Produced over a brief period of 7 years, the Submariner "50th anniversary" presents different variations of bezels and dials that will have a significant influence on its value and desirability.
This non-exhaustive article aims to present these various evolutions and the elements that distinguish them.
The first Submariner was introduced in 1953 with reference 6204. Over time, it underwent many evolutions, even though its design remained broadly close to its original lines.
In 2003, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of what has become a true icon, Rolex unveiled a special version of its Submariner at the Basel watch fair, offering for the first time in its history a green insert. As often happens, collectors quickly found a nickname for it, and its striking color earned it the moniker "Kermit", echoing the famous frog from the Muppet Show.
Initially sold in 2003 at a price of €3,950 incl. tax, the Kermit saw many catalog price increases, ending at a price of €6,700 incl. tax in 2009/2010.
Between 2003 and 2010, the 16610LV showed slight aesthetic variations that allowed a discerning eye to date the watch and assess its potential in a collection.
From a technical point of view, it's therefore (exceptionally) quite simple since only one movement will equip the Kermit: the Rolex caliber 3135. It was introduced for the first time in 1988 and is an evolution of the caliber 3035. It is the movement that Rolex used most and equipped numerous Submariner, Sea-Dweller, Deepsea, and other models...
Thanks to its commercial success, it is still considered to date as one of the most accomplished caliber ever produced.
Simple also on the bracelet side, as this Submariner will only be mounted on the Oyster bracelet ref. 93250. This is a brushed steel reference with "armored" links.
The Oyster bracelet ref. 93250
Endlink of bracelet ref. 93250
If we go into more detail and look to verify if the bracelet is indeed original (or at least "matching", meaning corresponding to the same production dates as the watch), we need to look at the date code engraved onto the folding clasp. To find it, it's very easy, just refer to the table of production dates and Rolex bracelet codes.
Note that the "93250" engraving present on the last link of bracelets during the period 2003-2004 will be removed circa 2005.
The bracelet code on the folding clasp
Multiple elements play a crucial role in identifying the generation of the watch. To clarify, we will detail each of these aspects before synthesizing them in a summary table.
The Submariner "50th anniversary" will first differentiate itself through its reference: 16610LV. While the numbers remain unchanged (16610 corresponding to a Submariner reference with date), the extension LV here means "Lunette Verte" (Green Bezel). While the LV mention does not appear on the first generations of European certificate (called "punched certificate"), the certificates aimed for the American market did mention the reference "16610LV".
The complete reference 16610LV will however be systematically reported on the "credit card format" warranty card from its introduction circa 2006/2007 regardless of the geographical area.
Entirely made of 904L steel, the cases of these Submariners offer a guaranteed water resistance up to 300 meters. We can distinguish two major generations.
The case of the first Kermits has full lugs. Between them, where the bracelet will be fixed, we can see at 12 o'clock the engraving 16610 T, the T referring to the term "Blind Hole". Note that the reference 16610LV is never inscribed. The rehaut (a sort of ring encircling the dial and separating it from the sapphire crystal) is "full" but not engraved.
Easily identifiable, this second case distinguishes itself from its predecessor by its rehaut engraved with the inscription Rolex-Rolex-Rolex. The writing will be repeated in a loop all around until 6 o'clock where the individual number of the watch will now be inscribed; and by extension visible without having to remove the bracelet.
Engraved Rehaut ERR
It should be noted that a "0" version is commonly accepted by experts and often referred to as a "prototype". This would be the watch presented at Baselworld in 2003 as well as in the press kits and advertisements of the time. Its particularity is to have drilled lugs where all the other 16610LVs will have a full case. The very rare produced examples would have been given to the company's leaders. The detractors of this rumor will argue that the visuals edited at the time by the manufacturer were intended to send counterfeiters on the wrong tracks.
The images above were used in the 2003 press kit for the model's launch at Basel, where a case with drilled lugs can be seen.
The Kermit saw no less than five variations of bezel inserts during its production, which can be split into two categories: the "Fat Four" (or "Flat Four") and the so-called "classic" inserts (or "Slim Four"/"Pointed Four").
The first productions between 2003 and 2004 offered "Flat Four" bezels, where the typography of the number 4 at the 40 mark is slightly flattened. The following generations were equipped with the other types of insert.
Like the black version, and by extension all diving watches, the bezel is unidirectional and only turns to the left.
