Rolex GMT Master II vs Rolex Submariner

Rolex 16610 Submariner

A common question for a first time Rolex sports watch buyer revolves around the differences between the Rolex GMT Master II (16710) and the Rolex Submariner (16610). Although both of these particular models are out of production and have since been replaced by their ceramic bezeled younger siblings, the GMT Master II 16710 and the Submariner 11610 are two of Rolex most popular models and are readily available on the pre-owned market and places such as Beckertime. Both of these models were initially introduced in the mid-1950 as true tool watches, each designed with a specific purpose in mind.  The Submariner was designed for underwater diving that became more prevalent as SCUBA diving hit the mainstream. Conversely, the GMT was designed for intercontinental flight and use by pilots to manage UTC time.

Yep, they’re similar…

Both the Submariner (11610) and the GMT (16710) have many similarities which are summarized as follows:

Dial: Both watches share a similar dial and hand size.  Both watches possess a slightly gloss black dial, SuperLuminova on the dial dots and hands, while gold hands and dial dots, and a white gold second hand.

Case: Although a different model number is stamped on the case between the lugs, the case dimensions on both watches are the same.

Bracelet: Both watches have a solid end-link bracelet, with hollow links made of 316L stainless steel.

Crystal: Even though the Submariner has a higher depth rating than the GMT, both watches share the same crystal and crystal gasket.  The difference in depth rating is because of the crown and caseback the Submariner uses.

No, they’re different

Despite these similarities, the GMT and the Submariner have distinct differences designed for specific uses/functions that are as follows:

Bezel: One of the more visible differences is the bezel.  The Submariner bezel is designed for timing decompression stops underwater, only rotates counter-clockwise, and has a luminescent pearl at 12:00 o’clock and is slightly thicker.  The GMT bezel rotates both directions and is marked in 24 hour increments –one for each hour that is used on conjunction with the 24 hand to track one or two timezones.  See more on  Why Bezels Matter here, here, and here.

24 Hour Hand: The GMT utilizes a fourth hand that only makes one complete rotation in a 24 hour period. The 24 hour hand enables pilots and travelers track up to three different timezones when used with the 24 hour bezel.  More uses on Rolex’s 24 Hour Hand can be found here.

Caseback and Crown: Despite the similar case, the Submariner uses a thicker caseback and one that rises more than the GMT making the Submariner 13mm thick vs 12.45mm on the Submariner.  Also distinguishing the Submariner is the Triplock crown that is water resistant to 300 meters versus the GMT Twinlock crown that possesses two fewer rubber o-rings making it water resistant to 100 meters. The Submariner’s thicker caseback and crown make the watch 135 grams versus the GMT slightly lighter 127 grams.

Clasp: Both the Submariner and the GMT utilize the same Oyster hollow bracelet links, the Submariner’s clasp cover is slightly longer containing a wetsuit dive extension allowing the Submariner to be worn outside of a wetsuit. The GMT clasp has a smaller DateJust size clasp.  Both the GMT and the Submariner have OysterLocks on the clasp preventing the clasp from accidental opening.

Rolex GMT Master II 16710 with Red-Blue bezel insert

Because of the differences in the caseback, the Submariner rides a little higher than the GMT. There is really no wrong choice between these two watches, but the only tell with one “feels” better is to try on each of them.  More information on the updated GMT can be found here and modern features here.


ABout the author

Matthew Becker

Owner of a online retailer and active blogger sharing watch education and news.

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Comments (3)

  1. Reply


    Great post, Matt. These two are my favorite watches and I’ve always wondered what all the differences were.

  2. Reply


    You might fix the thickness comparison in the “Caseback and Crown” section.

    I love the articles!

  3. Reply


    Very helpful. Thanks!

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