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The Comeback: Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600

May 30, 2017

BY Paul Altieri

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In part five of our in-depth look at the history of the Sea-Dweller collection, we’re exploring the very modern Sea-Dweller ref. 116600. But, if you haven’t caught up on the previous articles on the four preceding Sea-Dweller models, then we suggest that you do before delving into reading this chapter about the Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600.

Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000

At Baselworld 2014, much to the delight of Rolex fans everywhere, the Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600 made its debut.

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The Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600

In 2008, Rolex shelved the Sea-Dweller model in favor for a new and much larger Deepsea Sea-Dweller (DSSD) watch. Nevertheless, after six years, the Swiss watchmaking giant decided to bring it back. So at Baselworld 2014, much to the delight of Rolex fans everywhere, the Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600 made its debut. It had all the characteristic design elements of the previous Sea-Dweller models, yet it sported all the modern Rolex accouterments. 

However, if you blinked, you may have missed it because Rolex has now taken it out of their catalog and replaced it with the brand new Sea-Dweller ref. 126600. Well, missing it is not entirely true because although Rolex only produced the Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600 for three short years, it can certainly still be found in the secondary market. But, demand for them in the pre-owned luxury watch market has increased since the new Sea-Dweller ref. 126600 has set a different direction for the collection.

Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000

Rolex only produced the Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600 for three short years.

The Look of the Sea-Dweller 4000

The Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 was the comeback model after six years of no Sea-Dweller watches. It retained the traditional stainless steel 40mm Oyster case size, which was welcomed as a smaller and slimmer alternative to the 44mm DSSD. Following the designs of all modern Rolex sports watches, the Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600 dons a Cerachrom ceramic bezel—very different to the aluminum bezel of the former ref. 16600. Not only is ceramic prized for its resistance to fading and scratching, it also looks great. Furthermore, in addition to the new material, the bezel of the Sea-Dweller ref. 116600 also has minute markings that go all the way around instead of just the first 15 minutes. This little detail is found on the both the DSSD, as well as, vintage Rolex Milsub timepieces.

Moving from the case and bezel to the dial, the Sea-Dweller ref. 116600 has the “Maxi Dial” with larger lume plots and hands for an ultra modern look. Plus, the ref. 116600 boasts the blue Chromalight display, meaning that in the dark, it glows blue instead of the green of the past SuperLumiNova. Rolex also confirms that Chromalight lights up quicker and lasts longer than SuperLumiNova.

Another great enhancement of the Sea-Dweller 4000 is the bracelet. Its stainless steel Oyster bracelet is outfitted with the super practical micro-adjustable Glidelock extension system. This mechanism allows wearers to easily adjust the bracelet for a perfect fit. While that’s certainly great for divers to fit the Sea-Dweller 4000 over their wetsuit, it’s just as useful if you find your wrist size increasing or decreasing depending on the weather.

Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000

Another great enhancement of the Sea-Dweller 4000 is the bracelet.

The Mechanics of the Sea-Dweller 4000

Like its predecessor, the Sea-Dweller 4000 also runs on the Rolex Caliber 3135. The automatic mechanical movement operates at 28,800 beats per hour and offers 48 hours of power reserve. It’s also fitted with the Parachrom hairspring for greater resistance to shocks and temperature changes.

Part of the Caliber 3135 is, of course, the date function, which can be seen at the 3 o’clock position. Worth noting is that this Sea-Dweller—like all other Sea-Dweller watches that came before it—does not have the Cyclops lens above the date. There are many fans of this detail since the lack of Cyclops lens lends a more streamlined and symmetrical look to the face of the Sea-Dweller. Yet, even after all the love, the ref. 116600 is the last Sea-Dweller to not include a Cyclops lens since the new ref. 126600 has a Cylops—a complete aesthetic departure from traditional Sea-Dweller design. This particular feature is part of the reason for the uptick in interest in the ref. 116600 in the secondary market.

It goes without saying that identical to all Sea-Dweller models, the ref. 116600 comes equipped with the Helium Escape Valve to allow the watch to decompress properly by automatically releasing built up helium and other gasses after a very deep dive. Remember, the Sea-Dweller is water resistant to 4,000 feet (hence its name, the Sea-Dweller 4000) and that is a very long way down indeed!

Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000

The Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600 the model that brought back the Sea-Dweller collection.

The Importance of Sea-Dweller 4000

Not only is the Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600 the model that brought back the Sea-Dweller collection, but it’s also the last one to keep traditional Sea-Dweller design elements prior the big changes that the brand new ref. 126600 brought about. And for these reasons, the Sea-Dweller ref. 116600 is an important reference in the history of this Rolex diver’s watch collection. Its significance will be further emphasized thirty years down the road when it becomes a vintage Sea-Dweller.

Stay tuned for the next chapter, where we will be exploring the new Sea-Dweller ref. 126600.

Do you like the Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600? Do you think it was a good idea for Rolex to revive the Sea-Dweller line? Let us know in the comment section below!

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