The Rolex Submariner is perhaps one of my most favorite watches of all time. As a dive watch, it can’t go toe-to-toe with the most advanced dive models but it gets the job done and in no way an inadequate dive companion.
When the Rolex Sea-Dweller was released back in the late 1960s, the Swiss watch company has a single-minded mission in mind: to reach deeper depths than the Submariner and survive anything underwater. Again, the Submariner was not seen to have flaws, so the release of the Sea-Dweller is more for the extension of the former’s diving utility.
Today, we have an in-depth (pun intended) Rolex Sea Dweller 16600 review for you.
Rolex Sea Dweller 16600 Review: At a Glance
With a water-resistance that can go to thousands of meters underwater, the Rolex Sea-Dweller is a niche offering and is geared towards saturation divers. Let’s first take a look at the key specs and features of the Rolex Sea Dweller 16600.
|Stainless steel w/ helium escape valve (40mm) w/ rotatable timing bezel|
|Monobloc middle case, screw-down case back and winding crown|
|Unidirectional rotatable 60-minute graduated, scratch-resistant Cerachrom insert in ceramic, numerals and graduations coated in platinum|
|Screw-down, Twinlock double waterproofness system|
|Water-resistance:||Waterproof to 1,220 m (4,000 ft)|
|Perpetual, mechanical, self-winding|
|3135, Manufacture Rolex|
|-2/+2 sec/day, after casing|
|Bidirectional self-winding via Perpetual rotor|
|Stainless steel Oyster bracelet, original Rolex|
|Stainless steel fold-over clasp with divers extension, original Rolex|
|Black w/ luminous hands and hour markers|
|Superlative Chronometer (COSC + Rolex certification after casing)|
Reviewing the Rolex Sea Dweller 16600
Just to be clear, the Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 is by no means a new Rolex model. In fact, its production run ended by 2008 and it became a well-sought model as the newer Sea-Dweller was released. This is also the main reason why I’ve taken interest to this particular Sea-Dweller iteration.
As for my first impressions, I’ve quickly warmed up to the Sea-Dweller because it’s the long-lost sibling of the classic Submariner. The Submariner’s black dial design is so iconic and pleasant that the excitement came almost immediately after opening the box many years ago. With that said, the Sea-Dweller looks good and you won’t mind wearing it on a daily basis.
Right out of the box, you can tell that the Sea-Dweller 16600 is a professional tool that can take a beating. The package itself is quite special. The package includes the infamous Rolex anchor, extra dive suit links, the link changing tool for the bracelet, and a Buehlmann diving chart. It’s worth noting that the link-changing tool was exclusive to the Sea-Dweller.
One of the first things I noticed about the Sea-Dweller 16600 is the Helium escape valve (HEV) which is the signature feature of the Sea Dweller series. Other watch manufacturers have copied this system but it’s only Rolex that has done it with great success.
As mentioned, the Sea Dweller 16600’s design is very similar to the Submariner, specifically to the 16610 model. They’re so similar that they might as well be the same watch. The Sea Dweller was designed for diving professionals that need a timepiece that could go a lot deeper and withstand the harshness of saturation diving.
The derivative design of the Sea Dweller is exactly why I enjoyed it the first time. The venerable black dial of the Sea Dweller is one of the main design highlights for me. The Submariner 16610 has knocked it out of the park design-wise. However, I still find myself longing for the 5513 or 14060 because of the no-date dial. The pure, clean lines are just a beauty to behold.
Fortunately, the Sea Dweller 16600 features the best of both worlds. The lack of the Cyclops lens seem a bit strange but I imagine that the lens isn’t that essential for saturation divers. The thicker, bulkier profile of the 16600 gives it an extra wrist presence.
Unfortunately, the Sea Dweller 16600 has stopped its production and its the last of the “old-style” Sea Dweller before the release of the DeepSea 116660. The design of the 16600 is just classic and timeless, but never outdated.
Construction and Wearability
Both the case and bracelet of the 16600 is made of 904L stainless steel. It doesn’t get any simple than this but still delivers in functionality. While the Sea Dweller isn’t the most popular series by Rolex, it featured some innovative construction designs.
