Watch 101

Rolex Sea-Dweller vs. Rolex Deepsea Comparison

Paul Altieri

Although the Submariner is easily 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, the Rolex Sea-Dweller is a collection of ultra-capable professional dive watches that aims to pick up where the Submariner left off, enabling its users to dive deeper and stay at depth longer.

The Rolex Sea-Dweller collection consists of both the standard Sea-Dweller and its even more extreme brother, the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller. While the Deepsea holds the title of being Rolex’s most water resistant watch, both timepieces are among the largest and most capable dive watches that Rolex has ever put forward. Although they were both designed for a similar intended purpose, the Rolex Sea-Dweller and the Rolex Deepsea are surprisingly different watches.

Rolex Sea-Dweller 126600

Collection Options: Rolex Sea-Dweller Vs Rolex Deepsea

Between the classic Sea-Dweller and the Deepsea, the entire Rolex Sea-Dweller collection now consists of 4 watches. The classic Rolex Sea-Dweller is offered in both stainless steel (ref. 126600) and two-tone steel and 18k yellow gold (ref. 126603). Additionally, the Rolex Deepsea is also offered in two different variations, both of which are crafted exclusively from stainless steel. The standard version of the reference 126660 Rolex Deepsea is fitted with a classic black dial, while the other (nicknamed the “James Cameron”) has what Rolex calls the ‘D-Blue’ dial, which fades from dark blue to black and features the DEEPSEA name in bright green text.

Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea

Design: Rolex Sea-Dweller Vs Rolex Deepsea

Although the Sea-Dweller has traditionally been a 40mm watch, the most recent generation of Sea-Dweller watches has seen an increase in size to a 43mm case diameter. Additionally, while previous versions of the Sea-Dweller have traditionally had flat crystals, the latest generation adds Rolex’s iconic Cyclops magnification lens to the surface of the crystal. With the exception of a few small details on the dial and bezel, the latest generation of Rolex Sea-Dweller largely resembles a larger version of the contemporary Rolex Submariner.

Despite being a part of the Sea-Dweller collection, the Deepsea is a significantly different watch from a case architecture standpoint. While the case design of the regular Sea-Dweller is similar to a traditional Rolex timepiece, the 44mm 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 Rolex Deepsea is chunkier than the regular Sea-Dweller, and its extra thick, domed sapphire crystal (without Cyclops magnification lens) gives the watch a noticeably different appearance both on and off the wrist.

Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller

Movements: Rolex Sea-Dweller Vs Rolex Deepsea

The previous generation of both the Rolex Sea-Dweller and the Rolex Deepsea was powered by the tried-and-true Caliber 3135 movement, which has been used to power there majority of Rolex’s date-displaying watches since the late 1980s. However in 2017, Rolex began updating their various Sea-Dweller watches with their all-new generation of in-house date displaying movement, the Caliber 3235.

Despite their differences, today all Rolex Sea-Dweller and Deepsea watches are fitted with Caliber 3235 movements. 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.

Rolex 126600 Sea-Dweller

Subtle Differences: Rolex Sea-Dweller Vs Deepsea

Despite having case diameters that are just 1mm apart, the Rolex Sea-Dweller and the Rolex Deepsea have significantly different appearances due to the inner bezels that appear on the two different watches. The standard Rolex 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 specialized case design. The extra thick, domed sapphire crystal sits against the inner bezel ring, which is constructed from 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 component si supported by the inner ring, allowing the watch to withstand water pressure equivalent to a weight of more than 3 tons on the crystal.

Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller

Additionally, the caseback on the Rolex Deepsea is a design specifically engineered to allow the watch to withstand incredibly high pressures that would otherwise deform traditional casebacks. While the caseback on the standard Rolex Sea-Dweller is the usual, solid, stainless steel variety, the caseback on the Deepsea is a multi-part system, in which a slightly flexible titanium cover sits against the opposite 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.

Both the Rolex Sea-Dweller and Rolex 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 be required; however for those that truly require the utmost water resistance, there are no better options than those found in the Rolex Sea-Dweller collection.

Rolex Sea-Dweller two-tone rolesor 126603

Paul Altieri

Paul is the company's Founder and CEO. He is responsible for all the day to day activities from purchasing, receiving, marketing and sales. Paul is a graduate of Boston College 1979 and resides in California with his family.

  1. Hi, Last december 2019 I bought a Deepsea James Cameron D-Blue. Believe it or not that watch has been sent to Rolex Service Center 5 times to adjust the date change which is 3.30 off midnight without sucess.May I tell you that I have lost confidence in the credibility of the Rolex brand.A beautiful iconic watch, but this is certainly not what I expected. I have found several Rolex forums where the members have the same problem with the 3235 movement installed in the SEA-DWELLER collection and the DD40 watches.It seems that this issue
    is easily corrected when the watch is being serviced. Simply mention the date change is off when you send the watch in for its routine cleaning or other service but it seems that Rolex is unable to perform this work. Your comments would be appreciated.

  2. Guy Begin stated above the problems with the 3235 movement, and as I see that there has been NO reply to his concerns, I will have to change my mind on purchasing any Sea Dweller watch from Bobs, and in fact probably any watch. If its been since July and his concerns haven’t been met, what is to say you won’t also do the same with everyone else?

    • If you read his comment, his issue is with the Rolex brand itself rather than us – we offer a year warranty on all of the watches we sell so that you can guarantee that you won’t end up with a watch that is having issues. His issue is with how Rolex’s own service centers seem to be unable to correct his issue (which is still covered by their own 5-year warranty). Luckily, since we warranty all of the watches we sell, you can guarantee that whatever Rolex you purchase from us will be running properly.