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Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea: At Home Underwater

The Sea-Dweller Deepsea is Rolex's most impressive diving watch to date. It is extremely precise and can easily withstand depths of up to 3,900 m (12,800 ft), making it interesting for professional and recreational divers alike.


Water-Resistant to 12,800 ft with the Ringlock System

Rolex has a long tradition of producing superb diving watches. Among them, the Sea-Dweller Deepsea is perhaps the most impressive. Released in 2008, its 44-mm stainless steel case is water-resistant to 3,900 m (390 bar, 12,800 ft). This far exceeds the capabilities of the standard Rolex Sea-Dweller, which has a depth rating of 1,220 m (122 bar, 4,000 ft).

This is possible thanks to its special case construction, which Rolex calls the Ringlock System. Rolex tests each watch in a pressurized container developed by COMEX (Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises) to guarantee that every Deepsea can cope with the extreme conditions experienced deep below the waves.

A helium escape valve on the left side of the case is a necessary feature for saturation diving and underscores the Deepsea's professional nature. What's more, each movement comes with chronometer certification from the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC). These movements are especially precise and deviate by no more than +/-2 seconds per day from the reference time. The collection's top model is the D-Blue edition, which features a blue-to-black gradient dial and is highly popular among collectors.

5 Reasons to Buy a Rolex Deepsea

  • Impressive water resistance to 3,900 m (390 bar, 12,800 ft)
  • 44-mm stainless steel case
  • COSC-certified chronometer caliber for the highest precision
  • Extra luminous Chromalight on the hands and indices
  • Coveted Deepsea D-Blue model with blue and black gradient dial

Prices at a Glance: Sea-Dweller Deepsea

Model Price (approx.) Water resistance/Caliber
Two-Tone Sea-Dweller, ref. 126603 18,500 USD 1,220 m (122 bar, 4,000 ft); cal. 3235
Deepsea D-Blue, ref. 126660 16,500 USD 3,900 m (390 bar, 12,800 ft); cal. 3235
Deepsea D-Blue, ref. 116660 16,500 USD 3,900 m (390 bar, 12,800 ft); cal. 3135
Sea-Dweller "Single Red," ref. 126600 15,000 USD 1,220 m (122 bar, 4,000 ft); cal. 3235
Deepsea, ref. 126660 15,000 USD 3,900 m (390 bar, 12,800 ft); cal. 3235
Sea-Dweller 4000, ref. 116600 14,500 USD 1,220 m (122 bar, 4,000 ft); cal. 3135
Deepsea, ref. 116660 14,000 USD 3,900 m (390 bar, 12,800 ft); cal. 3135

How much does a Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea cost?

The first-generation Sea-Dweller Deepsea bears the reference number 116660. Prices for these models have increased slightly over the last few years. The version with a black dial sells for around 14,000 USD new, while the D-Blue edition with a blue-to-black gradient dial demands roughly 16,500 USD in the same condition. Both watches cost about 2,300 USD less pre-owned.

Rolex introduced a new version of the Deepsea in spring 2018. These watches have the reference number 126660 and come with the new caliber 3235. As before, it is available with a plain black dial or a D-Blue gradient dial. The former changes hands for approximately 14,500 USD on Chrono24, while the latter can be yours for around 16,500 USD. Fans and collectors are particularly fond of the Deepsea D-Blue edition, which has caused its prices to rise by more than 2,300 USD between 2018 and 2020. Its value is still trending upward, making this timepiece a fantastic investment.

Alternative Sea-Dwellers

The much slimmer, 40-mm Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600 makes a fantastic alternative to the Deepsea. Rolex produced this model from 2014 until 2018. Since then, it has enjoyed widespread popularity among collectors – a fact that has had a positive effect on its price. Back in 2017, you could still find the Sea-Dweller 4000 for under 9,500 USD. As of 2020, that same timepiece will set you back around 14,500 USD in very good condition.

