All that glitters is gold
The story of the Rolex Submariner is an illustrious one making history in 1953 as the first ever dive watch water resistant to a depth of 330 feet (100 meters). Positioned as a tool watch, it was equipped with a rotating bezel to keep track of time spent underwater and luminescent details for visibility in the marine darkness. Over the years, the Submariner has undergone countless improvements, as well as a great number of differing looks using a range of materials, colors, and design details. The Rolex Sub still remains the gold standard in luxury diving watches.
Reference 16618 is a remarkable edition of the famed gold Rolex Submariner. Join us as we take a closer look at what makes this watch special, including its history, features, and pricing.
Click here for our Ultimate Buying Guide on the Rolex Submariner.
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Rolex Submariner 16618 History
The Submariner debuted in the 1950s. Early models featured time-only dials, bidirectional bezels, and stainless steel. However, that would eventually change as Rolex continued to improve upon the Submariner’s design as popularity for the watch grew among collectors of all lifestyles and professions, not just divers. The Submariner would ultimately receive a date mechanism on its dial, an increased depth rating to up to 300 meters/1,000 feet, improved luminescent material, and an upgraded bezel with a safer unidirectional mounting, among many other refinements.
Rolex released ref. 16618 in the late 1980s. It wasn’t the first gold Submariner, but it was still a very sought-after gold Rolex among collectors for its attractive price point and older-style case and bracelet. Not a fan of the 6-digit Subs currently taking over the market? Ref. 16618 might be the gold Rolex for you because it features the beloved older-style case outfitted with an aluminum insert and smaller hour markers on the dial. It’s the perfect balance between modern and vintage Rolex design.
The Submariner 16618 Underwater
The Submariner 16618 watches were the brand’s full 18k yellow gold offering during the late 1980s until 2010. Bearing all the characteristics of the iconic diver’s watch – 40 mm Oyster case waterproof to 1,000 feet, screw-down crown, unidirectional graduated diving bezel calibrated to 60 minutes, date window magnified by the Cyclops lens, and Oyster bracelet, only with a remarkable yellow gold case and bracelet instead of standard stainless steel.
As a full 18k yellow gold model, the Rolex 16618 was the ultra-luxurious version of the Rolex Sub dive watch, and several dial and bezel configurations were available. There’s the black dial and bezel reference (16618LN) and the blue dial with a yellow gold bezel outfitted with a blue bezel insert (16618LB). Both colorways offer high contrast against the yellow gold Oyster case and bracelet, creating a bold statement piece that looks exceptional on land and far below the ocean’s surface. Additionally, these two options come equipped with the large luminescent hour markers and luminescent Mercedes style center hands for perfect legibility amidst the murky waters of the deep.
On the “Serti” dial varieties of the Submariner ref 16618, the dials shone bright for another reason – the diamond and sapphire gems dotted around the dial as hour markers. An even more precious variant is the mega rare ref. 16618 sporting a lapis lazuli dial – only a few were produced in the early 1990s. In 2011, Christie’s sold a Submariner ref. 16618 with a lapis lazuli dial for over $90,000 during their Important Watches sale in Geneva, while more recently, in 2014, they sold a similar model for over $84,000 at the Hong Kong Important Watches event.
A Modern Gold Submariner Watch
The iconic gold watch 16618 was among the Submariner’s first “modern” iterations because it featured a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal instead of the acrylic found on its 4-digit predecessors and a higher beat movement.
A fundamental element of Rolex watches is the supreme precision and reliability they offer. The 16618 watches are powered by the proprietary Rolex Caliber 3135 perpetual mechanical movement, which was recently retired in favor of the newer caliber 3235 movement. Of course, the Caliber 3135 is a Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified, meaning that not only has it passed the stringent Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC) tests, but also Rolex’s own in-house battery of assessments. As a sports watch, the Submariner ref. 16618 greatly benefits from the Parachrom hairspring inside the caliber since it increases the watch’s resistance to shocks and temperature swings. The 31-jewel movement beats at a frequency of 28,800bph and offers the wearer a 48-hour power reserve, hacking seconds, and a Quickset Date.
A New Generation of Gold Submariner Watches
Rolex 16618 was eventually replaced by reference 116618, featuring the same movement and case size but with an upgraded ceramic “Cerachrom” bezel and larger “Maxi” hour markers and hands. It was produced with either a black dial and bezel (116618LN) or blue (116618LB). It recently bowed out in 2020, paving the way for a brand-new collection of Submariners.
While they still feature the same classic dive watch amenities as references 16618 and 116618 with Mercedes hands, a 60-minuted diver’s bezel, and 1,000 feet of waterproofness, the current production Sub now boasts a larger 41mm case size and a shiny new caliber 3235 automatic movement. It is also available with a black (126618LN) or blue (126618LB) dial and bezel.
Submariner 16618 Price
Reference 16618 was discontinued long ago, but you can still add one to your collection by shopping the secondary market. A handsome Rolex 16618 blue dial with luminous Tritium hour markers and hands recently sold at Bob’s watches for $30k, which is quite reasonable considering that brand new Submariners retail for $37,950. Not to mention, ref. 16618 uses impeccable 18k Rolex gold and is expected to hold its value alongside the price of gold.
As an exclusive Rolex watch, ref. 16618 will always be very collectible and is generally considered an excellent investment. Chances are, you will at least make your money back should you choose to sell it in the future.
Beautifully crafted, meticulously tested, and globally renowned, the now discontinued yellow gold Rolex Submariner 16618 is a treasure to behold.
I’ve been looking at the 16618T. Will you tell me the difference between this and the 16618? Thank you
The ‘T’ designation at the end of the reference number denotes that the watch was produced on the later side of the reference’s production run (the ref. 16618T followed the ref. 16618). The two watches are largely identical; however, the 16618T does include a couple of more modern design features such as LumiNova/Super-LumiNova rather than tritium on the dials and hands and no-holes cases.