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.