Watches – just like any other feud – divide opinion. Which may seem strange to non-horological-folk. But compare two iconic pieces from the greats, and the rivalry is no less resounding than any other competition - especially when Rolex is concerned. Skeptical? Spend a mere five minutes on a dedicated watch forum; those wars are nuclear.
Take the Submariner Date and its date-less counterpart, for example. Such a minute difference may seem insignificant to non-watch folk, but it holds big implications for arguably the most iconic watch ever made. And when the two are pitted against one another, expect a Coke vs. Pespi-esque conflict - just with fewer Santa Claus campaigns and popstar endorsements.
The No Date: Modest Or Mighty?
The Submariner ‘No Date’ – an unofficial title bestowed upon the elder child – was born in the 1950s. Clocking in at a modest 40mm diameter, the model is on the smaller side of Rolex stablemates - but as with most showcase pieces, looks can be deceiving. Wider lugs create the illusion of a larger watch, and for me, the No Date wears more like a 42mm – a size in line with the wider Rolex family, but by no means U-Boat material either. What’s more, the dial is almost perfectly symmetrical with little detail nor distraction thanks to minimal branding and bullet point indices.
And that’s the biggest strength of the No Date: modesty. A rare move from the brand, the watch pairs with a weekend look just as well as typical boardroom finery. Perhaps too much so. The muted approach could be considered overly quiet for the likes of Rolex, though there is real merit in versatility.
The Submariner Date: Loud And Proud
This is where the Submariner Date deviates. On the surface, the date aperture seems to be the only difference, yet it’s the accentuation of this feature that divides opinion: The Cyclops. Embraced and shunned in equal measure, the fishbowl to 3 o’clock was introduced in 1966 to magnify the date aperture function two and a half times: a statement addition to an otherwise classic-looking watch. The inclusion flexes real utility muscle too, but this mod con could read overkill when factoring in the 300m water resistance. Just because a watch can, doesn’t mean it should. Despite this however, Rolex has always reveled in playing the extrovert, and indeed carved a niche (and profited) by doing so – its allure is subject solely to personal taste.
It’s not all bad blood though. As to be expected with siblings, both pieces share many characteristics. First there’s the mechanics, of which each is powered by Rolex’s incredibly precise in-house movement. Don’t forget the winding crown, too – a feature fitted with patented Triplock technology, and also the cerachrom bezel that’ll stay as glossy as its day of birth (or purchase, at the very least). Though the cyclops will always remain the enduring point of contention, like the name, it’ll prove a monster to some and an impressive beast to others.
The Big Decision
So, it all depends on what you require in a watch. If you prefer more of a blank canvas and thus a more flexible piece – important when investing if you’re to get maximum wear – the No Date is your best ballot to tick.
That said, the Submariner Date’s charm borders on the brash, but never feels like too much of a show-off - a trait almost unique to Rolex, and the piece is all the more memorable for it. The louder sibling is thus better suited to tastes or occasions that demand an uplift in statement, even if it may not sit as pretty with every suit hanging in your wardrobe. But don’t fret your decision too much. After all, with or without date, you’re still getting a Rolex.