Rolex’s ultra-resistant divers’ timepieces, the Sea-Dweller and Rolex Deepsea were are designed for deep-sea exploration. They represent the pinnacle of Rolex’s diving watch leadership and the culmination of decades of partnership with diving specialists. Most “must-have” lists of Rolex timepieces include the Sea Dweller and Deepsea. Pre-owned Rolex Sea Dweller models have taken the luxury watch business by storm, thanks to their enormous case sizes, classic appearance, and deep-sea diving capabilities. Because it was designed specifically for professional saturation divers, the Rolex Sea-Dweller collection has never been as diverse or expansive as the Submariner collection. Rolex has made a point of keeping the collection as utility-focused as possible, with a two-tone variant joining the lineup only in 2019.
Rolex Sea-Dweller History
Rolex pushed water resistance limits in watchmaking even before the Sea-Dweller was released. Of course, with the Rolex Oyster in 1926, the brand was the first to market a water-and dust-resistant watch. Many people link the Oyster with the marketing effort that followed a year later when Rolex placed an Oyster around the neck of Mercedes Gleitze during an attempt to swim to the English Channel. It was first introduced in 1953 and subjected to extensive professional testing and support from the diving community. A Rolex prototype, linked to a deep-diving submersible piloted by Auguste Piccard, cleared the 3131.8-meter underwater record in September following the Submariner’s debut. Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard (son of Auguste Piccard) were pushing the limits of deep-sea exploration in 1960. After a series of shallower trials, they sent the giant Bathyscaphe Trieste down into the Mariana Trench, 10,916 meters beneath the earth’s surface. Like the September 1953 dive, another experimental Rolex prototype connected the Deep Sea Special to the vessel, and the item ended up being sold. Thus, establishing that the brand could construct a waterproof watch.
Rolex Sea-Dweller Prices
Rolex Sea-Dweller timepieces start at $11,700 and go up depending on the materials used. The larger Rolex Deepsea watches, which have a higher depth rating, usually retail for more than their Sea-Dweller equivalents. Rolex Sea-Dweller watches start at $11,700 in 2020 and increase price based on the material and model.
All Rolex Sea-Dweller watches include luminous indexes and Mercedes-style hands, as well as a date window at 3 o’clock. It features a helium escape valve at 9 o’clock, and an Oyster bracelet, regardless of the production era or specific reference number. However, there have been some notable changes along the way, and knowing the differences between Sea-Dweller versions can help you select which reference to purchase. Rolex has released seven Sea-Dweller references throughout the last five decades, each with new design, movement, or both, except for the Deepsea versions.
Sizes And Materials
Until recently, the traditional Sea-Dweller was only available in stainless steel and had a case diameter of 40mm. It’s also worth mentioning that Rolex’s choice of steel for the Sea-Dweller has changed. The Sea-Dweller was one of the first Rolex watches to employ 904L stainless steel, which replaced the industry-standard 316L steel in the mid-1980s with the more corrosion-resistant 904L steel. Rolex first used the word “Oystersteel” in 2018 to identify the unique 904L stainless steel alloy used in its watches.
Rolex Sea-Dweller Dials
When the Sea-Dweller Ref.1665 was first introduced in 1967, it had a black dial with two lines of red writing (“Sea-Dweller” and “Submariner 2000”), earning it the nickname “Double Red Sea-Dweller” among collectors. After a decade, Rolex replaced the red text edition of the ref. 1665 with an all-white dial version, dubbed the “Great White.” The Sea-Dweller 1665 had matte black dials with painted luminous plots at the hour markers and a date window. Early editions of the Sea-Dweller Ref. 16660 had the same dial design until Rolex switched to glossy black dials with attached hour markers and white gold surrounds midway through the Reference 16660’s production.
Rolex Sea-Dweller Lume
Rolex updated the luminous material on the dials of the Sea-Dweller, as it did with all of its watches, starting with tritium, then LumiNova in the mid-1990s, Super-LumiNova, and finally Rolex’s in-house Chromalight. The 50th Anniversary Sea-Dweller ref. 126603 contains the “SEA-DWELLER” name in gold lettering on the dial to match the other gold accents of the watch in commemoration of the first model.
Crystals And Bezels
The crystal used to protect the dial varies across different Sea-Dweller. The Double Red and the Great White Sea-Dweller ref.1665 come with a thick domed acrylic crystal. When Rolex debuted the Sea-Dweller Ref. 16660, they replaced acrylic with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, still used in current production models. Despite having a date window, the Rolex Sea-Dweller did not have the bubble Cyclops magnification lens connected to the crystal for most of its lifespan. Rolex’s professional saturation diver’s watch now has a Cyclops over the date window with the release of the latest Sea-Dweller 12660x models. With the release of the latest Sea-Dweller Ref. 12660x, Rolex’s professional saturation diver’s timepiece now has a Cyclops above the date window except the Deepsea Sea-Dweller. While all Sea-Dweller watches have a black 60-minute bezel, the material used, rotation orientation, and marker style have varied throughout time. When it first debuted, the Rolex Sea-Dweller had a two-directional bezel with an aluminum bezel insert.
Bracelets And Clasps
Although Rolex is paired with the Sea-Dweller with a sturdy three-link Oyster bracelet, the bracelet and clasp, and practically every aspect of the watch, has undergone multiple revisions and updates. In 1969, Rolex devised a new grip for the Submariner and Sea-Dweller that had an extra security buckle over the folding closure to prevent accidental clasp opening. In the mid-1970s, Rolex added more demanding solid end links (SELs) to the Sea-Oyster Dweller’s bracelet before expanding the design to other models with Oyster bands. One of the most significant changes to the Rolex Sea-Oyster Dweller’s bracelet was the ref.116600, which included solid links throughout the bracelet and a Glidelock extension clasp that allowed the lengthening of the band by 2mm.
Automatic movements power the time and date functions on all Rolex Sea-Dweller watches. The Rolex Sea-Dweller is a legendary diving watch that improves the Submariner’s capabilities by adding a higher depth rating and an escape valve for helium. The ref. 116600, which is popular within the Sea-Dweller line, the last 40mm Sea-Dweller ever produced, is trendy on the market for integrating Cerachrom ceramic bezel instead of aluminum.
Finally, collectors often search for all Rolex Sea-Dweller watches, but scarce vintage Sea-Dweller models are among the most valuable Rolex watches available. Only a few Single Red Sea-Dweller watches were ever made, and collectors so highly seek after them that they rarely surface at auction, but when they do, they sell for a tremendous sum of money.