Rolex GMT-Master II vs Submariner: The Ultimate Comparison

Rolex GMT-Master II and Submariner have garnered immense admiration for their precision, durability, and distinct functionalities. 

But how do you choose between these two masterpieces? Whether you’re a globetrotter needing to track multiple time zones or a diver seeking unmatched underwater performance, this comprehensive comparison of the Rolex GMT-Master II vs. Submariner will help you decide which watch suits your lifestyle and needs. 

Dive in as we explore their historical significance, design, technical specifications, and investment potential.

Comparison Table

The Rolex GMT-Master II an the Submariner are iconic models with distinct features. Below is a comparison table between specific pieces from each collection to help distinguish between the two.

Feature

Rolex GMT-Master II

Rolex Submariner

Model Number

126710BLRO (Pepsi), 126710BLNR (Batman)

124060 (No Date), 126610LN (Date)

Movement

Caliber 3285

Caliber 3235

Power Reserve

Approximately 70 hours

Approximately 70 hours

Case Diameter

40mm

41mm

Case Material

Oystersteel

Oystersteel

Bezel

Bidirectional rotatable 24-hour bezel

Unidirectional rotatable 60-minute bezel

Bezel Material

Cerachrom insert in ceramic

Cerachrom insert in ceramic

Water Resistance

100 meters / 330 feet

300 meters / 1,000 feet

Functions

Hours, minutes, seconds, date, GMT function

Hours, minutes, seconds, date (optional)

Bracelet

Oyster or Jubilee

Oyster

Price Range

S$15,000 – S$169,000+ (varies by model and market)

S$11,000 – S$177,000+ (varies by model and market)

The key difference is that the Rolex GMT-Master II is designed for travelers with a 24-hour bezel and second time zone feature, while the Submariner is made for divers with a unidirectional 60-minute bezel and 300-meter water resistance, emphasizing their respective functionalities.

Historical Significance

The timeline below highlights the key milestones and developments in the history of these two iconic Rolex models.

  • 1953: The Rolex Submariner is introduced. It quickly becomes iconic for its unmatched durability and water resistance, making it a favorite among divers.
  • 1954: Rolex launches the GMT-Master. Developed in collaboration with Pan American World Airways, it provides pilots with a dual time zone feature.
  • 1982: The GMT-Master II debuts. It has an independently adjustable hour hand, increasing its functionality for international travelers.
  • 1988: The Submariner Ref. 16610 is released. This model features the Caliber 3135 movement, known for its precision and robustness.
  • 2005: Rolex releases the GMT-Master II with a Cerachrom bezel. This addition enhances the watch’s durability by being highly scratch-resistant.
  • 2008: The Submariner is updated with a Cerachrom bezel, increasing durability and aesthetics.
  • 2010: The Submariner receives a new 40mm case design and an updated movement and bracelet.
  • 2020: The Submariner line is updated with a slightly larger 41mm case and the new Caliber 3235 movement for enhanced performance.

Both watches maintain their status and prestige due to their rich histories, specific functionalities, and evolving features. They continue to be highly sought after in the vintage and luxury watch markets.

Design and Aesthetics

Both watches have unique designs suited to their purposes. The Rolex GMT-Master II combines functionality with elegance, featuring a 40mm Oystersteel case and a bidirectional 24-hour Cerachrom bezel, often in iconic “Pepsi” or “Batman” colors. 

Its dial, available in black or blue, has luminous markers for readability and is paired with an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet for comfort. 

The design includes a Cyclops lens over the date and a fourth hand for a second time zone, emphasizing its travel-centric purpose.

Rolex Submariner 116610LV case

In contrast, the Rolex Submariner has a timeless design for underwater adventures. It has a 41mm Oystersteel case and a unidirectional 60-minute Cerachrom bezel for precise dive timing, with a knurled edge for a firm grip. 

The dial, in black or green, features large luminous markers for visibility in low light. 

Equipped with a robust Oyster bracelet, the Submariner also has a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and a Cyclops lens over the date in the Date model, making it a symbol of rugged elegance.

Technical Specifications

Rolex Caliber 3285

Rolex GMT-Master II and the Submarine both showcase remarkable precision and durability but cater to different needs. 

The GMT-Master II is powered by the Caliber 3285 movement, offering approximately 70 hours of power reserve and functions tailored for travelers, such as a 24-hour display and a second time zone with an independently adjustable hour hand. Its bidirectional 24-hour bezel, made from Cerachrom with platinum or gold-coated numerals, enhances its utility for frequent fliers. 

Rolex Caliber 3235 & Caliber 3230

In contrast, the Submariner, driven by the Caliber 3235 or Caliber 3230, also boasts a 70-hour power reserve but focuses on diving functionality with its unidirectional 60-minute bezel, crafted from the same durable Cerachrom material. The Submariner’s superior water resistance of up to 300 meters (compared to the GMT-Master II’s 100 meters) and larger Mercedes-style hands ensure visibility and reliability underwater, making it the preferred choice for divers. 

