The Modern Two-Tone Submariner 16613, 116613 and 126613 – An Overview
In 1988 the first “modern” non-transitional Submariner Two-Tone was released. It came with a black dial and bezel, a blue dial and bezel, and very rarely a Serti-dial with diamonds and sapphires on the hour-markings.
It was in production until 2009 when it was replaced by the maxi-case Submariner reference 116613. Just recently, after 11 years in production, the model once again evolved and on September first, 2020 Rolex presented the newest Submariner reference 126613. Let us take a deeper look at the evolution of the modern Submariner Two-Tone watches.
After 16803 was discontinued, which was only in production for 4 years and often is seen as a transitional-model, Rolex introduced the Submariner Two-Tone 16613LB and 16613LN. The model was equipped with a two-tone 18K gold and stainless steel oyster bracelet with a divers extension, an aluminum bezel insert, and was available with a blue dial and bezel insert. A black dial and bezel insert and was also offered with a rare Serti-dial which has diamonds and sapphires as the hour-markers.
The watch measures 40mm and wears rather small as the classic Submariner was designed. The movement has ever since its release in 1988 been the caliber 3135, a workhorse movement with a 48-hour power reserve and robust design built to be shock-resistant. During the production line of the Rolex Submariner 16613 the case, but also the dial and bracelet were evolved in different steps.
Submariner 16613LB – Dial luminosity
When reference 16613 first was introduced the luminous dial and hands were made of tritium. Tritium is slightly bit radioactive but far from dangerous when the exposure to it is limited. However, a problem with tritium is that the half-time time is 12,3 years. This means that after approximately 12 years the mass will only glow half as bright as what it originally did. And after an additional 12,3 years, it will barely glow at all. With this said, the mass will always glow but will fade away and become lighter and lighter the more time passes.
This was eventually updated in the late 90s to Luminova (C3) which emits green light but has a half-time far longer than tritium, and will therefore never become a problem as it will always glow strongly as it did when it left the factory. Not only was the mass of the luminous material changed, but a unique phenomenon of the blue dial is that it could, over time, depending on what climate the watch was worn in, develop a purple dial.
From a Rolex point of view, this is not good as this means the original look of the watch changes over time, and might therefore not be guaranteed to be contemporary as Rolex always strives for. From a collectors point of view, this is great as it offers a unique “error” which is much appreciated in terms of color.
Submariner 16613LB – Oyster Bracelet
Originally the oyster bracelet had hollow end-links, which gives character to the watch according to some, and a more tool-looking feel, however, when comparing to a new bracelet it is safe to say that the hollow-end links really feel poorly made, even cheap, due to the rattly and light feel and less sturdy build quality. The bracelet was also equipped with a flip-lock made from thin steel, which in the early 2000s was upgraded to a more robust solution which also was more secure and less prone to open by accident.
The bracelet, even though it was a two-tone watch made in 18-carat gold and stainless steel, had a stainless steel clasp, which looks odd in hindsight. This was later upgraded in the early 2000s as well and instead the clasp now also featured a matching theme of two-tone. The previously hollowed end-links were also removed in the early 2000s and were instead replaced to solid end links, which is a common word in the unofficial Rolex dictionary, SEL (Solid End link).
Submariner 16613LB – The Case
The case was first made with lug-holes, or what some call “Drilled lugs” which gives the watch, according to many, a true tool look, but also a practical benefit as it makes changing the strap or bracelet extremely simple, by simply pushing out the spring bar from the drilled lug.
This was removed in the early 2000s and part of the charm of a tool-watch was gone, according to some, while many others enjoyed the new case without any drilled lugs. It resulted in a more refined look.
In 2007, a big upgrade was made to the Submariner case, Rolex now introduced the engraved rehaut, or what commonly is known as the text engraved between the glass and the dial “Rolex Rolex Rolex…”. This is, now a standard feature for every professional Rolex watch, but it was the first time ever seen on a Submariner. This is often the reason why this model, in particular, the Submariner 16613, is discussed whether it is a vintage reference, even though it was first released in 1988, but as the model has undergone several “modern” touches or improvements.
In 2009, Rolex presented what quickly became known as the maxi case/dial Submariner. This evolution was huge. A whole new case, a new modern and robust bracelet with an all-new patented glide-lock function specially made for divers to adjust the length of the bracelet to have on top of their wetsuit. And maybe most importantly, a ceramic bezel. Although the watch measured the same as the previous generation Submariner Two-Tone, reference 16613, it wore significantly larger due to the bulkier case design.
