Rolex has a long history of sea exploration. They have unlocked the deep with a series of innovative watches – from the first waterproof casing, the Oyster (1926) to the venerable Rolex Submariner (1954).
Rolex didn’t rest on their laurels; and built upon these two watches to create their most water resistant timepieces: the Rolex Sea-Dweller and, subsequently, the Sea-Dweller Deepsea.
Both watches were designed with the same purpose and look very similar, but they are remarkably different. Let’s take a look at the Rolex Sea-Dweller vs Deepsea.
pictured: Rolex Sea-Dweller 40 Black Dial Steel Mens Watch
Rolex launched the first iteration of the Sea-Dweller in 1967. At the time, Rolex already had a very capable dive watch in the Submariner, which had an impressive water resistance of up to 200 meters / 660 feet.
The Sub however, met a serious challenge in saturation diving, where divers needed to stay underwater for prolonged periods. Its plexiglass would pop out during decompression.
The Sea-Dweller was developed to solve this problem. The addition of the helium escape valve on the side of its case let helium particles flow out of the watch, solving the exploding plexiglass problem.
Today, there are currently two references of the Rolex Sea-Dweller
and Rolex Deepsea currently production.
Ref 116600, produced from 2014 – 2017
Ref 126600, the current Sea-Dweller
Ref 126603, the newest Rolesor Sea-Dweller launched at Baselworld 2019
Rolex Deepsea models, from left:
Ref 116660, Deepsea Black Dial Ceramic Bezel
Ref 116660, Deepsea Cameron D-Blue Dial produced from 2014 – 2018
Rolex updated the D-Blue in 2018, with Ref 126660
ROLEX SEA-DWELLER vs DEEPSEA: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
To show the differences between the two collections, we’ll put the Sea-Dweller ref 126600 and Deepsea ref 116660 side-by-side.
from left: Rolex Sea-Dweller 43mm Stainless Steel Mens Watch ref 126600 / Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea Black Dial Ceramic Bezel Mens Watch ref 116660
CASE SIZE AND DESIGN
The Rolex Sea-Dweller is traditionally a 40mm watch, but the new ref 126600 has an increased case size of 43mm. The update also added a Cyclops lens to the flat crystal of previous Sea-Dweller models.
The Deepsea meanwhile, has a 44mm case size. While it seems like a negligible difference, what sets the Deepsea apart is its design – it uses Rolex’s patented Ringlock System.
The 10-part system gives the Deepsea its thick, domed case. Apart from that, it also allows it to go to depths of up to 3,900 meters (12,800 feet) versus the Sea-Dweller’s 1,220 meters (4,000 feet).
BEZEL AND DIAL DESIGN
These features also created subtle differences on the bezel and dial.
- classic Rolex inner bezel design
- dial design with red SEA-DWELLER text, indicating the depth rating
- bigger inner bezel, with text “Original Gas Escape Valve” and “Ring Lock System”
- dial design indicating the depth rating; gradient blue dial for the Cameron D-Blue models
The Sea-Dweller ref 126600 is updated with the latest generation of Rolex’s date displaying movement, the Caliber 3235. The movement features the new Chronergy escapement, a major contributor to its increased power reserve of 70 hours.
The Deepsea, despite having a highly specialized case, still runs on Rolex’s reliable Caliber 3135, which the brand introduced in 1988.
The caseback of the Sea-Dweller ref 126600 is made of stainless steel just like the rest of the watch. Meanwhile, the Deepsea’s caseback is made of titanium. This saves some weight given the heftier case of the Deepsea.
What’s clear from this comparison, is that both the Sea-Dweller and the Deepsea are true tool watches that professional divers can trust. Very few us will actually test the limits of these watches, but your choice will all boil down to the amount of pressure your watch needs to withstand.
SEE MORE OF THE WATCHES IN OUR VIDEO:
PHOTO CREDITS: Rolex Sea-Dweller 126603 from Rolex / Rolex Deepsea Challenge from Moss Film