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Rolex Sea-Dweller: At Home Underwater
The Sea-Dweller is Rolex's professional diving watch. It can withstand depths of over 1,200 m (3,900 ft) and has a helium escape valve to equalize pressure. Many models have recorded excellent value increases in recent years.
Robust Professional Diving Watch
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 close relative, however, the Sea-Dweller can dive 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 practically all Rolex watches, the value of the Sea-Dweller has been increasing, at times even substantially. The ref. 16660, for example, appreciated by over 60% in just two years (as of May 2022). The Deepsea D-Blue, released in 2014 in honor of James Cameron's diving expedition, is also highly coveted among fans and collectors alike. Prices are on the rise, making these timepieces sound investment options.
Reasons to Buy a Rolex Sea-Dweller
- A professional diving watch with a helium escape valve
- Profitable investment
- Sea-Dweller Deepsea: water-resistant to 3,900 m (390 bar, 12,795 ft)
- Automatic in-house caliber with COSC certification
- Available in stainless steel and two-tone
Prices for the Rolex Sea-Dweller
|Model, reference number||Value appreciation,* price (approx.)||Size, caliber|
|Triple 6, 16660||63%, 18,500 USD||40 mm, 3035|
|4000, 116600||44%, 20,000 USD||40 mm, 3135|
|Deepsea D-Blue, 116660||42%, 20,500 USD||44 mm, 4135|
|16600||36%, 17,500 USD||40 mm, 3135|
|Deepsea D-Blue, 126660||35%, 19,500 USD||44 mm, 3235|
|50th Anniversary, 126600||30%, 17,500 USD||43 mm, 3235|
|Deepsea, 116660||28%, 17,000 USD||44 mm, 3135|
|Deepsea, 126660||28%, 16,500 USD||44 mm, 3235|
|Rolesor, 126603||12.5%, 20,000 USD||43 mm, 3235|
|Double Red, 1665||10%, 36,000 USD||40 mm, 1570|
|*between May 2020 and May 2022|
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 16,500 USD. That amount will get you a new Sea-Dweller 4000, which was produced between 2014 and 2017. The ref. 126600 is the current model and, in May 2022, cost roughly 17,000 USD, while the two-tone ref. 126603 cost closer to 20,000 USD. Prices for vintage Sea-Dwellers begin at around 18,500 USD for the ref. 16660 and go all the way up to about 35,500 USD for the Double Red ref. 1665.
About the Sea-Dweller
Rolex 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 Rolesor ref. 126603 (gold and steel).
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.
Although Rolex lists this watch for 12,950 USD, the Rolex Sea-Dweller ref. 126600 sells on Chrono24 for around 17,500 USD in mint condition. The waiting lists for this watch at authorized dealers are long, which has driven prices for it up by 30% since May 2020.
It's a similar story for the two-tone Rolesor ref. 126603. It demands around 20,000 USD new, which is some 3,000 USD over Rolex's recommended retail price. This model had appreciated by 12.5% on Chrono24 (as of May 2022).
Strong Performance: 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 7,100 USD at its introduction in 2014 demanded about 10,000 USD when the watch was discontinued in 2018. Between May 2020 and May 2022, this Rolex watch appreciated by over 40% and cost over 19,500 USD at the time of writing.
Sea-Dweller 16660 Triple Six: Price Increase of Over 60%
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. Pieces in mint condition are roughly 7,000 USD more expensive than they were in 2020 (as of May 2022). You should therefore be prepared to spend about 18,500 USD on one of these Sea-Dweller watches.
Sea-Dweller 16600: Increase of 36%
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 ref. 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 ref. 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 performed excellently in recent years. In May 2022, unworn timepieces required an investment of over 17,500 USD. This translates into a value appreciation of 36% since May 2020.
How much does a vintage Sea-Dweller cost?
Early models from the 1960s and 1970s are some of the most highly coveted vintage Rolex Sea-Dwellers. The ref. 1665 "Double Red", with its black dial and red "Sea-Dweller Submariner 2000" inscription across two lines, is in particularly high demand. It features a 40-mm stainless steel case with a helium escape valve at 9 o'clock and offers water resistance to 610 m (61 bar, 2,000 ft). Like other watches from this era, Plexiglass protects the dial from the elements. You will find the caliber 1570 inside the case. The "Double Red" is quite a rare find, with pre-owned timepieces in good condition changing hands for more than 35,500 USD in May 2022. Compared to other Rolex watches, this watch experienced a more moderate price increase of 10%.
You can save a few thousand dollars by opting for the "Great White" ref. 1665, which was released in 1977. From a technical standpoint, this watch is 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 start at 17,000 USD and can even exceed 40,500 USD.
Sea-Dweller Deepsea: Water-Resistant to 3,900 m (1,2795 ft)
At 44 mm in diameter, the Sea-Dweller Deepsea is one of Rolex's heftiest watches. It was first released in 2008, and can be found under ref. 116660. This bigger size serves a purpose, as Rolex improved the water rating to 3,990 m (399 bar, 13,090 ft). The caliber 3135 ensures the watch's high precision. Mint-condition Deepsea ref. 116660 watches with a black dial change hands for about 17,000 USD. Between May 2020 and May 2022, the value of this model increased by almost 30%.
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 sets the D-Blue model apart is its blue-to-black gradient dial and green "Deepsea" inscription. Otherwise, this watch is identical to its solid black counterpart. The D-Blue ref. 116660 has appreciated by over 40% in the last two years and now demands around 20,500 USD.
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 ref. 126660 costs about 16,000 USD in mint condition, while the version with a D-Blue dial sells for roughly 19,500 USD pre-owned.
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 types 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. Today, these watches are valued at between 50,000 USD and well over 100,000 USD. Particularly well-maintained pieces in full sets and other rare accessories, such as original diving records, can even cost up to 200,000 USD.