Why Modern Discontinued Rolexes Are Rising in Value

A look at three models collectors should put on their radars.

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It seems today that a lot of conversations surrounding Rolex watches are focused on pieces that sit on the two ends of the spectrum: vintage, which loosely refers to watches 20 years or older, or modern, as in the watches made in recent years. But some really interesting discontinued models are sadly being left out of the conversation. Why? Because they seem too old to be modern, too young to be vintage.

Discontinued models, however, are becoming increasingly collectible, with collectors now categorizing characteristics of certain discontinued models in the same way they would with vintage Rolexes. There are three discontinued models in particular that collectors should turn their attention to: the Submariner 50th Anniversary reference 16610LV (aka the “Kermit”), the Sea-Dweller Ceramic 40mm ref.116600 and the GMT Master II ref.16710.

Rolex Submariner 50th Anniversary reference 16610LV

The Rolex Submariner ref.16610LV was unveiled at Baselworld 2003 in honor of the Submariner’s 50th anniversary. It features some unique details that make it distinct from the ref.16610LN, its brother if you will. Some of its key characteristics include the Maxi dial, which has larger hour marker plots, a larger handset and a unique green bezel — though a new Maxi dial and set of hands reappeared on the Ceramic Submariner several years later.

In 16610LV’s production, there are several available variations in the prints and color options of its dial and bezel, classified by its serial number — Y serial through random serial. One of the most important of those is the Y serial ref.16610LV, which was in the silhouette’s initial production run. This model has what is referred to as a “flat 4” bezel. The bezel has a lighter shade of green found exclusively on Y serial production models, up to Y9xxxxx. A flat 4 bezel refers to the number 40 found on the bezel insert, where the top of the “4” has a flat edge as opposed to the pointed top found on later models. This small variation translates to a substantial premium in terms of value. A flat 4 bezel with the lighter shade of green exclusive to Y serials can command a premium of as much as $10,000 USD over subsequent versions that feature a darker shade of green and a pointed “4.”

Another crucial entry in the model is the F serial ref.16610LV. This serial also came with a flat 4 bezel, albeit in a darker shade of green. Examples of this model command roughly a $5,000 USD premium over a non-flat 4 version. Other production serials (D, M, V) did not have the flat 4 and, consequently, are not as valuable or desirable.

The value of those flat 4 inserts comes down to its rarity. Throughout the years, many owners of F and Y serial 16610LVs have sent their watches to Rolex for servicing. Unfortunately, because Rolex no longer manufactures flat 4 inserts, it often exchanges the distinctive flat bezels during servicing for brand-new pointed 4 bezels. As a result, there has been a reduction in the number of flat bezels in the market, driving up their value. When having your Rolex Submariner 50th Anniversary serviced, be sure to request that the original bezel not be replaced.

Rolex Sea-Dweller Ceramic 40mm ref.116600

The Rolex Sea-Dweller Ceramic 40mm ref.116600 had the shortest production run of all modern Rolexes. It was introduced in March 2014, available from retailers in 2015 and officially discontinued in the first quarter of 2017. The ref.116600 replaced the ref.16600 with the past generation’s aluminum bezel insert. Some of the main features of the new “SD4k,” as many people called it, were the fully gradated bezel and the matte dial. But while the matte dial set it apart from its brother the Submariner Ceramic ref.116610, collectors later discovered that some of the new ceramic Sea-Dwellers were produced with glossy dials. These glossy dials fetch a very small premium compared to the matte versions, despite being produced in very limited quantities. However, their scarcity may mean that one day the gloss dial will become the next craze, similar to the aforementioned flat 4 bezel of the 16610LV 50th Anniversary Submariner.

The ref.116600’s two-year production cycle is what makes it not only unique, but valuable. Since it was discontinued, ref.116600 values have risen by about 33%. While Swiss Watch Time sold pre-owned ones in late 2014 for $9,500 USD, today the same watch sells for around $13,000 USD — a 36.8% increase. This is likely due to its current scarcity compared to other ceramic sport models.

Rolex GMT Master II ref.16710

The GMT Master II ref.16710 was available with three different bezel insert options: “Black,” “Red/Blue” (Pepsi) and “Red/Black” (Coke). The most popular of the three was the Pepsi model, followed by the Coke and the “Black.” In late 2016, the price of the ref.16710 increased rapidly, jumping from $4,500 – $6,500 USD to $10,000 – $12,000 USD for complete sets.

There are a few nuances to be aware of when purchasing a ref.16710. If you are buying a Pepsi or a Coke bezel, keep in mind the value can change based on whether or not the bezel insert is original to the watch. This is the only model for which Rolex will allow owners to swap bezels during a service or repair. To make things a bit more difficult, only GMTs sold in the United States indicate which bezel insert the watch came with. If the model number found in the watch’s papers designates a ref.16710A, the piece was made with a Coke bezel, while the model number 16710B indicates a Pepsi bezel and 16710N denotes a black bezel. The black bezel is worth $1,000 – $2,000 USD less than a Pepsi or Coke. Because of this, it’s important to know which bezel the watch came with originally.

Some of the most coveted ref.16710s are the Z and M series examples, as these models were equipped with the next generation caliber movement — the new and improved 3186 movement replaced the 3185. These ref.16710s carry an approximate $7,500 USD premium. Additionally, some of the late Z and M serial ref.16710s have what is often referred to as an error stick dial. The “II” in GMT Master II was originally printed in Roman numerals. The late series ref.16710s with the so-called “error dials” have the II printed in sans-serif instead of serif, adding a slight premium of around $1,000 USD. The GMT Master II ref.16710 will only continue to increase in value. Specifically, the Coke and Pepsi examples may see notable appreciation as they seem to be more desirable than the new ref.116710 and 126710 models. The color on the ref.16710 bezel inserts is brighter and provides for a greater wrist presence.

David Farkas is the founder of Swiss Watch Time and graduated from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Business with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. He is passionate about helping new buyers enter the world of fine Swiss watches as well as helping the most seasoned collector attain their grail watches. He is also an expert on Rolex, as well as Patek Philippe watches and has operated online under the screen name “Perpetualman88.”

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