The Rolex Submariner is a watch that truly needs no introduction. First introduced in 1953 and remaining a constant presence within Rolex’s catalog ever since then, the Submariner is often regarded as the quintessential dive watch and it helped pioneer an entire genre of underwater timepieces during the early days of scuba diving in the 1950s.
Despite remaining in production for more than half a century, the core design of the Rolex Submariner has remained largely unchanged throughout the years. Rolex has continuously been evolving its iconic collection of dive watches as new materials and technologies have become available, and while some references were produced for less than a single year, others remained part of Rolex’s catalog for decades and stand out as quintessential examples of the brand’s iconic dive watch.
For more than twenty years between the late 1980s and 2010, the Rolex Submariner reference 16610 was the stainless steel version of the brand’s date-displaying dive watch and to this day, it is still the first watch that comes to mind whenever someone says the words, “Rolex Submariner.” Below we take a closer look at this historic Submariner Date reference, including its history, key features, and the numerous different variations that can be found among examples of this iconic Rolex model.
Rolex Submariner Reference 16610
Submariner 16610 Key Features:
– Production Years: 1987 – 2010 (Approx.)
– Case Size: 40mm
– Materials: Stainless Steel
– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display
– Dial: Black w/ Luminous Hour Markers
– Luminous Material: Tritium; Luminova; Super-LumiNova
– Bezel: Unidirectional, Black or Green Aluminum 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 w/ Wetsuit Extension
Click here for our Ultimate Buying Guide on the Rolex Submariner.
Rolex Submariner 16610 History
The Rolex Submariner was first introduced in 1953 and was the world’s first watch capable of achieving a depth rating of 100 meters. Despite its success and the widespread influence that the Submariner would have on the emerging genre of dive watches, it would take Rolex more than a decade before the brand would add a date complication to its legendary dive watch.
The first Submariner Date (the reference 1680) arrived in the mid-1960s and over the next couple of decades, Rolex would continue to refine and improve upon the design of its date-displaying dive watch – arguably at a more rapid rate than the more traditional, no-date model. For example, the Submariner Date received a sapphire crystal long before the no-date Submariner, and it also received a unidirectional bezel and increased 300-meter depth rating before its time-only counterpart.
To this day, Rolex still produces both time-only and date-displaying versions of the Submariner, and although the no-date model is the one that is most true to the history of Rolex’s dive watch, it has ultimately been the Submariner Date models that have proven to be the most popular. As a point of reference, Rolex produces seven different references of the current-production 41mm Submariner Date, spanning multiple material options and bezel colors. However, Rolex only produces one version of the no-date Submariner: a stainless steel model with a black dial and bezel.
The Reference 16610 Submariner Date
The reference 16610 arrived in 1988 and represents the fourth iteration of Rolex’s stainless steel date-displaying dive watch. Sapphire crystals and 300-meter depth ratings arrived with the second generation, while the short-lived third version of the Submariner Date (the reference 168000) was virtually identical to its predecessor (the reference 16800) except for the fact that the type of steel for the watch had been updated from the industry-standard 316L variety to the more corrosion-resistant 904L stainless steel that Rolex uses today.
When the Rolex Submariner Date reference 16610 finally made an appearance in the late 1980s, it looked virtually identical to the preceding model, but now featured a new movement (the Caliber 3135) that promised superior performance and stability. Benefitting from all of the various updates and innovations that had been introduced on the second and third iterations of the stainless steel Submariner Date, the reference 16610 would go on to define Rolex’s iconic dive watch collection, remaining in production for more than twenty years.
By the time that Rolex was finally ready to retire the ref. 16610 in 2010, the model that replaced it marked a significant change for the Submariner Date. The reference 16610’s successor introduced ceramic bezels, solid-link bracelets, and an updated case design with significantly altered proportions. While it did represent a significant step forward for the collection, it also signaled the end of a defining era for the Submariner and for many collectors, the reference 16610 will always be the model that first comes to mind whenever they think of Rolex’s date-displaying dive watch.
