Image

This is the Rolex Smurf. Or the Rolex Submariner Date Ref 116619LB if you want to get technical. Its nickname references its distinctive blue on blue color scheme. A flat blue dial, with matching blue Cerachrom bezel. At first glance, you might think it’s another unattainable steel Rolex tool watch. Trading for eye-watering prices on the secondary market. But it’s not. Its case and bracelet are white gold, not steel. And the Rolex Smurf can be had for below retail. If you know where to look. Does that make it a good buy right now? Read on and decide for yourself.

A (Very) Brief History Of The Rolex Smurf

The Rolex Smurf is something of an anomaly in the Rolex line-up. Although it doesn’t mark any special occasion, it did introduce some major updates to the Submariner collection. Including the new (at the time) Cerachrom ceramic bezel. It is the only Submariner offered in white gold. And the only one to feature this color combination. Launched in 2008 with the yellow gold Ref 116618, it came as something of a surprise to collectors.

There was of course precedent for blue dials and bezels in the Submariner collection. As far back as the 1960s in fact, with the Ref 1680/8. But these models were only cased in yellow gold, or yellow gold and steel. Never white gold. And they all feature shiny, sunray blue dials. The Rolex Smurf meanwhile has a unique lacquered blue dial. (More on that in a minute).


IN THE SHOP: check out this unworn Rolex Smurf Submariner Date Ref 116619LB available now.


So, why did Rolex introduce a model that’s so out of character for the collection? It’s hard to say. It’s possible the moderate success of the 50th anniversary Rolex Kermit played a part. Launched five years earlier, that variation of the Submariner features a green bezel. Again, a very unexpected move for Rolex at the time but one that collectors came to appreciate.

Testing The Waters

In fact, both that watch and the Rolex Smurf were precursors to the popular Rolex Hulk. The former providing the green inspiration. While the latter paved the way for a matching color dial and ceramic bezel combination. Not to mention the ‘Super Case’ but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

It’s not too much of stretch to imagine that Rolex might have been testing the waters with the Smurf. Especially given the long lead-times watch manufacturers work with. Meaning the Hulk was likely already in the concept stage at the time the Rolex Smurf launched. After all, new precious metal versions of the Submariner are less newsworthy. So, strange as it sounds, if the Smurf had flopped, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. New steel versions though are a different story.


IN THE SHOP: check out this pre-owned Rolex Submariner Ref 116610LV Hulk available now.


The fact that the Rolex Smurf is still in the collection today though suggests it has proven to be popular. Whether it will remain there though is anyone’s guess. There’s always speculation about which models Rolex will discontinue at Baselworld. The Submariner collection is a prime candidate for revision this year. And it seems plausible the Rolex Smurf won’t survive the cut. Or at the very least will see some updates. We’ll talk more about what that might mean from a pricing point of view shortly.

First though, let’s take a look at the Rolex Smurf in more detail.

The Rolex Smurf

As the first white gold Submariner, the Rolex Smurf was always going to turn heads. But this isn’t any old white gold. It’s 18K Rolex white gold. Forged in Rolex’s own exclusive foundry. Using only the purest base metals that pass the brand’s stringent quality standards.

Rolex white gold is often referred to as “Grey Gold” due to its darker appearance. The difference is immediately obvious when you put it next to a steel watch. This is hard-wearing gold that does not need re-plating. You can feel the quality (and the weight!) when you have it in your hands. Or better still, on your wrist.


IN THE SHOP: check out this unworn Rolex Smurf Submariner Date Ref 116619LB available now.


The use of precious metals for the case and bracelet of this watch is only part of the story though. The Rolex Smurf was also among the first Submariners to have a Cerachrom bezel. And the only one in full blue across all collections. It phased out the popular but prone to scratching aluminum predecessor.

It also introduced the so-called Rolex “Super Case”. Still 40mm in diameter, it has fatter lugs and a chunkier appearance than its predecessor. This makes it sit bigger on the wrist, giving it a more modern appearance. This is the case Rolex still uses today for the Submariner. Although not everyone is a fan of the larger dimensions.

This was a logical evolution from the “maxi dial” introduced on the Rolex Kermit. Characterized by larger indexes and hands, the same dial appears on the Rolex Smurf. Although the latter boasts a unique lacquered blue finish. In certain lights the dial can look quite flat. While in others it shows a wet-like sheen. It’s not to everybody’s tastes but it does stand out on the wrist.


