COMPARATIVE REVIEW: The Rolex Submariner 16610 vs. the Rolex Submariner 116610

COMPARATIVE REVIEW: The Rolex Submariner 16610 vs. the Rolex Submariner 116610

Dec 10

COMPARATIVE REVIEW:
The Rolex Submariner 16610 vs. the Rolex Submariner 116610
By: John B. Holbrook, II
December 11th, 2010

During my review last week of the Rolex Submariner 116610, I went out of my way not to make the obvious comparison between it, and the watch it replaces – the Rolex Submariner 16610.  I felt it was important to evaluate the watch on it’s own merits and to do so objectively, while setting aside my personal preferences.  In this article, I’m going to talk more about what I personally like and don’t like about the 116610 relative to the 16610.

In my mind, the 16610 is a high bar for any other watch – even another made by Rolex – to clear.  It so perfectly strikes the balance between tool/sport watch, and dress watch.  So many times people have asked or emailed me with the question “which Rolex should I buy?”  My response is always the same:  If you’re going to buy one and only one Rolex, make it the 16610 Submariner.  It has unmatched versatility making it the perfect choice for a daily driver.

I also think that many people don’t appreciate just how radical of a cosmetic change the 116610 is from the 16610.  Consider how very little actually changed from the  Submariner 1680 when Rolex debuted the Submariner 16610 in 1988:

The Submariner 1680

The Submariner 16610

The most obvious differences between these two models is the crystal, (acrylic plastic on the 1680, sapphire on the 16610) dial (flat black on the 1680, glossy black on the 16610) and the markers (raised on the 1680, applied white gold on the 16610). Now let’s do the same comparison with the 16610 and the 116610:

The Submariner 116610

To my eye, the Submariner 116610 is more obviously dissimilar from a cosmetic perspective to the 16610 Submariner than the 16610 was from the 1680.  And that means Rolex took a much bigger risk.

Functionally, it’s hard not to admit that the 116610 is a hands-down better watch.  Anywhere you see stainless steel on this watch, you’re seeing 904L grade stainless steel – not so with the 16610 (the clasp for example was not made from 904L on the 16610).  The all-solid link construction should mean that “bracelet stretch” commonly seen on Rolex Oyster bracelets with hollow center links (like on the 16610) are a thing of the past.  In most respects, the clasp on the 116610 absolutely blows away the 40+ year old clasp design it replaced.  The Glidelock feature in particular really is awesome.  I think the clasp will show scratches MUCH more readily than the 16610 clasp, but that may be an acceptable trade off to get the other stellar features of the 116610 clasp.  And the addition of the Rolex Parachome Bleu hairspring makes the version of the Rolex Caliber 3135 in the Submariner 116610 substantially better than the Caliber 3135 found in the Submariner 16610. All that said, I have absolutely no desire at this point to trade in my 16610 on the 116610 – here’s why:

I maintain that Rolex did what they needed to do with the 116610 – they made it sportier, and they gave it hard to counterfeit features which stand out from the competition.  But in doing so, they made the watch less appealing to me personally.  For example, many people like the larger hands and markers on the 116610, but I do not.  They’re certainly easier to see, which is a good thing, and they give it sportier look in my opinion.  I happen to think the smaller hands and markers on the 16610 look more visually appealing and give the 16610 a dressier appearance.

The “CERACHROM” bezel on the 116610 is a pretty neutral point for me.  On one hand, it is gorgeous – I do like it aesthetically.  It will also be harder to scratch or weather fade than the aluminum bezel inserts Rolex has used for decades on watches like the 16610, but I also think it’s more prone to cracking – it’s pretty hard to crack aluminum.  The thing I do like about the aluminum bezel on the 16610 is that you could replace one for under $100.00.  I’m guessing it will be north of $1000.00 to replace the bezel on the 116610 if you do manage to damage it.  So for me, the pluses and minuses are a wash, but it’s important for Rolex because bezel will be harder for illegal counterfeiters to replicate (at least cost effectively) than the simple aluminum bezel insert on the 16610.  And that’s good for everyone.

