All right let’s do this. What you need to know before picking a Submariner: take one. So here we go another video on the Submariner, but before you decide to stop watching this video has some very helpful points to navigating picking out the right Sub for you, and since the Rolex Submariner is so ubiquitous, they’re countless models and references to choose from so we thought we’d break down a guide to buying the Submariner.
We’re going to cover the main references and what to look out for and then give you our pick on which Sub to get. So, let’s jump in.
The first thing to think about: Whether or not to go vintage?
For the sake of this video we are not going to look at vintage Subs and there’s two reasons why. First and foremost, vintage Subs are an entire video in and of themselves, and second this is meant to act as a guide to getting the Sub and we would not recommend a vintage Sub as your first. It would kind of be like having your daily driver as a 60s 911. While super cool probably not practical and that’s the approach we’re going to take.
And first a quick breakdown on what 4, 5, and 6-digit refers to. The reference, or model number, for the Sub started as a 4-digit number and featured multiple numbers until the 80s when it became a 5-digit number. Also, in the 80s things got a little out of order because there was a 6-digit reference in the 168000, or the sixteen eight thousand, but then Rolex went back to the 5-digit, and in the 2000s progressed into the 6-digit model number.
So, here’s a quick recap of the last 60 years. The Submariner is introduced in 1953 by 1969 Rolex introduced the 1680 which is the first date sub. By the 80s, the Subs are going through some kind of a weird growing pain with the 16800 to the 6-digit, 168000, and then finally at the end of the 80s the intro of the 16610. Gloss dial, white gold surrounds, sapphire crystal, new steel, new movement. The update to the No Date followed in 1990, ending the nearly 30-year reign of the 5513, and then in 2010 Rolex had the largest departure for the Submariner with the 116610 and in 2012 the 114060 No Date.
Okay now that we’ve blazed through 60 years of Rolex history, let’s start breaking down the decision tree on picking out the Sub for you.
Pre Ceramic vs. Ceramic Subs
The first thing to really think about is pre-ceramic and post-ceramic. If you decide to go post-ceramic the choices are a little simpler, so we’ll start there. As you’re deciding what’s important to you here are some key questions to consider. Do you want the date or not? If not, then your choice is made.
The 114060 Ceramic Submariner.
You do want the date? Okay, then you have to decide. Do you want steel or steel and gold, and lastly, do you have a color preference? Steel means you get to choose between a black Submariner or green Submariner. Now the green is limited and will generally carry a premium. Steel and gold means you can choose between a black Submariner or a blue Submariner. And it’s worth mentioning that there is a blue Sub, but frankly if you’re looking at an all-gold Sub then you probably don’t need this video, and you already know what you need. Go you!
So now let’s dive into the murky waters of the pre-ceramic, and we’re going to start the same way. Do you want the date or not? Going the no date route is going to be much simpler so we’ll start there.
You really have two references to look at the 14060 or the 14060M, and the biggest change was the difference in the movement from the caliber 3000 to the 3130. Realistically the change of movement is probably not going to be that noticeable so in our opinion considering the visual difference is a better way to make this decision. So first you need to decide if you want a two line or four-line Submariner. Now this refers to the number of lines of text at six o’clock. The four-line Sub has been C.O.S.C. certified and thus the additional two lines of text appear on the dial. The two-line Submariner is often seen as the most distilled form of the Submariner, but to some can be too stark.
If you do want a two-line Sub you can look at the 14060 or the 14060M, so then the decision really comes down to whether or not you want tritium. Now tritium is the material used for luminescence and patinas over time. If you want the vintage looking Sub then go with the 14060 with tritium dial and hands. If you don’t want tritium then your options for luminescence are Luminova, which is distinguished by the “Swiss” only dial on the 14060 or SuperLuminova with a “Swiss Made” dial and that’s either the 14060 or the 14060M.
