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Watch Comparison: Rolex Sea-Dweller vs Deepsea

October 18, 2017

BY Paul Altieri


Although the Submariner is their most famous and best selling dive watch; Rolex actually manufactures two other timepieces that were specifically designed to out-perform the Submariner at conquering the depths of the ocean. Initially conceived during the 1960s, Rolex’s Sea-Dweller line of ultra-resistant dive watches aims to pick up where the Submariner left off, enabling its users to dive deeper and stay at depth longer.

The most recent iteration of the Rolex Sea-Dweller collection, the reference 126600 and its older, even more extreme brother, the reference 116660 Deepsea are among the largest and most water resistant watches that Rolex has ever put forward. Although they were both designed with a similar intended purpose, the Sea-Dweller and the Deepsea are surprisingly different watches.

Here we are comparing the references 126600 and 116660.

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Design: Sea-Dweller vs Deepsea

Although the Sea-Dweller has traditionally been a 40 mm watch, the new reference 126600 has seen an increase in size to a 43 mm case diameter. Additionally, while previous iterations of the Sea-Dweller have traditionally had flat crystals, the new reference 126600 adds Rolex’s iconic Cyclops magnification lens to the surface of the crystal. With the exception of the “Sea-Dweller” name printed in red on the surface of the dial (an allusion to the early examples from the 1960s), the reference 126600 most closely resembles a larger version of the contemporary, stainless steel Rolex Submariner.

Despite being a part of the Sea-Dweller line, the Deepsea is a significantly different watch. While the case design of the regular Sea-Dweller is similar to a traditional Rolex timepiece, the 44 mm case of the reference 116660 Deepsea uses Rolex’s patented Ringlock System that allows the Deepsea to survive depths in excess of 3,900 meters (12,800 feet). Due to this highly specialized case design, the Deepsea is chunkier than the regular Sea-Dweller, and its extra thick, domed sapphire crystal (without Cyclops magnification lens) gives the watch noticeably different appearance.

Sea-Dweller vs. Deepsea

The new Sea-Dweller comes with a red line of text.

Movements: Sea-Dweller vs Deepsea

The reference 126600 Sea-Dweller was among the new releases for Baselworld 2017; and to accompany the aesthetic updates, Rolex decided to also upgrade the Sea-Dweller’s internals with latest generation of their date displaying movement, the Caliber 3235. Protected by fourteen patents, and boasting a 70-hour power reserve, the Caliber 3235 also incorporates Rolex’s new, highly efficient Chronergy escapement, in which both the redesigned pallet fork and escape wheel are made from nickel-phosphorous to be insensitive to magnetic interference.

Despite having a unique and highly specialized case, the reference 116660 Deepsea is powered by Rolex’s proven and reliable Caliber 3135 movement. Rolex has been fitting the Caliber 3135 inside their date-displaying watches since its initial introduction in 1988; however the Caliber 3135 is a rock-solid and notoriously dependable, self-winding movement that has earned a legendary reputation for being able to withstand the test of time.

Sea-Dweller vs. Deepsea

The two watches have unique Calibers, making them unique in their own ways.

Subtle Differences: Sea-Dweller vs Deepsea

Despite having case diameters that are just 1 mm apart, the reference 126600 the reference 116660 Deepsea have significantly different appearances due to the inner bezels that are fitted on the two different watches. The Sea-Dweller follows the classic inner bezel design, while the one on the Deepsea is much larger and has the words “Original Gas Escape Valve” and “Ring Lock System” visibly displayed under the crystal.

The prominent inner bezel on the Deepsea is actually a structural component of the watch’s case design. The extra thick, domed sapphire crystal sits on the inner bezel ring, which is made out of an extra hard, nitrogen-alloyed steel. As the massive pressures found deep below the ocean’s surface press down on the crystal of the Deepsea, the crystal is supported by the inner bezel ring, allowing the watch to withstand water pressure equivalent to a weight of more than 3 tons on the crystal.

Additionally, the case-back on the reference 116660 Deepsea is a design specifically engineered to allow the watch to withstand incredibly high pressures that would otherwise deform traditional case-backs. While the case-back on the Sea-Dweller is the usual, solid, stainless steel variety, the case-back on the Deepsea is a multi-part system, in which a slightly flexible titanium cover sits against the other side of the inner bezel support ring, while a stainless steel, donut-shaped piece screws on top of the titanium cover to hold it all together. As depth increases, the water pressure forces the crystal and the titanium rear cover into the gaskets of the watch, pressing them against its extra hard, nitrogen-alloyed steel support ring. This design allows the seal of the Deepsea to improve as pressure increases, enabling even greater possible depths.

Sea-Dweller vs Deepsea

What are your thoughts on these two models?

Both the reference 126600 Sea-Dweller and the reference 116660 Deepsea are among the most robust and water resistant watches that Rolex has ever produced. For many, the Submariner provides far more moisture protection than they are ever likely to need; however for those that truly require the utmost water resistance, there are no better options than the Sea-Dweller and the Deepsea.




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