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Since 1967, the Rolex Sea-Dweller holds a special place in both watchmaking history and diving history. The first Sea-Dweller, the ref. 1665, was designed by Rolex in collaboration with COMEX, the French deep-sea diving specialist. It was the first watch designed with a helium escape valve that later also became available for consumers. Pegged by Rolex as “the watch that conquered the deep”, the Sea-Dweller ranks high as one of its top choices for luxury sports watches. Compared to Rolex’s Submariner collection, the Sea-Dweller was created with less focus on design and more focus on the utility of the watch as a deep-diving tool for professional divers.

Reference numbers for the Sea-Dweller collection include: 1660, 1665, 1666, 16600, 16650, 16660, 11600, 116660, 126600, 126603, 126660

In 2014, the Sea-Dweller collection had an exciting expansion with the release of a new special edition version – the Rolex “D-Blue” DeepSea. This special model of the DeepSea, a subcollection of the Sea-Dweller originally launched in 2008, was created in honor of filmmaker and explorer James Cameron’s famous 2012 solo dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench – the deepest point of the ocean, at depths of nearly 11,000 meters (36,000 feet). Strapped to the outside of the diving vessel was the Rolex Deepsea Challenge Sea-Dweller prototype. This watch stunned everybody by keeping impeccable timing with Cameron throughout the entire seven hour dive. This historic experiment was an essential turning point for Rolex, giving it the official title of the “deepest diving watch on earth”.

The Sea-Dweller has proven to be a popular Rolex of choice for several celebrities. Some noteworthy owners of the Sea-Dweller include actors Sylvester Stallone and Justin Theroux, comedian and TV host Joe Rogan, musician Dave Navarro, and NBA champion Steph Curry. Fans and proud owners of the Sea-Dweller DeepSea include movie stars Charlize Theron and Ben Affleck, golf icon Tiger Woods, “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro, and of course, James Cameron himself.

As aforementioned, the Rolex Sea-Dweller was created with less focus on its design and more focus on its functionality as a deep-diving tool for professional divers. The Sea-Dweller is waterproof to a depth of 4,000 ft (1,220 m), and the Sea-Dweller DeepSea more than triples this water resistance with a maximum depth of 12,800 ft (3,900 m). It’s 60 minute graduated rotatable bezel and helium escape valve gives divers the ability to monitor their dive and decompression times while deep diving. With a rugged 43mm and 44mm Oyster case, for the Sea-Dweller and the DeepSea respectively, this collection of watches comes with Rolex’s patented Ringlock System which provides divers with the utmost resistance and reliability when diving. For optimal legibility when deep diving into dark settings, the Sea-Dweller has a sleek black dial with Chromalight hands and hour markers – a coating of luminescent material that glows in the dark. All the modern Sea-Dwellers are equipped with the new generation movement, the calibre 3235, which ensures improved precision, power, reliability, and resistance to both shocks and magnetic resistance.

All the modern Rolex Sea-Dwellers are priced at: $11,700 for the ref. 126600 in the Oystersteel, $16,600 for the ref. 126603 in Oystersteel and yellow gold, and $12,900 for the Sea-Dweller DeepSea ref. 126660 – in both the D-Blue dial and black dial. Prices for these and older models within the secondary market can vary quite a bit depending on the model, age, overall condition of the watch, and other factors – such as if it the watch comes with the original box and papers.

The newest Sea-Dweller, the ref. 126603 released in 2019 in two-tone Oystersteel and yellow gold, is extremely hard for watch collectors and enthusiasts to get their hands on. Naturally, the high demand and low supply has driven its price up in the secondary market – going for upwards of $17,000-$20,000 pre-owned. The ref. 126600, which commemorates the 50th anniversary for the Rolex Sea-Dweller, introduced plenty of significant changes and upgrades to the collection. Bigger and bolder with a subtle touch of vintage, the Sea-Dweller ref. 126600 will surely continue to become more of a highly collectible model over time, as its release marked a significant turning point for both the collection and Rolex itself.

To manually wind a Sea-Dweller DeepSea watch, first completely unscrew the winding crown, then turn it several times in the clockwise direction. For adequate partial winding, it must be turned at least 25 times. After following these steps, the watch will then be automatically wound as long as it is worn on the wrist.

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