By the time the reference 16613 arrived in 1988, any pretensions the Rolex Submariner had of still being nothing but a purpose-built tool watch were long gone. While the Submariner may have initially built its reputation as the ultimate dive companion when it was first launched in 1953, over the subsequent decades it had slipped happily into the role of being a luxurious status symbol.
For some, that transformation had started with the fairly innocuous inclusion of a date display on the previously time-only watch, debuting on the ref. 1680 from 1969. It was a move that split the Rolex fandom down the middle, with critics decrying the need for a date function on a dive watch in the first place, as well as the effect it had on the symmetry of the dial.
However, the Submariner’s new standing as an aspirational item was sealed with the release of the first all-gold model, the ref. 1680/8 the same year. After that, Rolex decided to try and cater to both sides by carrying on with two separate Submariner lines, and the brand has produced date and no date versions ever since. With that in mind, it is only the date-displaying models that have been offered in a range of different metals (the no-date versions remaining exclusively in stainless steel), and in 1984, the first two-tone Rolesor Submariner was issued, the ref. 16803. The arrival of this model laid the groundwork for the subsequent generation of two-tone Submariner watches: the reference 16613.
Rolex Submariner Reference 16613
Submariner 16613 Key Features:
Production Years: 1988 – 2009
Case Size: 40mm
Materials: Yellow Rolesor (904L Stainless Steel & 18k Yellow Gold)
Functions: Time w/Running Seconds, Date Display
Dial: Black or Blue w/ Luminous Hour Markers; Champagne or Slate w/ gem-set Hour Markers (Serti Dials)
Bezel: Unidirectional. Black or Blue Aluminum Insert w/ 60-Minute Scale
Crystal: Sapphire, Flat w/ Cyclops Lens
Movement: Caliber 3135
Water Resistance: 300 Meters / 1,000 Feet
Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet
Approx Price: $9,500 – $15,000 (Pre-Owned)
Click here for our Ultimate Buying Guide on the Rolex Submariner.
What is Rolesor?
Rolesor is Rolex’s own term for a two-tone combination of stainless steel and gold – first trademarked in 1933 and originally introduced on a Datejust in 1948. Rolesor watches can utilize any of the three colors of gold Rolex uses – white, Everose (red/rose), or yellow, although the configurations change slightly between them.
With the yellow and Everose gold variants, the watch’s case and its bracelet’s outer links are forged from stainless steel, with the precious metal employed on the bezel, crown, and center links. With White Rolesor models, only the bezel is made from gold.
Rolesor Rolex Submariner Watches
The first Rolesor Submariner, the ref. 16803, is known as a transitional reference. ‘Transitional’ in this case refers to a watch that had only a relatively short run but introduced a number of new features. In regards to the ref. 1680x series, they were the models that brought sapphire crystals, a 300-meter water resistance rating, and a unidirectional bezel to the model. They were also the first to have a high beat movement, the Caliber 3035, with the now-standard Rolex balance frequency of 28,800vph.
As good as that movement was, the brand clearly felt there was still some fine-tuning to do. The ref. 1680x family lasted for only around four years, superseded in 1988 by the ref. 1661x range, including the two-tone reference 16613. The main reason for the change was so that Rolex could bring in the upgraded Caliber 3135, recognized today as one of the finest mass-produced calibers ever made and one that would stay powering the Rolex Submariner Date for more than three decades.
We will take a closer look at the movement a little later but first, let’s examine just why the ref. 16613 is such an important and much sought-after reference in the Rolex Submariner’s story.
Rolex Submariner 16613 Case
The Submariner ref. 1661x series (and their no date equivalent, the ref. 14060), are sometimes referred to as the ‘last of the best’ among the Rolex Submariner collection. Enthusiasts have settled on the label because they are the final Submariner models to have the classic-style cases, with the follow-up series, the ref. 11661x, introducing the Super Case with significantly altered proportions.
Exemplified by beefed-up lugs and crown guards that are almost twice the thickness as before, Rolex introduced the Super Case to much of its Professional Collection in order to give the watches some extra wrist presence, so that they could cater to the modern-day trend for bigger watches without their dimensions actually increasing on paper. However, the ref. 16613 preceded this development, retaining the Submariner’s classic lines that had defined the model since crown guards were first introduced to the collection in 1959.
