Rolex Sea Dweller

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Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 with a 1,220 m (4,000 ft) depth rating.
The Sea-Dweller's integrated helium escape valve.

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date Sea-Dweller is a line of diver's watches manufactured by Rolex, with an underwater diving depth rating of 610 metres (2,000 ft) for the vintage models and up to 3,900 metres (12,800 ft) for the Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA model.


During the 1960s, the needs of professional divers working at great depths led to the development of the first 'ultra water resistant' tool watches designed for conducting safe diving operations at 300 m+ (1,000 ft+) depths.

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller Submariner 2000 (2000 ft = 610 m) that became available in 1967 was developed from the Submariner for the Comex S.A. industrial deep-sea diving company by increasing crystal thickness and was produced in several variations. It had a depth rating of 610 metres (2,000 ft) and its Rolex reference number is 1665.

Most Sea-Dweller watches incorporate a helium escape valve for saturation diving. Early Sea-Dwellers, however, did not always have the valve. Until the 2017 introduction of the reference number 126600, Sea-Dweller's were also distinguished by the absence of the date magnifier ("cyclops") present on most other Rolex models as it was impossible to attach a cyclops with Ultraviolet (UV) light curing adhesive at the top of a watch crystal exposed to the pressure encountered at its test depth. The Sea-Dweller diving watch range has been standard issue for Comex divers since 1977.

The Sea-Dweller Submariner 2000 watches have two red text lines on the watch dial, which led to an unofficial "Double Red" designation by watch collectors.[1][2][3] The Rolex Sea-Dweller 2000 watch case has a diameter of 40.0 mm (1.57 in) mm and a thickness of 14.7 mm (0.58 in).

The Sea-Dweller Submariner 2000 models were succeeded by the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller 4000 (4000 ft = 1220 m) model, with an increased depth rating to 1,220 metres (4,000 ft). The last Comex Sea-Dweller 4000 Rolex reference number is 16600. This watch was issued to Comex divers since 1992. The Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 watch case has a diameter of 40.0 mm (1.57 in) mm and a thickness of 15.5 mm (0.61 in) ( crystal thickness 4 mm (0.16 in)), and the case and bracelet weigh 165 g (5.8 oz).[4][5]

Several semi-custom production runs of Sea-Dweller Submariner 2000 and 4000 models were produced with and without helium escape valves and differing watch dial patterns for the Comex S.A. company. These variants sometimes also had differing Rolex reference numbers. Some of these non-standard Sea-Dweller watches had the Comex S.A. logo depicted on the watch dial, which led to an unofficial "COMEX watches" designation by collectors. These watches were either issued to Comex staff members or were given as business gifts.[6][7]

At the BaselWorld watch and jewellery show 2017, Rolex introduced an enlarged Sea-Dweller model featuring a date magnifier on a redesined watch crystal and an updated automatic movement (Calibre 3235). Its reference number is 126600. The Rolex Sea-Dweller 126600 watch case has a diameter of 43.0 mm (1.69 in) mm.[8]

Rolex Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA variant[edit]

Black dial Rolex Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA, introduced in 2008. (ref. 116660)

Rolex Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA introduced in 2014. A blue dial variant honoring James Cameron's dive to the Challenger Deep in 2012.

At the BaselWorld watch and jewellery show 2008, Rolex introduced an updated Sea-Dweller model named the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA. Its reference number is 116660.

With an official depth rating of 3,900 metres (12,800 ft), the Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA represented in its launch year the most water resistant mechanical watch in serial production. To obtain this official depth rating, the Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA is tested to a depth of 4,875 metres (15,994 ft) to offer the 25% safety reserve required by the ISO 6425 divers' watches standard.[9] To test the water resistance of the Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA, Rolex uses testing equipment developed for them by Comex.[10] Normal surface air filled watch cases and crystals designed for extreme depths must be large to cope with the water pressure.
The Rolex Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA watch case has a diameter of 44.0 mm (1.73 in) mm and a thickness of 17.7 mm (0.70 in) (domed crystal thickness 5.5 mm (0.22 in)), and the case and bracelet weigh 212 g (7.5 oz).[11]
Other features which came with the Deepsea at 2008 was the "Ringlock System" for sealing the saphire crystal to the case, a caseback made of titanium/steel alloy, the "Glidelock-clasp" and diver extension link, "maxi-dial", engraved rehaut, ceramic bezel with platinum-filled numbers, calibre 3135 with antimagnetic Parachrome-Blue-hairspring and blue "Chromalight" loom.

The first variant of Sea-Dweller Deepsea reference 116660 has a classic black dial with white text on the dial.

