In 2008, Rolex shelved the Sea-Dweller model in favor of a new and much larger Deepsea Sea-Dweller (DSSD) watch. Nevertheless, after six years, the Swiss watchmaking giant decided to bring it back, and 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 Rolex Sea-Dweller for sale, yet it sported all the latest Rolex accouterments.
However, if you blinked, you may have missed the reference 116600 because Rolex has since discontinued it and replaced it with the newer-model Sea-Dweller ref. 126600, which made its debut in 2017 with a larger 43mm case. Even if you did miss it the first time around, you’re still not entirely out of luck. Although Rolex only produced the Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600 for just three short years, it can still be found on the secondary market. However, demand for them has increased in recent years since the new generation of 43mm models has set a significantly different direction for the collection. So, what exactly is so special about the Rolex Sea-Dweller reference 116600?
Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 reference 116600
Sea-Dweller 116600 Key Features:
– Reference Number: 116600
– Production Years: 2014 – 2017
– Case Size: 40mm
– Materials: Oystersteel (904L Stainless Steel)
– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display, Helium Escape Valve
– Dial: Black w/ Luminous Hour Markers (Chromalight)
– Bezel: Unidirectional, Black Ceramic w/ 60-Minute Scale (Fully-Demarcated)
– Crystal: Sapphire (Flat)
– Movement: Rolex Caliber 3135
– Water Resistance: 1,220 Meters / 4,000 Feet
– Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet
A Closer Look at Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 Ref. 116600
The Oyster Case
The Rolex Sea-Dweller 116600 was the comeback model after six years of no Sea-Dweller watches (other than the Deepsea). It retained the traditional stainless steel 40mm Oyster case size, which was welcomed as a smaller and slimmer alternative to the 44mm DSSD.Like its predecessor, the reference 116600’s case was constructed out of 904L stainless steel for maximum corrosion resistance. However, the updated case design featured significantly thicker lugs and crown-guards, giving it a noticeably larger overall appearance.
The Cerachrom Bezel
Following the designs of all modern Rolex sports watches, the Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600 dons a Cerachrom ceramic bezel – very different from the aluminum bezel of the former ref. 16600. Not only is ceramic prized for its resistance to fading and scratching, but it also brings a more elevated look to the watch. 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 like on the Submariner. This little detail is also found on both the Deepsea and the vintage Rolex Milsub timepieces.
The Maxi Dial
Moving from the case and bezel to the dial, the Rolex Sea-Dweller ref. 116600 has the “Maxi Dial” with larger lume plots and hands for an ultra-modern look. Plus, the ref. 116600 boasts a blue Chromalight display, meaning that in the dark, it glows blue instead of the green glow emitted by the past Super-LumiNova. Rolex also states that Chromalight lights up quicker and lasts longer than standard Super-LumiNova, giving the Sea-Dweller 116600 maximum low-light legibility.
The Oyster Bracelet
Another great enhancement of the Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600 is the bracelet. In addition to now featuring completely solid links (including solid end-links), 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 116600 over their wetsuit, it’s just as useful if you find your wrist size increasing or decreasing throughout the day depending on the weather and humidity.
The Helium Escape Valve
The Sea-Dweller was the first model to be released featuring Rolex’s patented Helium Escape Valve (HEV), which was developed in conjunction with the US Navy and French deep dive specialists Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises (COMEX). Just like all previous Sea-Dweller models, the ref. 116600 comes equipped with this mechanism, which allows the watch to decompress properly by automatically releasing built-up helium molecules to exit the watches. Remember, the Sea-Dweller is water-resistant to 4,000 feet (hence its name, the Sea-Dweller 4000), and if you find yourself anywhere close to that depth, it will certainly be in a saturation diving environment.
Rolex Caliber 3135 Movement
Like its predecessor, the Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600 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. The version inside the Sea-Dweller 116600 is also fitted with Rolex’s blue Parachrom hairspring for greater resistance to shocks and temperature changes.
Part of the Caliber 3135 is 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 window. 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 not to include a date magnifier since the new ref. 126600 has a Cyclops – a notable aesthetic departure from traditional Sea-Dweller design. This particular feature, along with the increased case size of the new model) is part of the reason for the uptick in interest in the ref. 116600 on the secondary market.
The Submariner’s Bigger Brother
The Rolex Sea-Dweller occupies that tricky middle ground between the behemoth-like Deepsea and the legendary Submariner. Never selling in as great of numbers as its little brother, it’s fair to say that the Sea-Dweller has lived much of its life in its shadow.
