The Rolex Submariner is a watch we talk about a lot, and for good reason. It’s the watch that most watches are compared to. But that can be a good thing and a bad thing. And to paraphrase Shakespeare, “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” I just had to make that pun. Rolex is generally slow to update it’s watches, and in some cases, it can seem like a watch becomes outdated, especially with the amount of scrutiny the brand receives. And then year after year, without fail, fans and collectors start to speculate on what new watches Rolex will release.
It’s about that time of the year when the Baselworld predictions begin to fly, and we’re putting our money on an updated Submariner. But, before a newer model is potentially introduced we figured we’d take a minute and look at the current Submariner reference and compare it with its previous generation and maybe use history to predict the future.
The “Modern” Submariner | The Rolex 16610
When Rolex released the previous generation Submariner the 16610 in 1989 it was a massive update. The new 16610 had the caliber 3135, a sapphire crystal, a black gloss dial with white gold indices, and a new stainless steel called 904L. This was a pretty impressive spec sheet and though some of the updates had trickled into the Submariner over the previous years it was finally in a complete package. A truly modern dive watch for its time. And over the years, in Rolex fashion, slow improvements were made. In 1998 the luminescence changed from tritium to Luminova and then seemingly overnight to SuperLuminova, and in 2001 the bracelet gained solid end links. Then in 2003 the model number changed to the 16610T or transition, referring to the non-pierced lugs. The small updates continued like the engraved rehaut on the chapter ring and the laser etched cornet on the crystal.
The Rolex Submariner 116610 | The Supercase
And then in 2008 we saw our first glimpse of the new Submariner in the reference 116619, the solid white gold version. 2 years later, in 2010, we finally saw the 116610. The new stainless-steel Submariner had arrived. First and foremost, the 116610 retained the caliber 3135, so mechanical performance was the same, but the changes were not small. The case was beefed up with thicker lugs and thicker crown guards. They added a new ceramic bezel, and also thicker indices and hands calling it a maxi dial. The luminescence changed again to a new proprietary material called Chromalight that glowed blue instead of green. The watch also received a completely redesigned bracelet. Along with the solid end links the bracelet now had completely solid center links and a new milled clasp with an easy adjust design called the Glidelock. The 116610 made the Submariner, once again, feel like a modern dive watch.
Sub vs. Sub
Now the debate on which reference is better is tough because it really does come down to preference. The 16610 definitely felt outdated by 2010, but it’s no slouch of a watch. Its “rattlely” bracelet, trim case design, and aluminum bezel harken back to the Submariners of old, but beside the newer 116610 it does feel dated. If there were one word to describe the new Submariner, it would be impressive.
Our 2020 Baselworld Prediction
It took Rolex 21 years to update the Submariner, and even though it’s only been nine years since its most recent update there is some speculation that will see a new one soon. And, it’s definitely got us thinking. Will we see the new Sub in precious metal first? Is the 116610 really outdated? Will we see the end of the caliber 3135? What if Rolex thinned up the case, went back to a matte dial, and tried a matte ceramic bezel?! Now we’ve seen redesigned cases from Rolex in recent years, and some of the newer Yachtmasters do have matte dials, and Tudor does produce a matte ceramic bezel. Of course, this is all just speculation, but it’s fun to dream, and you know that watch would have a wait list years long. Let us know which Sub you like and what you think Rolex may release next and thanks for watching.