Rolex submariner no date ceramic photo

Dec 03

Review of the Rolex Submariner 116610
By: John B. Holbrook, II
December 3rd, 2010

Over the past two years, we’ve seen Rolex introduce the first two upgraded “ceramic” Submariner models, the white gold 116619, and the two-tone 116613.  Both models gave Rolex fans a strong hint at what Rolex had in store for the all-stainless Submariner, which was debuted as expected during Baselworld 2010:

I met with Rolex executives during my visit to Basel this year, and got to spend some hands-on time with the new 116610 Submariner, but it wasn’t until Rolex USA sent me a review example this month that I really got the opportunity really evaluate the new 116610.

Based on what we saw from the previously released Submariner 116619 and 116613, much of improvements and enhancements made to the 116610 come as no surprise.  As expected, the 116610 has the “CERACHROM” bezel.  What particularly impressed me about the CERACHROM 116610 is that it’s a much truer black than the black CERACHROM bezel on the GMT Master IIc 116710 LN.  In the case of the GMT Master II, the blackness of the bezel can shift considerably depending on how it’s positioned in relation to the immediate light source….sometimes it looks black, while other times it looks quite gray.  But with the 116610, no matter what angle you’re looking at the bezel, it looks black.  The dial of the 116610 also has the same upgrades we first saw in the GMT Master IIc, including larger markers and fatter hands, as well as larger case lugs and crown guards.   Clearly Rolex wanted to give the Submariner a larger, more contemporary appearance by making the case lugs and crown guards larger.  However, the case size remains at roughly 40mm in diameter.

Other changes include an anti-reflective coating on the date magnification bubble on the crystal of the 116610 as evidenced by the photo below – this is one of my favorite enhancements as it really improves legibility:

Also like the 116619 and 116613, the 116610 Submariner uses a pigmented SuperLuminova application on the hands and markers which glows blue.  The color is said to be more visible below the surface of the water than the standard green SuperLuminova coloration, but I’ve not had the opportunity to test this for myself:

The Oyster bracelet of the 116610 is now constructed from solid (not hollow) links of 904L grade stainless steel, including both the end and center links – an upgrade the Rolex fans have been long been hoping to see.  Attached to this improved bracelet is an entirely new bracelet design that’s received nothing but praise since it was introduced.   Here’s a photo of the very solid looking and feeling clasp on the 116610:

The use of polished center links and a polished clasp was perhaps the biggest question mark for many Rolex enthusiasts prior to the launch of the 116610 – would Rolex incorporate polished elements on the 116610 bracelet and clasp as had been done with the GMT IIc, and prior two Submariner releases?  Thankfully, Rolex gave the 116610 an entirely brushed bracelet and clasp, as has been tradition historically with the all-stainless version of the Submariner.  It’s always been considered a tool watch first and foremost, and a polished clasp and links just don’t fit with a tool watch.  However, the deployment elements of the clasp are polished, which is far less of concern given their protected state when the clasp is closed:

Rolex did a particularly nice job with the Glidelock clasp.  Fine adjustment of the clasp couldn’t be simpler or more convenient, and there’s no longer a need for a separate dive suit extension as was the case with the previous generation of Rolex dive watches.  A simple tug (no tools required!) on the right hand side bracelet portion (see photo below) allows you to slide the bracelet up or down the slotted portion of the clasp to adjust the fit.

Inside the still 300m/1000ft. water resistant case of the  new Submariner 116610 beats the tried-and-true 31 jewel Rolex caliber 3135 (designed and manufactured entirely “in house” by Rolex) which has been in service since 1989. Like the rest of the watch, the caliber 3135 in the 116610 has received an upgrade, as Rolex fitted their new “Parachrom Bleu” hairspring to the caliber 3135 in the 116610 Submariner.  What is confusing to me is why the 3135 wasn’t given a new designation, as was the case with the Rolex 3185, which became the Rolex 3186 when the new hairspring was added to that movement.  In any event, the new hairspring is almost completely anti-magnetic, as well as highly shock and temperature resistant – the three main enemies to mechanical watch accuracy.  The 3135 has garnered a reputation as being one of the most reliable, and robust watch movements ever created.  At the same time, the movement has been criticized at times for lacking refinement and technological sophistication.  True, the 3135 won’t win any beauty contests (Rolex finishes and decorates a movement to a lesser degree than other manufacturers), but intentionally so.  It was designed from the beginning as a movement to be encased in a stainless steel Oyster case, and endure rigorous conditions and treacherous environments – it’s a clear case of function over form.  I would also argue that the 3135 isn’t lacking in technological sophistication – within the watch industry, Rolex Research and Development is regarded as being second to none.  Rolex has implemented several, truly notable features into the 3135 over the years, such as Microstella adjustment screws, Kif shock absorption, and of course the new Parachrom Bleu hairspring.  The high-beat movement oscillates at 28,800 beats per hour (BPH).  In short, it’s hard to criticize Rolex for setting the benchmark which other manufactures strive to attain.  Every Rolex caliber 3135 is COSC tested and certified for the highest standards of accuracy.

While accuracy testing on a single production example of any product has no statistical relevance, I did decide to accuracy test the Rolex Submariner 116610 on my Orbita Watch Tester:

If you click on the photo above, you’ll see that this particular example of the 116610 is running at near perfect accuracy – +/- 0 seconds per day.  I didn’t test the watch in multiple positions, but the results were nonetheless very impressive.

In terms of overall impressions, I think there’s no denying that the Rolex Submariner 116610 represents the technical pinnacle of the evolution of the Rolex Submariner model.  date Aesthetically, it’s a very handsome watch without question – I do like the way it looks on my wrist:

It’s not radically different that what came before it, but clearly has some new and contemporary changes to refresh the look.  In my opinion, Rolex did what they needed to do from an aesthetic standpoint.  Speaking of what came before it, I think the obvious question anyone would ask me about the 116610 Submariner is “how does it compare to the previous 16610 Submariner.”  To that I would say, look for a separate article from me where I will address this topic.  The Rolex Submariner 116610 currently has a retail price of,375.00 US which makes it very competitive with other competitors in the luxury dive watch segment.  That is of course if you feel the Rolex Submariner actually has any real competition in this category.

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

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Written by: on December 3, 2010.

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