To give the 116610 Submariner a larger look and more presence on the wrist, Rolex increased the size of case lugs and crown guards substantially.  This is the change which is probably the hardest for me to live with.  To my eye, it substantially changes the classic aesthetic lines of the 16610, making it “chunkier” and sportier.  The case lugs also substantially alter the previously smooth transition from case to bracelet on the 16610.  Compare these two wrist shots of both watches:

The Submariner 16610

The Submariner 116610

See the difference in how the two watches look where the bracelet meets the case?  You’re mileage will clearly vary on this point – it’s a matter of personal preference.

Fans of my articles will note that I was not favorable toward the Submariner 116613 when I compared it to the 16613 Submariner either – based almost entirely on the differences in the dial color/execution between the two.  In this instance, I’m not quite as turned off.  In time, I’m hoping my admiration for the fantastic technical improvements which Rolex made to the Submariner will overcome the cosmetic issues I have with it – the 116610 really is a fantastic watch.  Rolex is trying to attract new, younger buyers with this watch, and again that’s what they should be doing.  When you’ve had the same basic look for a watch for about 50 years, people like me will have the hardest time adjusting to change – the casual observer likely won’t see much difference or quite frankly even care.    But for now, my Rolex Submariner 16610 is my preferred version of the all-stainless steel Submariner.

You can discuss this article in the Rolex Forum of my online luxury watch discussion forum community WATCH TALK FORUMS.

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59 comments

  1. Kurt

    John,

    A very detailed, thorough, and pragmatic review as always! And as always, I agree with your synopsis. The new case alone is enough to keep me loyal to the 16610!

    Kurt

    • sam

      i am a huge fan of the submariner, but dont understand why in updating the new model, they didn’t take the opportunity to make the watch larger…. given trends, I would have thought 42-44mm would be more appropriate?

      • jbhii

        You have to understand Rolex. 🙂 If you want a big watch, go for the Deep Sea.

      • Cecil

        Hi Sam,

        Got mine Feb, 16; l prefer the larger lugs to a larger diameter. Great watch!

  2. Dell Deaton

    Interesting you should (appropriately) choose the word ‘radical’ here. I might add, as much as anything else, the word ’emotional’ to the reactions that have come way way on this since Basel.

    As I’ve previously noted in print and on the Internet, this move to the 116610 for the Submariner marks the first time in history that Rolex had not had a single current model with ties to the fictional (gotta make sure we acknowledge that) James Bond character. Timothy Dalton was the last, wearing a 16610 in the Eon Productions film, ‘Licence to Kill’ (1989).

    And, of course, citing our mutual friends at Guido Mondani Editore in their ‘Rolex Submariner Story,’ Agent 007 has ‘given even greater advertising success’ to the Submariner, if not as much so to Rolex as a whole, than its formal efforts.

    People take this all very seriously (too seriously, in some cases, I of all people must say).

    Maybe Rolex does, too. Doesn’t the 116610 strike you as reflecting a good deal of 6538 influence, a’la ‘Dr No’ with Sean Connery as James Bond in 1962?

    Good review, John. Thanks for letting me add my two-cents here.

    Dell Deaton

    • jbhii

      Hi Dell – thanks for your comments. Interesting observation about the 6538 influence. Perhaps you can elaborate here because I’m not directly seeing this correlation.

  3. rolexpert

    Somehow, I can’t work up the emotional reaction to minor cosmetic changes that others seem to. The differences in the lugs and crown guards are just styling conventions. I like them, they make the watch look a bit more substantial, and with my 7.5″+ wrist, that’s not a bad thing. The rest of the changes make the watch sure to look better, work better and last longer. I don’t see a downside.

  4. Jim

    Nice review again. But I wish you had provided the weight of the 16610 and 116610.

