A Guide To The Rolex Submariner “Hulk”

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When Bruce Banner is about to Hulk out, he’ll warn his potential assailees. “You won’t like me when I’m angry.” Since Banner’s superpower is anger activated, it’s good that he never considered meditation or therapy.

And for many in the watch community, an “angry” Submariner (gamma rays not necessary), is also a superhero. A grail. The ultimate grail, depending on who you ask. The debut of the muscular, all-green Rolex Submariner Hulk at Baselworld in 2010 was a thunderclap. The interest and controversies were immediate. And arguably, we’re still experiencing the sonic boom from that thunderclap today.

At the time of this writing, the Rolex market has softened. I’m confident it’ll come back. It always does. But, Hulks still fetch a good $20k despite that. Undeniably, it’s a fascinating model from every perspective: Market, design, and lore.

From left: Rolex Kermit, Rolex Starbucks, Rolex Hulk – Courtesy: Bob’s Watches

From Muppet to Hero

The Hulk actually belongs to a green Submariner trifecta. They each feature the letters LV in their reference numbers, Lunette Verte, which in French means green glass or green glasses.

Each trio member has their following. The Sub rarely gets remixed, at least compared to other famous dives (looking at you, Seamaster). On top of that, green is Rolex’s official color.

The original LV is the Kermit Submariner. It commemorated the subline’s 50th anniversary in 2003. Unlike the all-green Hulk, the Kermit is equipped with a black dial and green bezel with an aluminum insert. The youngest in the trinity is the 12660LV, or the Starbucks, which came out in 2020. It’s basically a Kermit with a shinier, ceramic bezel. As such, it’s also nick-nicknamed the Cermit.

The Hulk, or Submariner Date 116610LV, is arguably the sum of all their parts. It’s the “ultimate form” perhaps. It’s certainly the most striking and brawniest looking. 

The Hulk’s Superhuman Features

I should mention that Rolex made a few updates with their Submariner line, in general, the year the Hulk came out. The gold and two-tone Sub Dates were now flaunting the Rolex Super Case, the Maxi Dial, and a Cerachrom insert on the bezel.

The Hulk, or Sub Date 116610LV, boasted all of these features as well.

Cerachrom is Rolex’s extra hard, scratch-proof, wildly glossy ceramic. And while radiation is what caused Banner to Hulkify, Cerachrom is impervious to ultraviolet rays. This means it’ll remain glossy and vivid its whole life.

The Super Case, meanwhile, is thicker and more rectangular all around, with a broader bezel and lugs. Even though it’s still 40 millimeters, it has visual muscle to it. The Hulk is also constructed from 904L stainless steel, now a standard for the crown. Most high-end watchmakers make their metal watches out of 316L stainless steel. 

904L has a higher percentage of important elements, including chromium and carbon. The result is a steel that’s more corrosion resistant and takes a higher polish. It’s harder, and therefore doesn’t mold as well. Still, Rolex unsurprisingly has all of the special equipment and machinery needed for impeccable molding.

The Maxi Dial has larger hour markers and wider hands than the then-standard dial. Even more, the Hulk has a silky sunray finish. Prior, sunray dials were reserved for the fancier two-tone variations. This was the first generation of Submariners to add that radiant glisten to steel watches.

Additionally, the indices were platinum-filled, adding strength to sparkle. 

The Hulk runs on the 3135. As all Rolex movements are today, this caliber is a COSC-certified Chronometer. This movement, which came out in the late ‘80s, is a pretty famous one. It’s used in several Rolex watches, particularly other water-faring models like the Sea-Dweller and Yacht-Master.

It has a rapid corrector, which is just a quickset date in Rolex language, and a 48-hour power reserve. 

One more feature I want to highlight is the extension clasp on the bracelet. Rolex started rolling out their Glidelock extension system in the 2010s. This allows you to extend the bracelet up to 20 millimeters in two-millimeter increments. This way, you can wear it with a wetsuit.

We take that for granted today, but keep in mind that the clasp is the thing keeping you from losing your watch.

Perfect Timing

The stage was already set for the crazy luxury watch market as we know it now by 2010. However, the Hulk came out just in time to go from cradle to grail in its relatively short production.

The 1980s was a pretty triumphant era for Rolex. While the preceding quartz crisis had most Swiss hard-hitters spooked, the crown kept its cool. They didn’t go quartz or experiment with their designs beyond recognition.

So by the time President Reagan and economic prosperity rolled around, Rolex became a favorite among Wall Streeters and movie stars. Even more importantly, as China’s economy started to grow, so did the interest among successful Chinese businessmen in Western status symbols. 

Rolex watches staked their claim in the minds of the wealthy in China. 

So by 2010, the brand had a legacy of being desired there. You know what else happened in 2010? China’s GDP blew up, and the country became the second largest economy in the world. Trade volume reached the trillions. 

As someone who’s worked in the luxury auction industry for the better part of a decade, I can tell you that Asia fully dominates the secondary watch market. And since China is, very literally, a huge part of Asia, it plays a key role. Every watch auction department knows how important it is to have an office of watch specialists in Hong Kong.

By 2015 and 2016, we entered the world we know now — waitlists, gray markets, and more waitlists.

The Hulk got in at a time its status could be fast-forwarded. It didn’t need decades of being in the zeitgeist or brandished on celebrity wrists. 

I don’t want to credit just the market and timing though. Yes, it played an undeniably huge role in the Hulk’s status. Still, the watch itself checks a lot of grail boxes too, making it a distinct offering in the brand’s range. 

I’ve no doubt it would’ve become what it is without its circumstance, albeit riding a potentially slower wave.

The Hulk: Not Very Rolex, Yet So Rolex

2020 wasn’t the best year. We were all prisoners in our own homes, for one thing. On top of that, the Hulk was discontinued and replaced with the Starbucks. 

It’s not that I don’t like the Starbucks. There’s just something so distinct and unlike any other Rolex about the Hulk’s green on green aesthetic. Plus, we lose the 40 millimeter case, which I think is a satisfyingly round number.

And though it was indiscriminately produced, at least for Rolex standards, a ten-year production isn’t that long. 

The Hulk is comprised of best collectibility practices. First, as every model that becomes a grail, it was loved and hated upon its debut. And with its 904L steel body, Cerachrom bezel, and sunray dial, it’s set to become a non-vintage-looking vintage.

It’s part of a generation of watches that we potentially won’t be looking for tropicals, patination, and the like. Or maybe we’ve yet to learn just how these new materials will age. Relatedly, collectors love models that represent transitional periods. 

And of course, the green of it all. The inextricable relationship to the Rolex brand as a whole. Again, the brand isn’t big on remixes, but could the Hulk be the brand’s most quintessential watch from a visual perspective? 
It’s a Submariner. The Submariner. In Rolex green. Out of all of the LVs, the Hulk, very appropriately, hits the nail on the head hardest.

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