COMPARATIVE REVIEW: The Rolex Submariner 16613 vs. the Rolex Submariner 116613

COMPARATIVE REVIEW: The Rolex Submariner 16613 vs. the Rolex Submariner 116613

Nov 15

The Rolex Submariner 16613 vs. the Rolex Submariner 116613
By: John B. Holbrook, II
January 4th, 2010

Last month, I had the opportunity to review the new Rolex Submariner 116613-the replacement for Rolex Submariner 16613 which has been in production since approximately 1988.  Rolex’s first two-tone Submariner model actually debuted in four years prior in 1984 as the Rolex Submariner 16803, with the 16613 being released in 1988 along side the all-stainless 16610 with both new models having the then-new Rolex caliber 3135 movement.  The new 116613 Submariner represents in my opinion, the most radical update in the evolution of the two-tone Submariner since its 1984 debut.  However, the 16613 has been around for over twenty years and is arguably one of Rolex’s most iconic, most recognizable watches so clearly the question must be asked – “which one is better?”


Before I begin to examine the question of which watch is better, let me briefly  illustrate the differences between the classic 16613 and the new 116613.  The most distinctive cosmetic change in my mind is the dial.  The new 116613 has a Rolex “Maxi dial” design, with larger markers and thicker hands.  It also has a very uniform blue color throughout the dial, versus the almost prismatic, iridescent quality of the 16613 dial.  The date magnification bubble on the sapphire crystal also has a very nice enhancement  – it has an anti-reflective coating applied to the underside greatly improving visibility.  Additionally, the 116613 also uses the new “super case” design we’ve seen in recent years from the Rolex GMT IIc, Submariner 116619, etc.  This gives the 116613 noticeably wider case lugs and crown guards than what we see on the 16613.  Finally, the bracelet and clasp are considerably upgraded on the 116613 over the 16613.  The 116613 bracelet is now entirely comprised of solid links throughout.  This should greatly enhance the longevity of the watch vs. the 16613, with its hollow center links which are prone to “stretch” over the years.  And the clasp is an entirely new design which both looks and feels of higher quality than the old clasp on the 16613.  It’s worth noting too that these enhancements come with a price increase as well.  The last retail price on the 16613 Submariner (prior to discontinuation) was $9,300.00.  The current retail price on the new Submariner 116613 is $10,400.00

Now I’ll break down the differences and highlight what I like and I what I don’t beginning with the dial and the case.  Here’s a photo first showing the 16613, then a 2nd photo showing the newer 116613:

The changes to the dial and the case no doubt make the 116613 more sportier and contemporary in appearance and you can hardly blame Rolex for wanting to go in that direction.  The watch market in general has been “super sizing” for the last decade, and Rolex has received tremendous pressure to conform to the trend.  While the case on the 116613 is still 40mm, the beefier lugs and the crown guards give the appearance that the watch is much larger than it actually is.   Whether or not you prefer the new case design over the old is strictly a matter of personal preference.  Me?  I much prefer the older 16613 case which I think is more proportionate and elegant in appearance.  I also much prefer the dial on the 16613 vs. the newer 116613.  Clearly the larger hands and markers on the 116613 are easier to see, but again, in my mind they detract from the elegance of the watch as compared to the older 16613.  But an even bigger issue for me which makes me MUCH prefer the dial on the 16613 is the dial color.  The Submariner 16613 dial is one of the most beautiful dials I’ve ever seen on ANY watch.  I can get lost staring at it – the rich royal blue and shifting sunburst like pattern is truly captivating.  The flat, uniform blue on the 116613 is boring to me by comparison.  My guess is, they designed the dial on the 116613 to better coordinate with the new “Cerachrom” bezel.  While I understand why this step was taken, I still prefer the old dial color better.  Here’s a photo of both watches on my wrist which illustrates some of the above differences I’ve described, particularly the differences in the dial color:

