We have now arrived at the fourth chapter of our in-depth look at the history of the Rolex Sea-Dweller. Next in line—after the Sea-Dweller ref. 1665 “DRSD,” ref. 1665 “Great White,” and the 16660 “Triple Six“—was the Rolex SD ref. 16600. If you haven’t read the previous installments of this series, we recommend that you do before diving into this one. Let’s examine the details of the Sea-Dweller ref. 16600.
Let’s examine the details of the Sea-Dweller ref. 16600.
The Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600
The Rolex Sea-Dweller ref. 16600 was presented in 1988 to replace the preceding ref. 16660 “Triple Six” Sea-Dweller. While both the ref. 16660 and the ref. 16600 were very similar in aesthetic, there are a few subtle differences.
The ref. 16600 strikes a great balance between having modern Rolex enhancements, while still sporting a touch of vintage appeal. For instance. the Sea-Dweller ref. 16600 sports an Oyster bracelet with the solid end links. In fact, quick side note: the Sea-Dweller was the first Rolex to include the solid end links—well before the Submariner and GMT-Master II. On the flip side, the ref. 16600 still has lug holes—something not available on modern Rolex watches—thus, making bracelet switching a breeze. And the Sea-Dweller ref. 16600 on a NATO strap looks particularly awesome. The Sea-Dweller ref. 16600 also retains the chamfered edges on the lugs, which is especially appealing to vintage Rolex watch enthusiasts.
The Rolex Sea-Dweller ref. 16600 was presented in 1988 to replace the preceding ref. 16660 “Triple Six” Sea-Dweller.
The Sea-Dweller ref. 16600 had a long production run, from 1988 until 2008, and during that time, the luminescence material on the dial changed. Up until about 1998, the Sea-Dweller dials included tritium for lume, which was eventually replaced by SuperLumiNova. The presence of tritium is signified by the “SWISS-T < 25” label below the 6 o’clock marker. Naturally, when Rolex used SuperLumiNova instead, the label changed to just say “SWISS” and then a while later “SWISS MADE.”
Since the design differences from its predecessor were so minimal, it can be assumed that the main reason Rolex changed the reference number from 16660 to 16600 was due to its new caliber. The Sea-Dweller ref. 16600 ran on Caliber 3135 rather than the Caliber 3035 of the previous ref. 16660.
The design differences from its predecessor were so minimal we can assume one thing.
The Rolex Caliber 3135 automatic mechanical chronometer movement has 31 jewels, a frequency of 28,000 beats per hour, and a power reserve of 48 hours. The ultimate Rolex workhorse, the Caliber 3135 is still used in today’s Rolex’s watches—almost 30 years after its 1988 debut.
Goodbye Sea-Dweller…For Now
In 2008, to the dismay of many, Rolex shelved the Sea-Dweller as we knew it and replaced it with the larger and more water resistant Deepsea Sea-Dweller (DSSD)—a very different diving watch model. However, it turned out to be only a six-year break, since Rolex surprised everyone with the Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600 in 2014. And that Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600 will, of course, be the subject of our next article, so don’t miss it!
Do you own a Rolex Sea-Dweller? If so, which reference is it? We’d love to hear from you in our comment section below!