Deep sea divers use a helium/oxygen mix in their tanks when going for a dive. Helium pressure can penetrate the crystal of the watch and can accumulate pressure due to decompression. Early deep sea divers literally saw the crystals get blown out of their watches. Rolex has addressed this issue by adding a helium escape valve into the Sea Dweller. This mechanism lets out the helium pressure once it reaches a critical point.
Along with this deep-sea diving innovation, Rolex added more to the depth rating of the watch. This timepiece features a waterproof rating of 1,220 meters (4,000 ft) which should be more than enough for most professional divers. The addition of the Triplock crown adds another layer of water resistance.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the Sea Dweller has an extra thickness and weight to it. While it does have a significant wrist presence, it’s noticeably heavier as well. With that said, wearing the Sea Dweller 16600 isn’t exactly comfortable. This is clearly designed to be a tool watch, so it’s not something that you’ll want to wear daily.
Similar to the Submariner, the 16600 also features the dive suit extension link in the Oyster bracelet clap. This allows divers to adjust the size of the bracelet to make way for the suit.
You can’t call this a Rolex Sea Dweller 16600 review without talking about its timekeeping capabilities.
At the heart of the Sea Dweller 16600 is the caliber 3135 self-winding movement. For some history, the movement was first introduced in 1988 and it quickly became the main workhorse of the Rolex brand. This venerable movement has been used to power Rolex classics like the Datejust and Submariner Date. Many experts believe that the 3135 is one of the best movements made by Rolex.
The 3135 is a high-beat movement with an oscillation at 28,800 beats per hour (BPH). The movement is based on 31 jewels and comes with a date aperture that immediately changes at exactly midnight. As far as accuracy goes, the 3135 movement is legendary for its accuracy. As expected, the 3135 is also COSC certified. Based on my experience, I didn’t have any accuracy issues with the 16600.
The quality of timekeeping is exactly what you can expect from a Rolex timepiece. There’s really nothing to complain about here.
Because the production for the Rolex Sea Dweller 16600 has ceased, you can’t buy this piece anymore, at least not officially from Rolex. Due to the limited nature of the 16600’s availability, expect to pay a little bit higher for a used model. For reference, the Sea Dweller 126600 can be yours for around $11,000.
At this point, the Sea Dweller 16600 has become a well-sought piece for Rolex collectors. When this model was released, it was available for the $4400 retail price tag. These days, you’d be lucky to find a 16600 that doesn’t command a price of below $6000.
With that said, the Sea Dweller 16600 is a definite collector’s item and strikes a good balance between quality and value. The thing I enjoy the most about the 16600 is that it feels like a proper sequel to the Submariner 16610. From the design to overall utility of the watch, I am happy to have gotten the 16600 even at a fairly inflated price.
If you are looking to get the classic-looking Sea Dweller, the best time to act is now. There’s no telling if the price will continue to skyrocket.
Should You Get the Rolex Sea Dweller 16600?
So what’s our verdict for this Rolex Sea Dweller 16600 review?
While the Rolex Sea Dweller 16600 has made a strong first impression, it rarely makes my weekly rotation. However, that’s just me having too many watches to wear. For what it’s worth, the Sea Dweller 16600 is a strong showing for Rolex. It features a timeless, clean design that you can wear almost anywhere at any time. The watch itself is a bit on the bulkier side, so there were some compromises in terms of comfort.
If you are looking for a true dive watch for deep-sea diving, you are probably better off getting a dive computer. But that’s not saying that the Sea Dweller 16600 is not a proper dive watch because it’s actually an amazing one. Its depth rating is very impressive and there are some great dive-related innovations that remains relevant up to this day.
However, the lack of availability means that you’ll be spending more than you have to and you still get a used piece.
Overall, the Sea Dweller 16600 is a hardcore Rolex for the hardcore deep-divers. Yes, the newer version is even more hardcore but visually, I think the 16600 is the superior choice here. I am in no way a diver but there’s a lot to love here even for non-dive watch fans.