If you decide you want the four-line Sub then this only exists as the 14060M and towards the end of its production starting in 2007. And it’s worth mentioning that with the four-line version you will most likely have the engraved rehaut on the chapter ring.
The Submariner Date
So now that that’s covered let’s push through the final frontier of Subs, the preceramic Submariner Date. And here are the references that we need to cover the 16800, the 168000, the 16610, and the 16610T. Similar to the no date Sub we’re going to focus on the visual differences in making the decision so let’s start with one of the most noticeable features of the Sub: the dial.
If you want a vintage vibe then you have to go with a matte dial. Matte dial also means painted on indices, and that’s an early 16800 up until about 1984. Later 16800’s switched to the gloss dial with the white gold surrounds. If you don’t want the matte dial than from a technology perspective, it makes the most sense to jump straight to the 16610, skipping the 168000, but since we’re here, we’ll at least explain the 168000.
The 168000 is kind of a quirky transitional model. It has all the features of the 16610 with the older 3035 movement. This limited production does make them desirable to some, but unless you’re dead set on this reference for a particular reason, like birth year, then we recommend going with something else.
The Rolex 16610
Okay, so if you’ve made it this far and you’re still deciding then you’re probably interested in a 16610. Now you need to determine whether or not you want tritium.
If you do then you pretty much have any 16610 up until 1998, and another cool feature to look out for if you’re interested in tritium dials is the open six and nine of the early 16610 date wheels. It’s a nice vintage touch that disappeared in the early 90s and it really compliments the tritium dial nicely.
If you decide not to go with the tritium dial then you pretty much need to look at 16610 Submariners from 1998 to 2010, and there are a few things to pay attention to. Since the 16610 only comes in four lines of text the use of Luminova and “Swiss” only dials is a cool distinguishing factor because they were only produced for a year so around 98 and 99.
The solid end link bracelets started in 2001 and eliminates some of the rattle. The 16610T, or transitional reference, came in 2003 and did away with the pierced lugs, and the last two subtle changes would be the LEC or laser etched cornet on the crystal, and the engraved chapter ring.
Once you’ve determined what you want, visually speaking, you can start to branch out, and similar to the ceramic Sub decide if you want to go steel or steel and gold. If you go steel and gold again you have to choose between a black or blue Submariner, and if you go just steel, similarly you have to choose between a black or green, and it’s worth mentioning that the green bezel 16610 transitional Sub is called the Kermit and is the 50th anniversary version. Because of their limited nature these do fetch a premium.
A good rule of thumb is if you don’t know why the price of a particular Sub is so high it’s probably because of some subtle difference which some collectors deem valuable, and if you don’t know, don’t worry. Just move on to the next one.
Now that that’s out of the way let’s recap.
If you like vintage go with an early 16800. You get the matte dial with the creature comforts of a modern Sub. Quick-set date, sapphire crystal, and a unidirectional bezel.
If you want the classic styling of the Sub, but don’t want to pay for the premium price of the 16800 go with the 16610, and specifically one from around the new millennium. You get the solid end link bracelet while still retaining the pierced lugs. Granted you forego the tritium dial, but if you want the tritium, we recommend going all the way to the 16800.
If you want to have the most impressive Sub then go with the ceramic Sub, and in our opinion the 114060 is the best option. Some people don’t like all the text, but hey you got rid of the date so at least it’s a symmetrical dial.
“STEEL AND GOLD”
If you want to go Steel and Gold, then we recommend the newer 6-digit ceramic Sub references. The updated solid bracelets lend themselves much better, having soft precious metal as the center links.
And lastly just remember this is just a guide. You are picking out YOUR Sub. Get what you want. Get what makes you happy. Personally, my favorite Submariner is the Hulk. So, there you have it folks our full… We never pressed play, so I don’t know what’s next. Haha! So, there you have it folks. This is our full recommendation on picking out a Submariner. Let us know which one you would get, and if you disagree with any of our recommendations, and as always thanks for watching.