Rolex Submariner 16610 Defining Elements
At a glance, the reference 16610 appears very similar to its direct predecessor and the model shares a number of traits (both inside and out) with both earlier and later Submariner Date references. Additionally, due to the fact that the ref. 16610 remained in production for more than two decades, a range of variation can exist among this single model, simply depending on when the specific watch was produced and the components that were replaced throughout its history.
Submariner 16610 Case
All Rolex Submariner reference 16610 watches feature 40mm Oyster cases crafted from 904L stainless steel that include Triplock screw-down crowns, flat sapphire crystals with the brand’s signature Cyclops magnification lens, and solid screw-down casebacks. Additionally, all Submariner 16610 cases provide their users with 300 meters (1,000 feet) of water resistance, have 20mm lugs, and feature crown-guards on either side of the winning crown for additional protection.
However, there are a few differences between the cases of reference 16610 Submariner watches, simply depending on when the specific example was produced. Probably the most notable difference is in regards to the lug holes. On early Submariner 16610 watches, the holes for the springbar go straight through the lugs (like on vintage Rolex watches). However starting around 2000, Rolex began phasing out the pierced lug holes and it is this difference that is responsible for the holes vs. no-holes case designations that often accompany Submariner 16610 watches.
Additionally, starting around 2005, Rolex also began engraving the serial number of the watch along the rehaut (inner bezel) under the crystal, along with a “ROLEX ROLEX ROLEX ” engraving circling the perimeter. Just like with the lug holes, this inner bezel engraving helps distinguish earlier Rolex Submariner 16610 watches from their later-era counterparts and they also create a lot of excitement for today’s collectors.
Submariner 16610 Dial and Luminesce
By the time that the reference 16610 first made an appearance in the late 1980s, Rolex had already moved away from using the matte dials that defined the first generation of the Submariner Date. Rather than featuring a matte black surface with luminous tritium hour markers painted directly onto their surfaces, the dials fitted to the Submariner 16610 were of the later-era variety that featured gloss black surfaces with white text and applied hour markers outlined in white gold.
Despite the updated style, the luminescent material used remained the same for the first part of the reference 16610’s production run, and all Rolex Submariner 16610 watches originally left the factory with tritium lume on their hands and hour markers, all the way up until Rolex stopped using tritium in the late 1990s. Immediately following the use of tritium, Rolex started using Luminova (a photo-reactive luminescent material). However, within about a year or two of making the switch (depending on who you ask), Rolex had changed its luminous material again and started using Super-LumiNova, which is also photo-reactive and is essentially the Swiss-made equivalent of Luminova.
Throughout its entire production run, the overall style of dial fitted to the Submariner 16610 remained unchanged, and all examples feature a gloss black surface with white text and applied white gold hour markers. However, due to the different types of luminous material that were used, the dial signature below the 6 o’clock marker can differ from one example to the next. The earliest examples are signed with “SWISS – T<25” to denote the use of tritium, the ones with Luminova simply say the word “SWISS” (known as ‘Swiss-Only” dials), and those with Super-LumiNova say “Swiss Made” in the same location. It is also important to note that both Luminova and Super-Luminova Submariner 16610 dials will glow green in response to light, while those with tritium hour markers will not glow at all.
Submariner 16610 Bezel
Initially, the rotating timing bezels on Rolex Submariner watches turned in both directions because the patent for a unidirectional bezel was held by the watch brand Blancpain, which it had used on its Fifty Fathoms dive watch. However, Rolex started fitting single-direction bezels onto the Submariner as soon as the patent expired, and a unidirectional bezel has been featured on every single Rolex Submariner watch that has followed.
