Have you been waiting for a new Rolex Sea-Dweller? Among a series of new models, Rolex has announced a new version of their famed professional diving watch, the Sea-Dweller. Carrying the new reference 116600, the 2014 Sea-Dweller sticks very close to the look and feel of past iterations of this historic diver with very close ties to the Sea-Dweller 16600 which was discontinued in 2008. The Sea-Dweller was originally launched in 1967 as a response to the expanding world of saturation diving. Thanks to input from the US Navy (via the SEALAB II program) and French Comex divers, Rolex designed a watch that was capable of withstanding extreme pressure and expelling the helium gas that can seep into the case during a saturation dive.
An excellent example of what people mean when they say "tool watch," the Rolex Sea-Dweller is is the stuff of dive watch legend, and Rolex didn't mess with the established formula for this updated version. Still sporting a 40mm case in 904L steel, a date display with no magnifier and 4000 ft (1220 M) of water resistance, the 116600 keeps up with the modern line-up thanks to the inclusion of a Cerachrom bezel and a Gildelock clasp with a 26mm diving extension on the bracelet.
In many ways the new Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 is similar to the Rolex Submariner, but after a few months working out at the gym to bulk up. The Sea-Dweller 4000 case is water resistant to 1220 meters versus the 300 meters of the Submariner, and sports a thicker case and sapphire crystal. While most people who dive won't really need that extra water resistance, Rolex like to make its diving watches suitable for the most extreme conditions. Having said that, from a purely aesthetic standpoint a great benefit of the Rolex Sea-Dweller over the Rolex Submariner Date, is that you get to have the inclusion of a date window, without having the sapphire crystal magnifier lens on the crystal.
Sporting the same Rolex 3135 movement that is found in the 116610 Submariner Date, the Sea-Dweller 4000 has a power reserve of 48 hours and features a Parachrom hairspring and COSC certification. The Sea-Dweller's considerable water resistance is thanks to a case and crystal that is thicker than that of the Submariner and firmly places the resistance of the Sea-Dweller between the 1000 ft Submariner and the 12,800 ft DeepSea. This might be an extra watch model for a niche group of consumers or the model that is akin to the right temperature porridge if you want to use the Goldilocks analogy.
Technologically speaking, the helium escape valve (HeV) is the Sea-Dweller's signature feature and it can be seen at its usual place on the nine o'clock side of the case. If tiny helium molecules in the breathing mix of a saturation dive were to seep into watch, the helium would expand during ascent and the increased pressure could damage the watch. The HeV allows the expanding gas to be vented from the case, thus protecting the watch without compromising overall water resistance. Rolex once again promises a beautiful luxury watch that you can take underwater for your real or fantasy diving missions.
Priced at 9,900 CHF, we the US price of the Rolex Sea-Dweller 400 is $10,400 USD when the Sea-Dweller goes on sale this spring. At $10,400, the Sea-Dweller is $1500 more than the Submariner Date and offers a very similar watch for the price. As good as this new Sea-Dweller is, and it's very good, we think it could have been a complete knock-out at 42mm. Not only would it be a much easier up-sell from a Rolex Submariner Date (reviewed here), but it would also provide a natural step between the 40mm Submariner and the 44mm Deepsea.
There is nothing wrong about the 40mm sizing, it wears well and looks great, but it doesn't create enough space between Sea-Dweller and the more affordable, thinner and arguably more practical Submariner. While few, if any, will utilize the considerable increase in water resistance and the helium escape valve, the Deepsea has already proven there is a market for larger Rolex dive watches and the Sea-Dweller might have had a wider appeal at 42mm. That being said, two whole millimeters is not a deal breaker for us and the new Sea-Dweller is an exciting and unexpected addition to the Rolex line up - just the sort of stuff that keeps us coming back to Basel year after year. rolex.com