  5. Another good review and comparison. Great images!

    The think the statement, “The all-solid link construction should mean that ‘bracelet stretch’ commonly seen on Rolex Oyster bracelets with hollow center links (like on the 16610) are a thing of the past” might be an overstatement. Bracelet stretch is really not stretch, but rather “elongation” and wear of the bracelet pins. The pins in a solid link bracelet will wear just as much (if not more) when the links flex/rotate than they do on non-solid links. On the solid link models, there is more metal for the pins to wear against when the link hinges to-n-fro.

    Just like with the traditional bracelets, the solid link bracelets should also be worn slightly snug in order to prevent pin wear.

    • jbhii

      Sheldon – obviously it will be a decade or two until we’re really able to compare how the 116610 bracelet holds up to the hollow center link versions which came before it. My statement was specifically regarding the nature of the hollow center links to stretch out and elongate over time, as I’ve seen more times than I can count on vintage Rolex sport watches.

  6. Dan

    I loved the review. I’m about to pull the trigger on my first stainless steel sub, and I’ve been torn about which model to purchase. I’m leaning towards the 116610 because of the bracelet and the ceramic bezel. I think these two enhancements are awesome and take the watch to a new level of “wow”. I could be wrong though. Again, thank you for the review and the website, I enjoy it very much!

  7. Essar

    Great review. Liked it a lot. Thanks and regards,

    Essar

  8. Great review John! I have actually never owned a Rolex but I like the look of the new 116610 very much as I am a “big watch” guy. The increased size of the lugs, brushed bracelet as well as a few other features really has me looking at these more seriously. Thanks again for your review.

    Best,
    Rob Montana

    • jbhii

      Hi Rob! Great seeing you hear on The Rolex Reference Page at LuxuryTyme.com! Glad you enjoyed this review! The new Sub definitely has more contemporary design changes which will appeal to the “big watch” guys. I’m 5’7″ so I can’t really pull off big watches. 🙁

  9. Charles

    Enjoyed the review. I just bought the 116610 and it is my first Rolex. I love it. Maybe I love it so much b/c I never owned the 16610 and never got used to it. I could never get over the cheap clasp of the 16610. In my humble opinion the 116610 is awesome!

  10. wander

    where do i get a new bezel for my 16610? help would be very appreciated

    • jbhii

      I’ve not idea where you live, but either contact a Rolex service center in your area, or a qualified independent service technician.

  11. Andy Chandra

    My first Rolex is Submariner 16610 P series (30 Jan 2011 ) , i loved this one .

    Thanks for the review .

    Regards
    Andy

    • jbhii

      Congrats Andy! Post some photos of your new watch over in the Rolex Forum on WATCH TALK FORUMS!

      • Andy Chandra

        Hi John ,

        Thank you for the reply …
        I loved Your review so much , You did it very well , even for the new one in the watch world .. like me …
        it’s become enthusiasm .. very well.

        I’d posted it .

        Thank you for your attention and time , i really appreciate it !!

  12. Adam

    I like the new technical innovations, however the watch now becomes purely casual and sporty versus the 16610 which looks more elegant with suits and dress clothing.

  13. chihming li

    Hello,
    Great review john. I have read all your words. Very interesting! I have a rolex submariner date 16610. The old model and the new model have + and -. Important thing : the 16610 or 116610 is the same watch from the inside. It doesn,t matter, right? A rolex sub is a rolex sub.
    But what i don,t like is the case from the 116610, the case is a little bit to big? The 16610 is smaller and better. The 116610 is a beautiful watch! 100% sure.
    I,m the same as you john, i don,t want to sell my rolex sub 16610, to buy a new model 116610. I buy my watch from 2007. I,m still very happy with my rolex sub 16610. For the people they have a rolex submariner, enjoy your watch? And every time i look at my rolex sub, it,s like the first time i buy it. What a feeling!!! Yes. Greetings chinming

    • jbhii

      There are some slight differences (mostly the hairspring) in the caliber 3135 used in the 16610 vs. the 3135 used in the 116610. Glad you liked the review!

