Succeeding the 1680 was never going to be an easy task. Yet, the 16610 took on this challenge in 1987 as one of the earliest of Rolex’s five-digit releases. Thankfully, it maintained the perfectly proportioned 39mm Oyster case, the last date Sub to do so. The 16610 was so successful that its production ran 21 years, old enough to celebrate with a drink. In that time, production saw a transition from tritium to luminova. For about a year after this transition, luminova dials were signed as ‘SWISS’ alone, as opposed to the latter ‘SWISS MADE’.
Collectors preferences generally skew toward the romance of tritium and its ageing. However, these Swiss only signatures are increasingly demanding interest as a short-lived variant which marked the end of an era. Where Rolex is concerned, small production windows often having a way of creating immense desirability further down the road. This process is just beginning in the 16610. Neo-vintage or five-digit Rolex models are hitting their stride, and it should not surprise anyone that these more nuanced Submariners are among the forerunners.
Moreover, this 16610 is made more attractive for its moderate patina. The bezel features an insert with a flat 4 whose tone has faded from black to blue-ish/grey. This, likely the result of UV exposure which would also explain why the luminova here is more eggshell that pure white in tone. While luminova does not age as drastically as tritium, it does still shift occasionally. Moreover, this quite sharp case still features drilled lugs making shoe changes a breeze. Not quite vintage, not quite modern; a Goldilocks sub if ever there were one (with a little rarity sprinkled in for good measure).
Overall condition is impressive. The case is full, dial untouched, bezel pearl still intact. It comes with a full set on its original 93150 bracelet from a well-regarded retailer.
Find this Swiss Only 16610 here from Watchworks Haarlem for 15950 EUR.