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Rolex Sea-Dweller: A Professional Diving Watch
The Sea-Dweller is Rolex's professional diving watch. It can withstand depths over 1,200 m (3,900 ft) and has a helium escape valve to equalize pressure. However, this extremely robust timepiece is also a great everyday watch for use on land.
Built for Extreme Depths
The Sea-Dweller is one of the most robust Rolex watches. The Genevan company first released this timepiece in 1967 as an evolution of the Submariner, which had debuted 14 years prior. Unlike its predecessor, the Sea-Dweller can dive down to 1,220 m (122 bar, 4,000 ft) and is suitable for professional saturation diving thanks to its helium escape valve. The Sea-Dweller Deepsea is even more impressive. It is water-resistant to 3,900 m (390 bar, 12,795 ft) and, at 44 mm, is one of the largest models in Rolex's portfolio.
The Sea-Dweller spent decades only available in stainless steel; however, in 2019, Rolex expanded the collection with a two-tone model in stainless steel and yellow gold. At the same time, they added a Cyclops lens above the date display. There had never been a Sea-Dweller with a magnifying lens up to that point.
Like most Rolexes, the Sea-Dweller tends to retain its value well. Certain models, such as early prototypes and the 2014 Deepsea D-Blue in honor of James Cameron's diving expedition, are especially highly coveted among fans and collectors alike. This popularity has led to increasing prices, and thus, these timepieces are sound investment options.
5 Reasons to Buy a Sea-Dweller
- A professional diving watch with a helium escape valve
- Water-resistant to 1,220 m (122 bar, 4,000 ft)
- Sea-Dweller Deepsea: water-resistant to 3,900 m (12,795 ft)
- Automatic in-house caliber with COSC certification
- Available in stainless steel and two-tone
Prices at a Glance: Rolex Sea-Dweller
|Model/Reference number||Price (approx.)||Features|
|Sea-Dweller "Double Red," 1665||25,500 USD||40 mm, water-resistant to 610 m (2,000 ft), cal. 1570|
|Two-Tone Sea-Dweller, 126603||19,000 USD||43 mm, water-resistant to 1,200 m (4,000 ft), cal. 3235|
|Sea-Dweller "Triple 6," 16660||18,000 USD||40 mm, water-resistant to 1,200 m (4,000 ft), cal. 3035|
|Deepsea D-Blue, 126660||16,000 USD||44 mm, water resistant to 3,900 m (12,795 ft), cal. 3235|
|Sea-Dweller 50th Anniversary, 126600||15,500 USD||43 mm, water-resistant to 1,200 m (4,000 ft), cal. 3235|
|Sea-Dweller, 16600||15,000 USD||40 mm, water-resistant to 1,200 m (4,000 ft), cal. 3135|
|Sea-Dweller 4000, 116600||14,500 USD||40 mm, water-resistant to 1,200 m (4,000 ft), cal. 3135|
|Deepsea, 116660||13,500 USD||44 mm, water resistant to 3,900 m (12,795 ft), cal. 3135|
How much does a Rolex Sea-Dweller cost?
If you're interested in owning a Sea-Dweller, you should be prepared to spend at least 14,000 USD. That amount will get you a well-maintained Sea-Dweller 4000 produced between 2014 and 2017. Current models like the ref. 126600 and the two-tone ref. 126603 generally cost anywhere from 15,000 to 19,000 USD. Prices for vintage Sea-Dwellers begin around 17,500 USD and go all the way up to about 26,000 USD.
Those looking for a Sea-Dweller Deepsea, which can dive down to 3,900 m (390 bar, 12,795 ft), should have between 13,500 and 16,000 USD on hand. Pre-owned timepieces in good condition cost about the same.
About the Sea-Dweller
Rolex currently offers the Sea-Dweller in two variations. The first is the standard-edition ref. 126600 with a 43-mm stainless steel case, black dial, and black Cerachrom diving bezel. The other variant is the two-tone ref. 126603. Rolex crafts its case and the outer links of its Oyster bracelet out of stainless steel, while the bezel, crown, and bracelet middle links are all made of yellow gold. The manufacturer calls this combination of materials "Rolesor."
Both versions share the in-house caliber 3235, a helium escape valve on the left side of their cases, water-resistance to 1,220 m (122 bar, 4,000 ft), and sapphire crystal. They are also the first Sea-Dwellers to feature Rolex's distinctive Cyclops lens above their date displays.
A new Rolex Sea-Dweller ref. 126600 sells for about 15,000 USD on Chrono24. That's roughly 3,300 USD more than its official list price. However, for that premium, you get to bypass the long waitlists often associated with offline retailers. It's a similar story for the two-tone ref. 126603. It demands around 19,000 USD new, which is some 2,400 USD over Rolex's recommended retail price. Pre-owned pieces cost only marginally less, as these timepieces and other Rolexes tend to retain their value.
The Sea-Dweller 4000
The ref. 126600 is the direct descendant of the Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600, which Rolex produced from 2014 to 2018. This older model lacks a Cyclops lens, is only 40 mm in diameter, and uses the caliber 3135. However, its water-resistance, helium escape valve, and basic design are identical to that of its successor.
