Fashionable Watches

The History of the Rolex Sea-Dweller | Bob’s Watches

The History of the Rolex Sea-Dweller | Bob’s Watches


Hello, and welcome to another installment
of the Bob’s Watches video series. On the list of Rolex watches that are a testament
to the brand’s “because we can” over-engineering capability, there isn’t anything in the collection
that can rival the Sea-Dweller. First unveiled in 1967 as the reference 1665,
the original Sea-Dweller prototypes of which 12 are known to exist so far are known as
“single red” Sea-Dwellers, for the simple fact that their name was printed in red on
the dial rather than white. Not long after, production versions of the
1665 began to appear in what was then dubbed “double red” form, as the words “submariner
2000” were also printed red. Though their cases were the same diameter
as the standard submariner, they could easily be distinguished from their siblings by spotting
the helium escape valve on the side of their cases, the lack of a date magnifying cyclops,
and of course the red text. The final versions of the Sea-Dweller reference
1665 from 1977-1983 carried the nickname Great White, as the red text was removed from the
dial, leaving only the other distinguishing features to help people tell the watches apart. Of course, their 2,000 foot depth rating was
another key differentiation between the watches, and it even played a role in the decision
not to add the date cyclops to the watches. At the time, crystals were still made of plexiglass,
and glueing the magnifying cyclops into place to one side of the crystal meant that the
pressures from that depth would not spread evenly across the crystal, increasing risk
of possible failure. The 166600, also known as the triple 6, arrived
next in 1978 running until 1989, bringing with it the Rolex caliber 3035, an increase
of depth rating to 4,000 feet, a sapphire crystal replacing the plexiglass, and slightly
redesigned cases fitted with either matte or glossy dials. In ’83 this reference gained a sibling in
the 16600 which maintained all of these specs, but added the caliber 3135. The 16600 also was the piece that began the
transition from Tritium to Luminova, and then to SuperLuminova for its indices. Though both of these references are generally
considered the first true “modern” Sea-Dweller watches, it was the models that came next
that really brought the model up to present day standards. In 2008, the 1166600 Deepsea Sea-Dweller broke
new ground in exceptional fashion. More than tripling its water resistance (now
12,800 feet), beefing its case size up to a substantial 44mm, and adding modern niceties
like a Cerachrom ceramic bezel, the Deepsea too things to a completely different level. Given its size and heft, Rolex opted for a
titanium caseback in an attempt to shave a touch more weight of its new behemoth. In 2014 Rolex launched a special edition of
the Deepsea dubbed the D-Blue, commemorating James Cameron’s dive into the Mariana’s Trench. The watch features a sleek gradient dial that
fades from blue to black from top to bottom, and the name Deepsea written in a shade of
green matching Cameron’s sub that survived the expedition with a special version of the
Sea-Dweller strapped to it. From 2014 to 2017, Rolex brought back a Sea-Dweller
model closer aligned with the earlier Tripple Six models, that returned white text to a
black dial, dropped the depth rating back down to 4,000 feet, and a case size of 40mm. This reference 116600 didn’t ever get the
attention it deserved. Meanwhile its replacement, the 126600 has
been the talk of the town in 2018. Powered by the new Rolex caliber 3235, the
new model is the first in ages to bring red text back to its dial, its case diameter was
bumped back up to 43mm, maintaining a water resistance of 4,000 feet, and most controversially
adding a date cyclops to the Sea-Dweller for the first time in history. While some vintage collectors took issues
with this, the official reply from Rolex is that this is something they’ve wanted to accomplish
for some time, but it was new technological advancements in the manufacturing of their
crystals that made the change possible without risk of the crystals being compromised when
at depth. If you’re an absolute purist you might not
care for it, but overall we think the aesthetics work pretty well.


Reader Comments

  1. The new Deep Sea 126660 still does not have the cyclops date window as the crystal doesn’t support the depth rating.

  2. I own a normal Sea Dweller, had it many years, its awesome, just had it serviced, wish I'd bought,a 2nd Rolex, they've gone so expensive now.

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