The Sea-Dweller is one of Rolex’s most technically impressive and advanced dive watch offerings. Its foundation is its predecessor, the iconic Submariner. However, it boasts stronger capabilities, like an increased depth rating. The Sea-Dweller is a durable and respectable tool watch, yet it still showcases the timeless aesthetic of the Rolex brand. Buying a Rolex Sea-Dweller watch is a great option for commercial as well as amateur divers. Discover our wide array of exceptional used Rolex Sea-Dweller watches for sale.
In the 1960s, sea exploration was expanding and the sport of scuba diving was growing in popularity. Rolex had already entered the dive watch market with the creation of one of their most iconic models: the Submariner. However, by the 1960s, diving technology was improving and equipment was evolving. There was a growing demand for more than a casual tool watch. So, Rolex was inspired to develop a dive model that was even more rugged, complex, and capable.
Soon, they got just the push they needed to create their best dive watch yet. An industrial deep-sea diving company called Comex approached Rolex. They needed a watch that could serve their divers who serviced offshore oilrigs. It needed to be able to withstand the conditions of their rigorous work. It also needed to be able to function at deeper depths for longer periods of time than anything else that was on the market.
Rolex was up for the challenge. They quickly began modifying one of their existing Submariner models, the Ref. 5513. First, they added a one-way escape valve to help relieve the pressure experienced at greater depths. Next, they added a thicker crystal and equipped it with a larger, reinforced case. These updates helped to increase the watch’s depth rating to over 600 meters. Rolex was so pleased with the outcome that they decided to add the model to their collection and make it available to the public. In 1967, the first Sea-Dweller was born.
The first iteration of the model to go to production was the Double Red Sea-Dweller (DRSD). It gets its name from the two red lines on the dial. In addition to the patented escape valve, the debut model featured a date display at the three-o’clock position. The DRSD is not to be confused with the “Single Red” Sea-Dweller prototypes. These rare “Single Red” models almost never go up for sale in the pre-owned market. However, when they surface, they fetch millions.
After a ten-year run, Rolex discontinued the production of the original DRSD and introduced the “Great White,” Reference 1665. As the name suggests, Rolex replaced the original red lines with white. Otherwise, the model is quite similar to the DRSD. During its run from 1977 to 1983, the “Great White” saw a number of iterations. One of the most desirable versions in the pre-owned market is the “rail dial,” which refers to the alignment of the dial text in two lines.
A year after the introduction of the “Great White,” the brand released another variation: the Reference 16660 or “Triple Six.” This model was more of a departure from the original design yet more closely resembles modern Sea-Dwellers. The most notable aesthetic update was the shift from a Plexiglas crystal to sapphire. In fact, the Sea-Dweller was one of the first models in the Rolex catalog to come with a sapphire crystal. In addition, it boasted a larger case design and unidirectional rotating bezel. Inside, the movement got an upgrade as well with the addition of the caliber 3035, which offered a quickset feature. Still, the most impressive upgrade is the increased water resistance. Rolex was able to more than double the model’s depth rating to 1220 meters.
When Rolex retired the Ref. 16660 in 1989, they launched a new iteration: the Reference 16600. For the most part, it very closely resembled the “Triple Six.” However, it housed an upgraded movement, the caliber 3135, which featured a longer power reserve. The Ref. 16600 enjoyed an impressive twenty-year run. This makes it the longest lasting Sea-Dweller variation and the easiest model to come by in the pre-owned market.
There was a brief hiatus in the production of the Sea-Dweller from 2009 to 2014 after Rolex launched the Deepsea in 2008. The model returned with the Reference 116600. It featured a number of modern updates, like a Cerachrom bezel, Maxi dial, Glidelock clasp, and Chromalight lume.
Just three years later, Rolex replaced the Ref. 116600 with the Reference 126600 in celebration of the model’s 50th anniversary. It features a contemporary and hefty 43mm case and a 70-hour power reserve. Most notably, there’s the long-awaited addition of a Cyclops magnifier over the date. Last but not least, it gives a nod to the original prototype with a single red line. Then in 2019, Rolex updated the Ref. 126600 with a two-tone stainless steel and yellow gold variation, the Ref. 126603.
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