I recently obtained a Sea Dweller (model number 16600). As the name implies and as most of you will know, this is the deep sea diver of the Rolex line. It uses Rolex movement 3135, and is COSC certified. I was looking for a rugged tool watch in this line. I like a date feature in a watch, and found that I did not like the Cyclops. I know many are fans of that feature, but--and this is a personal opinion--I found the Cyclops overwhelmed the crystal and was distracting to me. So, I chose the Sea Dweller; it is rugged, heavily built, meant to last, is beautiful in a low-key fashion and has the features I want in a tool watch.
Rolex has been a name most of has have know since we were quite young. I recall the excellent advertisments that Rolex ran in the National Geogprahic magazines of the 1970's, portaying their watches as the quintessential tool for explorers and adventurers far and wide. It was a watch that looked rugged, the first I'd seen with protective shoulders around the crown, indicative of the risks of adventure that the wearer accepted by taking on such an iconic watch. It certainly wasn't the plain flat disc that my father and uncles wore. Since I'm a firm believer that a tool watch is to be used, not locked away, I have been wearing the Sea Dweller at work and at home, and have not been suprised to find it is a beautiful, accurate and rugged timepiece that is a pleasure to use.
The Oyster case is 40 mm stainless steel, being carved from a single solid block of 904L stainless. There have been discussions as to the purposes of this, most diving watches being made from 316L stainless. What is the point? Rolex warrants that the nickel content is higher, and as such, prevents corrosion.
There is debate as to whether this is necessary or even serves a purpose with normal corrosion levels of metals in seawater at sea level. Be that as it may, the case is 904L stainless. My AD advises that the case of the Sea Dweller and Submariner are the same size, though I saw the post in this forum that reckons that the Sea Dweller case is fractionally smaller than the Sub.
As such, the Sea Dweller is no Panarai. It has a reasonably sized case and dial. The case has brushed and polished aspects, the sides (crown on the 3 'o'clock side and helium escape valve on the 9 'o'clock side) are highly polished.
The Sea Dweller uses the Rolex 3135 movement, which is COSC and which in my experience is keeping +/- 3 seconds a day. This is a tried and true movement, also used on the Sub Date models.
The dial is black enamel, a deep, bottomless pitch-black with no guilloche or texturing. There is an understated elegance in this dial, the only shine or shimmer I've noticed in the dial itself is in the area around the date at 3 'o'clock, where the dial surface dips to meet the date wheel and the crease in the enamel draws the light and you get a sense of texture. The indices are circular white gold filled with luminescent material.
The hands are also white gold, detailed with luminesence, including the iconic Mercedes-symbol hour hand. The white gold therefore relfects light in a low key but definate manner. When I turn my wrist in the light with this piece, light all but ripples across the indices, reminding me of looking at jewellery displays in museums; subdued, but with presence and bearing.
The bezel is a coin-edge affair which is larger than the Submariner and Submariner Date models. It turns well and firmly with 120 clicks per rotation. I love the slight angle Rolex has on their bezel, combined with the fashion in which the number indices are set into the bezel surface. Each of the indents in the coin edge is sufficiently polished that when facing the bottom of the bezel at the 6 'o'clock, when you rotate your hand left and right, you'll see the ambient light glide along the polished groves of the bezel edge.
The Submariners and the Sea Dweller use the Triplock screwdown crown, with O-ring gaskets on the shaft of the crown to prevent water ingress. The crown of course bears the livery of the Rolex Coronet.
This is a 3 mm thick sapphire crystal. I cannot say if there is anti-reflective coating on the underside of the crystal, there certainly is not on the outside. The crystal sits flat and about 2 mm proud of the surface of the bezel. As an authentication, Rolex laser-engraves a coronet symbol around the 6 'o'clock on the crystal.
The Sea Dweller has the 93160 bracelet, as compared to the 93250 found on the Submariner. My AD held up both the Sea Dweller and the Sub for me to look at, and I could see the Sea Dweller had the thicker, beefier links and more substantial point of connection to the case. Interestingly on my watch, the case horns (exterior) do not have holes or screws evident. As concerns the clasp, I have read complaints about the cheapness of the clasp in a watch at this price point, and I must agree that I'd rather see something like the twin-bar clasp on the Omega SMP or Speed Pro lines. There is a wetsuit extention on this bracelet, with a raised "O" on the metal to indicate the presspoint to actuate the extention release. The extention is returned to its original position by clasping it to a substantial steel pivot bar in the clasp mechanism. The exterior of the clasp bears the Rolex Coronet, and interior clasp has the the word "Rolex" and a stylised scrolling design.
A substantial affair, which has an outer paper holder with no ends. The main box slides out of this, to reveal a light green hard paper box with the Rolex Coronet. This opens to reveal the inner soft leatherette box with green top and a three-dimensional ocean wave motif. Inside, your packaged Sea Dweller has a protective foam covering, and clear thick protective plastic that peels from the sides, face and back. There is also plastic protective wrap on the clasp elements. The green adhesive holographic brand stuck the caseback eventually wears off to reveal the only engraving on stock Rolex diving watch casebacks: "ROLEX OYSTER Original Gas Escape Valve" and two Rolex Coronets, the engraving is backfilled in black. I would like to see some sort of sea creature or medallion on the back to give it more character, but no dice. The case is, of course, screw down. The box also contains a manual for the Submariner, for "Your Rolex Oyster", a hard paper 2006/2007 wallet calendar with classic Rolex green and Coronet, a soft green wallet-like affair with a Rolex knurled-metal watch tool (Rolex ref.2100), additional wetsuit extention link, and dive table card. Rolex no longer includes the little key-chain anchor that used to accompany the Sea Dweller.
This is a substantial watch, heavy at 147 grams, making it the heaviest stock Oyster Professional (beating the Yacht Master by 1 gram) if I'm not mistaken. It has polish and presence, but is not overly flashy. Since this is one of the most copied watches on the planet, people will not remark on it right away they way they might when they see a much larger-cased watch. Since I wear this watch for myself, and not to be noticed, this is just fine.
I wanted the most rugged, "been-there-done-that" Rolex I could afford, and the Sea Dweller is rich in history and performance. For my liking, it is also less common than the Submariner, and even its name, Sea Dweller, seems to imply that this watch would be quite content lurking in the depths for extended periods of time. Since I do not dive commercially, I will likely not use the helium escape valve feature.
I find it comfortable, but it wears a bit heavy and you do not often forget you're wearing it. If you're interested inthis watch, I'd strongly suggest a visit to an AD to try it and the Subs on. The Subs wear lighter, but they have the Cyclope or, in the case of the 14060M Submariner Professional, there is no date and the movement is not COSC, though I'm told its as accurate as COSC, so, all a matter of choice.
I hope you've enjoyed, the opinions, errors and ommissions are purely my own.