Notice too how that the transition between the case and bracelet of the 116613 is much more distinct and “sharp” than the same transition on the 16613 – largely due to the wider lugs on the 116613.  Now let’s take a look at the clasps of both watches:

Rolex has taken a LOT of abuse and criticism over the clasps of many of their watches in the past, but since the introduction of the Daytona back in the year 2000, Rolex has slowly been upgrading the design and execution of the clasps on their watches.  Gone are the cheap feeling, stamped clasp components – they’ve been replaced with far more substantial solid construction components which are head and shoulders above what came before in terms of quality.  Here’s some more shots of the 116613 clasp, including the new “Glidelock” system which is an absolute joy to use:

As much as I absolutely love the clasp on the 116613, there’s one downside – it’s going to show scratches far more readily than the old 16613 clasp, which for all its faults is surprisingly resilient.  A large, uniform mirror-polished piece of metal in a high-wear area like the clasp bottom is simply and inevitably going to get scratched up.

Before I complete my discussion of the differences between the 116613 and the 16613, it’s worth noting that the 116613 has the new and improved version of the venerable Rolex Caliber 3135, which has the new Parachrom Bleu hairspring.

The Rolex Submariner 116613 is certainly a fantastic watch, and I’m sure it will appeal to many Rolex fans both young and old.  For me however, the 116613 is too much of a departure from what I know and love about the 16613 Submariner.  Again, I can’t say I fault Rolex for the changes they’ve made.  The company is often criticized for not being innovative and never changing.  So they made an honest-to-goodness effort to enhance and refresh the two-tone Submariner – kudos to them.  While I really, really wanted to be over the moon for the 116613, I can’t say I prefer it over the 16613.  Perhaps this judgment will change in the future – time has a way of shaping our perception.  But after reviewing the 116613 Submariner, I sold my F series 16613 and purchased a newer Z series model 16613 Submariner, which has the “RolexRolexRolex” engraving on the rehaut (inner bezel).  If this watch isn’t going to be made any more, I wanted to get one of the latest examples – it’s my favorite Rolex and will have to last me a long, long time.

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

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  1. Andy Chandra

    Thank you for the review , i’m glad to hear that .
    5 March 2011 i have bought Submariner 16613 Z 898982
    and i need a week before i decide ( i have a small wrist ) to choose the new model 116613 than 16613 .
    Actually i felt guilty why not the newest one .

    Once again thank you , i will enjoy it so much !!


  2. Jack

    Hi John. What an excellent comparison you wrote and after reading your article I felt stoked!!! My wife knows all too well I’d always wanted a Rolex Submariner (blue dial with gold and s/s band) and for close to 20 years I’ve been searching off and on for websites to find, well, ‘my’ watch. A few days ago she bought me a brand new 16610 V series but with RolexRolexRolex and s/n on the rehaut (I’ll get the watch this week). In all truth I knew very little in regards to the differences between the outgoing and incoming model but your article made me jump with joy all the more!! Many thanks.

    • John B. Holbrook, II

      Hi Jack – thanks for the kind words and I’m glad the article helped! Congrats on the new 16610!

  3. Ralph

    Hi John: When both watches were available, I went with the 16113 – in large measure because of the gorgeous dial. The flat blue of the new model doesn’t do it for me. Of course, both are great watches, and doubtless the new bracelet is more substantial. Most days, I wear my 16610 – my all time favorite – but I pull the 16113 out of the safe for weekend duty. I’m a collector as well – many other makes – but I always come back to my submariners for daily wear. Just can’t beat a classic. Thanks for the great review – not to mention terrific photography.

    • John B. Holbrook, II

      Hi Ralph – thanks for the kind words…I think you made a great choice in the 16613! 🙂

  4. Frank S

    Hi John, Great Article. exactly what I needed, in fact.

    Question for you as I find myself in a similar dilemma:

    Does your new Z series 16613 have Solid center links?

    Do you know if any pre-ceramic TT subs have solid gold center links? I was told that post ’04 they started to do that, but still have no conclusive evidence.

    Thanks in advance!

