Love it or loathe it, Rolex made it and released it to market in the last quarter of 2003 to celebrate 50 years of the iconic Submariner.
Press kit given to Rolex AD's in conjunction with the 16610LV's launch
Ever since then I have wanted one. I had my name down on a waiting list like many others, watching as the model sold over it's rrp. It remained in relatively short supply until 2006 which is when 'I got the call'.
By then it was accepted the watch was nothing more than a 'regular' model in the Rolex line-up and the hype had subsided, so in the end I chose not to purchase it. However letting it go niggled me and I knew I would eventually have to get one. Recently that itch resurfaced and I set about obtaining one with papers dated in 2003, the true anniversary year.
On investigation of the model it became apparent Rolex distinguished early first models from later counterparts through subtle changes in design. As a collector my desire has always been to find the perfect example. I look for specific letter/serial ranges with papers, an unpolished watch with mint bezel and in this case bezel insert, the significance of which will become clear later.
Just recently I scored big time finding just the watch, a very early 2003 'F' serial, papers dated 13 October 2003, unpolished and still with it's case side stickers intact ! Finding a mint a 2003 issued model wasn't easy, many watches are now being serviced, a lot of cases have already had a short back and sides.
What follows is the result of my research prior to the purchase of my 16610LV, it's not conclusive by any means so feel free to post and add your own thoughts/observations. I have taken in a lot of case images from various posts on the internet without seeking permission first, so please feel free to email me if you recognise a picture of your own and I will credit you for it.
The first models were issued on a 'Y' serial in September 2003 with very early 'F's following in October/December hence only a narrow band of watches exist as true anniversary models. The earliest serial I have come across is Y94XXXX with papers dated 26/09/2003, however there was some speculation that it could have been a regular 16610 with changed dial. Given there were no accompanying images of the model ref; and/or s/n between the lugs I have my doubts over it too. I can confirm however a watch with s/n Y96XXXX to be correct thereby giving a ballpark reference as to when the first watches hit AD's. These will be the collectibles of the future in my opinion¡Kit's only my opinion so don't slate me over it !
It is the opinion of some that there were a very small batch of watches released on a 'Y' serial that utilised the last of the lug hole cases, however I am yet to see one in the flesh, for sale or even an image of one for that matter. If they do in fact exist then they are a even greater rarity than the early lug hole versions that followed. For now I have assumed the former variant not to exist.
N.b. Not all Rolex guarantee papers distinguish the anniversary model from the regular submariner. Some will have 16610LV designated, others 16610V and some simply 16610 (normally early models - 2005). However the anniversray reference number will be found on the green plastic hang tag.
Applying some very crude maths to calculate a start and end date for the true anniversary issues (this is based on documented 'Y' and early 'F' serial watches with dated papers, September ¡V November 2003 respectively) I have predicted it is likely that only watches up to 'F' serial F 11XXXX will have papers dated in 2003. I think of them akin to the 'R' and 'L' serial 16520's with the 'Floating Cosmograph' dial which existed only until early in the 'L' serial run.
What is apparent is that these watches are collectible, with values for recent serials being sustained whilst early models are already commanding much higher prices.
The 16610LV 'Green' Submariner is still produced today yet with speculation that it may be discontinued with the advent of the newly updated bigger cased Submariner. This would give the LV a relatively short production run of 5-6 years but whether this is what Rolex actually do is anyone's guess ! Conversely it could even spawn a mark 9!!!??? The emergence of a recent mark 8, a 16610LV with what I consider to be an older dial (mark 3 & 4) in the case of an 'M' serial may lend credence to the theory that Rolex is using up old dial stocks in it's final watches as they have done with other models ? Truth is no one really knows but the occurrence is a strange one as I highlight...and it's fun to speculate !
I have included a table of the various versions and the order in which I believe they exist based on serial number. Please post if you can help make the ranges more exact either through submission of your own watch or one you that may have owned.
