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An Overview of Anniversary Rolex Watches

January 24, 2019

BY Paul Altieri


Unlike most other luxury watch brands, Rolex does not make limited-edition models, nor do they team up with celebrities to make collaborative editions (with the exception of the Deepsea with D-Blue dial that made as a tribute to James Cameron’s dive to the deepest point on the planet). What Rolex does do however, is make special commemorative models to mark milestone anniversaries. While these watches do not have any markings explicitly stating that they are commemorative models, they were all indeed launched in honor of an anniversary. Let’s explore a few anniversary Rolex watches and see what makes them special.

Anniversary Rolex

Like other anniversary edition Rolex watches, the GMT-Master II ref. 116718 prominently features the color green.

Anniversary Rolex Submariner

Anniversary Rolex

Unlike other ref. 16610 watches, the 50th Anniversary “Kermit” Submariner features a green bezel insert and a black “maxi” dial.

The Rolex Submariner made its debut in 1953 as the world’s first diving watch that was water-resistant to 100 meters. The Sub has since risen to the top of the luxury sports watch food chain to become the most coveted dive watch out there.

To celebrate the Submariner’s 50th birthday, Rolex introduced the stainless steel Submariner ref. 16610LV in 2003. Although the anniversary Submariner included the characteristic 40mm Oyster case and matching Oyster bracelet, new to the collection was a green bezel. Due to the vibrant green shade of the unidirectional rotating bezel, the Submariner ref. 16610LV picked up the “Kermit” nickname. The Kermit Submariner comes fitted with a black “maxi” dial, luminescent hour markers, Mercedes-style hands, and a date window at 3 o’clock.


Anniversary Rolex GMT-Master II

Anniversary Rolex

The anniversary edition of the Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 116718 features a bright green dial.

It was in 1955 when Rolex officially launched the very first GMT-Master watch, specifically built for the wrists of Pan Am pilots to allow them to simultaneously track two time zones. Since then, the GMT-Master’s real-life practicality and exceedingly good looks have earned it a reputation for being the ultimate traveler’s watch.

Five decades later, Rolex released the yellow gold, anniversary-edition GMT-Master II ref. 116718 with a green dial to celebrate the watch’s half-century of existence. This was no run-of-the-mill GMT-Master II, but rather, a completely revamped model that ushered in a host of design elements that would set the standard for future Rolex sports models. There’s the beefier (but still 40mm) “super” case, the “maxi” style dial with larger hour markers and hands, and of course, the then-new Cerachrom (ceramic) bezel insert.


Anniversary Rolex Milgauss

Anniversary Rolex

The anniversary-edition Rolex Milgauss ref. 116400 features a green-tinted sapphire crystal.

The first Rolex Milgauss made its appearance to the public in 1956. The watch gets its name for its ability to withstand magnetic fields of up to 1,000 (mille) gauss, and its anti-magnetic properties have made it particularly useful for members of the scientific community. Rolex continued to make various versions of the Milgauss over the following three decades but ultimately discontinued the collection in 1988.

Much to everyone’s surprise, Rolex revived their signature anti-magnetic watch in 2007, with the introduction of the Milgauss ref. 116400, which featured a larger 40mm Oyster case, a re-designed Oyster bracelet, and a bright orange lightning bolt seconds hand. Although its release actually occurred one year after the 50th anniversary of the maiden Milgauss, Rolex nevertheless dubbed the Milgauss 116400GV as the anniversary model where “GV” refers to the unique green sapphire crystal that sits above the dial.


Anniversary Rolex Explorer II

Anniversary Rolex

While it does not include the color green, the Rolex Explorer II ref. 216570 was released in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Explorer II collection.

In 1971, Rolex debuted their Explorer II, which was positioned – like its sibling, the Explorer – as an adventurer’s watch. However this time, the timepiece was specifically intended for those venturing into dark caves or polar regions. Thanks to the extra 24-hour hand and stationary 24-hour marked bezel on the Explorer II, wearers could always differentiate between day and night hours – even when looking to the sky wasn’t an option.

To honor the watch’s 40th anniversary in 2011, Rolex unveiled the Explorer II ref. 216570 with a larger 42mm Oyster case, “maxi” style dial, and fatter fonts on the fixed 24-hour bezel. As a nod to the inaugural Explorer II reference, the anniversary Explorer II brought back the orange “big arrow” 24-hour hand of the original model, which had been replaced by a red one (like those from the GMT-Master collection) on the vast majority of preceding models.


Anniversary Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

Anniversary Rolex

The anniversary Rolex Daytona ref. 116506 is made from solid platinum and features a brown ceramic bezel.

Although Rolex had been making chronograph watches since the 1930s, it was only in 1963 that the brand presented the Cosmograph, signaling a new era for Rolex chronographs. The name “Daytona” quickly joined the dial of the watch and today the Rolex Daytona is arguably the most famous luxury chronograph ever.  

To mark the 50th birthday of the famed timepiece, Rolex went all out with the Daytona ref. 116506. Not only does the anniversary Daytona ref. 116506 sport a 40mm Oyster case and Oyster bracelet in solid platinum, but it also features a brown Cerachrom (ceramic) bezel. The icing on the cake, so to speak, is the striking ice-blue dial – a color that is exclusively reserved for Rolex’s platinum watches.

Rolex certainly knows how to celebrate a milestone anniversary in style. We look forward to seeing what else the Swiss watchmaking giant will come up with to mark future anniversaries!



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