A second "D-Blue"-variant was released in 2014 in honor of James Cameron and his journey to the deepest area of the ocean in the year 2012. It has a blue/black dial and green colored "DEEPSEA"-label.

A new Deepsea model reference 126660 was introduced at Baselworld 2018. It is equipped with the calibre 3235, a broader bracelet and resized folding clasp and a slightly redesigned case.[12]

Diving records[edit]

The design and actual availability of diving watches certified for more than 1,000 m (3,281 ft) is not solely explicable by practical diving needs.

The diving depth record for actual offshore diving was achieved in 1988 by a team of professional divers of the Comex S.A. industrial deep-sea diving company performing pipeline connection exercises at a depth of 534 metres (1,752 ft) of seawater (msw) in the Mediterranean Sea. They wore Rolex Sea-Dwellers.

In 1992, Comex diver Theo Mavrostomos achieved a record of 701 metres (2,300 ft) of seawater (msw) in an onshore hyperbaric chamber. He took 43 days to complete the dive. The watch used during this scientific record dive, where a hydrogen-helium-oxygen (hydreliox) gas mixture was used as breathing gas, was a Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 with a 1,220 m (4,000 ft) depth rating. Rolex used this achievement in advertising campaigns.[13][14][15][16][17]

The complexity, medical problems and physiological limits, such as those imposed by high pressure nervous syndrome, the accompanying high costs of professional saturation diving to extreme depths and the development of deep water atmospheric diving suits and remotely operated underwater vehicles in offshore oilfield drilling and production effectively ended the need for ever deeper, non-atmospheric manned intervention in the ocean. These practical factors make watch depth ratings of more than 1,000 m (3,281 ft) marketing curiosities.

Experimental Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA CHALLENGE watch[edit]

In late March 2012, Rolex announced that a new prototype diving watch was developed and is part of the Rolex supported attempt to dive the DSV Deepsea Challenger to the bottom of the Challenger Deep, the deepest surveyed point in the oceans.[18][19][20] On 26 March 2012 the DSV Deepsea Challenger carried a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA CHALLENGE prototype diving watch strapped to its manipulator arm to a depth of 10,898.4 metres (35,756 ft) of seawater (msw).[21] The experimental Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA CHALLENGE watch is designed to be waterproof up to 12,000 metres (39,370 ft). According to the pilot of the DSV Deepsea Challenger, James Cameron, the "Rolex Deepsea Challenge was the reliable companion throughout the dive; it was visible on the sub's manipulator arm and working precisely at 10,898 meters down at the bottom of the Challenger Deep."[22] The normal surface air filled watch case has a diameter of 51.4 mm (2.02 in) and a thickness of 28.5 mm (1.12 in) (domed synthetic sapphire crystal 14.3 mm (0.56 in)) to cope with the water pressure at the deepest surveyed point in the oceans.[23]


  1. ^ Rolex "Double Red" Sea-Dweller Submariner 2000
  2. ^ Dials of the Double Red
  3. ^ Rolex Double Red Sea Dweller with the Patent Pending Caseback by Delgado
  4. ^ The Rolex Sea-Dweller
  5. ^ Battle Of Three Rolex Divers
  6. ^ COMEX Watches by Delgado Archived 2008-03-19 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ The Rolex ref.1665 Patent Pending Sea-Dweller
  8. ^ All you need to know about the Rolex Sea-Dweller 43mm Ref. 126600 – Why it is like it is?
  9. ^ Rolex Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA by rruegger (in German)
  10. ^ Hubbard, Paul (2008-04-03). "The New Rolex Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA". Watch Report.
  11. ^ The deep dive watch The Rolex DEEPSEA brochure
  12. ^ Rolex Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA 2018 (in English)
  13. ^ Comex S.A. HYDRA 8 and HYDRA 10 test projects Archived 2008-10-05 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ COMEX Watches by Guill@ume and Delgado Archived 2008-03-19 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ Technology: Dry run for deepest dive
  17. ^ Advertisements referring to Comex divers using Rolex watches
  18. ^ The Rolex Deepsea Challenge Archived 2012-04-03 at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ "Deepsea Challenge". National Geographic Society. Archived from the original on June 25, 2014. Retrieved March 10, 2012.
  20. ^ ROLEX Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA Challenge
  21. ^ Rolex Deepsea Challenge: Deepest Point On Earth by Kyle Stults, March 26, 2012
  22. ^ James Cameron about the Rolex DEEPSEA CHALLENGE Archived 2012-04-03 at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ Rolex Deepsea Challenge Watch by Kyle Stults, March 20, 2012

External links[edit]