Rolex: Between the Best — The Submariner 16610 vs. 116610

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submariner
Credit: Flickr, Arjan Richter

The Submariner diver’s watch has seen numerous upgrades since it came to market in the early 1950’s.

These include increased resistance to pressures of up to 300 meters, a unidirectional bezel, and the addition of yellow gold. Perhaps one of the most notable upgrades came when Rolex began production on the 6-digit series of the Submariner around 2009. This new era of Submariners was noticeably more modern than the references that preceded it, leaving avid Rolex collectors divided. Should they stick with the classic style of the pre-super case references?  Or take the plunge, so-to-speak, and invest in a modern watch?  The decision lies solely in the personal preference of the wearer. 

submariner

Credit: Flickr, Daniel Zimmermann


A Bit About the Two Submariner Watches

When it comes to this debate, the first references that come to mind are the 16610 that debuted in 1988 and enjoyed a long production run before being replaced by ref. 116610. Whichever piece you’re into, they both have great reviews and are considered iconic in the Rolex community. Before we get into the details, here is some background information.

According to Bob's Watches, “Produced in 1953, the Rolex Submariner was first introduced in 1954 at Basel Watch Fair. The model comes in Oystersteel, white & yellow gold, and two-tone metals with date and no date variants. Made famous by James Bond films, this iconic sports watch has a 40mm case size and functions as a dive watch. Suggested retail price starts at $7,500 as of 2018.” 

1. Ref. 16610

submariner

Credit: Bob's Watches

Rolex produced the Submariner 16610 for several decades, making it widely available on the secondary market.  Besides its availability, Collectors gravitate towards this particular reference for its traditional style, which includes a stainless steel finish, a black dial paired with a matching black aluminum bezel insert, and Rolex’s trusty calibre 3135 movement.  The case also retains the classic 40mm sports watch proportions with narrower lugs and a smaller crown guard.  Its style closely mirrors that of the original model from the 1950’s when compared to the ref. 116610, which makes it particularly appealing to many collectors. Purchasing a used Submariner 16610 from Bob’s Watches can get you a lower price than when it was sold in retail.

2. Ref. 116610

submariner

Credit: Bob's Watches

Instead of introducing new models regularly, Rolex prefers to make small changes to their classic watches over time, gradually perfecting each model.  The ref. 116610 is proof of that process.  When it replaced its predecessor in 2010, it held onto the style that collectors know and love while including various upgrades.  For example, Rolex now uses their improved Oystersteel, which is an upgrade to the 904L stainless steel found on many Submariner watches and is celebrated for its highly resilient finish and how easy it is to maintain and polish. 

With the 6-digit diver also came a more robust hold, thanks to the addition of what collectors often refer to as a “Super Case” as well as a new bracelet design.  The case still measures 40mm. However, it appears quite a bit larger on the wrist because it now offers fatter lugs, a larger crown guard, and a maxi dial with bigger hour markers and hands.  The bracelet also boasts a more substantial weight and is now secured via a tool-free Glidelock extension system that allows the wearer to adjust the length up to 5mm.

Similar to its predecessor, the ref. 116610 is powered by a calibre 3135.  However, Rolex also made improvements to this component by including a Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring for a smoother and more reliable reading while in the water. These features make the Submariner 116610 a hot pick for aquatic sports.


Individually, the ref. 16610 and 116610 are both impressive timepieces that offer incredible waterproofness and classic style. 

When choosing one over the other, the most important factors to consider are personal style and budget.

Which model of the Rolex Submariner do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below. Be sure to share this with your fellow Rolex lovers to keep the conversation going!

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