It is important to remember that unlike the current ceramic productions, the bezels produced at this time are made of anodized aluminum. Aluminum inserts have the particularity of sometimes changing their color over time depending on their use and exposure to sunlight. Therefore, you will find "washed out" or "Faded" colors, as international collectors would say. The different dominant colors are therefore given here as an indication.
To recognize the different versions more easily, it is helpful to rely on the work of Chris Youé and Stefano Tegoni from the Watch club London and their photos grouping the five generations.
|B1||FAT/FLAT FOUR Serif||The first bezel differs by the "flattened" shape of the 4 at the 40 mark. We are talking about "serif" typography with clear and pronounced feet. The green color seems lighter than on other generations – it's an olive or "Bertolli" green.|
|B2||FAT/FLAT FOUR Non-Serif||This second version retains the "flattened" shape of the 4 at the 40 mark. The typography is this time said to be "non-serif" without feet. The color remains olive green.|
|B3||SLIM FOUR||From this point, the shape of the 4 will remain the same and its inner part will end in a narrow point. The shape of the 5 at the 50 mark will now allow the generation to be recognized, with a rounded shape here on a color that remains light (faded in the example photos).|
|B4||SLIM FOUR||The color of the insert becomes darker, moving towards a "racing green" or "forest green" shade. Besides the color, the inner shape of the loop of the 5 at the 50 mark becomes square.|
|B5||SLIM FOUR||Very similar to the characteristics of B3, but with a darker green color, forest green. The typography is slightly thicker than on the B4.|
Photo credits www.watchclub.com
Photo credits www.watchclub.com
To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary while giving a functional aspect to its watches, the manufacturer introduced with its 16610LV the "maxi-dial" with larger luminous indices. These have exclusively been made in Superluminova (green light).
Like the bezels, five different variations were marketed (six if you count the service dial), which can be split again into two groups based on the typography of the word Rolex at 12 o'clock: The "Oval O's" and the "Round O's".
It should also be noted that the dials have a shiny "glossy" appearance that earlier generations (whose references consisted only of four digits: 1680, 5513 etc...) did not have.
|Dial Mark 1 (MK1)||The O in the Rolex lettering at 12 o'clock appears flattened and takes an oval shape. At 6 o'clock, the minute markers at 28 and 32 are shorter than on the generations that will follow, and the terms "Swiss Made" extend beyond these markers. This is referred to as "Wide" typography.|
|Dial Mark 2 (MK2)||The O in the Rolex lettering at 12 o'clock remains flattened and oval-shaped. At 6 o'clock, the minute markers at 28 and 32 remain short, but the terms "Swiss Made" switch from "Wide" to "Narrow" typography, staying contained between these two markers. At 12 o'clock, the R of the word "Oyster" is aligned under the right foot of the R of the word Rolex.|
|Dial Mark 3 (MK3)||The O in the Rolex lettering at 12 o'clock transforms into a rounder shape. At 6 o'clock, as on the MK II, the Swiss Made remains "Narrow" and contained between the minute markers 28 and 32. At 12 o'clock, the R of the word "Oyster" shifts to the left towards the center of the "Rolex" R.|
|Dial Mark 4 (MK4)||The O in the Rolex lettering at 12 o'clock is round. At 6 o'clock, as on the MK III, the Swiss Made is contained between the minute markers 28 and 32, which become elongated. At 12 o'clock, the R of the word "Oyster" remains placed identically to the MK III.|
|Dial Mark 5 (MK5)||Very close to MK IV, the MK V dial is distinguished by slightly finer and brighter writing. The word "Officially" is shifted to the right, and the space between "Officially" and "certified" is reduced.|
|Service Dial||This would be a dial used for the first series of Submariner with "6 digits" with their ceramic bezel. The typography used on the depth indicator "FT" is very short and the gap between "300" and "m" is more pronounced. These last dials would have been used for replacements during service at Rolex, but it seems that some of the very last models produced might have been delivered with this stock dial. This would therefore only apply to the V, G, or random series numbers.|
Unlike the 16610 black dial, the 16610LV references offer slightly wider hands - commonly called "Fat Hands". The green Submariner has historically always presented a higher price than the black versions. The engraving between the horns not mentioning the extension "LV", it would have been quite easy to change the black insert of a classic version for a green one and thus realize a capital gain. The presence of these wide hands thus not only makes this impossible but complicates the task and allows rapid authentication.