However, as a true professional diver’s tool watch, the Sea-Dweller is the more capable performer. It has always been tougher than its smaller sibling, even in its first iteration from 1967. Sharing the same 40mm diameter but with a thicker case and crystal, the Sea-Dweller has enjoyed a greater level of water-resistance from the outset, starting at 2,000 ft and doubling that rating in 1978 with the production of the ‘Triple 6’ (ref. 16660) – the first of the Sea-Dweller 4000 watches.
While its looks were very much based on the Submariner, which debuted a good 14 years before the Sea-Dweller made an entrance, Rolex traditionalists have always been split over the two watches’ appearance. As we already mentioned above, until its most recent incarnation, the Sea-Dweller has never featured a Cyclops lens over its date window, a staple on the Submariner Date since the mid-sixties. Although undoubtedly making it easier to read the numbers underneath, the lens has divided fans ever since it was added. Many feel the Sea-Dweller was more streamlined, symmetrical, and easier to read without it.
For professional divers, omitting the Cyclops lens seems to make more sense as well. Aesthetics aside, in the dangerous environments in which the Sea-Dweller was designed to operate, a clearly legible dial is more important than knowing the date.
Rolex Sea-Dweller Timeline
– 1967: Sea-Dweller ref. 1665
– 1978: Sea-Dweller ref. 16660, aka “Triple Six”
– 1989: Sea-Dweller ref. 16600
– 2008: Sea-Dweller Deepsea ref. 116660
– 2014: Sea-Dweller ref. 116600
– 2017: Sea-Dweller ref. 126600
– 2018: Sea-Dweller Deepsea ref. 126660
– 2019: Sea-Dweller ref. 126603 in Yellow Rolesor
How Much is a Rolex Sea-Dweller 116600?
Not only is reference 116600 the model that revived the Sea-Dweller collection, but it’s also the last one to adhere to traditional Sea-Dweller core elements before the subsequent generation introduced a new direction for the collection. And for these reasons, the Sea-Dweller ref. 116600 is an important reference in the history of Rolex’s saturation diver’s watch.
Although the reference 116600 holds a relatively important place within Sea-Dweller history, much of its importance is a direct result of Rolex’s decision to discontinue its production. For those brief three years while it was available, retail sales at authorized dealers were somewhat lackluster and its incredibly short production span has resulted in significantly fewer examples on the pre-owned market than most of Rolex’s other sport model references.
For collectors, that means the Sea-Dweller 116600 has now become an incredibly significant piece, as shown by the huge increase in demand for the watch on the pre-owned market. Should you wish to add one of these watches to your collection, the Sea-Dweller 4000 ref. 116600 will set you back around $15k pre-owned (as of June 2021). However, considering how beloved the Sea-Dweller 116600 is among purists and its limited production, $15k is a fair market value that we expect will only continue to rise in price as it inches closer to earning its vintage status.
Where is the Best Place to Buy the Rolex Sea-Dweller 116600?
Rolex discontinued the Sea-Dweller reference 116600 in 2017, making the secondary market the only option for anyone who wishes to buy one. You will not find brand-new Sea-Dweller 116600 watches for sale at any Rolex boutiques or authorized retailers, although you will still come across them at pre-owned dealers and independent sellers. Additionally, just like when shopping for any pre-owned Rolex watch, buying from a trusted and reputable source is crucial, and the old saying “buy the seller” definitely applies to buying a Sea-Dweller 116600, just as it does to any other luxury watch.
Rolex Sea-Dweller 116600 Final Thoughts
In all respects, the reference 116600 is very much the final iteration of the classic, tried, and true Sea-Dweller design. Powered by Rolex’s venerable Caliber 3135 movement, the reference 116600 adheres to a highly versatile 40mm in case diameter, while an extra-thick, Cyclops-less crystal protects the ultra-legible, monochromatic dial underneath. However, with its modem materials and updated proportions, it is unmistakably a modern dive watch.
Early in Rolex’s history, it was rather common for references to only remain in production for a few years at a time. However, in more recent times, Rolex’s models have stayed around much longer, and it is not uncommon for a reference to remain part of the brand’s catalog for ten or even twenty years before it gets replaced. Despite being a relatively modern watch, the reference 116600 Sea-Dweller remained part of Rolex’s catalog for just three short years. As a point of reference, the Submariner 16610 remained in production for more than two decades and the current 43mm Sea-Dweller has already been around longer than the ref. 116600.
For those that enjoy the look and feel of the classic 40mm Sea-Dweller, the reference 116600 is the perfect contemporary middle ground that incorporates all of Rolex’s latest technologies and proprietary materials in a proven and familiar feeling package. It feels new and noticeably different from its predecessors, yet it still retains all of the same hallmark features that were phased out on the subsequent generation. And best of all, there has never been a better time to invest in one than now.