With that in mind, the case did go through two minor changes during the ref. 1661x’s 21-year production run. Early examples featured lug holes where the case met the bracelet, but Rolex started phasing these out from the early 2000s onwards. Starting around 2005, the brand included an engraved ROLEX ROLEX ROLEX signature, along with the watch’s unique serial number, on the rehaut (the inner bezel ring surrounding the dial) in an attempt to foil counterfeiters. Both of these features can be used by buyers to give a rough estimate as to the age of their particular model.
The stainless steel from which the brand creates the ref. 16613’s case was, by this point time, the 904L variety still used today (rechristened as Oystersteel). It replaced the former 316L stainless steel and was chosen for its superior resistance to corrosion, particularly by saltwater, making it perfect for a dive watch.
904L stainless steel has a couple of other advantages. Firstly, it holds a polish extremely well, and gives Rolex’s steel watches a unique shine unlike anything else in the industry. Secondly, it is especially difficult to machine, requiring highly trained engineers and some hugely expensive equipment. For that reason, it was also hoped that it would help combat the counterfeiters, although whether or not it actually has helped deter forgeries is open to debate.
With that in mind, 904L stainless steel is not (as is sometimes touted) a harder metal than 316L, and it has a higher nickel content, which can lead to skin irritations for those with a sensitivity to it. The extremely short-lived ref. 168000 (called the Triple Zero in Rolex collector-world) was the first Submariner to be made with 904L and was only in production from mid-1988 to the end of 1989. These days, Rolex exclusively uses 904L (Oystersteel) and is just about the only manufacturer to use the alloy on such a large scale.
Rolex Submariner 16613 Dials & Bezels
The Rolex Submariner 16613 was released with a choice of four different dials, each one imparting its own distinctive personality on the watch as a whole. The traditional Submariner look was with the black glossy dial and black bezel; however, the model that has perhaps become the most desirable on the pre-owned and vintage market is fitted with a blue dial with a matching blue bezel. The Submariner is no stranger to blue detailing, and it is something that complements the character of the watch very well.
The dial on the ref. 16613 is something a bit more special than just a standard blue dial. Instead of the uniformly flat shading across the surface as we see on many other watches, the sunburst effect here gives the blue a shimmering iridescence and an ever-changing tone – in some lights appearing almost black, in others nearly purple. The “Bluesy” (as it came to be known by collectors) was so well regarded that when its replacement, the ref. 116613LB arrived in 2009 with a regular solid blue dial, Rolex fans were so upset that the brand quickly restored the previous sunburst style.
The two other dial types are significantly less common and have a definite ‘of their era’ aesthetic to them. Known as Serti dials (after the French word ‘sertir’, meaning ‘to set’), they could be had in either champagne or slate/rhodium and were accented with gemstone indexes. Baguette-cut sapphires at the six and nine o’clock, a triangular sapphire at the 12, and circular diamonds for the rest (apart from the three o’clock, which is occupied by the date display). The two Serti dial examples could be had with either black or blue bezels.
As for the bezels themselves, the ref. 1661x was the last series of the Submariner to use aluminum for the inserts, with the subsequent generation receiving bezel inserts crafted from Rolex’s proprietary Cerachrom ceramic material. By the same token, this was also the last generation to retain standard hour markers – those that came later were fitted with the so-called Maxi dial, with significantly larger indexes. Each one was outlined in yellow gold, and the precious metal was also used to fill in the engraved numerals on the new ceramic bezels.
Rolex Submariner 16613 Lume & Crystal
With the Submariner 16613 having such a long run, the luminescence Rolex applied changed twice. The earliest-run pieces still relied on tritium, a radioactive substance but one that was far safer for watchmakers, unlike the radium that it had replaced. In 1998, tritium was swapped for LumiNova. This is known as a photoluminescent material, meaning that it absorbs light of one wavelength (usually ultraviolet) and emits a visible light of another wavelength.
Although LumiNova had to be ‘charged’ by the sun (or other ambient light) in order to glow, it was completely nonradioactive and therefore completely safe for both wearers and watchmakers alike. However, just two short years later, Rolex switched again, this time to Super-LumiNova, which is basically the same thing but produced by a Swiss company.