  14. Rozani

    Great review. Thanks. Bought the watch – 16610LV after reading this review. My first Rolex which is great alternative to my Cartier Santos 100. The 16610 looks more sleeker than the chunkier 116610
    LV . What a feeling everytime I look at the watch.

  15. Ralph

    Bought my 16610 in 2000 – and it has fairhfully served as my daily watch – casual and formal, although I have many watches to choose from. When the new 116613 came out, had a choice of this or the 16613, and went with the latter – the dial color the deciding factor. Still, 16610 is old faithful – true to the original early models – destined to remain the classic. I do like the fact that even with the new model, Rolex maintains a classic look that changes little with time – much like the tri-star and grill of Mercedes cars keep them relatively timeless.

  16. Chris

    Hey guys and / or John, I have a rolex submariner 16610. I really like the watch but I’m also very into the ceramic bezel on the 116610.

    Is it possible to replace the ceramic bezel on the 16610? Also, how much do you think i’ll be looking at in terms of cost?

    Any comments would be appreciated.

    Thanks guys

  17. aditya

    just wanted to no if Submariner 16610 is still available???

    • John B. Holbrook, II

      It’s no longer sold as a “new” model and was replaced by the 116610. But the 16610 was produced in relatively high numbers for years and is easily found on the secondary market.

  18. Ray

    Great comparison. I have a ’98 era 1661 that has been a daily time piece for me as a race car crew member and has held up brilliantly Under the most demanding conditions, even with extending several regular service periods. The sapphire crystal has held up with only one divit from a welding ember. My only issue has been the band streatch or sag. Can rebuilding the original bracelet via replacing OEM pins and screws (as noted by one of the comments) restore some of this issue or is a replacement bracelet the only option. I have recently put it onto a NATO band as I’m worried about the security of the original band but miss the chunky steel original in both feel and look. Thanks for some great reviews

    • John B. Holbrook, II

      I personally have never tried to rebuild a bracelet. In most cases, the source of the stretch is the elongation of the hollow center link found in the older style Oyster and Jubilee bracelets. Your best bet really is to purchase a replacement.

  19. Christan

    Loved the review and i’ve alwats longed for a Rolex Sub, just sold my Omega Speedmaster Pro to buy my 116610 and have to say I truely Love it. Loved my speedy and still love my Seamaster although this watch is something else and will be with me now forever. Loved your reveiw and regardless of the model all classics one has to say !!!!! Cheers keep up the reviews.

    • John B. Holbrook, II

      Thanks much! 🙂

      • Silver bolt

        I found out I can get 16610 from 1990 L series with a good price. But there is some cosmetic changes from the after year 1998 until 2010. So which series will be your choice and why?

        • John B. Holbrook, II

          I’d prefer one of the last of the 16610 models – solid end link bracelet and the RolexRolexRolex engraving on the inner bezel.

          • Bill

            Nice write up, i’ve got the 116618LB with Blue Cerachrome bezel and dial, i noticed the finish of the gold in matte gold is pretty awesome and more “gold” then on my two tone daytona. Thanks again for all the pro photos etc,.

          • John B. Holbrook, II

            Thank you Bill for the kind words and support!

  20. Ray

    You’re the invicta dude, right?

    • John B. Holbrook, II

      I wrote a book about Invicta if that’s what you’re referring to.

  21. Henry

    I understand completely your point. Myself I love my 16800 because even though cheap looking or what ever having been owning vintage Subs since I was 17 I never liked the sel on newer 16610. I myself love the early regular end cap 16610 or 168000 or 16800. Call me old fashion but I also prefer the all 316l steel in the 16800. The new glide look is cool but for me I feel like it makes it look more like any elaborate machine produced sport watch with a gimmick function. I will tell you the truth I always pop off the bezel on a modern sub and remove the clip to make it bidirectional. I find a bidirectional bez is more functional. I have owned many 1680s as well as 5513s and always preferred the hi pulse 3035 in the 16800

  22. John

    I just bought a new / unworn 16610 I liked the colour of the bezel better, traded the function of the older bracelet and clasp for the more traditional look of the older bezel. It’s a Z series am I correct to assume it was built in 2007 ?
    thank you, btw I love your reviews!!!!

