The Rolex Sea-Dweller: The Strong Diving Watch
The Rolex Sea-Dweller came into being, as a diving watch that boasts a large-sized case and a strong ability to withstand sea diving. The model boasts luminous markers and ceramic bezels and has been named as the watch capable of withstanding the deepest dives compared to competitors in the luxury market. The Sea-Dweller was placed in the Deep Sea Challenge and beat out the competition in 2012 by proving resistant to pressure as deep as 12,000m under the sea.
Though there are not as many variations on the Rolex Sea-Dweller compared to its predecessor, and another continued favourite, the Submariner, its creation as a professional diving watch has lent itself to continuous utilitarian improvements in the functionality over and above the look of the watch.
Each Rolex Sea-Dweller comes with an Oyster bracelet and date window placed at the 3 o’clock position, the patented helium escape valve, and rotating black bezels which are marked to sixty minutes.
While these luxury watches prize functionality as well as form, they are also seen as excellent investment pieces, as both older and newer models appreciate in value over time.
Rolex Sea-Dweller History
The Rolex Sea-Dweller appeared on the market as an evolution of other popular waterproof models designed to resist both moisture and dust. The first iteration of this was the Oyster, which was created in 1926 and was proven in its robust waterproof nature in a genius marketing move that saw the watch worn during a ten-hour swim across the English Channel. Though the Rolex Oyster
was successful in proving its ability to withstand this length of time, the company bettered this with the Submariner in 1953.
was supported by the diving industry to increase its capabilities for scuba diving purposes, and this was continuously worked on throughout the 1950s and 1960s until the first Sea-Dweller was released in 1967. This watch came with a helium escape valve and double red dial - and the earliest models were engraved with both the name Submariner 2000 (as it was an evolved version of the Submariner) and the words “patent pending”, regarding the helium valve.
The helium escape valve was an addition to the watch which increased its capabilities for professional divers, allowing it to dive up to 1220m and continue to function - compared to the Submariner’s capabilities of between 100m and 200m resistance during this time.
As the Submariner became more of a luxury item than a utilitarian diver’s watch, the Sea-Dweller took on a more functional role, being initially created with only steel, and increasing its diving capability over time, making it appropriate for underwater adventurers and not just collectors.
One of the Rolex Sea-Dweller’s most popular models was continuously released between 1989 and 2009 was the last run of “old style” models, ref. 16600. This watch featured flat crystal, smaller markers, and timelessness that appealed to both divers and those simply seeking a sleek everyday luxury watch.
While the Sea-Dweller was briefly discontinued in the late 2000s, it was brought back in 2014, with the ref. 116600 model released with a new look maxi case and Cerachrom bezel.
In 2017, with the fiftieth-anniversary release, the Sea-Dweller was increased to 43mm for the ref. 126600 model. This made the Rolex Sea-Dweller more distinct from the Submariner, complete with a Cyclops lens, with the two-tone ref. 126603 Sea-Dweller being released in 2019. Over time, the Sea-Dweller was also created using 18k gold, which was not a completely popular choice with those who favoured the less flashy and stylised image of the watch, though it continues to be capable of deep diving even with an increased focus on styling.
Rolex Sea-Dweller Prices
Rolex Sea-Dweller models continue to be beloved in the present day, though it can be challenging to purchase these models brand new as demand for them outstrips supply. Luxury watches are not simple, mass-produced items, and their high quality and rarity can make for high levels of competition among those seeking such pieces of watchmaking excellence.
However, if you are seeking to purchase a Rolex Sea-Dweller brand new, you can expect to pay around £15,000 for a new model such as the “James Cameron” Sea-Dweller Deepsea ref. 126660, or circa £13,500 for the 2022 release of ref. 126600.
When looking at the pre-owned market, there are more opportunities to purchase a range of popular Rolex Sea-Dweller models. A model like the Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600, which was produced between 2014 and 2018 cost less than £6,000 at its introduction. When Rolex announced it was discontinuing the model in 2018 the cost of a pre-owned model rose to approximately £8,500. Now, in 2022, this same model demands approximately £17,000.
The ref. 126600 is the current model and if you were to be lucky enough to have the opportunity to buy this new from Rolex, they sell this model currently for £10,850. Due to demand, the price of this on the pre-owned watch market is approximately £14,000 - £15,000.
The vintage Double Red ref. 1665, one of their earlier models, can cost approximately £37,000.
Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea
With the discontinuation of the Rolex Sea-Dweller in 2008, before its rapid reintroduction in 2014, the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea took centre stage as the new best dive watch in Rolex’s expansive catalogue. Released on the heels of the Sea-Dweller’s discontinuation, the Deepsea came out in 2008 bearing the Ref. 116660, designed to meet the increasing demands of contemporary divers. The Deepsea was released in a larger size and had a water resistance of 3900m, compared to the typical Sea-Dweller resistance of 1220m. It also emblazoned the helium escape valve with the Deepsea branding on the dial beneath the standard Rolex logo and boasts a 5mm sapphire crystal in the three-piece case.
Compared to the classic Sea-Dweller, the Deepsea model was not as favourably received by purist collectors who love the classic look of the Sea-Dweller. However, they are still popular and many are seen as collector’s items. The subject of the Deep Sea Challenge is one of the more affordable new models available which is still in production today.
The Rolex Sea-Dweller as an Investment
When it comes to investing in Rolex, the Sea-Dweller is a notable option for those seeking to add a watch that is likely to appreciate in value. If you are purchasing for this purpose rather than for the practical application of the watch (for watersports and diving activities), there are some models that have proven more valuable than others. For example, Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600, ref. 16600 and 16660 (Triple 6) have appreciated between 30% - 60% respectively over the past few years.
These watches are seen as high-level investment pieces when compared with other Rolex models.
Whether you are looking for a robust diving watch that can be a companion timepiece at impressive depths or a stylish everyday luxury watch, the Rolex Sea-Dweller is a classic of the brand, created with quality and performance in mind from its first iteration to its present-day style.