Incidentally, just as with the lug holes and rehaut engraving, we can use the lume type to give a rough estimate of age for a Submariner 16613. Each variety is identified at the very bottom of the dial, below the six o’clock index. Rolex marked the tritium models with ‘SWISS T<25’ and the LumiNova dials simply had ‘SWISS’ printed instead. The later Super-LumiNova examples have ‘SWISS MADE’ – just like the current-production models, but without the coronet insignia between the two words.
Finally, protecting all this is a flat sapphire crystal with Rolex’s signature Cyclops magnification lens that the brand had been using since 1979. However, during the early 2000s, Rolex started laser engraving a tiny crown (the brand’s logo) on the crystal, right near the 6 o’clock location, as one more attempt at foiling counterfeiters.
Rolex Submariner 16613 Movement
It is rare for a Rolex watch, and particularly one as popular as the Submariner, to run as long as the reference 16613 did without a change in movement. Therefore, it stands as a testament to just how well-engineered the Caliber 3135 was that it not only powered the watch for the entirety of its production but also drove the series that replaced it for more than another full decade.
First built in 1988, the Cal. 3135 would go on to become Rolex’s most successful and widely used movement ever. Physically large and fairly simple mechanically, it was the ideal engine for a watch designed for adventure. It took over from the Cal. 3035 and brought with it a handful of improvements. Most significantly, it incorporated a full balance bridge and larger balance wheel, along with upping the jewel count from 27 to 31. It retained much of the basic setup Rolex had been using for decades, such as its Microstella regulator system and Teflon-coated reversing gears on the automatic winding system.
However, just as with the outside of the ref. 1661x Submariner series, the movement also saw a few updates during its run. In 2000, Rolex finally perfected its Parachrom hairspring, something which had taken the brand five years of research and development. An alloy of niobium and zirconium, with an oxide coating, the new component was antimagnetic and offered significant resistance to shocks and temperature fluctuations. In 2005, the manufacturer thickened the oxide layer, causing the spring to turn blue when reacting with the air, resulting in the blue Parachom name that is still with it today.
Overall, the Rolex Caliber 3135 is something of a modern-day legend in the horology industry. Reliable, accurate, easy to work on, and extremely robust, it is a favorite among watchmakers and holds the distinction of being one of the most consistently accurate and reliable calibers ever made.
Rolex Submariner ref. 16613: Bracelet & Clasps
The Rolex Submariner ref. 16613 came fitted with the brand’s flat, three-link Oyster bracelet, the sportiest and most utilitarian of Rolex’s trio of metal bands. Again, just as with the rest of the watch, it would also benefit from some modifications over the course of its production run.
This iteration of the Submariner arrived at a period when Rolex was making a concerted effort to improve the quality and resilience of its bracelets – one area where the brand had received some criticism in the past. Rolex had moved away from riveted links (something else beloved by vintage fans) in the 1970s and graduated to folded links. Before the first examples of the ref. 16613 arrived in the late 80s, things had already advanced again, with its band now having 18k yellow gold hollow center links while the outer steel links were solid stainless steel. Shortly before Rolex started getting rid of the lug holes on the watch’s case, the brand also introduced solid end links (SEL), bringing with them a much-welcomed increase in strength.
The clasps also went through a couple of alterations. The earliest clasps featured additional safety lock fasteners crafted from stainless steel, which changed later on when it was given a stripe of yellow gold down the entire middle of the clasp so that it could better match with the overall Rolesor two-tone aesthetic of the rest of the bracelet.
The Rolex Submariner Reference 16613: Final Thoughts
You can think of the reference 16613 as the perfect metaphor for the Rolex Submariner itself. The blending of the opulence of gold with the durability of 904L steel encapsulates both sides of the ultimate luxury dive watch.
Coupled with that, the reference 16613 was made available in a range of options designed to cater to almost anyone’s taste, with the standout being the blue dial variant, which is thought of by some as the best looking blue dial ever produced by Rolex or indeed anyone else.
Best of all though, these iconic watches now represent some of the best value propositions of any pre-owned Rolex. In production for more than 20-years, there is no shortage of them on the market, keeping their prices reasonable. You can pick up a model in excellent condition starting at around the $10k mark, which is about the same as what you will pay for the all-steel version, the ref. 16610.
While the Rolesor models were originally priced significantly higher than their stainless steel counterparts, the fact that you can now purchase the steel and 18k gold version for nearly the same price is a highly attractive option that appeals to many of today’s collectors.