IN THE SHOP: check out this unworn Rolex Smurf Submariner Date Ref 116619LB available now.


We must mention the Oyster bracelet too. Each link is solid white gold and shows a satin and high-polish dual-tone finish. It looks and feels amazing on the wrist. You definitely won’t forget you’re wearing this watch. The Rolex Smurf also saw the introduction of the newer Glidelock clasp. This allows the wearer to adjust the length of the bracelet up to 5mm without the use of tools.

Inside is the ever-reliable Rolex Calibre 3135. It’s one of the brand’s oldest production movements and is still used in the Submariner collection today. Although it is very, very likely it will hang up its boots come this Baselworld. Certified as a superlative chronometer, it offers a 48-hour power reserve. Along with a quick-change date.

Price & Availability

Here’s the interesting part. Recommended retail of the Rolex Smurf is USD38,350. Unlike other Rolex Submariner models though, this one does not sell for a premium on the secondary market. In fact, we have one in the Shop right now in unworn condition for 15% below retail. You can check it out here.


IN THE SHOP: check out this unworn Rolex Smurf Submariner Date Ref 116619LB available now.


Why is that you ask? The reality is, the market is currently obsessed with steel watches. Which means precious gold versions are in lower demand. And so the pricing reflects that. It’s true you’ll still pay roughly double for a white gold version, versus a marked-up steel version. But, if you’re in the market for a precious gold metal watch, there’s never been a better time.

Is It Collectible?

This is a question I always try to address at the end of our articles. After all, you are spending a lot of money. You want to know what the return on your investment might look like. It shouldn’t be the primary consideration, but for most people it will always lurk in the back of their mind.

In this case, I would say no, the Rolex Smurf is likely not collectible. It’s not a rare model having been in continuous production for over a decade. It doesn’t mark an anniversary like the Rolex Kermit. And it’s not in steel like the Rolex Hulk. So, price appreciation is less likely to occur. That said, it has seen some price appreciation in the last 6 months or so. Probably because more people are realizing how well they are priced for what they are.


IN THE SHOP: check out this unworn Rolex Smurf Submariner Date Ref 116619LB available now.


But, and I say this with a massive caveat, there is one event that might impact values. At least in the short term. If Rolex discontinues the Smurf at Baselworld, I expect the response to be immediate. Prices will go up. Like they did with the black-on-black GMT-Master II. Much of this will be speculation-driven. Making it difficult to say what impact this might have on longer-term values. This could also be the reason prices are slowly creeping up now. As speculators start buying up stock in anticipation.

Keep in mind this will likely only be the case if the Rolex Smurf leaves the collection. Not if it gets an upgrade, which is also a very distinct possibility. Although again, it depends how the market reacts to said upgrade. After all the changes to the Rolex Batman were only ‘updates’. And we all know what happened there.

In any event, my advice would be if you want to own a precious metal Rolex Submariner, now is a great time to buy. You can get something new or close to new for a reasonable discount on retail. And that’s always a good thing in my book.


Technical Specifications: Rolex Submariner Date Ref 116619LB – AKA Rolex Smurf

  • Case: Oyster – 40 mm – 18K white gold – monobloc middle case, screw-down case back and winding crown – unidirectional rotatable bezel with diving scale. Blue scratch-resistant Cerachrom insert in ceramic, numerals and graduations coated in platinum– waterproof to 300 metres / 1,000 feet.
  • Dial: Lacquer blue – Maxi-dial – 18ct gold hour markers – luminescent hour markers and hands.
  • Movement: Calibre 3135 – bidirectional self-winding via Perpetual rotor – Parachrom hairspring – 48-hour power reserve –  Centre hour, minute and seconds hands – Instantaneous date – Stop-seconds for precise time setting – COSC-certified chronometer.
  • Price: USD38,350 (MSRP)

 

Tom Mulraney
Tom Mulraney
Founder & Editor
Tom likes to write about luxury watches. So much so, that he created The Watch Lounge just so he would have an outlet for his passion. Together with his team, he is dedicated to bringing you original, entertaining (and maybe even a little educational) luxury watch and lifestyle content.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

shares