Alternative format ;
Mark 1, Oval 'O', 'R' in 'Oyster' aligned with gap between left and right feet of 'R' in 'Rolex', '5 Ticks', Flat 4 (2003 Issue Models ONLY), From Y966xxx 19 September 2003 To F068XXX November 2003
Mark 1, Oval 'O', 'R' in 'Oyster' aligned with gap between left and right feet of 'R' in 'Rolex', '5 Ticks', Flat 4 (2004 Onwards) From F100000/F110000??? F Serial Late October 2004 To ???????
Mark 2, Oval 'O', 'R' in 'Oyster' aligned with gap between left and right feet of 'R' in 'Rolex', '5 Ticks', Pointed 4, From ??????? To F78XXXX 23 February 2005/F730XXX April 2005/F8XXXXX
Mark 3, Oval 'O', 'R' in 'Oyster' located under right foot of 'R' in 'Rolex', '3 Ticks', Flat 4, From F Serial To DXXX440 2005
Mark 4, Oval 'O', 'R' in 'Oyster' located under right foot of 'R 'in 'Rolex', '3 Ticks', Pointed 4, From D090842 July 2005 To D361XXX 2005
Mark 5, Round 'O', 'R' in 'Oyster' aligned with end of left foot of 'R' in 'Rolex', '3 Ticks', Pointed 4, From D Serial Early December 2005 To ???????
Mark 6, Round 'O', 'R' in 'Oyster' aligned with end of left foot of 'R' in 'Rolex', 'Between 28 & 32 Mins', Pointed 4, From D358XXX December 2005 To Z261804 22 December 2006
Mark 7, Round 'O', 'R' in 'Oyster' aligned with end of left foot of 'R' in 'Rolex', 'Between 28 & 32 Mins', Pointed 4, Serial number On Inner Rehaut, From M Serial August 2008 To ???????
Mark 8, Oval 'O', 'R' in 'Oyster' located under right foot of 'R' in 'Rolex', '3 Ticks', Pointed 4, Serial number On Inner Rehaut, From M08332X Serial 2008 To ???????
Dial font attributes ;
It appears there is a correlation between dial font and layout depending on the 'set' used. By set I make reference to the following possible dial combinations ;
a) If the 'O' in the word 'Rolex' is oval (also referred to as 'squashed' or 'wide mouthed') then the positioning of the text 'Swiss Made' is only seen in either '5 tick' OR '3 tick' dials. If the dial is of a '5 tick' type then the 'R' in the word 'Oyster' will ALWAYS align with the gap between the left and right feet of the 'R' in the word 'Rolex'. If a '3 tick' dial type then the 'R' in the word 'Oyster' will ALWAYS locate under the right foot of the 'R' in the word 'Rolex'.
b) If the 'O' in the word 'Rolex' is of standard font (also referred to as 'normal' or 'round') then the positioning of the text 'Swiss Made' is only seen in either '3 tick' dial OR 'Between 28 and 32 minutes' dials. In both cases the 'R' in the word 'Oyster' will ALWAYS align with the end of the left foot of the 'R' in the word 'Rolex'.
Rolex press picture
Mark 0 - Basel Watch Fair 2003
N.b. Never released to market, model never had lug holes, actual models bear the model ref ; 16610 T between the lugs at 12 O'clock denoting no holes case.
New ('Z' serial) and original ('Y' Serial) 16610LV's together
Additional information regarding dial font and bezel insert differences ;
Credit for the following information goes to *philip*, it comes courtesy of a Rolex magazine publication ;
N.b. The magazine does not feature the existence of the '5 Ticks' and 'Between 28 and 32 mins' positioning of 'Swiss Made'. Unfortunately I was not been able to study the different marks to the same magnification as shown. Again if forum members are willing to post to confirm, your information is most welcome.
Final notes ;
Early models (mark 1 onwards) have the bracelet ref; 93250 stamped on the underside of one of the bracelet links - see bracelet picture below (watch on left). Exactly when this stopped I have not been able to determine, other than that later models to the present day have this reference printed on the clasp instead.