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Vintage of the Week: Rolex Sea-Dweller 16660 Transitional

June 2, 2015

BY Paul Altieri


A Transitional Watch

Rolex Sea Dweller Deepsea 116660

Rolex Sea Dweller Deepsea 116660

The Rolex Sea-Dweller ref 16660 is considered a transitional watch. The Rolex Sea-Dweller 16660 transitional model was released in 1978 and is the longest-running version of the Sea-Dweller. It remained essentially unchanged for more than three decades and has been affectionately called the “Triple Six” by collectors.

vintage rolex sea dweller 16660 Dial

Vintage Rolex Sea Dweller 16660 Dial

Ref 16660 was the first Sea-Dweller to feature a sapphire crystal as well as a larger helium valve that allowed it to descend to the incredible depth of 1220 meters or 4000 feet. Inside, the watch also featured a new movement. The caliber 3035 replaced the caliber 1575 found in the previous vintage 1665 Sea-Dweller models. The movement is automatic winding with 27 jewels and adjusted to 5 positions and temperature. It is also a C.O.S.C. Certified Chronometer movement and, for the first time on a Sea-Dweller, features a quick set date.

caseback, clasp and bracelet of vintage rolex seadweller 16660

Caseback, Clasp and Bracelet from Vintage Rolex Seadweller 16660

One of the most significant changes in this watch model over previous Sea-Dweller models is the increase of vibrational speed from 19,800vph to 28,800vph. This endowed the movement with far greater resistance to shocks if it was dropped or hit.\

Rolex Seadweller Reference 16660 Bracelet

Caseback, Clasp and Bracelet from Vintage Rolex Seadweller 16660

Some aesthetic values of the watch were also updated. Many versions of ref 16660 feature a glossy dial with metal rims around the hour markers. However, some early models still feature the old matte dial during the transition to the new glossy dials.

Rare Versions of the Sea-Dweller Ref 16660

From 1980-1984, ref 16660 was delivered to COMEX. This set includes some of the rarest and most desirable versions of the Sea-Dweller ref 16660. Some of the first batch of watches featured the older matte style dial with two lines of writing. This version, with a matte dial and no metal rings surrounding the hour markers, is a collector’s dream because the majority of Sea-Dwellers ref 16660 have the later glossy dial with metal rings surrounding the hour markers.

The End of the Sea-Dweller

In 2008, Rolex announced that it was ending the era of the Sea-Dweller and replacing it with the newly designed Rolex Deepsea. This watch increased the depth rating to 3,900 meters or 12,000 feet. Many collectors and Rolex enthusiast love the Sea-Dweller because it was designed to live up to anything, from deep sea diving to looking elegant in a boardroom. If you are looking for a versatile and historically transitional new timepiece for your Rolex collection, the Sea-Dweller ref 16660 is the perfect choice.




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