116613LB Dial and Hands
The first dial which was in production for the maxi-case Submariner, reference 116613LB, had, at first, a matte blue dial. It was quickly given the name “Smurf-dial” as it really did remind of the white gold version Submariner, reference 116619, which during its whole production only had a matte blue dial.
According to some, the matte dial Submariner 116613LB might perhaps be the worst dial ever made for the Submariner as it does not have a sunburst finish. This dial was only in production for a few years and could very well be a future collector’s choice for the Submariner 116613LB. It was then later swapped out for a sunburst dial which really has a great impact on its visual appearance. The striking blue dial with golden text quickly acquired the nickname “Bluesy”.
The bezel is one of the major improvements to the Submariner reference 116613LB. The insert which previously was in aluminum would easily take damage if it were scratched, making it quite fragile which is not something Rolex like. It would also fade in color over time. The aluminum bezel developed its own patina depending on who’s wearing the watch, and how it was worn.
This is something that Rolex does not like as it changes the original look of the watch, and might therefore not be forever contemporary, in their eyes. With the new Ceramic bezel insert, it is more or less impossible to age the look of it, it is also extremely scratch-resistant, but has the downside that it can crack just as any ceramic, although it is difficult.
The case of the Submariner measures 40mm, although it looks a lot bigger when compared to the previous generation Submariner. The case is what we know as the “maxi-case” and has a lot more material, thicker lugs and overall really looks a lot more masculine and aggressive. What shortly after its release became what people talked about was its big thick lugs that made the watch lose its original proportions and look more squared.
The new proportions really do make a great appearance on the wrist while you are wearing the watch, although, just as many people say, the proportions of the case is different from the original design where the lugs are a lot slimmer and give the impression of being a rectangle rather than a square.
116613LB Oyster Bracelet
The updated bracelet instantly looked and felt a lot more robust than the previous generation just from the pictures. When comparing the two bracelets, they are totally different in every possible way. Without hesitation, everyone would admit that the bracelet for the maxi-case Submariner 116613LB is far better than the previous.
The new patented glide-lock feature is perhaps the most efficient solution ever made as a divers extension for a bracelet. What previously was equipped on the oyster bracelet was a flip-lock that had a fixed length of the extension which made it too big or in some cases too tight for some diving suits. The new glide-lock made it possible to perfectly extend or shorten the bracelet for a perfect fit. Now, each wearer of the Submariner could tailor-extend the bracelet according to their own preference.
On September first, 2020, Rolex after 11 years in production decided to evolve the Submariner, this time we could clearly see that the refined case, although it is the biggest Submariner ever measuring 41mm, has a lot better proportions which remind of the 5-digit Submariner 16613. The watch is equipped with the updated movement caliber 3230, which now offers a 70 hours power reserve, among greater and more shock-resistant construction than the previously used movement, caliber 3135.
126613LB Dial and Hands
What quickly might catch your attention is the white lettering, which previously was in gold. At first glance it might seem like an odd decision, to mix the golden markers on the bezel with text and markings on the dial which is white. However, what previously was an issue on the Submariner 116613LB was in fact the text which was quite hard to see in direct sunlight because of the sunburst dial. With white lettering, this problem now is solved, and despite the text being white, it goes very well with the overall look of the watch. In terms of the dial layout, the text written at the 6 o’clock position has undergone a change as well. Instead of the previous text which was “Swiss Made”, it is now the same text but with a Rolex crown added between “Swiss” and “Made”.
The bracelet might appear to be the same, but is in fact 1mm wider, now measuring 21mm. Not only is the bracelet wider, but the clasp has gotten a lot bigger and wider. The glide-lock function remains the same and apart from the clasp and width, there are no other improvements.
The perhaps most exciting part of the watch is of course the new refined case design. The previous generation Submariner reference 116613LB does have, as earlier mentioned, a more square-looking case with thick lugs. It took Rolex some time but finally, the case has been refined and carries the proportions of the 5-digit reference number Submariners. This is a major statement from Rolex as well, as they only release contemporary designs which according to themselves will be timeless, as they have chosen to go back to the “original” proportions of the Submariner, although it is bigger.
Which of the above three Submariner Two-Tones is your favorite?