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Why is the Rolex Submariner so popular on social media?
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Why is the Rolex Submariner so popular on social media?

Thursday, 19 April 2018
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William McNish
Strategic Planner at RE-UP

“There is nothing quite as beautiful as the spark in a person's eye when you bring up something they are passionate about.”

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4 min read

First released in 1954, the Rolex Submariner has arguably become one of the most recognisable timepieces ever. A watch that has not only survived but thrived, irrespective of trends or era. So what’s the secret?

It’s the watch any enthusiast can spot a mile off, recognisable even for the ordinary Joe or Jane. But how did a humble dive watch become such an icon?

It’s not just that this is a good-looking watch; after all, many other timepieces from that era are equally well designed. The main reason the Rolex Submariner is so incredibly popular is what it represents.

First Submariner, 1953 © Rolex
First Submariner, 1953 © Rolex

A true watch enthusiast will tell you it’s a staple of any collection worth its salt. Supremely functional, beautiful without excess, it’s the one no collector should be without. For those who aren’t familiar with fine watchmaking, but still want to show off to friends and colleagues, it’s the go-to watch. No other timepiece says luxury more than the Rolex Submariner.

Statistics

Before diving deeper into the Sub’s online popularity, let’s look at a few stats:

  • We already know it’s the most popular #divewatch on Instagram.
  • In March alone, the #Rolexsubmariner hashtag was used roughly 30,460 times. Of these mentions, 25,376 came from Instagram.
  • The user demographic is over 90% male. The largest age group is 18-24, with almost 50% of mentions, followed by 25-34 year-olds. These age groups match that of Instagram’s general audience, while the male/female ratio is a good indication of who, among the general population, is interested in luxury watches, i.e. predominantly men.
Submariner © Rolex
Submariner © Rolex

When it comes to the community of Rolex fans, the Submariner is a whole different story. This line from a post on Rolexforums.com perfectly sums up how true enthusiasts feel: “No matter which Rolex you buy, it feels like you really haven’t joined the ‘club’ until you have a Submariner. I’ll see someone’s collection… a Daytona, a GMT, a Skydweller… All beautiful of course but I can’t help but think: ‘What, no Sub?’”.

Icon status

The Submariner started out as a humble (and very reasonably priced) tool watch. It wasn’t until the 1980s, and the increased popularity of steel among prestige watches, that it became a luxury timepiece. Not forgetting that it was James Bond’s watch for many years. That the design has remained unchanged for the last 60 years has also contributed to the Sub’s iconic status by ensuring its aesthetic is as instantly recognisable to millennials as it was to the generations before them.

The Submariner’s versatility is another reason it has gained such a cult following. First off, it’s a perfectly good dive watch but one that suits just about any other situation too. A watch for the office = Submariner. Out hiking = Submariner. At a wedding = Submariner. A dip in the pool = Submariner. Even after updates or the introduction of new dial colours, it’s still immediately recognisable. No one could mistake the green ‘Hulk’ Submariner for anything other than what it is. Its icon status lies with its overall design, not its colour.

Rolex Oyster Submariner Date in 904L steel, with green bezel and dial
Rolex Oyster Submariner Date in 904L steel, with green bezel and dial
A symbol of luxury

The Rolex Submariner is as synonymous with luxury watches as the Hermès Birkin bag or Chanel’s Little Black Dress are with luxury fashion. Rolex came up with some pretty amazing advertising in the 1960s (then the 1980s) that helped built the stratospheric status the brand still enjoys. The Rolex Submariner was a big part of its collection and therefore a big part of its advertising too. This, above all else, helped to grow the status it now has as a luxury item.

Still, none of this tells us why the Rolex Submariner is so popular on social media. The simple answer is… because the Submariner is popular everywhere. It is the most-produced luxury watch ever as well as the most-copied. And because social media is a reflection of society in 2018, if it’s popular in real life, it will be popular on social media too. Influencers love the Sub, watch enthusiasts own it (or wish they did), and even people who know nothing about luxury watches immediately recognise it.

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