|Year of production (circa)||
Rolex Sea-Dweller Ref.16600
The Sea-Dweller is definitely not the best-known Rolex watch. It sits far behind the everlasting Datejust, the presidential Day-Date, and the James Bond Submariner. Yet, its longevity has nothing to do with chance; it embodies what Rolex wishes to stand for producing durable watches for everyone, even those at the edges, including a very small number of saturation divers.
Reference 16600 was produced between the years 1989-2009. It was the last “old style” Sea-Dweller before the new DeepSea (reference 116660). The depth rating remained the same (1220 meters) but the new movement caliber 3135 replaced the old 3035. The main improvement was a longer power reserve.
This specific 16600 dates back to ca 2002 and comes in the iconic 40mm stainless steel case. The difference between the Sea-Dweller and the Submariner doesn’t look significant at first glance. However, the Sea-Dweller towers over the Submariner with a huge depth rating difference. This is due to its thicker case that houses the ‘original gas escape valve’.
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The Sea-Dweller is a more hardcore version of the Submariner. Quite literally, as it was developed with French marine engineering company Comex on the Submariner platform, to withstand greater depths. The Ref. 5514 Submariner formed the starting point. A tougher case back and a helium escape valve were added, upping the water resistance to 2000 feet or 610 meters. The Sea-Dweller Ref. 1665 was born in 1967.
A date complication was required, because many professional dives and decompression sessions would last days or even weeks. The helium escape valve prevented the crystal from popping out when saturation diving. An issue the Submariner would never run into during more casual SCUBA dives.
The Ref. 1665 came in several different dial variants, throughout its 16 years in production. From Double red Sea-Dwellers to Great whites and several subtle variations with differing degrees of rarity within those variants. A particularly legendary version is the Single red, of which only 12 are known to exist.
The Rolex Sea-Dweller was updated to the Ref. 16660 in 1978. The tritium dial was replaced by a LumiNova version in 1998/99. Several other variations exist within this reference. Later updates, among which the Deepsea and the James Cameron, saw an increase in size and a ceramic bezel, among other updates.
The Sea-Dweller is arguably the most toolish of all Rolex models. Where the Submariner has become a cross-over between diving and casual wear, the Sea-Dweller always remained a tool for exploring the bottom of the ocean. While quite similar to the Sub in appearance, it does convey a lot of that feeling when you handle it. So if you are of the adventurous inclination, the Sea-Dweller might just suit you perfectly. And do not worry if you put a scratch on it. Looks even better!
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