The year 2008 marked both the 55th anniversary of the Rolex Submariner collection and also the 100th anniversary of the “Rolex” name itself. While the now-legendary company was originally founded in London in 1905, it would not be until three years later in 1908 that it would actually register “Rolex” as the brand name of its watches.
To celebrate the occasion, the iconic Swiss watch manufacturer made some fairly significant announcements and released several new watch designs. Among the new releases, Rolex unexpectedly debuted three all-gold Submariner Date models. What made these new Submariner watches unique and exciting was the fact that they were not just variants of existing Submariner models. Rather, they were completely re-designed watches.
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Rolex Submariner Reference 116619LB – “Smurf”
Submariner 116619 “Smurf” Key Features:
– Reference Number: 116619LB
– Production Years: 2008 – 2020
– Case Size: 40mm
– Materials: 18k White Gold
– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display
– Dial: Blue w/ Luminous Hour Markers
– Bezel: Unidirectional, Blue Ceramic Insert w/ 60-Minute Scale
– Crystal: Sapphire (Flat w/ Cyclops Lens)
– Movement: Rolex Caliber 3135
– Water Resistance: 300 Meters / 1,000 Feet
– Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet
A New Anniversary Submariner
The reference 116619LB followed another colorful anniversary Submariner – the ref. 16610LV. Dubbed the “Kermit” and released in 2003 to celebrate the Submariner’s 50th anniversary, it features a striking green aluminum bezel and black maxi dial. It could be argued that it was the ref. 16610LV that paved the way for Rolex to release another colorful iteration of the Submariner in the form of the ref. 116619 to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the collection and 100th anniversary of the ‘Rolex’ name?
The new all-gold Submariner watches, including the white gold model (reference 116619LB), exhibited many of the same enhancements and upgrades as the highly anticipated 50th anniversary GMT-Master II models. The lugs and the crown guards on the 116619 share the same expanded “Super Case” design as the 50th anniversary GMT watches. Because the lugs and guards are larger, the Submariner appears overall larger on the wrist, though the case itself remained the same 40mm measurement as the previous generation of Submariner models.
Other features helped the ref. 116619 remain immediately identifiable as a Rolex Submariner. For example, the bezel was now made from an extremely hard and highly scratch-resistant ceramic material known as Cerachrom, yet it strikingly resembles the classic Submariner bezel style. The 18k white gold case of the Submariner 116619 was not increased in size to offer higher water resistance. Rather, the Submariner 116619 remained at the same 300-meter depth rating as the previous model.
A New Bright Blue Dial
The Submariner 116619’s dial raised many eyebrows when first revealed. Its striking bright blue color was a surprising choice for the watch. However, the color compliments the white-gold beautifully and sets it apart from all other Submariner models. The “Maxi” dial also features larger markers and hands, like those first seen on the Rolex Yacht-Master and that were fitted to the “Kermit” Submariner from the previous generation.
The hands and hour markers glow a striking blue color in the dark that compliments the watch’s bright blue dial and bezel. Rolex’s proprietary blue-glowing luminous material is patented as “Chromalight” and was developed for better visibility while in the water compared to its predecessor Super-LumiNova, which glows green. Chromalight is also widely celebrated for its longer-lasting glow, which allows it to emit light for up to 8 continuous hours. Chromalight may glow bright blue in the dark but during the day, the upgraded material remains crisp white against the watch’s bright blue dial.
The bracelet and clasp of the 116619 Submariner were also upgraded. Matching the 18k white gold of the case, the Submariner 116619’s white gold Oyster bracelet features a completely solid link design with high-polish center links. A new Glidelock clasp was introduced on this watch, which offers users instantaneous tool-free adjustment of the bracelet in 2mm increments up to a total of about 20mm, making it far more functional than previous models and a welcome feature for both divers and non-divers alike.
Despite the numerous external updates, Inside, the ref. 116619LB uses the same 31-jewel Rolex Caliber 3135 movement found in the previous generation. This legendary in-house movement oscillates at 28,800 beats per hour and is a COSC-certified chronometer. Like later iterations of the Caliber 3135, the movement inside the ref. 116619 is fitted with the brand’s blue Parachrom hairspring that is highly antimagnetic and both shock and temperature resistant. This greatly aids in maintaining the precision of the timepiece, giving it the reputation as one of the most reliable mechanical watch movements ever created.
What’s in a Name?
It isn’t uncommon for collectors to assign charming nicknames to unique or colorful variations of the classics, and the reference 116619LB is no exception. Shortly after its release, the white gold Submariner acquired its now-famous “Smurf” nickname. Just like nearly all Rolex nicknames, the ref. 116619LB’s “Smurf” moniker is entirely unofficial but you will frequently hear it used by both dealers and collectors
Compared to the traditional iridescent blue sunburst dial seen on other editions of the blue dial Submariner, the reference 116619 more closely matches that of the beloved children’s cartoon character. Pair that with the stark white luminous hour markers and its 18k white gold construction (the first official instance of white gold within the Submariner series), and the result is a Rolex that is more than deserving of its new nickname.
Is the Rolex Smurf Discontinued?
Rolex discontinued the “Smurf” Submariner reference 116619 in 2020, making way for a brand-new generation of white gold Submariner watches (ref. 126619LB). Like the Smurf, the newer edition features a striking blue Cerachrom ceramic bezel. Only now, the dial is presented in black.
The case of the new white gold Submariner model is also slightly larger (now measuring 41mm in diameter rather than 40mm), and the new-generation Cal. 3235 movement now powers the watch with a longer 70-hour power reserve. Since the Submariner reference 116619LB is no longer in production and is the only white gold Submariner ever fitted with a blue dial, it has become even more collectible.
How Much is a Rolex Smurf Submariner?
When the white gold Submariner 116619 originally debuted in 2008, it retailed for $29,850. Just a few years later, that price increased to $36,850. Its price rose steadily during the decade that it was in production, speaking volumes about the watch’s overall value and enduring desirability among collectors.
With its bright blue dial and matching blue Cerachrom bezel, the reference 116619LB “Smurf” is visually distinct from all other Submariner watches and now that it has been discontinued, the Smurf Submariner has started to enter an entirely new realm of collectability and pre-owned prices have already started to climb. As of 2021, you can expect to pay anywhere between $35k and $45k for ref. 116619. If you were lucky enough to buy the Submariner 116619 before Rolex discontinued it, you’re sitting on a valuable luxury watch with an even more intriguing history.
It isn’t very often that we see Rolex Submariner 116619LB watches out in the wild. It’s a polarizing watch with an even heftier price tag, and only those that are familiar with Rolex watches will know that it is made out of solid 18k white gold. The “Smurf” holds a special place in the Submariner’s history, marking the 50th anniversary of Rolex’s dive watch collection and the 100th anniversary of the Rolex name. It introduced white gold to the collection and helped usher in a new era of Rolex dive watches with new technologies, luxurious materials, and contemporary styling.