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ROLEX SEA DWELLER: A Brief History of the Iconic Divers Watch

by Paul Symonds November 12, 2020 4 min read

ROLEX SEA DWELLER: A Brief History of the Iconic Divers Watch | Swiss Watch Trader

The Rolex Sea-Dweller 1967 - 2020.

The Rolex Sea-Dweller, along with the Submariner is one of the most recognisable and desirable watches in the world. The Sea-Dweller was released in 1967 with the 1665 - the worlds first watch to feature a helium escape valve. The basic design of the Sea-Dweller is very similar to the Submariner but the most obvious differences are the lack of a date cyclops and a slightly thicker case.

 

The Rolex Sea-Dweller 1665.

The Rolex Sea-Dweller 1665 was in production from 1967 until 1980. The watch featured a 40 stainless steel case with helium escape value, a matte black dial with printed hour markers and two lines of rex text. This gave the 1655 the nickname, the 'Double Red'. The 'Double Red' also featured an acrylic 'Tropic' crystal, a depth rating of 610m or 2000 ft, and an oyster bracelet with divers extension. The Rolex Sea-Dweller 1665 was powered by the Rolex calibre 1575 automatic movement. In 1977 the red writing on the dial disappeared and was replaced with white text.

 

The Rolex Sea-Dweller 16660.

Rolex Sea-Dweller 16660 - History

 

The Rolex Sea-Dweller 16660, or 'Triple Six' was released in 1978. The depth rating increased to 1220m or 4000 ft thanks to the addition of a sapphire crystal and a larger and more reliable helium escape valve. The 16660 was powered by the Rolex calibre 3035 automatic movement. Early examples of the Sea-Dweller 16660 were fitted with matte black dials with printed hour markers, models after 1988 were fitted with dials that had applied hour markers with white gold surrounds.

 

The Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600.

Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 - History

 

In 1988 the Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 was released. This model featured the improved calibre 3135 automatic movement whilst retaining the 40mm stainless steel case and oyster bracelet. Models prior to 2000 were fitted with T25 tritium dials, later watches were fitted with 'SWISS MADE' dials. The Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 was eventually discontinued in 2008.

 

The Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller 1166600.

Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller 116660 - History

 

After Rolex discontinued the Sea-Dweller 16600 in 2008, they released the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller 116660. The stainless steel case grew to 44m and the depth rating increased to 3900m or 12800 ft. The Deepsea 116660 features a patented Ring Lock System, ceramic bezel with divers scale, and an oyster bracelet with glide-lock clasp. The Deepsea is powered by the Rolex calibre 3135 automatic movement. 

 

The Rolex Deepsea D-Blue 1166600.

Rolex Deepsea D-Blue 116660 - History

 

The Rolex Deepsea D-Blue 116660 arrived in 2014 in tribute to the historic solo dive of director James Cameron who reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Cameron reached a depth of nearly 7 miles in his submarine, the Deepsea Challanger in 2014. This Deepsea D-Blue was identical to the regular 116660 in every way other than the dial. The D-Blue featured a graduated blue to black dial with the word DEEPSEA in bright green. 

 

The Return of the SD4000 - the Sea-Dweller 116600.

Rolex Sea-Dweller 116600 SD4000 - History

 

Rolex returned to a 40mm Sea-Dweller in 2014 with the Rolex Sea-Dweller 116600, or SD4000. Although the 116600 had the same diameter case as the Submariner at 40mm, the case was slightly thicker in order to accommodate the helium escape valve to ensure a depth rating of 1220m. The Sea Dweller 4000 also featured a black ceramic bezel with divers scale, matte black dial with applied hour markers, Mercedes style hands and was powered by the calibre 3135 automatic movement. The 116600 was fitted with an oyster bracelet with glide-lock clasp. The Sea-Dweller 4000 was discontinued in 2017 making it one of the shortest production runs for any Rolex sports model. 

 

The Rolex Sea-Dweller 'SD43' 126600.

Rolex Sea-Dweller 126600 SD43 - History

 

At Baselworld 2017, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Sea-Dweller, Rolex released the Rolex Sea-Dweller 126600, or SD43 as if is often referred to. The new Sea-Dweller features a 43mm stainless steel case with helium escape value, a gloss black dial with Sea-Dweller printed in red, the lug width grew to 22mm to accommodate a wider oyster bracelet and the watch is powered by the Rolex calibre 3235 automatic movement with 70 hour power reserve. One of most obvious and controversial changes to previous editions of the Sea-Dweller is the inclusion of a magnification cyclops on the sapphire crystal above the date window. 

 

BUYING A PRE-OWNED ROLEX SEA DWELLER

Our collection of pre-owned, used & second hand Rolex Sea Dweller watches include the 16660, 16600 & 126600 SD43. At Swiss Watch Trader we specialise in selling only the very best examples of the classic Rolex Sea Dweller and unless there is a valid reason, ALL our Rolex Sea Dweller watches will include their original boxes and papers. When buying any vintage or modern Rolex Sea Dweller you need to ensure you are getting the very best example with as much of the original paraphernalia as possible. You should always look for a Rolex Sea Dweller that is complete with its original inner and outer boxes, warranty certificate or card, manuals, hang tags and if possible original sales receipt. For more information on how to buy a Rolex Sea Dweller from Swiss Watch Trader and the the services we offer including buying a Rolex Sea Dweller on finance, head over to the information section.

For more information on other Rolex watch models including the Submariner, Daytona and Explorer, head over to the News & Reviews section. Please get in touch if you have any questions about any of our new, used, pre-owned and second hand Rolex Sea Dweller watches.

VIEW OUR ROLEX SEA DWELLER WATCHES FOR SALE

Contact Us today if you have a question about any of our Rolex Sea Dweller watches for sale - we will be happy to help!

Paul Symonds
Paul Symonds


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