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Watch Review

Next In Line: Sea-Dweller ref. 16600

Paul Altieri

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.

Sea-Dweller 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 linkswell before the Submariner and GMT-Master II. On the flip side, the ref. 16600 still has lug holessomething not available on modern Rolex watchesthus, 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.

Sea-Dwekker 16600
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.”

Caliber 3135

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.

Sea-Dweller 16600
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 watchesalmost 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!

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. I’ve owned my Sea-Dweller 16660 since I purchased it in 1988 for just under one thousand pounds, having just passed my Royal Engineers Diving Supervisors course. The watch then proceeded to be my reliable diving companion until I left the forces in 2002. My watch served around the world with me in many different theatres from the artic whilst I served with our commando squadron where we would frequently dive below the ice to carry out engineering tasks & recover various lost equipment from weapons to vehicles….! to the desert diving in ponds, lakes searching for weapons discarded during the Iraq war to diving around the UK carrying out underwater recce’s. I once managed to arrange a dive in Standard Diving equipment which was an awesome experience that our team thoroughly enjoyed. The watch even accompanied me whilst parachuting into various exercises as part of our recce troop as part of the advance force. I have all the watches historical paperwork & original boxes. Like me, it’s now retired & only comes out occasionally as I have a number of other options to use nowadays.