underwater, despite its nearly 60-year-old design, the Submariner still fared well and seemed right at home.
The Submariner has evolved at roughly the same pace as another well-known denizen of the deep: the shark. And the specific reference I tested, the “No Date” 14060M, is perhaps the purest example. With no ceramic bezel insert, no Glidelock clasp, no Chromalight lume, not even solid bracelet links, the 14060M Submariner is a dinosaur, a relic from the past. Strapping on this watch for a dive is like stepping into a time machine and being transported back to the mid-1950s, a time when sport diving was in its infancy and dive watches were built to be instruments, not fashion statements. It was during this era, in 1955 specifically, that members of the Frigid Frogs diving club from Duluth, Minnesota, first explored the wreck of the Madeira.