    • John B. Holbrook, II

      Frank – mine does not, and no 16613 model does. The only pre-Ceramic sport models that do are the Daytona, and the SS/Platinum Yacht-Master.

  5. Chris

    Hi John, first of all, outstanding review. I too own a 16610 with a blue dial. Years ago I was able to buy an original new Serti Dial and I had it changed. In my opionion, the blue dial was too iridescent and shiny (I actually felt it took away from the shine of the 18KT gold). While I love the watch, I love the serti dial with sapphires and diamonds more. Last Tuesday I decided to buy the new 116610. I saw it first hand in a store and it was gorgeous! I was amazed at the difference in overall appearance and weight. I happen to love the lighter blue, uniform dial of the 116610, especially when its in the sun and becomes a pale matte blue. It is stunning with the 18K gold and I believe adds more appeal to the watch.I have large hands and a big wrist and I too felt the 16610 was always to small. This new 116613 is one awesome watch. I love the clasp and the weight of the solid links and extra lug width. I will never part with my Serti 16610 but I have a feeling I will need to get a watch winder as it wont see much use in the future. Again, excellent review. My 2 cents.

    • John B. Holbrook, II

      Thanks for sharing and the kind words. 🙂

  6. Will

    Hi John Thanks for the great review. How would you compare the new 116613 with the sunburst dial introduced in 2013 to the classic 16613?

  7. Brian

    This is a fantastic review. I just bought a 1999 Rolex Submariner 16613, and I love how classy it looks. After wearing it for a day, I was wondering if the blue was more purple than blue. But after reading your review, i see that its a very dark royal blue, and that was it’s intent. I am glad it is, because it looks much better than the new bright blue.

    I have a new 116610, and I do love the clasp, but it does get more scratches as you have alluded to.

    • John B. Holbrook, II

      Apparently someone at Rolex agrees with me…they now make a version of the 116613 with a starbust dial, much like the classic 16613. 🙂

      • James

        Now that they went back to the dark royal blue dial like the 16613 on the 116613 have you changed your opinion?

  8. Jack Barrett

    Getting my 16613 tomorrow, I have always fell for
    the pretty face. Had most of them at one time or another over 20 years of collecting. At present my other Rolex is the Explorer, understated but classy!!
    Really enjoyed this article, well written and informative. And the photos were very well doneThanks again

  9. Jeff

    Great review! There is so much I do not know about my 16613 Submariner beyond its beauty and function. It is my everyday watch and serves me well.

    I agree entirely with your thoughts on the old vs. new styling, although mine has the black dial. The lines flow beautifully. And while it is certainly an individual’s taste as to which, I do not wish a larger, heavier watch, in scale or appearance. I do have large wrists and hands and feel it to be quite comfortable and less “blockish”.

    Is the ceramic bezel, beyond appearance, more hardy (I assume mine is not ceramic being ’98)? As for the bracelet, I do wear it snug given the weight, thus the links are not moving about which would certainly contribute to wear.

    Again, great, informative review! Thank you.

  10. Hi John
    Thank you for the beautiful review I got 16613 Z series and I love it

  11. stan

    great review! struggling to decide if i should get a 16613 id love one but can it stand up to daily use?? thanks john

    • John B. Holbrook, II

      That will depend on what exactly you do in your daily life. Invariably, those center links will need to get polished, but beyond that, you should be fine.

  12. Rob

    Hi John,

    Firstly, great review. I must agree that the change from the 16613 over to the 116613 is hard, I love the aspect of the engraved/ceramic bezel on the newer version; gives it some depth in my opinion.
    Secondly, this is some fantastic photography – would you allow me to used one of these pictures for my personal Instagram? – I am in love with this watch and only want to share high quality pictures!

    Once again thank you for the informative review and hope to hear back soon.

    • John B. Holbrook, II

      Hi Rob – all my photography must stay on my site unfortunately. I’m trying to stop the proliferation of fake watch sites and vendors using my photos.


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