Prices for the Sea-Dweller 4000 have risen significantly since Rolex retired this model. The same watch that cost less than 8,500 USD at its introduction in 2014 demanded about 11,500 USD in 2018. As of 2020, that price has increased to 14,500 USD. Used watches cost only a few hundred dollars less. Those who've purchased a ref. 116600 in recent years have made a sound investment and can expect its value to continue growing for the foreseeable future.
The Sea-Dweller "Triple Six" and 16600
Many fans consider the ref. 16600 the ultimate Sea-Dweller. This model debuted in 1989 and remained in Rolex's catalog until the manufacturer replaced it with the Deepsea in 2008. The Sea-Dweller 16600 has a lot in common with the Sea-Dweller 4000. Both are 40 mm in diameter, water-resistant to 1,220 m (122 bar, 4,000 ft), have a helium escape valve, and feature sapphire crystal with no Cyclops lens. They also share the caliber 3135. The main difference between these two timepieces is their bezel inlay. While the 16600 has an aluminum inlay, the Sea-Dweller 4000's inlay is made of Rolex's proprietary Cerachrom ceramic.
The Sea-Dweller ref. 16600 has enjoyed rapid appreciation in recent years. Over the last five years, prices have risen by about 4,700 USD for used watches and by almost 5,900 USD for never-worn timepieces. Today, a mint-condition watch demands around 15,500 USD, while pre-owned models change hands for roughly 9,400 USD.
The ref. 16600's predecessor, the ref. 16660 or "Triple Six", has performed similarly well. Unlike the newer model, the Triple Six houses the caliber 3035 and uses a Tritium-based luminous material. You can purchase a used watch for about 11,000 USD – that's an increase of 1,200 USD in only five years. Prices for mint-condition timepieces have increased an impressive 5,900 USD in the same timeframe. Today, these editions demand around 16,000 USD.
How much does a vintage Sea-Dweller cost?
Early models from the 1960s and 1970s are, without a doubt, some of the most highly coveted vintage Rolex Sea-Dwellers. The ref. 1665 "Double Red", with its red "Sea-Dweller Submariner 2000" inscription across two lines, is relatively rare and in particularly high demand. It features a 41-mm stainless steel case with a helium escape valve at 9 o'clock and a water resistance of 610 m (61 bar, 2,000 ft). Like other watches from this era, Plexiglass protects the dial from the elements. Prices for pre-owned models sit around 28,000 USD and have continued to rise over the last few years.
You can save a few thousand dollars by purchasing the so-called "Great White" ref. 1665. This watch is largely identical to the Double Red; however, its inscription is in white instead of red and reads "Sea-Dweller 2000ft=610m." Well-maintained "Great White" watches in very good condition sell for between 15,500 and 30,000 USD.
Sea-Dweller Deepsea: Water-Resistant to 12,795 ft
The Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea premiered under the reference number 116660 in 2008. At 44 mm in diameter, it is one of the Genevan brand's heftiest watches. This size also serves a purpose, as Rolex increased this model's water resistance to 3,900 m (390 bar, 12,795 ft). It comes with a black dial and matching black Cerachrom bezel. The caliber 3135 ensures the watch's high precision. Mint-condition Deepsea 116660 watches change hands for about 13,500 USD. Prices for pre-owned pieces start around 11,000 USD.
Rolex launched the Deepsea ref. 116660 D-Blue edition in 2014. This timepiece pays tribute to director James Cameron and his 2012 journey down 10,908 m (35,787 ft) to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Also known as the "Deepsea Blue," what makes the D-Blue model so special is its blue-to-black gradient dial and green "Deepsea" inscription. Otherwise, this watch is identical to its plain black counterpart. The D-Blue ref. 116660 demands prices of between 14,500 and 16,000 USD, depending on its condition.
Rolex updated both the black and blue Deepsea editions in 2018. These new timepieces bear the reference number 126660 and feature the more modern caliber 3235. The black 126660 costs about 15,000 USD in mint condition, while the version with a D-Blue dial sells for roughly 16,000 USD. Pre-owned pieces generally cost a few hundred dollars less.
Helium Escape Valve for Longer Dives
The Rolex Sea-Dweller comes with an extra feature that's necessary for long periods underwater: a helium escape valve. Saturation divers breathe a special air mixture that includes helium. Since they are so small, the helium molecules can easily slip past the watch's seals and fill the space inside the case. Problems arise during decompression since the helium atoms cannot exit fast enough as they start to expand. This can cause the crystal to pop out. To prevent this, Rolex invented the helium escape valve, which equalizes pressure.
Inspired by the Submariner
The origins of the Rolex Sea-Dweller are closely tied to the company COMEX. The expansion of offshore oil drilling in the 1960s created new jobs for divers, who were needed to construct offshore platforms and pipelines. These jobs required the divers and their watches to dive deeper and deeper.
The Compagnie maritime d'expertises (COMEX) has specialized in these sorts of underwater missions since 1961. Rolex provided COMEX with a Submariner (ref. 5513), the first watch to feature a helium escape valve. You can recognize this Submariner by the "COMEX" inscription on its dial. These watches continue to sell for over 58,500 USD.
Rolex introduced the Sea-Dweller in 1967. The watch premiered with two distinctive features: a helium escape valve and water resistance to 610 m (2,000 ft). Furthermore, the manufacturer made it available on the consumer market. This was a new combination; however, the production run was still small. You can find these watches under the reference number 1665. Well-maintained timepieces cost about 29,500 USD today.