On the reference 16610, the bezel consists of a stainless steel bezel ring with a serrated edge that is fitted with an anodized aluminum insert. A specialized internal spring provides the bezel with a 120-click ratcheting motion, while a metal washer sits below the bezel ring to reduce friction for a smoother operation. The bezel insert is graduated to 60 minutes, and there is a luminous dot placed at the zero-marker to help users measure elapsed time in low-light conditions.
Submariner 16610 Movement
The single greatest factor separating the reference 16610 from its ref. 168000 predecessor is the movement used to power the watch. While the reference 168000 and older ref. 16800 both featured the Caliber 3035 movement (more-or-less a high-beat version of the Caliber 1575 that powered the original Submariner Date with the added convenience of a Quickset Date), the updated Submariner 16610 is powered by the legendary Rolex Caliber 3135.
While the Caliber 3035 and subsequent Caliber 3135 are both Quickset movements that boast chronometer-certification and self-winding technology, the Cal. 3135 represents a significant step forward, adding several jewels, a slightly longer power reserve, and a transverse balance bridge for superior stability. Widely considered to be one of the best and most reliable mass produced mechanical movements ever created, the Rolex Caliber 3135 was even used to power the subsequent generation of Submariner watches and served as the go-to movement for the Submariner Date all the way up until it was finally replaced with the Caliber 3235 in September 2020.
Submariner 16610 Bracelet
Since it first debuted in 1953, all Rolex Submariner watches have been fitted with the brand’s iconic three-link Oyster bracelet and the reference 16610 is no different. With that in mind, just like other aspects of the watch, the bracelet on the Submariner 16610 also received a few updates through its production run. All reference 16610 watches feature stainless steel Oyster bracelets that feature solid side links, hollow center links, a stamped fold-over clasp with safety latch, and a fold-out diver’s extension.
However, when it comes to the end-links and style of diver’s extension, that is where you will start to notice some differences. In the early 2000s, shortly before the switch from holes cases to no-holes cases, Rolex also updated the style of Oyster bracelets fitted to the Submariner 16610. On the earlier examples, the end-links were separate hollow pieces, but on the later-era examples, the end-links were machined pieces of solid steel that were permanently attached to the rest of the bracelet.
Similarly, Rolex also updated the style of the diver’s extension at this same time, changing from a fold-out piece of stamped metal to a slightly more refined link-based design that allows for a superior hold when the wetsuit extension is latched in the closed position. Despite its more robust and secure design, this updated style of diver’s extension does not offer the same type of incremental adjustment like you get with the revolutionary Glidelock extension system that is fitted to the bracelet clasps of the subsequent generation of Rolex Submariner watches with ceramic bezels.
The Green Rolex Submariner 16610LV – “Kermit”
When the reference 16610 was first released in the late 1980s, it was only available with a black dial and a matching black bezel insert – just like all previous stainless steel Submariner watches. However, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Submariner collection in 2003, Rolex released a special version of the reference 16610 (known as the reference 16610LV) that was intended to be offered alongside the standard all-black version of the Submariner Date. The “LV” part of the anniversary model’s reference number stands for Lunette Verte, which means “Green Bezel” in French.
Just like the standard-production model, the 50th anniversary edition features a 40mm stainless steel case with 300 meters of water resistance. However, while the standard version was fitted with a black bezel insert, the anniversary model features a bright green aluminum bezel insert – a nod to Rolex’s official company color. Additionally, the black dial fitted to the ref. 16610LV is what is known as a “Maxi Dial” due to the fact that it features slightly larger hands and hour markers.
Due to its bright green bezel and black dial with oversized white hour markers, the 50th anniversary Rolex Submariner 16610LV quickly picked up its now-famous “Kermit” nickname due to its slight resemblance to the iconic frog puppet character by the same name. Upon its initial release, the Kermit Submariner was significantly less popular than its all-black counterpart and could often be found at a discount on the secondary market. However, in the years since the ref. 16610LV was discontinued in 2010, the model has seen a significant spike in interest from collectors, and the green Submariner 16610 now trades hands for an absolute minimum of several thousand dollars more than its standard black bezel sibling.
