In the weeks leading up to Baselworld 2017, the speculation as to what Rolex would be releasing was rife. With astute watch collectors quickly pointing out that 2017 marked 50 years of the Rolex Sea-Dweller, the community braced for an anniversary edition.
We all know — and love — that Rolex celebrates iconic anniversaries, and more often than not it’s a sophisticated touch here and there. Think back to the Rolex Submariner (ref 16610LV), where we saw a green bezel, or the more recent Rolex Day-Date 40 (60th anniversary Edition), with a stunning green dial. For all that, they’re instantly recognisable: Rolex are subtle — one of their core strengths is to design and manufacture timeless wristwatches. A Submariner from 1970 looks just as good as a current production Submariner, and that’s because Rolex doesn’t do rapid change. They move to the beat of their own drum.
So, when the doors to the fair opened, attendees (myself included) swarmed to the Rolex booth, fighting to get the first glimpse of exactly what this would be. Glistening in the window sat the brand new 50th Anniversary Sea-Dweller. Since that initial exciting glimpse, I’ve managed to spend a bit more time with the new Sea-Dweller reference 126600, which replaces the short-lived reference 116600, known to many as the ‘SD4K’.
Obviously, the first and most notable design change on the new Sea-Dweller was the re-introduction of the red font to the dial. Now present, in a sharp red text that reads ‘Sea-Dweller’. This is a nice nod to the original 1967 Sea-Dweller (ref 1665), which featured those famous two lines of text (Sea-Dweller, Submariner 2000), popularly referred to as the ‘Double Red Sea-Dweller’. We also saw a change to the dial finish itself; previously being black with a satin finish, the new Sea-Dweller, although still black, has a gloss finish. The new glossy dial really accentuates the crisp red text, ensuring it stands out.
Like its predecessor, lovely luminescent blue hour markers and hands mark the time. Of course, legibility is never an issue when it comes to Rolex sports watches, and the Sea-Dweller is no different.
The case and bracelet
The big news about the reference 126600 Sea-Dweller is the larger, bolder, 43mm case — made from their 904L steel. Now, for reference, the now discontinued SD4K came in a 40mm case and the current Rolex Deepsea models both come in a 44mm case. At 43mm, the case is definitely on the larger size, for some, too large. But diameter is only half the story when it comes to how large a watch wears, and in terms of thickness, this case remains unchanged at 15mm. Like its predecessor, the Sea-Dweller is still waterproof to 4000 feet, or 1220 metres.
The Sea-Dweller’s boosted case is restrained nicely by the Oyster bracelet, which allows a great level of control for the wearer (so you need not worry about the case flopping around). Featuring the very useful Fliplock diver’s extension allows for an extra 26mm of bracelet — perfect for actual, wetsuit-wearing divers. Of more use to most is the Glidelock system, which allows the wearer to make adjustments to the size of the bracelet, in 2mm increments, up to 20mm. This is also a much appreciated feature to those living in varied climates, and having that level of control over the fit of the bracelet makes this watch exceptionally comfortable. Again, the bracelet also features Rolex’s Oysterlock safety clasp, fastening it securely into place.
For the first time ever, this Sea-Dweller comes with a cyclops magnifier over the date, a controversial addition. From a purely aesthetic perspective, a lot of people preferred the no cyclops look, and I have to say that I agree. On purely aesthetic grounds it’s cleaner. However, it’s not just about the looks, and from a functionality point of view the date is easier to read with a cyclops. It’s also an iconic identifying feature of Rolex, and serves a purpose, which is what Rolex sports watches are all about. You get used to it, and I honestly can’t see it being too much of a deal-breaker.
Powering the Sea-Dweller is a new generation Calibre 3235 movement, an update on the previous SD4K, which featured the calibre 3135. The all new Calibre 3235 features the impressive Chronergy escapement and a boosted power reserve, which has increased from 48 hours to a very handy 70. Personally, I love the thought of being able to leave a fully wound watch idle over the weekend, and pick it up come Monday morning still ticking. The extra convenience of not having to reset the date is a nice bonus.
Like all of the Rolex watches, the Sea-Dweller features the brand’s Superlative Chronometer Certification, which guarantees the precision of the watch to −2/+2 seconds per day. In other words, it’s extremely accurate. Pair that with their standard international five-year guarantee, and you can see why so many people trust the Crown.
Who’s it for?
Logic says this is a tool watch, built with deep sea divers in mind. Emotion says this is equally for the die-hard desk divers (which includes yours truly). It’s the perfect watch for someone who’s picked up a Submariner, or SD4K, and craved a little more wrist presence, both in size and weight. The same wearer who loves the sound the Cerachrom bezel makes, as they turn it around, all 120 clicks. The wearer who lives for the sound the oyster class makes, as you shut the Fliplock.
Overall, the watch is perfectly proportioned, and the last few months have already spoken to its desirability.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller reference 126600 Australian pricing
The Rolex Sea-Dweller (ref. 126600), $14,400