Rolex submariner green

Dec 10

The Rolex Submariner 16610 vs. the Rolex Submariner 116610
By: John B. Holbrook, II
December 11th, 2010

During my, I went out of my way not to make the obvious comparison between it, and the watch it replaces – the Rolex Submariner 16610.  I felt it was important to evaluate the watch on it’s own merits and to do so objectively, while setting aside my personal preferences.  In this article, I’m going to talk more about what I personally like and don’t like about the 116610 relative to the 16610.

In my mind, the 16610 is a high bar for any other watch – even another made by Rolex – to clear.  It so perfectly strikes the balance between tool/sport watch, and dress watch.  So many times people have asked or emailed me with the question “which Rolex should I buy?”  My response is always the same:  If you’re going to buy one and only one Rolex, make it the 16610 Submariner.  It has unmatched versatility making it the perfect choice for a daily driver.

I also think that many people don’t appreciate just how radical of a cosmetic change the 116610 is from the 16610.  Consider how very little actually changed from the  Submariner 1680 when Rolex debuted the Submariner 16610 in 1988:

The Submariner 1680

The Submariner 16610

The most obvious differences between these two models is the crystal, (acrylic plastic on the 1680, sapphire on the 16610) dial (flat black on the 1680, glossy black on the 16610) and the markers (raised on the 1680, applied white gold on the 16610). Now let’s do the same comparison with the 16610 and the 116610:

The Submariner 116610

To my eye, the Submariner 116610 is more obviously dissimilar from a cosmetic perspective to the 16610 Submariner than the 16610 was from the 1680.  And that means Rolex took a much bigger risk.

Functionally, it’s hard not to admit that the 116610 is a hands-down better watch.  Anywhere you see stainless steel on this watch, you’re seeing 904L grade stainless steel – not so with the 16610 (the clasp for example was not made from 904L on the 16610).  The all-solid link construction should mean that “bracelet stretch” commonly seen on Rolex Oyster bracelets with hollow center links (like on the 16610) are a thing of the past.  In most respects, the clasp on the 116610 absolutely blows away the 40+ year old clasp design it replaced.  The Glidelock feature in particular really is awesome.  I think the clasp will show scratches MUCH more readily than the 16610 clasp, but that may be an acceptable trade off to get the other stellar features of the 116610 clasp.  And the addition of the Rolex Parachome Bleu hairspring makes the version of the Rolex Caliber 3135 in the Submariner 116610 substantially better than the Caliber 3135 found in the Submariner 16610. All that said, I have absolutely no desire at this point to trade in my 16610 on the 116610 – here’s why:

I maintain that Rolex did what they needed to do with the 116610 – they made it sportier, and they gave it hard to counterfeit features which stand out from the competition.  But in doing so, they made the watch less appealing to me personally.  For example, many people like the larger hands and markers on the 116610, but I do not.  They’re certainly easier to see, which is a good thing, and they give it sportier look in my opinion.  I happen to think the smaller hands and markers on the 16610 look more visually appealing and give the 16610 a dressier appearance.

The “CERACHROM” bezel on the 116610 is a pretty neutral point for me.  On one hand, it is gorgeous – I do like it aesthetically.  It will also be harder to scratch or weather fade than the aluminum bezel inserts Rolex has used for decades on watches like the 16610, but I also think it’s more prone to cracking – it’s pretty hard to crack aluminum.  The thing I do like about the aluminum bezel on the 16610 is that you could replace one for under 0.00.  I’m guessing it will be north of 00.00 to replace the bezel on the 116610 if you do manage to damage it.  So for me, the pluses and minuses are a wash, but it’s important for Rolex because bezel will be harder for illegal counterfeiters to replicate (at least cost effectively) than the simple aluminum bezel insert on the 16610.  And that’s good for everyone.

To give the 116610 Submariner a larger look and more presence on the wrist, Rolex increased the size of case lugs and crown guards substantially.  This is the change which is probably the hardest for me to live with.  To my eye, it substantially changes the classic aesthetic lines of the 16610, making it “chunkier” and sportier.  The case lugs also substantially alter the previously smooth transition from case to bracelet on the 16610.  Compare these two wrist shots of both watches: rolex submariner green

The Submariner 16610

The Submariner 116610

See the difference in how the two watches look where the bracelet meets the case?  You’re mileage will clearly vary on this point – it’s a matter of personal preference.

Fans of my articles will note that I was not favorable toward the Submariner either – based almost entirely on the differences in the dial color/execution between the two.  In this instance, I’m not quite as turned off.  In time, I’m hoping my admiration for the fantastic technical improvements which Rolex made to the Submariner will overcome the cosmetic issues I have with it – the 116610 really is a fantastic watch.  Rolex is trying to attract new, younger buyers with this watch, and again that’s what they should be doing.  When you’ve had the same basic look for a watch for about 50 years, people like me will have the hardest time adjusting to change – the casual observer likely won’t see much difference or quite frankly even care.    But for now, my Rolex Submariner 16610 is my preferred version of the all-stainless steel Submariner.

You can discuss this article in the of my online luxury watch discussion forum community.

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Written by: on December 10, 2010.

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