For over two decades, from the late 1980s to 2010, the Rolex Submariner reference 16610 was the stainless steel version of Rolex's date-displaying dive watch. It's often the first watch that comes to mind when you think of the Rolex Submariner. In this review, we'll take a closer look at this historic Submariner Date reference, its history, key features, and the variations you can find among examples of this iconic Rolex model.
The Rolex Submariner, introduced in 1953, was the world's first watch capable of reaching a depth of 100 meters. It took Rolex more than a decade to add a date complication to this iconic dive watch. The first Submariner Date, the reference 1680, arrived in the mid-1960s. Rolex continued refining and improving its date-displaying dive watch over the next decades. For example, it received a sapphire crystal and a unidirectional bezel long before the no-date Submariner.
To this day, Rolex produces both time-only and date-displaying versions of the Submariner. However, the Submariner Date models have proven to be more popular. Rolex currently produces seven different references of the Submariner Date, offering various materials and bezel colors. In contrast, Rolex only produces one version of the no-date Submariner: a stainless steel model with a black dial and bezel.
The reference 16610, introduced in 1988, marked the fourth iteration of Rolex's stainless steel date-displaying dive watch. While it looked similar to its predecessor, it featured a new Rolex 16610 movement, the Caliber 3135, promising superior performance and stability.
Throughout its more than two-decade production run, the reference 16610 defined Rolex's iconic dive watch collection. However, in 2010, Rolex retired it, introducing ceramic bezels, solid-link bracelets, and an updated case design with the reference 116610 that replaced it. For many collectors, the Rolex 16610 Submariner is the model that first comes to mind when they think of Rolex's date-displaying dive watch.
The reference 16610 features a 40mm Oyster case crafted from 904L stainless steel, providing 300 meters of water resistance. It includes a Triplock screw-down crown, flat sapphire crystal with the Cyclops magnification lens, solid screw-down caseback, and 20mm lugs. Additionally, it features crown-guards on both sides of the crown for added protection.
Differences exist among reference 16610 Submariner cases, depending on when they were produced. Notably, early models had lug holes, while later versions did not. Starting around 2005, Rolex engraved the serial number along the rehaut (inner bezel) under the crystal, along with the "Rolex" circling the perimeter.
The reference 16610 featured gloss black dials with white text and applied hour markers outlined in white gold, unlike the matte dials of earlier Submariners. Initially, all Rolex Submariner 16610 watches had tritium lume on their hands and hour markers until Rolex switched to Luminova in the late 1990s. Later, Rolex adopted Super-LumiNova, a Swiss-made equivalent of Luminova. The dial signature below the 6 o'clock marker differs among examples depending on the type of luminous material used.
The reference 16610's bezel consists of a stainless steel bezel ring with a serrated edge, fitted with an anodized aluminum insert. It features a unidirectional 120-click ratcheting motion and a luminous dot at the zero-marker for measuring elapsed time in low-light conditions.
The reference 16610 is powered by the Rolex Caliber 3135, representing a significant step forward compared to its predecessor, the Caliber 3035. The Caliber 3135, a Quickset movement with chronometer certification and self-winding technology, added more jewels, a longer power reserve, and a transverse balance bridge for superior stability. It remained in use for the Submariner Date until it was replaced with the Caliber 3235 in 2020.
All Rolex Submariner reference 16610 watches feature stainless steel Oyster bracelets. However, Rolex updated the bracelet style during its production run. Earlier models had separate hollow end-links, while later ones had solid steel end-links permanently attached. The diver's extension also evolved from a fold-out piece to a link-based design.
In 2003, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Submariner, Rolex introduced the reference 16610LV, known as the "Kermit." It featured a bright green aluminum bezel insert, a departure from the all-black bezel of the standard model. The black dial on the Kermit Submariner had larger hands and hour markers, known as a "Maxi Dial."
Due to its green bezel and unique appearance, the Kermit Submariner earned its nickname due to its resemblance to the iconic frog puppet character. Initially less popular than its black-bezel counterpart, the Kermit Submariner's value has increased significantly among collectors since the reference 16610 was discontinued in 2010.
As a discontinued model since 2010, the Rolex Submariner reference 16610 is only available in the pre-owned market. If you are one of the many watch collector looking to score one, read our guide to buy a used Rolex Submariner to make sure you check all the details to avoid surprises. Due to its long production run, examples are widely available and remain among the most affordable Submariner Date references. Despite costing more than its no-date counterpart originally, the Submariner 16610's present-day prices are similar. Buyers have the flexibility to choose from various features and design elements due to the reference's diversity.
The reference 16610 is typically among the least expensive Rolex Submariner watches. As of May 2021, pre-owned prices start at just under $9,000 and vary based on features, condition, original components, box and paperwork, and provenance. The Kermit Submariner with its green bezel and Maxi Dial can command a significantly higher price, especially for early examples with specific features.
The reference 16610 represents the last Rolex Submariner with an aluminum bezel insert and classic case proportions. Its timeless design and rugged, purpose-built styling have made it a favorite among collectors. While Rolex has transitioned to a more luxurious direction with its Submariner, some enthusiasts consider the reference 16610 as the ending era of aluminum before moving to ceramic.