Sea Dweller vs Submariner: A Rolex Luxury Dive Watch Skirmish

(Last Updated On: May 3, 2019)

If you are in the market for the best dive watches, you have your work cut out for you. When it comes to diving watches, it’s hard to go wrong with a Rolex. However, even when you decide to go for a Rolex dive watch, you’re not out of the woods yet. Many people find themselves choosing between the Rolex Sea Dweller vs Submariner.

Today, we’re going to pit the legendary Rolex Submariner against its brother from another mother, the Rolex Sea Dweller.

Both Rolexes are exceptional timepieces that are designed for aquatic activities. If you’re asking which one I prefer, I have to give it to the Submariner. It’s a legendary dive watch for a reason and I can wear the Submariner in just about every possible occasion.

When you’re stuck between a Submariner and Sea Dweller, it’s really a good problem to have. Let’s dive right in, pun intended.

Rolex Sea Dweller Review

 

As of this writing, Rolex has already announced the Sea Dweller 126603 which is the shiny, new 2019 version – basically the “luxe” version of Rolex’s middle durability dive watch.

However, for this review, we’re going to take a look at the Rolex Sea Dweller reference 116600. The Sea Dweller is well considered a true diving tool for professional divers. After all, it’s a dive watch that can go a whopping 4,000 feet underwater.

Design

Between 2009 and 2014, Rolex didn’t release a 40mm version of the Sea Dweller. However, the Swiss luxury watch did release the 44mm Sea-Dweller Deep Sea which offered an insane water resistance rating of 12,800 feet. Despite the unmatched water resistance, many collectors felt that it’s too large at 44mm and yearned for a contemporary Sea Dweller that followed the original design.

Then the Sea Dweller 116600 came.

The Rolex Sea Dweller 116600 is 40mm in diameter and features a slight-domed crystal. Just like the original, the 116600 doesn’t have the “cyclops” feature that magnifies the date window at 3 o’clock. The watch also comes with a helium escape valve on the side of the case at 9 o’clock. This design feature helps with enhancing water resistance and expelling helium gas during a saturation dive.

The 116600 keeps up with Rolex’s modern lineup with the addition of Cerachrom bezel and a Gildelock clasp.

Just by the looks alone, it’s clear that the Sea Dweller shares many design elements with the Rolex Submariner. Although the basic design of the Sea Dweller is more than 60 years old, it still looks like a modern timepiece. One reason for this is the bezel. The ceramic insert is now more scratch-resistant when compared to the easily marred aluminum insert.

I have always been a fan of Submariner’s dial so it’s not surprising that the Sea Dweller’s dial is also a winner in my book. The matte finish dial is the stuff dreams are made of. Shame about the lack of magnifier for the date aperture.

Construction and Wearability

As mentioned, the Sea Dweller can handle depths to 4,000 feet essentially making it a tough timepiece for all sorts of conditions. Although many Rolex users are only willing to go as deep as the kitchen sink with their watches on, it’s still nice to know that you have such a heavy-duty watch.

The addition of the Rolex Oyster bracelet and Glidelock extension system are some of the most noteworthy upgrades to this iteration of the Sea Dweller. Adjustability becomes a non-issue since you can adjust the watch from 2mm for up to 20mm increments. Since this is a dive model, you can extend the bracelet up to 26mm to make way for dive suits.

As you might expect, the bracelet feels supple and comfortable on the wrist. The addition of the 904L steel protects the watch from corrosion. It also comes with a Triplock crown with five insulators for keeping moisture away.

With that said, the Sea Dweller is built like an absolute rock and probably one of the most durable watches I’ve owned.

Timekeeping

The Dweller is powered by Rolex’s venerable 3135 movement. It’s worth noting that it’s the same movement found in the 116610 Submariner Date. The movement features a power reserve of 48 hours and comes with a Parachrom hairspring and COSC certification.

On a side note, the newer Sea Dweller models (126603, 126600) have received a movement update with the inclusion of the 3235 movement.

As for the 3135 movement that comes with the Sea Dweller, it’s the most successful and widely-used movement by Rolex. It’s simply a robust, accurate, and reliable movement. The 3135 is a faultless movement and I have no problems with it.

Rolex Submariner Review

Going head-to-head with the Sea Dweller is the ever-popular dive watch Rolex Submariner. The Submariner is a classic dive watch through and through, and depending on what you choose to believe, it’s the original dive watch ever released.

However, I’m not about to go into this watch’s rich history. Many others have done it before me. For this timepiece highlight, we’ll go with the Rolex Submariner reference 114060.

Design

The Rolex Submariner 114060 is a watch that went through several redesigns. With just a couple of subtle changes, Rolex has created another watch that made a profound impact on the industry.

