You won't regret considering this watch over the Rolex Submariner
For some, the choice is as clear as day but many and more find themselves perpetually caught in between the two. When it comes to Rolexes, the classic Submariner is second to none in terms of brand recognition – well, almost, but that's another story. More importantly, it's practically synonymous with the brand and very likely the best-loved Rolex sport model of all time.
The Sub, as collectors lovingly abbreviate, was created in 1953 and launched in 1954. It was Rolex's first dive watch, made with a uni-directional rotating bezel meant to assist divers in calculating bottom time. For this reason, it also had extra-large, luminescent hands and indexes for better legibility. The first Sub was water resistant to 100 metres, which was a huge deal then, but Rolex continually improved the dive rating of the watch to 200 and then 300 metres.
Other improvements that Rolex added over the years include crown guards, 15-minute graduation markers on the bezel, date display, sapphire crystal replacing mineral glass, the patented Triplock crown, and of course the scratchproof Cerachrom bezel. It's the perfect first Rolex for many and the Sub is just as popular with men as it is with women, particularly the most recent steel reference 116610 which comes with a black or green dial and bezel.
And herein lies the problem: Because of its tremendous popularity worldwide, it's the most commonly spotted Rolex sport model there is. Unless you're prepared to shell out another $35,000 on a gold model, chances are high that each time you walk down Orchard Road or any other major city around the world, you'll find the same watch on the wrists of cosmopolites shuffling every which way. The same goes for every other hawker or car salesman or insurance agent or that doofus next door... you get the drift.
Now this is where the Sea-Dweller comes in. Many Rolex die-hard fans actually prefer this brawnier younger brother of the Sub because of the Sea-Dweller's nature as a utilitarian instrument; a tool watch. It's also a rarer find and hence, something special.
Rolex introduced the Sea-Dweller in 1967, which means it just turned 50 this year. The very first Sea-Dweller was, technically, a Submariner. Ref. 1665 was known as the Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller Submariner 2000. Capable of depths of up to 2,000 feet or 610 metres, it is essentially a Submariner Ref. 5513 with triple the depth rating, a much, much thicker crystal, and a case reinforced with a one-way helium escape valve as well as a patented triplock crown. Ref. 1665 was famously nicknamed the Double Red because of two lines of text printed in red that read "Sea-Dweller" and "Submariner 2000".
Over the decades, the Sea-Dweller evolved steadily as an autonomous collection, with models like Ref. 16660 and 16600 featuring increased depth rating of 1,220 metres or 4,000 feet, the oversized 44mm Sea-Dweller Deepsea Ref. 116660 with 3,900 metres water resistance, and the downsized 40mm Sea-Dweller 4000 Ref. 116600. But it's the anniversary piece, the Ref. 126600, that everybody wants today.
This watch is nicknamed – as Rolex collectors are wont to do – the Single Red because the text for Sea-Dweller is printed in red against a black dial harking back to the early 1960s when Rolex was still in the prototyping stage for the Sea-Dweller. Then, the manufacture produced a handful of watches that were rated to 500 metres and had only printed the word Sea-Dweller in red; everything else was white. Among the most valuable of all Sea-Dwellers, those watches also had case backs engraved with the words "Patent Pending" and are worth a fortune at auctions today.
Plus, Ref. 126600 is the only Sea-Dweller with a Cyclops date magnifier, which was very often the final deciding factor that led people to choose the Submariner over the Sea-Dweller – but not anymore. Check out how the two watches stack up against each other:
The Submariner and Sea-Dweller collections are available at Rolex boutiques.