Birthdays for Rolex, as they are for most of us, are a time to cut loose and let the hair down.
In 2003, when the Submariner clocked up its half century, the higher-ups behind the curtain at the legendary brand’s Geneva HQ decided to see what their designers could come up with if they allowed them to slip the reins a little.
The result was the Submariner ref. 116610LV, a standard, universally adored Sub outfitted with a bright green bezel, which quickly gained for itself the nickname The Kermit.
After some initial resistance from the old guard, it proved itself a popular, if eccentric, variation on possibly the most iconic sports watch ever created, with demand going on to outstrip supply enough to bump up prices on the pre-owned market.
What has put even more premiums on The Kermit in recent years is its relatively short production run. It found itself discontinued in 2010 to clear the way for an even bigger, meaner and, yes, greener replacement; the ref. 116610LV.
The Rolex Submariner ref. 116610LV
With its obvious connotations of money and wealth, green has been a trademark color for Rolex since the very beginning. But while it has long appeared on the company branding, it has been a surprisingly rare tone among their actual product line of watches.
With the success of the Kermit however, the follow-up was designed to capitalize on the popularity of the color and the next installment in the Sub story appeared with not just the bezel, but also the dial decked out in eye-catching green shades.
Replacing the previous generation Submariners, which had started life back in 1989, the 116610 series featured a whole host of upgrades and improvements. Chief among them, and certainly the most noticeable, were a new style case and a revolutionary material for the surround.
The Maxi Case
The recent trend in watch designing is very much of the ‘bigger is better’ philosophy. Even Rolex, that most stubbornly traditional of entities, has had to make concessions in their latest offerings, with established names such as the Sea-Dweller and Explorer II emerging with significantly beefed-up bodywork.
Yet, for the Sub, adding a millimeter or two to its profile still seems like a little too much to stomach and it has stayed, on paper at least, rooted to its time-honored 40mm dimensions.
But in order to appease those who now consider that size just too small for a full-on rugged tool watch, they have introduced what they call the Maxi case.
With lugs and crown guards almost twice the width of its predecessor, the new contours give the inescapable impression of a far larger watch than its numbers would suggest. It means the latest iteration sacrifices some of the swooping elegance of its forerunner, and instead goes for the broad-shouldered, street brawler look. The ref. 116610 series have a real solidity to them—a larger, stronger aesthetic that garnered the green version the completely apt moniker The Hulk.
Further enhancing the appearance is the Maxi dial. The hour and minute hands, as well as the indexes, are now much bigger than before, again giving the whole watch more presence on the wrist.
Rolex has always been at the very forefront of pioneering technology, leading the way in developing materials that will improve every aspect of their watch’s performance.
Their latest major innovation is a patented ceramic bezel insert dubbed Cerachrom. First making an all-black appearance in 2005 on the GMT-Master II (which was an odd choice for a debut as they had yet to work out how to add a bi-color effect, the GMT’s party piece) it has since been introduced across most of the brand’s range of professional watches.
Unlike the aluminum it replaced, the ultra hard ceramic promises to be virtually indestructible, impervious to scratches and will not fade under ultraviolet rays.
It has a different luster too; not so much shiny like the metal it replaces, instead the diamond-polished surface seems to glow.
For the ultimate tough guy watch and, of course, for The Hulk especially, it is the perfect addition.
Where the metallic sparkle has been removed from the bezel, it is definitely present and correct on the Submariner ref. 116610LV dial.
The sunburst effect, what Rolex call ‘green gold’, has been achieved by mixing gold dust into the paint. It makes the dial’s tones an ever-changing element; sometimes matching the shades of the encircling ceramic, at other times offering a noticeable contrast. In differing lighting conditions, The Hulk’s face can range from a vivid jade, down to a near black, and watching how the colors alter throughout the day is one of the great joys in this particular piece.
If history has taught us anything, it is that the more unconventional versions of venerable Rolex watches have a good shot at becoming the most sought after pieces in years to come.
The Kermit is a perfect example, helped on by its limited time in the spotlight giving it a precious rarity value.
Where The Hulk is concerned, while it is still in production and proving itself an extremely popular alternative to the ubiquitous black Submariner, Rolex do seem to make a habit of quietly retiring models from the catalog with no warning and for no reason.
The Submariner ref. 116610LV is one piece that would seem to be a prime target for suddenly disappearing.
Although it is not the only colorful Sub in the lineup, it currently has the best combination of versatility and affordability. Made from incredibly resilient 904L steel, as are all Rolex Oystersteel watches, it has a more go-with-anything vibe than the blue accented/yellow gold model, as well as the Rolesor variant, and it is roughly a quarter of the price of The Smurf—a beautiful but eye-wateringly expensive white gold example.
The Hulk is perhaps the best all-rounder, letting wearers stand out just that little bit more than with the ever present all black standard. And that could well be a recipe for a future classic.
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