  23. Ja Rle

    Very good article!
    One Question; Is it possible to fit a 116610 bezel on a 16610 case?

  24. Nick

    Nice article. I was wondering if you can put 116610 bracelet on the 16610? Thanks

  25. Eddie

    So now we’re about 3 years from the article. Has your opinion changed on the 116610?

    FYI, i’m still in the 16610 camp.

    • John B. Holbrook, II

      Not really, no.

      • jim

        Hi John, the ceramic Rolex you have there, looks like a fake. Is it from a dealer??? The magnifier and bracelet don’t look right compared to my 116610. Maybe its just the photos

        • John B. Holbrook, II

          Jim – it came directly from Rolex USA to my door. Not a fake. 🙂

  26. Steve

    I have the 16610 sub and live it I went to a store to maybe get the newer model however after looking and wearing the watch convinced me to stick with what I have the new ceramic bezel will crack over time or banging it against something the chunkier style of the newer model to me cheapens the Rolex brand if you want a chunky watch you should look at breitlings
    The 16610 sub is class with jeans and a tee or a black tie affair like the Grammys
    I’ve worn it both ways and always looks awesome

    • Lars in Canada

      Steve, its a bit of an exaggeration to say the new sub is “chunky” like a Breitling. its the same sized case with bigger lugs and some bigger details. The chunky watch fans would not be impressed.
      Also, my crystal ball must not be as clear as yours, as I have no idea what the ceramic bezel will do over time. But I don’t need a crystal ball to tell me that the older bezel WILL get scratched 🙂

      I embrace change. if we didn’t, we’d be wearing sundials on our hands instead of Rolexes of any sort 😉

      I think both watches have their pros and cons and need to be appreciated in their own light.

  27. nike

    I own Rolex 16610 its best in class, superb

  28. Lars in Canada

    Thanks for this.
    You make some very good points.
    I ended up getting a 116610… I think I’m much more likely to scratch a bezel than break one, so the cerachrom is the best for me.
    The 116610 bracelet is also superior.
    I do agree with you that the older style case and non-maxi dial is more attractive however…sporty yet elegant.
    Although a lot of this is splitting hairs by purists. I doubt my wife could tell the difference between the 2 🙂

    • I had a no date Rolex Submariner in Stainless Steel about 25 years ago. I kept it for about 2 years but sold it mainly due to no date on the dial and the short service periods required to keep it up. I have followed Rolex ever since and have been waiting for the right time to purchase another one. I recently bought a Tag Heuer Aquaracer in December 2013 as a stop gap thinking I would never again buy a Rolex. At a visit to Atlantis in the Bahamas in December 2014, I saw the 116610LN and I couldn’t put it down. Needless to say I purchased it. Everything lacking in the older Submariner was rectified in the 116610LN and then some. I think it is the most beautiful, durable, and functional watch that Rolex ever made for the price. Go Rolex.

  29. john

    Useful review. And I agree. I’ve tried hard to like the new Rolexs…but i just don’t. The new sub is actually more tolerable than the new GMTs and explorer2s. The new GMT numbers are too large on the bezel and im not sure i like the green hand. Also the super case is simply not aesthetically as elegant. The old sub is perfection and the old Ex 2 was perfection as well. PERFECTION. New ex 2s are the worst IMHO. The 39mm Explorer suffers too, and maybe its the too short hands….but i feel this with the day-dates as well. The 36 does seem a tad small these days, but its the still the one Id pick.

  30. Peter giam

    Thanks for the comparison between the Rolex submariner 16610
    To 116610. I am a fan of the Rolex watches one of the greatest is definitely the submariner. I just bought a Rolex submariner 16610 and I love it. After 59 years I am able to own this one with such a great history. My next Rolex will be the 42mm explorer 2.

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