Buying a Rolex Submariner 16610
The Rolex Submariner reference 16610 is a discontinued model, which means that it has now been entirely unavailable at retailers for more than a decade. In fact, even its direct successor (the ref. 116610) has since been discontinued and replaced by the current generation with 41mm cases. Given that the Submariner 16610 was discontinued back in 2010, the pre-owned market is now the only place that you will be able to find one for sale.
However, due to the fact that the ref. 16610 remained part of Rolex’s catalog for more than twenty years, examples are in ample supply on the secondary market and it consistently ranks among the most affordable and readily available Submariner Date references. Additionally, despite originally costing more than its no-date sibling from the same generation, present-day prices for the two watches are about the same and you can sometimes even buy a Submariner 16610 for less than its time-only counterpart.
Additionally, due to the range of variation that exists within this single reference, buyers have the rare opportunity of choosing between slightly different features and design elements. Some collectors have strong preferences regarding factors such as the type of lug holes or luminous material, and this diversity among reference 16610 watches allows you to find an example that perfectly suits your individual preferences.
Rolex Submariner 16610 Price
The reference 16610 is typically among the least expensive Rolex Submariner watches but even the most affordable examples of this reference cost nearly the same price as a brand-new stainless steel Submariner. As of May 2021, pre-owned prices start out at just under $9,0000 and increase from there depending on the watch’s specific features and overall condition.
Generally speaking, newer examples cost more than older ones but other factors such as the originality of components, the presence of a watch’s original box and paperwork, and (naturally) the overall condition of the can also significantly influence the value of a timepiece. Additionally, provenance can be an X-factor when it comes to value, and a Submariner 16610 that previously belonged to a celebrity or that saw military or commercial diving use can often be worth more than an otherwise identical example of the watch.
When it comes to the price of the Rolex Submariner 16610, it is important to note that the 50th anniversary reference 16610LV watches with their black Maxi dials and green aluminum bezels are worth significantly more than their all-black counterparts. On the low-end, you can expect to pay an absolute minimum of several thousand dollars more for a “Kermit” Submariner and on the high-end, a mint-condition example of one of the very earliest iterations with a MK1 dial and “Flat 4” bezel insert can be worth more than $30k.
Rolex Submariner 16610: The Last Of the Best?
The reference 16610 is the last Rolex Submariner to feature an aluminum bezel insert (a trait that had been a mainstay of the model since its initial debut in 1953) and it is also the last Submariner Date watch to adhere to the classic case proportions that had defined the brand’s iconic dive watch since 1959. Often imitated but never quite replicated, there is something almost magical about the classic case proportions of the Submariner 16610 that allow it to be worn on virtually any wrist size.
In the years since the Submariner first made an appearance, Rolex has made the transition from a respected manufacturer of high-end watches into the single most famous luxury brand in the word. Rolex may have built its reputation by building highly reliable and durable wrist watches that were worn by everyone from commercial saturation divers to military personnel but these days, you are more likely to find a Rolex watch peeking out from under the sleeves of professional athletes and top Hollywood celebrities.
In the exact same way that Rolex has made the transition towards being an outright luxury manufacturer, the Submariner has also started to move in the more luxurious direction. However, unlike the modern ceramic bezel models, the reference 16610 still retains some of its rugged purpose-built styling that helped make the Submariner an absolute legend during the early days of the tool watch.
From a technical and performance standpoint, the subsequent generation of the Submariner with super-sized cases and ceramic bezels marked a significant step forward for the collection. Rolex’s proprietary Cerachrom ceramic material will not scratch or fade and the current generation’s updated bracelet is one of the absolute best in the industry. However, despite the improved materials and performance metrics, there are still many Rolex enthusiasts who feel that the Super Case update to the Submariner was simply too radical. For those purist collectors, the reference 16610 will always be considered “the last of the best.”