Starting around 1999, the sapphire glasses mounted on new watches included a tiny crown engraved at 6H. This small logo, quite complicated to see with the naked eye, is a way to know if the glass on the model is indeed the original one. Indeed, replacement glasses changed during a service display the letter S in the center of the same crown or simply have no engraving.
There are two types of sets related to the Kermit depending on its generation. A full set consists of a box, an over-box as well as the various booklets and documents related to the watch.
The first generations (from 2003 to late 2004 approx.) were delivered with the wooden boxes ref. 64.00.01 or 64.00.02. The guarantee established jointly by Rolex and the concerned point of sale were issued in the form of "punched" papers with hologram. Unlike the following generations, the set also had a branded anchor and a cardboard calendar. The anchors, showing on one side the depth reachable by the watch in meters on one side and in "feet" on the other, will no longer be produced during the F series.
Around mid-2005, Rolex will evolve its packaging by proposing a new type of box sporting a relief wave pattern and a pale green interior. The over-box is now light green with the crown logo in its center, slightly embossed. From around 2006/2007, the guarantee card will then be issued in a "credit card" format with a new form of leather card holder.
If you regularly follow our articles, you may know that until about 2010, the serial numbers at Rolex inform us about the date of production of the watch. It is only with the launch of the "random" serial numbers towards the end of 2010 that these will be attributed randomly and will not necessarily reflect a date of production.
The first known examples for the "anniversary" Submariners have a serial number starting with Y94XXXX, corresponding to a production that we locate around September 2003. These rare specimens will be followed by numbers starting with the letter F (from October 2003) and this until about "F54XXXX"; where we could identify a transition of dial and bezel, thus starting the transition from the "Fat Four" to the "Slim Four".
The "Y series" therefore corresponds to the "first batch", the first series produced, and this over a very short period. The few watches produced combined with the "first series" effect make them the most sought-after examples.
Starting from the M series circa 2007, we observe a change of case (RNG to RRR) to see the appearance of engraved flanges. The very last series seem to have been produced with "random" serial numbers but few examples on the market testify to this. A bit like the first generations, these latest versions are gradually beginning to attract the attention of collectors.
In addition to these findings, it is important to remember that a production date will not systematically correspond to a sales date indicated on the papers. It is necessary to take into consideration the fact that the market at the time was not inclined to the frenzy of recent years and it was therefore not uncommon to see watches produced in 2005 sell in 2007.
To summarize, we could establish the table below:
|Serial Number||Case||Bezel||Dial||Type of Set|
|MARK III||D, Z or M||RNG||B3/B4||MK3||FS1/FS2|
|MARK IV||D, Z or M||RNG/RRR||B4/B5||MK4||FS2|
|MARK V||M,V,G, random||RRR||B4/B5||MK5||FS2|
It is important to bear in mind that much of the literature around Rolex is largely the result of research and findings established by collectors and not by the brand itself. This table is therefore published for informational purposes and the transitions from one generation to another are not necessarily clear-cut.
As our article dedicated to the Submariner Kermit MK1 pointed out, the transformation of inserts that evolved from the late 2004 series (slim Four), there are, for example, F series with MK1 dial and "pointed" insert (generally after the serial numbers beginning with F8XXXXX). Indeed, while MK2 dials began to make their appearance around serial number F55XXXX, MK1s were also mounted on the end of F series.
You will understand, there are considerable differences in value depending on the configuration of your Kermit.
Whether for pleasure or pure investment, the nature of your project will drive your search; even if one does not prevent the other. Some collectors will orient their purchase according to the particular color of the insert when a meticulous investor will look for a short series and the coherence of all elements.
Rarity will, as usual, impact value. Consequently, a first generation 16610LV MK1 Y series will have a much higher rating than a MK4 for example. Then will come additional factors such as general condition, the content delivered with the watch, its history...
A "Fat Four" F series Kermit constitutes a very good compromise between the pleasure of wearing and investment, while a Y series will act as a "Grail". The subsequent series also each have their own characteristics and their value on the market will allow as many people as possible to have the pleasure of wearing this mythical model.
If the production of the 16610LV ends around 2010, the story of the green Submariners will continue with the presentation the same year of the reference 116610LV in green ceramic (known as the "Hulk"). This time, the color green will predominate and will go as far as its sun-dial. It will be produced for about 10 years before its successor arrives with the reference 126610LV, which is still in the catalog to this day. This latest evolution will notably see its case move from 40mm to 41mm and take up the black dial/green bezel combination of its predecessor.
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