The Sea-Dweller ref. 126600 from 2017 is another fitting alternative. It is 43 mm in diameter and was the first Sea-Dweller to feature Rolex's distinctive Cyclops lens. You can find this watch at brick-and-mortar retailers for a list price of 11,700 USD; however, that means putting your name at the end of a long wait list. You can get your watch more quickly by purchasing it online for the premium price of 15,000 USD. There is also a two-tone edition under the reference number 126603. It is technologically identical to the stainless steel model but is made of stainless steel and yellow gold elements. This version sells for about 18,500 USD on Chrono24, which is only 1,900 USD more than its official list price.


The Design and Technology of the Deepsea

The Sea-Dweller Deepsea can survive at depths to 3,900 m (390 bar, 12,800 ft). This is possible thanks to what Rolex calls the "Ringlock System." It has a ring of nitrogen-alloyed stainless steel at its center, lending the 44-mm 904L stainless steel case its exceptional stability. Combined with a grade-5 titanium case back and 5.5-mm thick sapphire crystal without a Cyclops lens, this watch can withstand three tons of water pressure.

Rolex offers the Sea-Dweller Deepsea in two basic designs. The standard edition has a black dial and a date display at 3 o'clock. There is a white "Deepsea" inscription directly below the company and the words "Oyster Perpetual Date" at 12 o'clock. The water resistance "12800ft = 3900m," the model name "Sea-Dweller," and its chronometer inscription all sit above 6 o'clock. Finally, the dial's stainless steel edge includes the engravings "Original Gas Escape Valve" and "Ring Lock System."

The Deepsea has a screw-down crown, a helium escape valve, and a black unidirectional Cerachrom ceramic bezel with platinum-covered 60-minute markers. It also comes with a typical Rolex stainless steel Oyster bracelet, which is easy to adjust thanks to its Oysterlock fold-over clasp and practical Glidelock and Fliplock extension systems. Glidelock makes it possible to lengthen the bracelet up to 20 mm in 2-mm increments. Fliplock, on the other hand, allows the bracelet to be lengthened by 26 mm all at once.

The second option is the Deepsea D-Blue. The only thing that sets it apart from the standard model is its dial – even the reference numbers are the same. As indicated by its name, Rolex chose a dial with a gradient that goes from dark blue to black. The other difference is the relocation of the "Deepsea" inscription to above 6 o'clock, where it shines in a bright green. Since Rolex developed this watch in honor of Hollywood legend and "Titanic" director James Cameron's dive into the Mariana Trench, Rolex fans have given it the nickname "Cameron."

The Deepsea's In-House Calibers

Rolex released the second generation of Sea-Dweller Deepsea watches in 2018. These models bear the reference number 126660 and share much of their design with their predecessor, the ref. 116660. The only difference is that the current edition has thinner lugs and case sides.

Perhaps the most significant change took place inside the case. While the ref. 116660 uses the caliber 3135, the ref. 126660 features the caliber 3235. Both movements are Superlative Chronometers, tick at 28,800 vibrations per hour (vph), and feature a blue Perachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock protection. However, the 3235 far exceeds its predecessor in terms of power reserve. Thanks to its Chronergy escapement and longer mainspring, this movement can tick for 70 hours when fully wound.


The History of the Rolex Deepsea

The history of the Rolex Deepsea begins back in 1960 when marine researchers Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh dove down roughly 11,000 m (36,089 ft) into the Mariana Trench in their bathyscaphe called "Trieste." Rolex had developed the experimental Deep Sea Special specifically for this occasion. The watch was attached to the outside of the submersible and survived the dive completely unscathed. Many of the new findings from this experiment later helped in the development of the Rolex Submariner and Sea-Dweller diving watches, which ultimately led to the Rolex Deepsea.

On March 26, 2012, Rolex sent yet another watch into the depths of the Mariana Trench. This time it was on the arm of the Deepsea Challenger submarine piloted by Hollywood director James Cameron. The watch, known as the Deepsea Challenge, was enormous at 51.4 mm in diameter and 28.5 mm thick. The sapphire crystal alone accounted for 14.3 mm. The Deepsea Challenge followed in the footsteps of its ancestor from 52 years before and withstood the trip to the deepest point on Earth without a problem. Unfortunately, this watch is not for sale.