The design of the 114060 harkens back to the design of the original models. The lack of the date aperture can be a deal-breaker for some people but I personally like this design choice. This makes the Submariner very simple to operate and adds an iconic and classic design.

Plus, not everyone likes the cyclops magnifier found in the Submariner date.

The unidirectional bezel comes with a ceramic insert. In contrast, previous Submariner models are equipped with aluminum inserts. This is good because ceramic inserts tend to be more scratch-resistant than aluminum ones. The bezel engravings add a great deal of detail and texture to the watch.

Of course, you can’t talk about the Submariner without mentioning the iconic black dial. The Sub’s black dial is a personal favorite of mine and it’s all here in its full glory. All of the markers are fitted with an 18K white gold frame which looks stunning and oozing with elegance. Legibility is also on-point, thanks to the larger and Chromalight-infused indices.

Construction and Wearability

Everyone forgets that the Submariner is also a dive watch and can handle up to 300 meters or 1,000 feet depth rating. However, when it comes to water resistance rating, the Sea Dweller vs Submariner is a no-brainer since the former can go down to 4,000 feet.

It’s more like a casual dive watch than a dedicated diving tool.

The crown is fitted with the Triplock waterproofness system which prevents moisture from finding its way inside the case. The middle case is made from 904L corrosive resistant steel which is a standard fair for Rolex timepieces. Like a good wine, the stainless steel case becomes even more beautiful over time.

The solid-link Oyster bracelet is stellar as always and I have no complaints as far as comfort goes. The bracelet comes with the Oysterlock safety clasp and glidelock extension system which make adjusting a breeze. Since you can adjust the bracelet by 2mm increments without needing a specialized device, finding a great fit is all too easy.

Timekeeping

Rolex 3130 Movement

The Rolex Submariner 114060 is equipped with Rolex’s Calibre 3130. This self-winding movement is a straightforward, time-only timekeeping feature that’s purely functional but exquisitely designed. It features a 48-hour power reserve and it’s COSC certified.

It might be a rudimentary movement but it’s a timekeeping solution on which Rolex built its legendary reputation.

The 3130 movement won’t blow anyone’s mind but many collectors will surely appreciate its reliability and robustness. The Submariner will keep running despite the occasional bumps and knocks.

Side by Side Comparison

Here’s a side by side comparison of the Sea Dweller vs Submariner.

Model: Rolex Submariner Rolex Sea Dweller
Series: Submariner Collection Sea-Dweller 4000
Reference #: 114060 116600
Case Material: Oystersteel Oystersteel
Dial Color: Black Black
Bracelet/Strap: Oyster, flat three-piece links Oyster, flat three-piece links
Clasp Type: Folding Oysterlock safety clasp with Rolex Glidelock extension system Folding Oysterlock safety clasp with Rolex Glidelock extension system
Movement: Self-Winding 3130, Manufacture Rolex Self-Winding 3135, Manufacture Rolex
Bezel: Unidirectional rotatable 60-minute graduated, scratch-resistant Cerachrom insert in ceramic, numerals and graduations coated in platinum Unidirectional rotatable 60-minute graduated, scratch-resistant Cerachrom insert in ceramic
Crystal: Scratch Resistant Sapphire Scratch Resistant Sapphire
Water Resistance: 300 meters / 1,000 feet 4000 feet / 1220 meters
Case Diameter: 40 mm 40 mm
Case Thickness: 13 mm 14.8 mm

Sea Dweller vs Submariner: The Verdict

As you can see, the Sea Dweller and Submariner are obviously cut in the same cloth of superior Swiss craftsmanship. Both dive watches share a number of common features such as the Folding Oysterlock safety clasp, Triplock crown, 48-hour power reserve, and more.

However, there are also many key differences between the Sea Dweller 43 vs Submariner.

The Sea Dweller is like the Submariner but has been hitting the gym for quite some time. The former is a sportier and bulkier watch that focuses on pure utility. The 4,000 feet depth rating means that it’s the go-to piece for any serious divers. It’s a thicker piece than the Submariner but it has more elegant lugs. The Sea Dweller doesn’t have a mainstream appeal and that’s perfectly fine.

On the other hand, you have the Submariner which is possibly the most immediately identifiable timepiece ever made. The Submariner is available in many different sizes and models. Everything about the Submariner is just so well-done and it’s a highly-accessible watch. It’s no wonder that it’s the most popular introductory model to the Rolex brand. Plus, if budget is an issue, the Submariner is certainly the cheaper choice.

Choosing between the Sea Dweller vs Submariner is not the worst problem to have. This is one of those cases where it’s impossible to make the wrong choice. The choice depends on what you need from a luxury dive watch.

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