Both models feature robust Oystersteel cases, scratch-resistant sapphire crystals with Cyclops lenses over the date, and Chromalight displays for excellent legibility in low light. While the GMT-Master II offers a choice between the Oyster and Jubilee bracelets with an Easylink comfort extension, the Submariner comes exclusively with the Oyster bracelet and the secure Glidelock extension system, emphasizing its rugged, dive-ready design. 

In essence, the GMT-Master II excels for global travelers with its dual time zone capability and versatile design, whereas the Submariner stands out for its unparalleled underwater performance and robust construction.

Functional Features

The following is a comparison of the watches’ main functional features: 

Bezel and Dial

rolex gmt-master II vs submariner

The Rolex GMT-Master II features a bidirectional rotating bezel with a 24-hour scale. This functionality is crucial for displaying a second time zone. The Submariner, designed for diving, has a unidirectional rotating bezel with a 60-minute scale, providing precise measurement of dive times and enhanced safety underwater.

The GMT-Master II’s dial includes a fourth hand to indicate the additional time zone. This hand is distinctively colored to avoid confusion. In contrast, the Submariner has a traditional three-hand configuration, focused on clarity and legibility, essential for divers monitoring their time underwater.

Bracelet and Clasp

The GMT-Master II includes the Easylink 5mm comfort extension link, providing comfort and adaptability for frequent travelers. The Submariner features a robust Glidelock extension system on its bracelet, allowing for easy micro-adjustments without tools. This is ideal for divers who need to fit the watch over a wetsuit.

The GMT-Master II features a more traditional Oysterlock clasp with the Easylink extension, balancing security with everyday wearability. The Submariner, on the other hand, has a Glidelock clasp designed for extreme conditions. It’s secure and adjustable, ensuring it stays in place during diving activities.

Practical Use and Wearability

Comfort and Versatility

The Rolex GMT-Master II is available with either the Oyster or Jubilee bracelet, both known for their comfort and durability. On the other hand, the Submariner comes with the Oyster bracelet, which is robust and comfortable. 

As for versatility, the GMT-Master II comes with a fourth, 24-hour GMT hand, allowing wearers to track two time zones simultaneously. Meanwhile, the Rolex Submariner’s rugged construction and scratch-resistant Cerachrom bezel make it highly durable for various activities, from diving to everyday wear.

Case Size and Weight

The GMT-Master II has a slimmer (12.0mm) and smaller 40mm case size that’s more comfortable for everyday wear. The Submariner has a slightly thicker (12.5mm) and larger 41mm case size due to its enhanced water resistance. 

Despite this difference, both have a similar wrist presence. Their subtle variations cater to different preferences and activities, with neither being overly cumbersome.

Investment Potential

Rolex GMT-Master II 116710LN & Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 16710

Rolex GMT-Master II models such as the ref. 116710LN and ref. 16710 are highly sought after. Collectors value them for their historical significance and aesthetic appeal. This demand tends to drive up prices on the secondary market.

The Rolex Submariner, particularly ref. 116610, also commands strong resale values. Its robust build and iconic design make it a favorite among divers and watch enthusiasts alike.

Model

Estimated Resale Value (% of retail)

GMT-Master II Ref. 16710

120%-150%

GMT-Master II Ref. 116710LN

130%-160%

Submariner Ref. 116610

125%-155%

Limited editions and discontinued models like the Submariner Ref. 16610 often see even higher resale values. Collectors are willing to pay a premium for these rarer pieces.

User Recommendations

This section helps you decide which iconic watch suits your lifestyle and needs.

Divers: Rolex Submariner with 300-meter water resistance, unidirectional 60-minute Cerachrom bezel, and Chromalight markers for low-light visibility.

Travelers: Rolex GMT-Master II with a secondary GMT hand, 24-hour rotating bi-color bezel, and durable, corrosion-resistant stainless steel case.

Collectors: The GMT-Master offers dual time zone functionality and includes popular models like the GMT-Master II Ref. 16710 with the iconic “Pepsi” bezel, known for their high investment value. The Submariner is alco recommended as it boasts popular models like the Submariner Ref. 116610, renowned for their strong resale value and iconic status.

Vintage Collectors: Vintage GMT-Master II models (e.g., “Pepsi” bezel) and early Submariner references (e.g., ref. 6538 “Big Crown”) are highly valued.

Casual Wearers: The GMT-Master features a sporty, colorful look, making it ideal for frequent travelers. The Submariner boasts a timeless, versatile design, perfect for those who prefer understated elegance. Both models provide daily wear comfort and significant investment potential.

Final Word

When deciding, consider personal lifestyle needs and which features align best with those requirements. Both watches remain symbols of Rolex’s commitment to precision and luxury.

Key Takeaways

  • The GMT-Master II displays multiple time zones, making it ideal for travelers. In contrast, the Submariner, with its 60-minute unidirectional bezel, is designed for diving.
  • Both the Submariner and GMT-Master are versatile, but the Submariner fits better in most environments because of its Oyster case, Oyster bracelet, and neater dial with colors that pair well with a wetsuit or more formal attire.
  • Both iconic watches are worthwhile investments since they retain value and even appreciate in value with time. However, the GMT-Master II has a higher price point for its limited availability and high demand for certain variations.

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